When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
I. THE TRUE APOSTOLIC SPIRIT manifested.
1. Dependence on prayer.
2. Separation of spiritual gifts from oil money considerations.
3. Detection and denunciation of the false and sordid.
II. The CHURCH'S DANGER from the laxness of discipline.
1. Those that have "neither part nor lot in this matter" must be kept out of the number of God's people.
2. Especially must the ministry be preserved from every form of simony.
3. The bold and fearless course on the part of those in office is much the safest. Hypocrisy is weakness. Simon will succumb to Peter, if Peter only speaks out the Word of God, and stands up for purity of faith and conscientiousness. Better a poor Church with spiritual gifts, than a treasury full of hypocrites' offerings and no Holy Ghost descending on the world. - R.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John.I. THE OCCASION. There is —
1. Christian life to be fostered (ver. 14).
2. A want in the Church to be supplied (ver. 16).
II. THE VISITORS.
1. Peter — apostolic zeal.
2. Evangelical tenderness.
III. THE FUNCTIONS.
1. Prayer in the name of the Church (ver. 16).
2. Imposition of hands in the name of God (ver. 17).
IV. THE EFFECTS.
1. The strengthening of the Church (ver. 17).
2. The sifting (ver. 18).
I. THE APOSTLES RECEIVE A REPORT FROM SAMARIA (ver. 14). The text is now easy reading, but there was a day when it was a grand story. It is the dawning of a new day, the winning of a great battle; that day the Gentiles were admitted into the kingdom of Christ. We lose so much by forgetting the circumstances of the case. This is a verse now read as if it had no atmosphere. What is it that we lose in history? The atmosphere; that which gives the novelist or the dramatist supremacy over the dry, technical, and most learned annalist! The dreariest part of every missionary meeting to many persons is the reading of the report — a reading which should bring all the Church together in its noblest enthusiasm, shouting as a conquering host — "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow."
II. WHEN THIS REPORT WAS MADE THE APOSTLES SENT DOWN PETER AND JOHN. Was Peter then really "sent down"? We thought that Peter would have sent down other men! Yet how delicate the tribute to his undoubted primacy of love and enthusiasm! He it was who was selected to go down. There is nothing papal here. The Pope is not "sent down," he sends down. Our greatest men should always be sent down to the villages under circumstances such as these. Our very grandest prcachers ought to be our missionaries.
III. WHEN PETER AND JOHN WERE COME DOWN WHAT DID THEY DO? This will reveal the right aspect of apostolic influence and office. Let us read the text in a way of our own, "Peter and John sat upon a great and high throne, and waved over the astounded Gentiles a staff that was supposed to. have singular power in it, and the amazed and wonder-struck villagers fell back before such dazzling dignity and bewailed their own unworthiness." That would be poor Scripture! How does the text really read?
1. When they were come down, they prayed for the villagers. Pray for inquirers; do not overpower them. Pray in great religious crises, and thus magnify the event, and do not lessen it. Do we pray now? Do we ask as if we meant to have what we ask?
2. They prayed that Samaria might receive the Holy Ghost. Then what had Samaria already received? Only the first baptism. Water will do you no good. It was meant to be a beginning, not an end. We have believed, but have we received the Holy Ghost? People imagine that when they have believed, the work is done. As well tell me that when you have put the fuel into the grate the fire is lighted. We know the truth, what we want is the burning spark I There is no mistaking that. No man can mistake. fire. You may paint it, but you cannot warm your hands at the flame on the canvas. Fire is like nothing but itself. It separates man from man, yet unites man to man. It burns up selfishness; purifies, glorifies. It gives a man individuality. It detaches him from the common crowd and gives him a singularity of his own. When the Church has received the Holy Ghost she will be unlike every other community. When the pulpit has been baptized by the Holy Ghost it will stand alone in the supremacy of its power. At present it is the retreat of the mumbler, the living of the essayist. Our religion is at present an argument, our desire is that it may become a passion!
