Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 18
ACTS CHAPTERS 6,7 & 8
Let’s pick up in Acts Chapter 8. We had been introduced to Simon the sorcerer, who had been bewitching the Samaritans. Remember he was using Satanic power to accomplish that. Now verse 12:
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
Does Philip or any of these people say anything about our Lord’s death, burial and Resurrection which is the very core of our Gospel. Our Gospel is that we have to believe that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. Philip doesn’t mention that. He was preaching that Jesus was The Christ, The Messiah, The Son of the living God. And then they were baptized. John the Baptist started with, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, repent and be baptized.” That was the Jewish message. It was tied to it. I would be the last one to say you can separate it back there in that economy. Today I maintain that baptism has no part in Salvation. It has to be the finished work of the Cross plus nothing. Otherwise we are telling God, “You didn’t quite finish it. I have to complete it with my baptism.” So here is where we have to be so careful. When someone questions my stand on baptism, I tell them,“Don’t ever make it part of your Salvation, because then you are adding to the finished work of the Cross. We rest totally on what Christ accomplished on our behalf.” But here in this passage, this is not the message yet. That revelation hasn’t been revealed.
“Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized (Simon went the whole nine yards; he professed believing; evidently did his repenting, and was baptized) he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.”
What is Simon majoring on? Signs and miracles. What’s he minoring on? The Person of Christ. Our priorities have to be based on Scripture. But since that had been Simon’s trade, it was right down his alley to have signs and miracles. He jumped on that bandwagon and said, “Hooray, this is my kind of thing!” But was Simon a true believer? No! He’s a fake. He’s a counterfeit. Now read on:
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem (that would be the Twelve. This Philip is one of the seven if I understand Scripture correctly) heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:” James is dead already because as a rule it was always Peter, James and John.
“Who (Peter and John), when they were come down, prayed for them (these Samaritan believers), that they might receive the Holy Ghost:”
“(For as yet [in spite of all of the success of Philip’s preaching] he [The Holy Spirit] was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” Why aren’t they given the Holy Spirit? God had His reasons. Let’s look at verse 17:
“Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
Amazing isn’t it? Why did God withhold the Holy Spirit from these baptized Samaritans believers until Peter and John came down? Go to John’s Gospel, Chapter 4. Here we have the account of Jesus and the woman at the well, and you all know the story:
“The woman saith unto him, `Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.’ Jesus saith unto her, `Go, call thy husband, and come hither.’ The woman answered and said, `I have no husband.’ Jesus said unto her, `Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: (Sounds familiar doesn’t it?) in that saidst thou truly.’ The woman saith unto him, `Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.'”
We’ve got to go back into Israel’s history, when the Kingdom was divided under Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The Temple was in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and it carried on as usual. So what did the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom set up? A secondary temple worship. They had their own counterfeit as it were. The presence of God wasn’t in it. It was another man-made religion. They didn’t realize that God was dealing with Israel at the Temple in Jerusalem. Now I need to make another point as we go along. All through Israel’s religious history, Jerusalem is the headquarters of God’s operation. For the New Testament Church there is no earthly headquarters. That’s the vast difference. The Church today is headquartered not on earth, but in Heaven! And even though Antioch was more or less the fountainhead of where the Gospel went out to Gentiles, yet the Scriptures never place Antioch as the headquarters of the New Testament Church. Nor is Jerusalem. There is no headquarters of the New Testament Church.
But under Judaism, Jerusalem is understood that that is where Christ dealt with His people. But the Samaritans said, “What’s the difference?” Now with that kind of historic mentality what did God have to show these Samaritan believers? That Jerusalem was the headquarters of God dealing with the Nation of Israel. The Samaritan believers were certainly saved by the preaching of Philip, yet they did not get the full frosting on the cake until representatives of Jerusalem (Peter and John) came and manifested their divine office. By the laying on of hands, they received the Holy Spirit. What did that tell the Samaritans? Jerusalem is where we have to worship, not Samaria. Now back to Acts Chapter 8 again. Old Simon is seeing all of this, and he is the curious one.
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given (and remember under this economy when the Holy Spirit came down there was visible evidence of it), he offered them money,”
Doesn’t that show where his heart is? He has been gaining wealth for years in performing the miraculous. But now he sees something that was even better than what he had been able to do. It had more power. Simon wants to buy into this. Now here is where you have every right to discern the spiritual condition of this man Simon. As a true believer would he make a statement like that? No way! But he’s not. Oh he made a profession, but it was as empty as a bucket. It had absolutely nothing that was life-changing. He had even gone through baptism. Does that ring a bell? We’ve got millions doing it all time. They go through the process, they get baptized, they join the church, and they are as lost as ever. Why? Because there hasn’t been a change of heart.
“Saying, `Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.'” Simon wasn’t concerned about the Spiritual aspect of the Holy Spirit. All he could see was the money he could reap. Peter sees right through Simon.
“But Peter said unto him, `Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.'” They’re both going down the tube, not just the money, but Simon too!
“Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter (do you see what that says? Even though it says in verse 13 that he believed, yet Peter brings us to the truth of the matter. It wasn’t any real belief, he was a fake. He was in it strictly for what he could get out of it): for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”
Let’s go to Romans Chapter 10. Recently, we taught in this Chapter, and I came away just knowing that hearts were really touched by the Gospel. These are verses that I think every servant of God uses when dealing with someone in the area of Salvation.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe (where?) in thine heart (not just in the head) that God hath raised him from the dead (now what does that imply? He died, was buried and rose from the dead. If you believe that with all your heart), thou shalt be saved.” That’s the Gospel by which we are saved.
Not if, maybe, or hope so, but when we believe that God promised it as a fact. Thou shalt be saved. And that’s a promise. What does God expect us to do with promises? Rest on them. Not doubt them nor wonder. But we have every right to say, “God, that’s what you told me, and I believe it.” God calls that faith. This is one place where we can hold God accountable, if I may put it that way. Because He said it we can hold Him accountable.
“For with the heart (not with the head; not with the mind) man (what?) believeth unto righteousness;…”
Now do you see a lot of things that people think should be in there but are not? Paul doesn’t even allude here to some of the things here in the Book of Acts. But all he says is that if we believe with all our heart that God in Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead, we shall be saved. That’s a promise, but it has to be in the heart. Now back to Acts. Simon didn’t believe in his heart. He just saw what was to be gained materially and said, “I want that.” Read on. In verse 22 Peter says to Simon:
“Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”
Scripture doesn’t give the slightest hint that Simon ever changed his mind. We read a book recently saying Simon probably was the promoter of what was later called Gnosticism – a counterfeit of Christianity. He went from Samaria, according to some archaeological and historical findings, and became an enemy of the Gospel. I believe it as he was Satanically endowed. Peter says in Verse 23:
“For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”
Is that the description of a believer? No way. Salvation breaks the bond of iniquity. Salvation breaks those chains of Satan. Salvation sets us free! I often tell my classes that back in the sixties during the hippie movement, they thought they were free. They thought their lifestyle had broken all bonds of social behavior and they could do as they pleased. Those people weren’t free. They were in the very bonds of Satan himself. They were bound. But, the believer is truly set free. All those shackles are broken by the power of God. But Simon couldn’t believe. He only saw the material.
“Then answered Simon, and said, `Pray ye to the Lord for me,…'”
Does that work? No way. Let’s go back to Romans 10. Over the years I believe that God has given the majority of my teaching for the benefit of the believers. But that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize there are many lost people that we touch, and we’ve seen a lot of people come to know The Lord. I know I don’t express a lot of evangelistic output in my teaching, and I am the first to admit it. That might be a failure on my part, but here it is in Romans 10:
“For the Scripture saith (no one else but The Word, saith), `Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (he brings in this which got Paul in trouble with the Jews). For there is no difference between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all (not in a blanket effect, but to whom?) that call upon him.'”
Then you come to that great verse 13. Here, I’m reminded of a lady in Minnesota who years ago, when we brought her through all these verses down to verse 13, through her tears said,“I never saw this verse before.” She claimed to be a Sunday School teacher for years. But see, here’s the capstone of the whole thing; when we believe what The Bible says about ourselves, that we’re sinners. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned…” Being sons of Adam. When we take that verse by faith that God has called me a sinner, then I can believe that Christ died for my sin. He died in my place, and God expects us to believe it and recognize it verbally. You don’t have to shout it to a crowd or shout it from a housetop. But even in the privacy of your own prayer closet, or driving down a road or washing dishes in the sink. You verbally say, “Lord, I’m a sinner. Save me because I believe that you have done everything that needs to be done.” That’s what verse 13 means.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (and what’s the promise? That person) shall be saved.”
I can’t understand it. I don’t think that you can. But that’s what The Book says. That if we call upon him, we shall be saved. I’ve always given the old, simple, childlike illustration of a swimming pool on a hot summer afternoon. The kids are screaming and laughing and having a ball. There’s so many heads in there that you can’t see one from the other. But a lifeguard who knows what he or she is doing, even though they may be carrying on a conversation with some one, what is their ear constantly trained for? That feeble cry, “Help.” And then Bingo, that lifeguard is in the water saving that child. This is a perfect picture of God. He is constantly listening for the feeble call of a sinner who says, “I am wanting to be saved.”And the second that God hears that cry, He’s there. That’s what Salvation is all about. And as I left that lady, I told her, “Now tomorrow, Satan is going to come back and cast doubt, and make you say, `Now did anything really happen?’ And you come right back and open your Bible to Romans 10:13 and you again, verbally, just say out loud, `God you promised it.'” That’s what faith is all about. God promised and I did what He said to do. I called upon Him, believing the Gospel. Now I want the assurance that it is true.
I’ve had so many people long after the fact tell me, “This is what I did, and what a difference.” I’ve always told my class, if you have any doubt about your Salvation, drop to your knees and just say, “Lord, if I’m not truly saved, I want you to save me right now.” Don’t go through life doubting. Am I going to make it? Am I alright? The Scripture says, “Make your calling and election sure” And that’s one way of doing it. Briefly, let’s go to Acts Chapter 8:
“And they (Peter and John), when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord (where did they go?), returned to Jerusalem,…”
They didn’t keep on going because they knew they had no ministry to Gentiles until Israel had The King and the Kingdom, so they went back to Jerusalem.