Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 27 2020 - Acts 8:14-40 – Into Africa

Today’s passage falls into two halves. In the first half we read of an apostolic visit to Samaria, and in the second half we have the wonderful story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.

Peter and John were sent to Samaria by the rest of the apostles to find out whether Samaritans were truly becoming Christians. This would be quite remarkable; Jews and Samaritans had not got on with each other for centuries. Was the gospel of Jesus Christ really able to bridge this ancient divide?

They discovered that all they had heard was true but they were eager to see more. So they prayed that these Samaritan believers might manifestly receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as they, the apostles, had experienced his coming on the day of Pentecost. This would be a sign to all that they were not second-class believers but fully heirs to all that Jesus had promised to those who followed him.

Simon, having seen how the gift of the Spirit was given through the apostles’ prayers and laying on of hands, offered the apostles money if they would only give him the same power. He seems to have wanted to recover his reputation as a powerful wonderworker. Peter responded, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:20).

Simon has given his name to the sin of Simony, the attempt to buy a high office within the church. This practice may be rare today, but do those with power and status in society sometimes wield undue influence in the life of our churches? I suspect we still need to heed the words of James in James 2:1-5 who reminds us not to favour the rich or to despise the poor. The gospel breaks down all barriers of wealth, class and ethnicity.

We turn now to the second half of this passage, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. What an easy time he had of it! An angel told Philip where to go; the Spirit pointed out the man he was to speak to; he turns out to be reading Isaiah 53 and asks Philip if he will explain it to him! It’s never happened like that for me.

This is part of the continuing story of the risen Jesus extending his kingdom across the world. The Gospel is on the move from Jerusalem to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Soon it will be on its way by chariot into Africa. Human agents are used in telling the message but the risen Saviour is directing the operations.

And is it really any different today? In the person and power of the outpoured Spirit, Jesus is still building his church and establishing his kingdom. He goes before us to work in hearts and lives and calls us to see where he is at work and to work with him. Sharing the good news is not about trotting out a well-rehearsed formula but about coming alongside, starting where people are, responding sensitively to their questions and telling them the good news about Jesus. That’s what Philip did and that’s what we can do also.

Perhaps it never happened like that for me because my eyes are not sufficiently open to where God is at work in those around me.

Lord Jesus, we remember that you said that you would build your church and that the dominion of darkness would be pushed back and defeated. Thank you that you are still at work by your Spirit to draw people to yourself. Make us sensitive to discern where you are at work, wise to know how we may be used to speak of you and unashamed in our testimony.

Peter Misselbrook