Summary: People are tired of finding phony. How can we make sure they find the Real Deal?
We have been looking at the beginnings of the church. You may recall that in Acts 1 Jesus declared they would be His witnesses, “first in Jerusalem and Judea, then in Samaria and the ends of the world.” However, up until today’s passage, the church has remained in Jerusalem. It took the persecution of Saul and his followers to force the church to begin to spread globally.
God has a way of pushing His people to accomplish His purposes, doesn’t He? Way back in Genesis, when the people decided to build the Tower of Babel so they could reach the heavens and make a name for themselves, God stepped in and mixed up their languages. Throughout the Old Testament, when the people of Israel rebelled against God, He’d respond by sending oppressors then finally sending the nation into exile. Now as persecution breaks out against the church, God is spreading His message further into the world, here we see it go to Samaria.
Throughout history, people have always sought out the real deal. If I go to buy lunch somewhere after services this morning, if I use anything larger than a 10, they have methods to make check whether I’ve handed them a counterfeit or the real deal. When a couple gets engaged, the groom-to-be had better hope he bought his bride the real deal and not some cheap cubic zirconia knock-off. As more and more people are spending time on the internet, warnings about viruses are being spread. If you want to know if the virus is the real deal or if this is a hoax, you go to websites like snopes.com to find out.
That’s what was happening in Samaria. The Samaritans had long been ostracized by the Jews due to marital practices during the time of exile. Feeling left out, they are now looking for the real deal, a faith they can put their hope in. We’ll see what they found by breaking today’s passage into two segments. (Read Acts 8:4-13)
This first part shows us that the Phony can’t compete with the Real Deal. Philip and Simon (a sorcerer, not Peter) were both performing miraculous signs that drew the attention of the people who saw them and wanted to know how these things were possible.
Why don’t we see these same miraculous signs in church today? I believe it’s because God knows what will draw people to Him. In those days in Samaria, it was miraculous signs. Here in America today, it’s the loving hearts of sacrificing Christians that draw people to God. Frankly, I don’t believe it’s that we don’t have miracles today- it’s more like we disregard or explain away the miracles that we do see. My mother had triple bypass open heart surgery a few years back. Because my parents moved, she had to switch heart doctors. If it hadn’t been for the charts showing her medical history, the doctor wouldn’t have believed she had the surgery because her heart condition had improved so much, something they say just doesn’t happen. My mom just smiles and responds, “That’s the power of prayer.” In our own church, many of you describe the night you were gathered at the hospital preparing to console the family of one of our beloved ladies after she had a brain aneurism. It’s been over two years, and here she sits among us as we worship today. I’m sure there are many more testimonies we can share about how God has worked in our lives today.
Here’s the deal- while the signs may have drawn the attention of the people, that’s not what brought them to Christ. That only brought them into a place where they could hear the message. It was the message of the apostles that won them over. You see, Simon proclaimed a message that glorified himself. He boasted that he was someone great. In fact, people throughout Samaria believed that he was the Great Power. Now, you may fool all of the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and that’s exactly what Simon was trying to do.
On the other hand, Philip proclaimed a message that glorified Jesus Christ. He declared the good news that the kingdom of God had come and all were welcome to join. He gave the credit of the miracles where credit was due- to Jesus Christ.
As they always say, if you can’t beat them join them- which is exactly what Simon did. We’re told that even he believed Philip’s message and was baptized. He began to follow Philip everywhere he went- possibly just to figure out the secret to his “tricks” (miracles). This leads us to the next stage- seeing that the Phony can’t buy the Real Deal. (read Acts 8:14-25)