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PHILIP PREACHING AT SAMARIA
LESSON X., SEPT. 4, ACTS 8:5-25
Golden Text—”And there was great joy in that city.”—Acts 8:8
VERSE 5. This Philip was another of the seven deacons chosen to relieve the apostles of the temporal affairs of the Church; and, like Stephen, he not only helped in this way, but did good service also in preaching Christ in Samaria when driven out of Jerusalem by the persecution.
VERSES 6-8 show how the Lord worked with him and endorsed his teaching, and how the people believed and were blessed and filled with great joy.
VERSES 9-13 mention the admission into the Church, on profession of faith in Christ and by baptism, of one who was not a true convert to Christianity and who was not really consecrated to God, as his symbolic baptism implied. Nevertheless he floated along with the Church and companied with Philip and for a time was
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not recognized. Thus, even in those days, we see that there was a nominal church which comprised both the wheat and the tare element. On the contrary, the real Church, „whose names are written in heaven,” has never included any but true and consecrated believers—the wheat. As time advanced and the Church increased in numbers, and the mystery of iniquity continued to work, and especially when persecution abated, the numbers of the tares greatly multiplied, until to-day the whole field of „Christendom” is so overrun with tares that the wheat can only be found by careful searching.
The tare element in the Church is not a vicious element: as in the illustration, they are, in general conduct and appearance, like the true wheat class, and can scarcely be distinguished from them until some test of character reveals the unregenerate heart, as in the case of Simon. The truth due and revealed in the harvest or end of this age is the sickle in the Lord’s hand for the separation now in progress.
VERSES 14-17 show how the Lord marked the apostles above all others of the Church as his specially chosen and empowered witnesses. While he endorsed the faithful testimony of Philip, Stephen and others, by miraculous signs and wonders in them, the power of conferring spiritual gifts on others by the laying on of hands was reserved for the apostles only. Accordingly, we read that, as soon as the information reached the apostles at Jerusalem that Samaria had received the Word of God and been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, they sent the apostles Peter and John, to lay their hands on them, to communicate the gifts of the spirit which at that time were tokens of fellowship as well as of the Apostolic office.
It is clear, then, from this necessity of sending for the apostles in order that these might receive the holy Spirit, that none could communicate spiritual gifts except the apostles. We remember also that Paul, the Lord’s choice for the place of Judas, had this seal to his apostleship.—See 2 Tim. 1:6.
The expression, „received the holy Spirit,” we understand to refer specially to the outward manifestation of their acceptance with God in the receiving of the gifts of the Spirit, then conferred upon every member of the Church. This is clear from the fact that every one, even the unconverted, such as Simon Magus, could at once recognize it. Simon evidently looked upon this new and strange power from a mercenary standpoint, and therefore he desired, not only the gifts which all members of the Church received, but also the apostolic power of conferring those gifts upon others by the laying on of hands.—Verses 18,19.
The possession of these gifts of the spirit did not always indicate saintship: they were evidently given to all professed Christians in order to distinguish the Church of that day from the world by these marks of divine recognition of the Church as a whole. And yet, as the apostle Paul affirms, one might possess any one, or even all of them, and be but as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal—a mere empty professor, lacking the chief and all-important gift of the holy Spirit, which is love; for without this chief gift the others profited nothing to the individual possessing them.—See 1 Cor. 13:1-3.
It is no loss to the Church of to-day that she is not possessed of many of the gifts of the Spirit which have passed away, as the apostle predicted they would. (1 Cor. 13:8.) But three essential gifts of the Spirit were always to remain in the Church; and, thank God, they have not passed away; for still „abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”—1 Cor. 13:13.
VERSES 20-23. Peter’s rebuke to Simon was a severe one, indicating that death is the legitimate reward of hypocrisy, if it be persisted in. Peter was very plain in his denunciation of the man’s character—and that to his face, and not indirectly or behind his back—saying, „Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God, for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” Some of the worldly-wise of the present day would be inclined to complain of Peter’s straightforward course and to say that he was uncharitable in thus endeavoring to rid the Church of a hypocritical impostor. In their desire to be all things to all men—not indeed that they may win them to Christ, but that they may increase the numerical and financial strength and prestige of the nominal church—they willingly fellowship all forms of iniquity if it is hidden under an outer robe of Christian profession.
But Peter was not uncharitable: while he thus threw off the mask and unveiled the really unregenerate heart and the hypocrisy which sought to make merchandise of the Lord’s favors, he also kindly urged the sinner to repentance that he might become truly a child of God. And in so doing, he at least saved the Church of Samaria from the imposition of one whom otherwise they would have esteemed as a brother, and whose erroneous teaching might have led many astray from the truth.
VERSE 24 indicates at least some measure of repentance on the part of Simon which was due only to Peter’s plain rebuke.
VERSE 25 shows the zeal of the apostles.
— August 1, 1892 —