Summary: Fifth sermon in a fall 2005 series through Acts
The coming of fall announces the arrival of football, the World Series, school, a new allergy season, and a new TV season. Many of us have waited all summer to see the outcome of our favorite TV show’s cliffhanger ending.
Returning to TV this year is a show that features the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) line, “You’re fired.” It comes from the lips of Donald Trump on the reality show The Apprentice. It is a show about power.
(The show is about a group of adults chosen to work on projects assigned by Donald Trump. As the series progresses, the participants are weeded out one by one, and the winner is given a chance to run one of Trump’s companies.)
This past Tuesday, I watched most of an episode on CNBC. The two teams, the men’s and the women’s, were given a new assignment to create an ad for Lamborghini, makers of one of those fast and expensive Italian sports cars.
From the start, the men’s project manager was at odds with one of the men who had been the previous project manager on the last episode. The result was that due to this conflict and the neglect of this relationship, this new project manager heard the words, “You’re fired!”
This past Monday was our annual state general assembly. The featured speaker was Dr Robert Duhlin, who pastors the Metropolitan Church of God in Detroit. His presentation was entitled, ‘Leadership in the Community of God,’ and he said this about leadership, ‘Leadership is about who we are as people and how we handle power, authority, and rejection.’
Power is also an issue in our text, which also includes verses 9 through 25 of Acts 8, for this morning. It is about a grab for power that is rejected because it is about the purpose of power in God’s plans and not our own.
I remind us that Jesus’ call to witness was a call to do so in ‘Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ‘ends of the earth.’ Last week, we encountered Stephen, a man ‘full of faith and the Holy Spirit’ whose death through stoning caused the church to scatter and leave Jerusalem.
This morning our text introduces us to a man named Simon, who is the opposite of Stephen, and who seeks to gain a power that you cannot buy.
The beginning of our text this morning finds, as was shared last week, that because of the persecution which began following the death of Stephen, the early believers leave Jerusalem and scatter into the surrounding areas and beyond. And as Luke calls our attention to Philip, (‘For example,’ as we read in verse 5); Luke is giving his readers a concrete example of how the gospel spreads into the region. And it is an interesting and important example because it is an illustration of what kind of opposition and issues were to be encountered as the faith spread; opposition and issues that are the same today.
We notice as we read that Philip gained credibility as he, through the power of God, performed miracles of healing and deliverance as indicated in verses 6 through 8. Credible testimony of a changed life is the greatest testimony to the power of God. This pattern would be repeated as we read the rest of Acts and the New Testament that gives us some more background information especially the books written by Paul to specific churches, which are mentioned in Acts.
None of this was lost on one person who had a stake in what was going on because his power was threatened. His name was Simon and some Bible scholars have suggested over the years that Simon became the chief leader of a group who held views about God and faith that was considered ‘dissenting’ or incorrect by the larger church.
Yet as we met Simon for the first time, we are told in verse 9 that he was a ‘sorcerer…claiming to be someone great.’ In other words he was a magician who (verse 11) ‘was very influential because of the magic he performed.’
Simon had influence over the Samaritans to which Philip had now come, because he had power. It was not the power of God but it was some kind of power.
Some would say that it was Satanic power because of the magic involved and we dare not discount this view because it does it exist. Others would say that it was power that came with ‘slight of hand’ ability.
Yet, because Simon performed magic of some kind at some level, he had power because he had influence over the people. We encounter such people today.
Some have power because of their financial insight and ability. They know how to make (and keep) money and because they do, they have power. But there is more to life than money.