SESSION 15 — “Being the Church, a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

Review of the study thus far:

— Jesus’ briefing on the Holy Spirit in John 14-17

— The promise for which they were to wait

— Fulfilled in Acts 2

— Peter’s sermon, boldly speaking their sin and Christ’s resurrection, and 3,000 come to Christ

— The beggar born lame is healed, Peter speaks again of Christ’s resurrection and their sin, and 5,000 come to Christ

— Peter, John and the beggar are brought before the Sanhedrin

— Do not speak this name or do anything in this name

— Should we obey God or you? You be the judge!

—We cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard

— The bond-servants of the Lord ask for greater boldness to speak,

and God answers their prayer!

— Contrast between Barnabas, who gives all, and Ananias and Sapphira, who lie about their offering, and the consequences.

— The apostles are arrested. The angel who frees them delivers this message: Go! Stand! Speak all the words of this Life! And they did, and were arrested again!

— Sanhedrin cut to the quick, Gamaliel’s advice to let them be, for if it is of God, they may find themselves fighting against God! The Apostles, flogged and released, rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer as Jesus did.

— Spirit-filled believers are required for even the most menial tasks in the church. Filled with the Spirit, full of God’s wisdom, full of faith, full of grace and power! Stephen persecuted for what he speaks and does. As his accusers gaze intently at him, they see his face like the face of an angel — he is radiant!

— Stephen boldly speaks of Israel’s history and how they continually reject and repudiate their God and His servants. He is stoned to death, but as he is dying, he asks the Lord not to hold this sin against those who are stoning him. We see the first mention of Saul, whose Roman name is Paul.

Now, Session 15 — Acts 8:1-24

Verse 1 — Saul, whose Roman name is Paul, was in hearty agreement (he took pleasure in it) that Stephen should be put to death. Thus, Jesus’ words to them came to pass —

Matthew 23:34   “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city . . .”

And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem. The believers scattered, traveling all over Judea and Samaria. This persecution caused the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, by His Spirit-filled witnesses(Acts 1:8)!

NOTE: Saul was born a Roman citizen in Tarsus, capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, so he had a Roman name (Paul) as well as his Hebrew name (Saul).

Verse 2 — Some devout, godly men buried Stephen and made loud lamentations over him. They mourned deeply and loudly over him.

NOTE: This was a violation of the rabbinical writing, the Mishnah, which says no such thing is to be done for someone who, by the Sanhedrin’s judgment, is stoned, burned, beheaded or strangled. These men defied the Sanhedrin.

Verse 3 — Saul began ravaging (that is, causing widespread destruction in) the church. He entered house after house and dragged off men and women, then put them in prison, where they would await their deaths. He had authority to do so, just as we will see in Acts 9, though it is not specifically mentioned here.

NOTE: He was not a youth (see 7:58) in the way we would think today. In those days, a man was called “young” if he was between the ages of 24 and 40.

Verses 4-5 — Philip, who was one of the seven Spirit-filled men in Acts 6:5, and had been scattered along with some of the other believers. Now we see him BEING the church! He was not silent, but was bold, going about, preaching the word. Philip proclaimed Jesus Christ to the people in Samaria.

Verse 6 — The crowds were all of one accord (unanimous), giving attention to what Philip said. As he spoke, God worked through him to perform attesting signs and wonder as proof that Philip was His ambassador (2Corinthians 5:20).

Verses 7-8 — What were these attesting signs? Evil spirits shouted as they were cast out of those who were possessed! Many who had been paralyzed and lame were instantly healed. As a result, there was exceeding joy in that city! Captives were set free, because the Spirit of the Lord was in Philip (see Isaiah 61:1)!

That’s what it is to be the church! PRAISE BREAK!

Verses 9-11 — We now meet Simon, who had practiced magic in the city for a long time, amazing the people of Samaria with his magic arts. He claimed to be someone great. They all gave attention to him, calling him The Great Power of God.

But the people gave him attention because he had been practicing his magic arts before them for some time. It is the same today — many are fascinated with the black arts. What can bring them to Jesus?

Verses 12-13 — Even those who follow the black arts believe when they:

— See God’s works (a greater power than that of the false gods they worship), His signs and wonders, done in the power of the Spirit-filled believer, and hear the good news of the kingdom of God AND . . .

— Hear the name (character and reputation) of Jesus Christ proclaimed with that same power!

That’s what Philip did, and the people were being baptized (for repentance), both men and women. Even Simon the magician believed, was then baptized in the same way as the people! He began traveling with Philip, constantly amazed at the miracles that the Lord worked through Philip.