IV. SIMON, HEARING THAT THROUGH LAYING ON OF THE APOSTLES' HANDS THE HOLY GHOST WAS RECEIVED, OFFERED THEM MONEY.
1. It is easy to abuse this man, but he acted a most natural and rational part, considering his training, avocation, and the influence he had acquired. He had lived all his life in the market-place; he had never breathed a purer air; he knew but one world, and one language. He saw only the outside — which of us sees any further? We think because we have been to church we are Christians. That is precisely the reasoning of Simon. There has grown up a custom which is known as Simony. He who would hold his place in the Church by virtue of haying bought it is guilty of it. But simony is not in the pulpit alone. We may buy influence, status, and authority in the Church by the use of money. Who is there that does not imagine that everything can be bought? Yet how little in reality can we buy with money! Can you buy sound judgment? Poetic fire? Prophetic insight? Any form of spiritual and enduring power? Know ye that money has hut a little world to live in, and that the highest gifts are not to be purchased with gold. God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and strong in power. To the poorest man He says, "Take this gospel and preach it." A manger will do for a cradle when there is in it the Saviour of the world. Do you suppose that because you have little money you have little power, life, responsibility? What have you? You may have the power of prayer! You may be able to "speak a word in season to him that is weary." You may have the gift of hope and the faculty of music, and you may be able to lift the load from many a burdened heart. Poorest man, do not despair! You may be rich in ideas, in sympathies, in suggestion, and in all the noblest treasures that can make men wealthy with indestructible possession.
2. There was probably no fixed sum in the mind of Simon. If such a bestowal as that of the Spirit could be effected upon him, money should not stand in the way. This was the hour of apostolic temptation. Silver and gold they had none. Money is always a powerful temptation to the empty pocket. It is very easy when there is no temptation to say what we should do; but when the money is in the hand of the tempter, and when in one moment more it may be in our own, and when the thing asked for in exchange is itself a good thing, where is the man who can return a denial with the emphasis of thunder, and the accent of lightning? The Church is always tempted in this same way. We must always reject the unholy patronage. Do I address a minister who preaches to a moneyed pew? Your ministry will be blighted with well-merited condemnation. Do I minister to a Church that could accept secular patronage in order to preach a settled and determined theology? Such a Church would have sold its birthright for a contemptible price. Faith must spread its own daily board. Love must pay its own way. Do I speak to some who represent very feeble communities? Do not ask any man to help you, unless his help be the inspiration of love. Never be bribed into silence. Never keep back the truth of God, lest you should forfeit status or income. It is not necessary for any man to live, but it is necessary for every man to be loyal to Christ's truth. When the king came to meet Abram, and offered him great hospitality and patron. age Abram said, "No, lest thou say, I have made Abram rich" The chief power is spiritual, not financial. But the church has wonderfully fallen under the fallacy which teaches that the Church ought to be socially respectable.
V. HOW WAS IT THAT THE APOSTLES WERE ENABLED TO ESCAPE THIS POTENT TEMPTATION? The answer is that they had a true conception of the spiritual election and function of the Church (ver. 20). The Church had not then become a machine. Ordination was not then a thing to be arranged. It was inspiration. Men are now "prepared" for the ministry. Now we "educate" men for the pulpit. Educate men for the ministry!" Thy education perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God" could be purchased by schooling. Get all the education you can; be the best-informed man of your circle; but inspiration makes a minister and makes the Church. "Not by might, and not by power," etc. Are you, young man, considering whether you will enter Christ's ministry or not? Then pray God you may never enter it; for it is not a question for consideration. There are those, shame on their grey hairs, who are telling us that if the Church would offer more money to the young men of our "better families," they might possibly give themselves to the ministry! A malediction from heaven be upon such thoughts! Does Christ want the members of our "better families" to be kind enough to accept position as His ambassadors, and expositors, and friends? He will choose His own ministers. He will see to it that the pulpit is never silent.
VI. PETER SPOKE IN HIS OWN CHARACTERISTIC TONE. (vers. 21-23). His speech was not a mere denunciation. His moral dignity is positively sublime, and yet, having uttered the word of malediction, he shows that the true object of the denunciation of wrong is to save the wrong-doer. Here is the gospel in an unexpected place. After such a thunderstorm who could have expected this voice of lute and harp? Repent! Forgive! Give up no man. Do not spare his sin; hold the fiercest light over it, but point the wrong-doer himself to the possibility of forgiveness through repentance and supplication.
VII. SIMON DID NOT — NOR COULD HE BE EXPECTED TO — SEIZE THE SPIRITUAL IDEA WHICH RULED THE APOSTLE'S THINKING. His reply is most natural, though often condemned (ver. 24). He asked for prayer, so far he was not wrong. He suggested the prayer "that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me." There he failed to see the right meaning of prayer. We must not go to God in supplication merely to escape penalty, but to escape sin. Yet let a man come through any gate that first opens, only let him come! If one man should come through hatred of sin, if another man of lower mould should say, "I fear hell; God have mercy upon me." Let him also come. Every man must pray as he can. You cannot send the heart to school to teach it how to pray. Where the pain is, the prayer should be.
(J. Parker, D. D.)I. THE EFFACEMENT OF PHILIP. Like the Baptist; before our Lord, Philip retires when Peter and John come on the scene: There is something touching in this willingness to be eclipsed. Philip might naturally have felt that he had borne the burden and heat of the day, and that the apostles' success was due to his efforts. "He had laboured" (words spoken about Samaria), "and they had entered into his labours." He had dug the soil, sown the seed, watered it, until the field was white; and now it only remained for the apostles to reap. Nor is he in the least jealous. His aim was the reverse of Simon's, and accordingly any increase and confirmation of faith was a matter of joy. Only those who after honest labour have been superseded by men of more brilliant gifts can appreciate the trial and the grace to bear it.
