Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mar 26 - Acts 8

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 8. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • The chapter starts with a guy named Saul who witnessed and approved of Stephen's death. Saul then starts goes out in search of people who believe in Jesus to put them in prison.
  • Due to the persecution the believers in Jesus scatter out of Jerusalem. Jesus had commanded them (in Acts 1:8) to go out from Jerusalem to share the message with the rest of the world. Perhaps they were having trouble obeying Jesus and the persecution gave them the push they needed.
  • In verses 9-16 Philip shares the story of Jesus with some Samaritans. The Samaritans were the hated enemies of the Jewish people (and up to this point all the Christians were from a Jewish background).
  • It is so shocking that Samaritans were becoming Christians that the apostles sent Peter and John to check it out. We're told the Samaritans "received" the Holy Spirit (in a way that could be seen). The word "received" means "to come upon in a forceful way." The visible part is probably that they had the ability to speak in a foreign language (like we saw happen in Acts 2:1-4.) Interestingly, every time (the only times) we see this happen is when a new people group is added to the followers of Jesus. Probably what's happening is that the current Christians have some inbred prejudices and so have a hard time accepting this new group of people, so God gives them a visible sign of approval by having the Holy Spirit come upon them in a special, visible way.
  • At the end of the chapter the Holy Spirit leads Philip to Samaria, where he gets to tell an Ethiopian eunuch the "good news about Jesus." The Ethiopians' response is to ask to be baptized. We see that baptism is a part of the good news and is the natural response for someone who believes in Jesus. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Throughout this chapter we see the priority of sharing Jesus with people, with all people, at every possible opportunity.
  • The behind-the-scenes but central character in this chapter is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's presence inside his followers to guide and empower them. In this chapter we see the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit and we see Philip guided by the Holy Spirit. For us to live the life God has for us, we need to be utterly reliant on the strength and direction of the Holy Spirit.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Is your priority sharing Jesus with people? If not, ask God for help with that. And ask God to give you an opportunity to (gently, gracefully) share Jesus with someone this week.
  • Are you relying on the Holy Spirit? The Christian life is not meant to be lived in our own power. In fact, it can't be. Ask God to help you to be aware of his presence in your life and to rely on his power to overcome temptation and to embrace the opportunities he gives you. How do you think you can rely on the Holy Spirit more today?