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Monday, May 30, 2022

2022.05.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 8:9–24

Read Acts 8:9–24

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Acts 8:9 introduce? What had he formerly done? How well? What had people done to him (Acts 8:10)? Which people? What did they call him? What does Acts 8:11 repeat that they did to him? Why did they? Whom did they now believe instead (Acts 8:12)? What was he preaching? Which of the sexes received the sign of covenant initiation? What does Acts 8:13 say that Simon did? What was done to him? then what did he do? What did he see? And what effect did this have upon him? Who in Jerusalem heard what (Acts 8:14)? What did they do? When Peter and John came down, what did they do (Acts 8:15)? Why (Acts 8:16)? Then what did Peter and John do (Acts 8:17)? Who saw this (Acts 8:18)? What did he offer? For what did he ask (Acts 8:19)? How does Peter answer (Acts 8:20)? Why? What does he say Simon does not have (Acts 8:21)? Why? What two things does he tell Simon to do (Acts 8:22)? What two things does he say have done this to Simon (Acts 8:23)? Now for what does Simon ask (Acts 8:24)? 

What are some ways that baptism can relate to our spiritual condition?  Acts 8:9–25 looks back to the morning sermon on yesterday's Lord’s Day. In these seventeen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that religiosity can be an obstacle not only to believing the gospel but also to recognizing whether your faith is genuine. 

The gospel comes with power to overcome the greatest obstacles.
The Spirit has already told us in Acts 8:6 that the multitudes in Samaria were heeding Philip with one accord. Now in Acts 8:9-11, we find out what a great obstacle this gospel preaching was overcoming. It was not the obstacle of atheism or polytheism, but under-informed religiosity, superstition, and spiritual excitement.

The Samaritans held to the first five books of the Bible and were monotheists, which we might have picked up from Jesus’s conversation with the woman in John 4. At that time, there had been much professed belief in Jesus through His own preaching (John 4:42). But since then, this man named Simon had been able to stir up some religious fervor by his “magic” (Acts 8:11). This excitement had captivated people of all sorts (Acts 8:10) for a long time (Acts 8:11). 

All of this information is designed to provide a backdrop against which we may be impressed with the effects of the gospel in Acts 8:12. Philip, too, showed miracles and signs (Acts 8:6-7) that put Simon’s magic to shame (Acts 8:13b). But the Spirit gives the credit to the conversions especially to the preaching (Acts 8:12). The glory of the gospel was seen not only in that it was for small and great, and that it overcame the false religiosity of the “Simon Magus” cult, but also that it came with a new sign that would be not only upon males but upon females as well. Baptism itself was a sign of the power of God to save, and the doubling of its objects over those over circumcision showed the greatness of this gospel.

Sometimes (often), people receive the sign of the promise even before they come to faith in the promise. This was true of covenant children in the Old Testament who had been circumcised on the 8th day. Even for those who are baptized after believing, we see in that passage that some of what is signified to them comes after baptism. In this case, it was the outpouring and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Although the people had been converted through the evangelism of Philip, still God honored the ordinary office of the ministers of the gospel by bringing this part of their salvation through the means of their praying and laying on of Peter’s and John’s hands. Of course, the completion of our cleansing and resurrection in Christ is always future to us in this world. Baptism is a sign and seal of all of the believer’s covenant benefits—past, present, and future.

But it’s possible to have a pseudo-Christianity that is just a new religious excitement.
In the elect, the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration. But in others, it may also be the case that someone is not only baptized and also professes faith, but still is profoundly spiritually dead and lost.

Simon made a profession of faith, got baptized, and even joined the ministry team (Acts 8:13). But he wasn’t rejoicing in Christ alone as the life and power and authority of His church; Simon craved a bit of that old glory for himself and thought he could obtain it with money (Acts 8:18-19). 

This baptized man’s heart was not right before God (Acts 8:21). In fact, he was still poisoned by bitterness and bound by guiltiness (Acts 8:23). Sadly, when given direct instruction by the apostle (repent and pray, Acts 8:22), he doesn’t do as told but asks the apostle to pray for him instead (Acts 8:24). 

The lesson is ultimately that saving faith is more than just intellectual agreement. It is the fruit of a changed heart. Even the thoughts of our hearts must be forgiven (Acts 8:22), and it is especially our hearts that are counted righteous before God through saving faith (Acts 8:21). Baptism reminds us that this is not something we can do to ourselves; it is God alone Who can give repentance and faith!

What are some examples of religious excitement that aren’t necessarily Christian? What does baptism show to the elect? Why doesn’t it do any good for those who are not elect? What does it tell us to do?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your glorious salvation that overcomes even our false religiosity. Forgive us for whenever we think there is true spiritual life or power from anything but Christ. And grant unto us not only changed hearts, but the completion of our conformity to Christ and His perfect heart, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

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