II. THE APOSTOLIC DEPUTATION.
1. The men chosen.(1) Peter's presence was required by his position in prophecy and providence. Our Lord had entrusted him with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, indicating that he was to throw open the gates of the gospel dispensation.(2) John is so constantly associated with Peter, that we are not surprised to find them companions here. But it is a striking coincidence that he who, giving vent to the prevailing hostility against the Samaritans, called for fire from heaven to consume them, should, now that a more loving spirit actuated him, be selected to call down the fire of God's illuminating and quickening grace.
2. Their official act.(1) This forms the scriptural ground for the rite of confirmation. Baptism is in the nature of a contract into which Christ enters with the soul, and the practice of infant baptism makes it almost a necessity to have some period at which a baptized child may consciously, and of his own accord, enter into this contract. How suitable, then, that they should receive the completion of their baptism by prayer and the imposition of hands. This consecrates, as it were, the baptized person to the royal priesthood, and sets him apart solemnly for the service of Christ. Yet, while we discover in holy Scripture the germ of this rite, we do not regard confirmation as having the universal necessity or virtue of a sacrament. For the gift of the Spirit was vouchsafed independently of the imposition of hands, as in the cases of Cornelius, Saul, and the Ethiopian eunuch.
3. Their treatment of Simon. Once before bad money been offered to Peter, in order to gain a fair reputation. Ananias had laid money down at his feet, wishing it to be understood as the whole. Simon now does the same thing to win power and influence. The secret of the apostles' power was just what he wanted to regain his lost influence and eclipse Philip. What he coveted was not the Holy Spirit, but the power of communicating the Spirit to others. And what he cared to communicate was not the grace of the Spirit, but His gifts, And there can be little doubt that what he offered money for, he intended to win money by. Peter's reproof, and his insinuation of the difficulty of saving a character so far gone in evil ("perhaps") was not too strong for the occasion. Had there been a single stirring of conscience, a single aspiration after goodness, the rejoinder would have been far more lenient.
4. The contrasts of character in the Church. Here is Simon the apostle, a man of the most intense disinterestedness, who had forsaken all to follow his Master, confronted with Simon the sorcerer, who had nominally embraced Christianity as a possible means of wealth and power. What a natural repulsion must there be between the minds of the two when each gets an inkling of the other.
I. THE CHURCH IN THE WORLD.
1. The extension of the Church in the world.(1) The words of our departing Lord (Acts 1:8) are the theme of all Church history, as well as that of the first days. The evangelical history of the first thirty-four years of our dispensation conducts us from Nazareth to Jerusalem. The apostolic history of the same number of years leads us from Jerusalem to Rome. The bridge between Jerusalem and the heathen world was Samaria, a field planted by our Lord, whose prophecy of the harvest there (John 4:35-38) was now fulfilled in Philip, driven thither by persecution. The storm destroys flowers, but scatters seeds — a consolation for the Church in every age.(2) Philip was a guardian of the poor, but the Holy Ghost made him an evangelist. The liberty of the Spirit is not bound by human order. He founded the Mother Church of Missions at Antioch by means of private Christians, and the Church of Rome by men unknown; prisoners brought the gospel to the Goths in Europe. He "bloweth where He listeth."(3) In the days of Jesus, Samaria had been greatly moved; then there arose a sorcerer who won the people. Hunger grasps at any food, for which reason also they accepted the word of salvation. The conversion of the Samaritans was a sign for the Jews (Matthew 21:43), and the apostles understood it well. The spread of the gospel is always a sign of warning. In our days the age of missions has begun anew. May not this be a sign that the word of grace will depart if we esteem it slightly. "Buy," says Luther, "while the market is at your door. Gather in while the weather is blight and fair. Use the word of God's grace while you have it. The Jews had it once; but they lost it, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to Greece; but they lost it, and now they have the Turk. Rome and Italy had it; but they lost it, and now they have the Pope. And you Germans must not think that you will have it for ever; for ingratitude and contempt will not suffer it to remain."
2. The Church preserving its unity in the world. The apostles send Peter and John to sanction the work of Philip, and to incorporate the Christians into the Apostolic Church. The rending of the body of Christ into such a multitude of sects is to be deeply lamented. Unceasingly should we think of the words of Jesus (John 17:12). But a self-conceived, self-made unity, only leads to schism. Unity gives strength, but only true unity — unity in the truth.
