Acts 8:4-13 - Proclaiming Christ While Being Persecuted

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Before Jesus ascended, He told the disciples (Acts 1:8) that the Spirit would come upon them and that they would proclaim the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the remotest part of the earth. My message today is the first in a series about the advance of the gospel among the Samaritans. We read about this in Acts 8. The title of my message is "Proclaiming Christ While Being Persecuted." I will speak about several points from Acts 8:4-13.

1. Persecution of the church can lead to the expansion of the gospel.

In our text Luke presents the powerful ministry of Philip. Philip was one of the men chosen (Acts 6:5) to serve tables. He, along with the others, was full of the Spirit and wisdom. When Stephen was stoned, Saul began persecuting the church, and many believers were scattered. Among them was Philip who went down to Samaria to preach Christ and the good news about the kingdom of God.

So often in the history of the church persecution has led to the expansion of the kingdom of God. Yes, there have been many who have persecuted. Some have been put to death, but the death of saints only plants seeds that grow and prosper. We must realize that Christ is victor! When we do, all circumstances that seem difficult will yield to His purpose.

2. When you proclaim Christ, there will be a harvest.

Saul, who became Paul, was persecuting the believers. The church in Jerusalem was being persecuted. Philip could have gone to Samaria and reported all the bad news. He could have concentrated on what the devil was doing. Instead Philip came "proclaiming Christ (v. 5) and "the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ."The preaching of Philip brought about a great result. The multitudes were giving attention to him. His preaching was accompanied by many "signs." Many who had unclean spirits were delivered. As the spirits departed, they shouted with a loud voice. And many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. As a result, there was much rejoicing in the city.

Very often, the results of proclamation are the greatest when persecution is strongest. If you endure persecution, be faithful to proclaim the gospel. When you meet with people who are persecuted, encourage them to keep on proclaiming Christ.

3. Your proclamation will lead people to believe and be baptized.

The Samaritans believed what Philip had proclaimed. He had proclaimed Christ and the good news about the Kingdom. Moreover, they "received the Word of God." Because of this, they "were being baptized." Their baptism was an act of witness, proclaiming to the world that they accepted Christ.

Some writers believe that the message Philip proclaimed was defective or that the faith of the Samaritans was not genuine. However, Luke does not even hint that there was any misunderstanding of Philip's message. Neither he nor the apostles made any attempt to correct what the Samaritans understood. Philip had long been in the company of the apostles and the church in Jerusalem. He knew the gospel very well.

A genuine expansion of the church was taking place in Samaria. As we tell the story of Christ today, we pray for similar responses among those who hear. Our objective is very clear. We draw people to Christ, pray that they will believe, and prepare to baptize them. What joy this always brings!

4. We must pray for those who falter in their faith.

Simon was a well-known and influential man in Samaria. He had previously practiced magic and held the attention of the people. The people said, "This man is what is called the Great Power of God." Luke says (v. 13): "Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

Soon, of course, Simon would manifest wrong motivation. In my view Simon was legitimately converted. Along with the others, he believed Philip and received the Word of God. He was not the first nor will he be the last believer to falter in his Christian walk. We must continue to pray for all those who weaken in their walk.

Conclusion

In summary, the church often grows in times of persecution. When you proclaim Christ, there will be a harvest of souls. Your proclamation of the gospel will lead people to believe and be baptized. Some will falter, but when they do, we must pray for them.

The Samaritans became true believers, but as we will learn in my next message, the Spirit had not yet fallen on them. The Spirit had done His work in drawing them to Christ, but as we will learn in my next message, the Spirit would come upon them in a new way.

When people respond to the gospel, let us rejoice. However, let us also remember that every disciple must continue to grow in the Lord and experience Him and the Spirit in ever expanding ways. We, too, must continue to develop in our Christian experience.

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