Friday, January 14, 2011

Thoughts on Acts 8

The interesting points I noted from chapter 8:

After verse 3 describes how Saul goes on a persecution rampage, Luke writes, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." It's as if those early believers said, "well, if we're getting thrown into prison left, right, and center, we need to hurry up and get this work finished before we're silenced too." Love the commitment and enthusiasm.

Notice that Simon's followers are converted before he is. Sometimes the body of believers must take a stand before a leader can really see where he's wrong. Curiously (or not), verse 13 says that Simon himself believed also, and this text is cross-referenced with James 2:19, which says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." On the one hand, we could read this as a commendation. Even God's enemies believe in Him, so one would be foolish not to, hence you are wise to believe. But perhaps, there's also a note of caution. As in, don't feel that by simply believing there is one God, you're suddenly beyond the devil's realm, above being tempted or used by him.

So, coming back to Acts, there is almost an implication that Simon was not truly converted. And later on, in verse 23, Peter says, "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." Hebrews 12:15 expounds on this "gall of bitterness": "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." I think Simon was like those seeds that the sower threw on the rocks that didn't take root. But worse than that, his heart seemed to be of the meandering, wayward sort that would rot the body of believers from the inside, much like what Lucifer (now known as Satan) did with the angels in heaven. Simon's response to Peter seems more concerned about the consequences of his actions than the actions themselves. As in, if I didn't get caught, I wouldn't see anything wrong.

Lastly, I found it interesting that believers were baptized, but didn't receive the Holy Ghost (aka Holy Spirit) until Peter and John laid their hands on them (verse 14-17). It struck me that baptism does not equal receipt of the Holy Spirit, does not mean you're suddenly moving in accordance with the Spirit. Baptism is a public expression of your commitment to Christ, and a way for you to be held accountable. Being ready for baptism is based on whether, as Philip stated, "thou believest with all thine heart" (verse 37). When the eunuch responded, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God", they stopped and he was baptized. I love how the eunuch said, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Let us be careful what hoops we want people to jump through before WE think they're ready to be baptized. Let us recognize that baptism is at the start of a journey, just as Jesus was baptized before beginning His ministry.