Have you noticed how the “out of the ordinary” tends to draw people? They see or hear and come looking! A few weeks back when a Bolt driver drove into my car, there were no witnesses, but within a minute and a half a “tow truck” was at the scene. The must have heard the sound of the crash. When there is an accident it is amazing how fast a crowd gathers … not to help, but to see.
When there is a demonstration or a political event, crowds gather. When it becomes known that at a certain Church, certain things are happening or are being given away the crowds gather. Things that are not normal tend to attract people. This was true in the Early Church’s evangelistic activities! We read:
Ac 8:6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
There are three things in verse 6 that need consideration … the crowds heard, saw and paid. The flow is very important to follow and grasp because once you do you will be able to sift out what the difference between what some do today compared to what happened in the First Century Christian Church.
1) There were multitudes of people who came to hear Philip. These were electrifying events and times because the Holy Spirit was active, not just within Philip, but in that pagan Samaritan city. The Spirit of God wooed the people to come and hear, come and see and come and experience. Philip the Hebrew young man was on foreign territory. He was amongst people the Jews saw as half-breeds. The discrimination between the Jews and the Samaritans ran high. They saw the Samaritans as a lower class of people, unfit to associate with. The Jews called these pagans “dogs”, which was an extremely harsh label. Yet the Gospel of Jesus crosses all barriers. None are excluded:
Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Many will be shocked to find themselves excluded from heaven yet those they excluded from the Gospel entering into God’s paradise. Get this … heaven is open to all who through faith surrender to Jesus’ Lordship and reign through confession, repentance and commitment. Start enjoying the variety of ethnicities today before you get there. Love Jesus together! The Holy Spirit is at work wooing souls from all peoples groups and they will come because they are chosen. His work never fails! Don’t let ours.
2) The multitudes heard the message Philip preached. No preacher can say it sufficiently as our spiritual father once said … “You hear my words but do you hear what I am saying?” Another said … “Are you hearing me or are you hearing what you want to hear?” The crowds heard Philip’s Holy Spirit empowered Gospel message!
Get this, beloved … they did not just hear words flowing from this evangelist’s lips. They heard the Gospel message in their soul! Remember they were pagans. They had taken the Hebrew religion and fiddled with it sufficiently to have distorted it into a hybrid religion of their own. But now the Spirit of God was in attendance giving clarity to words … translating them into spiritual truths … understandable in the soul.
Right here we find the huge difference between religion and Christianity. Religion is works oriented. It is of the flesh and designed to meet the needs of the flesh whilst Christianity is of the Spirit. He works in the soul. He makes the words that are not understandable to the natural man understandable to the one He is about to grant saving grace … free grace that draws the interested soul into the spiritual sphere where the Gospel becomes logical, understandable and believable. Unless the Spirit works the Gospel message is just words … flowing like water off the ducks back!
3) The multitudes saw the miraculous signs Philip did. Before we get into the purpose of these miracles we need to understand that although the Bible says … crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did … he was just an agent. God’s Spirit was working through Him. Of himself he could do nothing but with the enabling Spirit of God who gave birth to Creation in all its magnificent glory and who takes a dead, lifeless, wicked soul and brings it to life … so He, the Spirit can work through Philip and:
Ac 8:7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed.
Remember paganism is filled with all shapes of evil spirits that control souls for devilish purposes. It’s natural that they don’t want to leave the “house” where they are comfortable and at home. They worked hard to control that soul for the devil and his sinister ways. Now as they are exorcised their unhappiness is manifested in “shrieks” of reluctant displeasure! This was the first step to salvation … casting out the old wicked master.
Eph 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Then those who were paralyzed and crippled found their damaged bones, seized joints and depressed lives drastically changed. Verse 7 is actually pointing past the physical ailments to the spiritual handicap of the soul. These dramatic …. miraculous signs had one purpose and that was … that …
4) The multitudes paid close attention to what Philip preached. See the purpose of the miracles? It was to draw attention to the Gospel message … not the preacher’s image, the money basket, the Church growth … no, no … not at all! The Gospel of Jesus that leads to the salvation of the soul is the crucial issue. If you miss this, you miss the reason God did miracles in the Early Church.
Remember they did not have the Scriptures as we do. Many did not have access to the Old Testament. Mainly, what was carried over from the Jews at the time of the Assyrian Exile was word of mouth and in any event, the Truth was distorted by pagan influences. Now, with the Spirit wooing the Samaritans and demonstrating the authenticity of the message through the supernatural … the people paid close attention. Many were saved because we read there was great joy in the city. Are you rejoicing because of your salvation?
Our Father, thank You for sending Your Spirit into the Early Church’s ministry. Graciously send Your Spirit into our Churches today to bring back spiritual life. Amen.