Summary: This message focuses on wizardry and those who teach false doctrine. Many seems to want to buy God but they do not want to serve God.
“Off to See the Wizard”
Acts 8:1-3 and 9-25
Last week we wrapped up chapter 7 as we saw the death of the first martyr in the local church. His name was Stephen. According to church history it would have happened something like this ... The criminal would be taken to a place where there was a cliff ... the individual would then be thrown down. Depending on the height of the cliff some were killed in the process, some broke their legs ...but most survived and then they would throw huge boulders down on them until they were dead. In our definition in America this was certainly cruel and unusual punishment. It is still done in Iran and other places today. I read accounts of this just this week.
There are some things we notice about Stephen that seem to get our attention here. (1) we see the secret of his power. He had a clear vision of Christ welcoming him into heaven. That vision kept him strong. (2) He followed the example of Jesus. Just as Jesus prayed Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing ... so did Stephen ... same prayer (3) In the midst of his persecution Stephen died at peace. This scripture teaches us that there is peace when we are doing the right thing no matter how difficult the circumstances.
All of this had a profound effect on the NT church. As a result a great persecution broke out against the early church. The Bible tells us then that everyone in the church with the exception of the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul then went on a rampage going from house to house taking any believers he could find and he drug them off ... men and women alike and placed them in prison.
But this even turns out for the good of the church because (v.4) those who were scattered went out and preached the word wherever they went. Many came to Christ. Those who were demon possessed were set free. Many were healed. So in the midst of this persecution the church is now stronger than ever. We pick up there with the story of a man named Simon. V. 9-25.
Here we encounter another one of the 7 men chosen to serve as deacons in the early church. His name is Philip. Philip is now out preaching the word in Samaria. And as he goes about preaching he encounters a man named Simon. But Simon does not want to receive God’s free gift ... instead he wants to buy it. What has happened is this ... now that the gospel is being preached Philip is encountering the world of the occult. Now if Philip had known what lied ahead of him he might have said, “I’m off to see the wizard.” Because that is exactly what this man Simon proclaimed to be.... a wizard, a sorcerer, a magician and all who saw him believed it as well.
Look with me at what Philip was up against. Philip is a preacher now ... in fact he is a powerful preacher. The Bible tells us that as he began preaching in Samaria some very powerful things happened. (1) he performed miracles/signs. And the result of these signs/miracles is that everyone paid close attention to what he said. (2) evil spirits were cast out. It says the people shrieked when this happened. (3) many were healed ... people who were paralyzed, cannot walk are suddenly running up and down the streets. The result of this is that the people were filled with joy.
This is when we encounter this man named Simon. Simon is a sorcerer, a wizard, a magician who has had a powerful influence on the people of Samaria. People high and low, all classes of people paid attention t the wizard. Now we don’t know what his focus was, whether his magic centered in astrology which was commonly practiced in those days ... still is ... probably not a person here this morning who doesn’t know what their astrological sign is. By the way, stay away from that section of the newspaper .. there is nothing good there. Perhaps he focused on some other form of witchcraft but we see later in the book of Acts that this magic comes from demonic sources. People laugh and scoff at this today but this is very serious business. Personally I do not try to tell parents that their children shouldn’t go out and go door to door to collect candy. Personally I would like to go myself but I’m too big. We offer a fall festival and we do it on Halloween to offer a healthy alternative because as you know it is not always safe for our children.