NOTE: A colleague of ours, a full-blooded Native American evangelist, said it was difficult to convert Native Americans because they have a form of spirituality. But when the Lord worked signs and wonders through him as he preached the gospel, many were saved.

Verses 14-17 — When the apostles in Jerusalem heard what was happening in Samaria, and how they had received the word of God and believed, they sent Peter and John. They came down and prayed for the new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.

Why did Peter and John come?

Because the Spirit had not fallen on any of them. They had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, baptized in water because they believed in Jesus Christ.

By their own experience, Peter and John knew these new believers could not be the church until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. So John and Peter began laying hands on the new believers, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit, in the same way Peter and John did, and Philip — that is, they were being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and filled with Him and their hearts were purified (Acts 15:9)!

NOTE: We will see that it is not just the Apostles who are able to lay hands on people so they are baptized in the Holy Spirit (see Acts 9:17, for example).

Verses 18-19 — Simon wanted to do the same, and offered money to Peter and John, so they would give him the same power. Wrong motive! We must see our need for power to give testimony of Him, and our need for a pure heart. That is the right motive in asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But Simon wanted to be able to perform this act — to lay hands on so people are filled. And he was willing to pay for it. May it never be!

So Peter PUBLICLY rebuked him!

God can’t be bought, beloved! Are you being offered the Holy Spirit for a price? Are you paying for a handkerchief that has been prayed over? May it never be! Avoid such men. They are counterfeits.

Verses 20-22 — Peter said, may your silver perish with you! He said, “You thought” — God did not speak to you, Simon! The Holy Spirit is a gift of God, not something  — actually someONE — you can buy with money!

He continued — You have no right or portion in this word (gospel), this that we preach and teach! Why? Your heart is not right, in God’s eyes!

What was the solution for Simon’s wrong heart? Peter said, “Repent of your wickedness, and pray that the Lord, if possible, would forgive you for your heart’s intention.”

Forgiveness is possible for those who try to buy and sell God, and for all sins, but only if they will repent. That is not just a confession like, “I’m sorry,” but a change of heart, a turning away from sin and turning to God.

Verse 23 — The Lord wants you to see that Peter sees (DISCERNS) Simon’s heart, by the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. That is a characteristic of those who are filled with the Spirit. (NOTE: Do not confuse this with the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits. This is discerning of HEARTS.)

So, discerning Simon’s heart, Peter said to him, “I see (discern clearly) that you are in the gall (poison) of bitterness (again, poison).” Simon was poisoned all the way through! And Peter also saw that Simon was in the bonds (control) of iniquity (sin). Poison-hearted Simon was in the chains of sin.

Did he really believe (see Verse 13)? It is the same Greek word used for the others, pisteuo. But if I am Baptist and believe once saved, always saved, I would be forced by my beliefs to conclude he was never really saved. But Simon believed and was baptized! What was the problem, then? Why was he not right before God?

His heart’s intentions, the thoughts of his heart (Hebrews 4:12), were not right before God, and thus, he needed to repent. His heart was not pure. You say, but Christians don’t have to repent, so he could not have really been a Christian. Look at Revelation 2 and 3. Of the seven churches, Jesus Christ commands five to repent!

Verse 24 — Did Simon repent? Peter told Simon to pray, but Simon asked Peter and John to “Pray for me yourselves, so nothing of what you have said will come upon me.”

Was this true repentance, or did Simon ask them to pray out of his own fear? True repentance is done individually, by the sinner. You yourself must pray.

So I do not believe Simon truly repented. Had he done so, I believe Peter and John would have then been willing to lay hands on him, for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Not every commentator agrees with the others on this, but the Lord showed me this. Again, Acts 17:11 — search the scriptures to see if what I say is true.

Do you see the boldness of Peter to PUBLICLY call out Simon and clearly and concisely tell him what is wrong in his heart? That is what it is to be the church, beloved. (See 1Corinthians 5:4-5.)

What? Didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not, lest ye be judged?” He said that to hypocrites who sin and then point their finger at others (see Matthew 7:1 and forward).

But we are to judge sin if we have been filled with the Spirit who removes the log from our own eye by purifying our hearts (see Acts 15:9 and 1Corinthians Chapter 5, especially verses 9-13).

Do you hear that in the church today? Is their a public rebuke of the sinning Christians among you, and a public call to repentance?

Are you going out from your church, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, including repentance from sin? Are you performing signs and wonders that prove you are Christ’s ambassador? Are those who follow the black arts turning to Jesus because of what you say and do?

If not, and you see your need today, ask your Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit, and He will gladly give Him to you (Luke 11:13)!