Acts Devotionals

Religious Fads

As teeny boppers and then early teenagers, our fancies, desires and attractions shifted from one thing to another, depending on importance and interest. I was a committed soccer player, traveling on bicycle twice a week to practice and retuning in the dark with games on Saturdays. Then suddenly my interest shifted to rugby. When I told my parents I wanted to play rugby and needed rugby boots and clothes they said … “But we just bought soccer boots and clothes six weeks ago”. Mom said … “today it’s this fad and tomorrow it’s that fad”.

Religiously speaking that is also true. Some tend to run off to a religious movement that attracts their fancy. Then another appears to offer something more interesting and exciting so they run there. This is following the latest religious fad. This might have been true of the Samaritans once they heard Philip preaching the Gospel and witnessed the miracles … but soon they committed to follow Jesus.

1) Many Samaritans were saved.

Ac 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Notice the flow … faith and incorporation.

(1) It was not intellectual stimulation. Once they understood the Gospel’s offer and requirements they exercised belief. Note the words “they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God”. Clearly this implies understanding the Gospel in the heart. They got it that the message was about God’s Eternal Kingdom and that entry into it was through Jesus Christ and His Blood Sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, which was received through confession, repentance and faith. Because of their sincerity, they were baptized immediately. This was vivid and demonstrative. Remember they were pagans following a magician … and to their peers and family as well as community leaders this was a huge step … identifying with a Jewish man (Jesus) who was God’s Messiah, crucified, dead, buried in a tomb, raised to life on the third day, ascended into heaven from where He came and now seated upon the Throne of Glory, ruling the world! What they did was brave but that is faith. Faith accepts the dangerous pathway irrespective of the consequences.

(2) Those baptized were both male and female. Although many women followed Jesus, this was Samaria. With men and women offering for baptism to be publically identified with Jesus and His Gospel meant that the Gospel includes both genders. Christianity is not a male religion! Females are included and are equal in the Kingdom of God.

3) Belief and baptism do not necessary mean salvation. That is, a person might grasp the Truths of the Gospel and follow this through with baptized but there is no heart change. Faith is just academical. It is head knowledge but not heart knowledge. Many people are in this space … and so was Simon the Magician.

Ac 8:13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw

As we shall see, his faith was intellectual … but there was more. His fascination was interest in the signs and wonders he saw as Philip ministered. He wanted this ability because he saw this as a money making opportunity … so much so that he followed Philip “everywhere”. Many people are like this … they understand the Gospel message and they are sincere in their “religion” being baptized but sadly the heart remains dead. The Holy Spirit has not yet worked saving grace in the soul. Some might believe they are Christian … but are not! We shall return to this and Simon the Magician.

4) News travels. Depending on where one would be in Samaria, the distance from there to Jerusalem was between 133 and 159 kilometers. It must have taken at least a week, or maybe more for the apostles in Jerusalem to hear what was happening as Philip the evangelist ministered in Samaria.

Ac 8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.

One can easily imagine the delight in the apostles because non-Jews were “accepting the Word of God”.

(1) The Word of God was the Gospel of God. Think back to the way Stephen explained the Story of the Promised Messiah to the high priest and Sanhedrin … Abraham to Jesus! The Gospel Message is the Word of God as a message, and it is Jesus, the Word of God!

Jn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

Remember that the whole Bible is about Jesus, God’s rescue plan for sinful man … so when we preach the gospel, the message needs to contain substance. The Samaritans acceptance of the Word of God was not a flimsy, content-less message. In the same way, our Gospel Message today needs to be rich in Biblical content, otherwise a weak Gospel presentation leads to weak believism and weak commitment.

(2) Not all Samaritans believed. The words … “heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God” … needs to be understood that the Word of God was accepted by some, perhaps many Samaritans. It’s like today saying that the Gospel has been heard in a certain remote rural town in a Far Eastern Country. It does not mean all heard the Gospel but some or many in that town heard the Gospel.

(3) Support team. The apostles, sending Peter and John to Samaria indicates that a large number of people had been stirred by the Gospel leading to baptism. However, Philip was an evangelist not an apostle. The apostles were the spiritual leaders of the Church and they needed to investigate the authenticity of what was happening amongst those pagan people.

5) Believed but not saved! We had said they understood the Gospel. They believed the message and they surrendered to baptism and identified with Jesus’ Blood Sacrifice but they were not yet born again. So:

Ac 8:15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Some have read into these verses, superimposing their thoughts upon them, trying to make the verses say what they want them to say. There are those who believe that salvation is a two stage event … being saved (believe), then receiving the Spirit (being born again). Rather, they believed as in understood the Gospel message and agreed with its demands, but were not saved … have not been made spiritually alive. The apostles prayed to God that they be saved (receive spiritual life and be born again) and placed hands on them indicating acceptance of them into the visible fellowship of believers.

Thank You Lord for the miracle of the new birth through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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