3. The testimony of the Church in the world (ver. 15-17). It must not be understood that the baptism of Philip was ineffective, and that laying on of apostolic hands made it so. The action of the Holy Ghost is twofold. He is a Spirit of life and a Spirit of work. He makes us children of God and servants of God. The first work of the Spirit was accomplished through Philip, the second through the apostles. The first is alike in all, the second manifold. God gives various gifts of service, and these are not necessarily and obviously miraculous. The gifts of knowledge, doctrine, guidance, etc., have nothing striking in themselves, and yet they are as much gifts of the Spirit as others. Without the power and blessing of God's Spirit, all our toil and skill are vain; but with that, our work gives evidence to the world that the Church is the possessor of heavenly powers.
II. THE WORLD IN THE CHURCH
1. The gathering of the world into the Church. The net cast into the sea collects all manner of fish. The condition of the Church is necessarily mixed; the wheat and tares must grow together here. When the reapers come at the Judgment, then will the Church be pure. Let us judge not, lest we be judged; but let us see to it that we are the children of God.
2. The spirit of the world in the Church. What is the spirit of the world and the spirit befitting the kingdom of God (Matthew 20:25-28). The world strives to rule, the Christian rejoices to serve; the one wants to be great, the other is willing to be nothing. It was not enough for Simon to be a Christian; he wanted to play the same great part as before his baptism; and to use the powers of the Spirit for the gratification of his self-seeking mind. And yet his sin grew from the corrupt soil of the heart, which is the same in all. Scarcely is the pride of the natural man driven out, when there comes the pride of the spiritual man. And, as Luther says, "the white devil is worse than the black." How hard it is to seek nothing but the favour of God, whatever man's opinion may be.
3. The Church's judgment on that spirit. "Thy money perish with thee" — i.e., all thy arts by which thou thinkest the powers of the Holy Spirit are to be obtained. How marvellous will it appear when, at the Judgment, those now esteemed "great " will be cast out, and the little ones esteemed great (Matthew 7:22, etc.). This judgment we can only escape by a penitent judgment of ourselves.
PeopleCandace, Esaias, Ethiopians, Isaiah, John, Peter, Philip, Saul, Simon, Stephen
PlacesAzotus, Caesarea, Gaza, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria
TopicsAccepted, Apostles, God's, Hearts, Jerusalem, John, Message, News, Peter, Received, Samaria, Sama'ria, Samaritans, Visit
Outline1. By occasion of the persecution in Jerusalem, the church being planted in Samaria,
4. by Philip the deacon, who preached, did miracles, and baptized many;
9. among the rest Simon the sorcerer, a great seducer of the people;
14. Peter and John come to confirm and enlarge the church;
15. where, by prayer and imposition of hands giving the Holy Spirit;
18. when Simon would have bought the like power of them,
20. Peter sharply reproving his hypocrisy and covetousness,
22. and exhorting him to repentance,
25. together with John preaching the word of the Lord, return to Jerusalem;
26. but the angel sends Philip to teach and baptize the Ethiopian Eunuch.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesActs 8:14
1690 word of God
2424 gospel, promises
LibrarySimon the Sorcerer
'Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.'--ACTS viii. 21. The era of the birth of Christianity was one of fermenting opinion and decaying faith. Then, as now, men's minds were seething and unsettled, and that unrest which is the precursor of great changes in intellectual and spiritual habitudes affected the civilised world. Such a period is ever one of predisposition to superstition. The one true bond which unites God and man being obscured, …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture: The Acts
Philip the Evangelist
Seed Scattered and Taking Root
A Meeting in the Desert
The General Spread of the Gospel
Twenty-Sixth Day for the Holy Spirit on Young Converts
Period iii. The Critical Period: A. D. 140 to A. D. 200
And on the Day Following He Went Forth Still More Eagerly Bent on The...
Whether Baptism Can be Conferred in the Name of Christ?
Whether Chrism is a Fitting Matter for this Sacrament?
Whether the Imposition of the Priest's Hands is Necessary for this Sacrament?
Whether Penance is a Sacrament?
Whether Baptism Should be Deferred?
Whether those who had Been Baptized with John's Baptism had to be Baptized with the Baptism of Christ?
Whether Simony is an Intentional Will to Buy or Sell Something Spiritual or Connected with a Spiritual Thing?
The Holy Spirit Sending Men Forth to Definite Lines of Work.
Preventive against Backsliding.
How Long Between?
The Early History of Particular Churches.
Philip, the Evangelist
Whether Sanctifying Grace is Bestowed in this Sacrament?
Whether Only a Bishop Can Confer this Sacrament?
Of the Five Sacraments, Falsely So Called. Their Spuriousness Proved, and their True Character Explained.
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