Acts 8:1-25: Preach Wisely
January 13, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Persecution is not something we ever wish to occur. But it is something that God uses to advance his kingdom. The watchword of the early church about its persecution was the famous: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Tertullian meant that those who died faithfully for Jesus provided such a strong witness to the resurrection that it caused many others to believe in Jesus. In fact, the Lord has often used persecution to advance his church—ever since the day of the apostles.
Here in Acts, Luke tells us that this spate of persecution had one overriding effect:
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Let that be our response to opposition, as well as difficulty. Have you had an unexpected change of jobs or homes? Preach the Word wherever you go. Has your career not turned out how you wished it had? Preach the Word wherever you go. Has your marriage or your family met with more trials than you might have wished? Preach the Word wherever you go. God has placed you sovereignly where you are today, in the situation you find yourself in. There is an opportunity that you have now that you would not have anywhere else: preach the Word wherever you go.
An example of this is immediately given to us in the ministry of Philip. An amazing revival breaks out in Samaria where Philip is witnessing to Jesus. But there is a twist to this tale. A man called Simon, a kind of witch or sorcerer, is deeply impressed by what Philip is doing. He comes to faith and is baptized. But has he really become a Christian? When the Holy Spirit comes with power on the new believers through the ministry of Peter and John, he offers them money that he could also have this gift. From this moment, the phrase “simony” came to be used for the buying or selling of ecclesiastical privileges. And from the name Simon Magus (Simon the Magician) comes various early church descriptions of heretics and heresies that may stem from this historical Simon in Acts, or perhaps do not.
At any rate, he is rebuked by Peter because “his heart is not right before God.” Simon appears—or presents himself—as somewhat chastened by this rebuke, but it is unclear from the text whether he thoroughly repented. All that is said is that he does not want the bad things that Peter has talked about to happen to him. Simon appears to be the kind of person who has only grasped the surface of the Christian message. He is impressed by what it can do for him, but he is not in love with Jesus. It is a good lesson that not all that glitters is gold (to quote Tolkien), and that we should not naively assume that everyone who appears to be following Christ and says the right things really is following Christ. Did not the Lord Jesus himself tell us a parable of the seed and sower where there are different soils, not all of which are “good soil” that receive the word and produce a good crop? A message of grace and of faith does not mean that we are unwise about the human sinfulness that remains in us all—nor unwise about the potential for “Simons” to look as if they are converted, but actually have ulterior and wicked motives for being involved with the Christian community.
Persecution produces preaching. And preaching produces revival. But even in revival there can be “Simons.” Preach the word then. And do it wisely.
Read Pastor Josh's recent article, 9 Ways to Prioritize God’s Word. As you do, will you consider a year-end gift to God Centered Life to reach people with the Word through the ministry's devotionals, radio broadcasts, and other resources?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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