In Order to Live In Community You Have to Get Over Yourself

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Jesus of Nazareth as was written in the book of Acts by the physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses twenty through forty of this New Testament book. “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him, The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:26-40).

 

            “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).

 

            “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 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. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:9-13).

           

 

            “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto hi, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans” (Acts 9:14-25).

           

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the continuation of the narrative surrounding Philip who was one of the seven deacons which were chosen from among the brethren in the sixth chapter. In order to understand the words which are found in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts it is absolutely necessary that you first recognize that which is presented before us in the opening verses of the sixth chapter as well as the words which are found in the opening verses of the eighth chapter. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the beginning verses of the sixth chapter you will encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the number of the disciples within the early church multiplying and increasing greatly during the days of the apostles. As a direct result of the growth and multiplication of the disciples during the days of the early church there would arise a murmuring among the Grecians directed toward the Hebrews. The cause of this murmuring was an apparent neglect of their widows in the daily ministration. Turning your attention back to the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book you will encounter the tremendous sense of hospitality and community that was created and fostered by the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. As you read the final words of the second chapter as well as the words which are found towards the end of the fourth chapter you will find powerful descriptions of the wonderful sense of community and hospitality which was present among the brethren from the day of Pentecost onward. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for this ministry of hospitality, community and fellowship was something that could only be created and nurtured by the person and presence of the Holy Ghost. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in both the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book:

 

            “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon e very soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).

 

            “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation), a Levite, and of the country Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37). ‘

 

            It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to each of these passages of Scripture for within them we are not only directly confronted with the tremendous sense of community and fellowship that was fostered and nurtured by the Holy Ghost but we also find the wonderful sense of hospitality that was created among the brethren. Upon reading these words we are not only brought face to face with three-thousand souls being added unto the number of those in the upper room on the day of Pentecost but we also find what I am convinced was the single greatest work which took place on the day of Pentecost. It would be very easy to speak of the events which took place on the day of Pentecost and highlight speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave men utterance as being the greatest work which took place on that day. It would be very easy to spend all of our time focusing on this speaking with other tongues the wonderful works of God that men of other nations might hear in their own language the greatness of our God. It is indeed true that speaking with other tongues was a great and wonderful work which took place on the day of Pentecost, however, I am absolutely convinced there was something that was even greater which took place on that day. There is not a doubt in my mind that even three-thousand souls being added unto the number of believers which were present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost was also a mighty and powerful work as I would be remiss to tell you when the last time was I personally witnessed three-thousand souls believing on the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth and being baptized in a single day. I have spent my entire life in the church having grown up in a pastor’s home, having attended and graduated from Bible college, and even having served in various different capacities in churches over the years. Despite all of that being said, however, I can’t even tell you that I have personally witnessed three-thousand souls coming to the faith and being baptized in my entire lifetime.

 

            Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous truth surrounding the day of Pentecost and how the arrival of the Holy Spirit not only produced speaking with other tongues as He personally gave utterance unto men but also how men hearing those one-hundred and twenty speaking in their own native languages the wonderful works of God would produce such a marveling and astonishment among those in the city of Jerusalem that the apostle Peter would stand before them together with the apostles and preach the gospel concerning Jesus of Nazareth. It would be while standing before those in the city of Jerusalem together with the apostles Peter would not only declare unto them that what they were witnessing and beholding was that which their prophet Joel had prophesied countless generations ago but he would also preach Jesus of Nazareth unto them. The apostle Peter would use this as an opportunity to preach Jesus of Nazareth whom the Jews together with their rulers and elders had delivered unto Pilate to be killed and crucified. Even though Jesus of Nazareth was delivered to be crucified and would in fact die while hanging upon that cruel Roman instrument the Spirit of the LORD would raise Him from death to life as the Father was not willing to allow His body to see decay nor His soul remain in hell. The apostle Peter would not only preach Jesus of Nazareth crucified and raised from death to life on the third day but he would also preach Jesus having been ascended unto the right hand of the Father in glory and being received by Him after He departed from this earth. It would be as a direct result of the words the apostle Peter spoke that men and women on that day would be convicted within themselves and be pricked in their hearts and ask the apostles what they ought to do to be saved. The apostle Peter would instruct them to repent and to be baptized unto the remission of their sins. As a direct result of the words which the apostle Peter spoke together with the presence of the eleven apostles three thousand souls were added to the number of the church in a single day.

 

            Before I get into the words and events which are recorded in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts I find it absolutely necessary to declare that while speaking with other tongues as the Holy Spirit granted utterance is indeed a gift of the Spirit that was offered unto men on the day of Pentecost it is not the greatest work which took place on that day. As you continue reading the words found in the second chapter of the book of Acts you will find that on the day of Pentecost three-thousand souls were added unto the number of those who were present in the upper room and the church would see an exponential increase in a single day. Pause for a moment and consider what it would be like for the church during our generation to see an increase of such great proportions and magnitude that is absolutely astonishing. What’s more is consider that if but three-hundred souls were added to the church on the day of Pentecost it would be a three-hundred percent increase from the original number. The truth of the matter, however, is that on the day of Pentecost the church did not merely see a three-hundred percent increase in their number but would see a three-thousand percent increase in their number. In a single day—as a direct result of the work of the Holy Ghost—the church would have three-thousand souls added unto their number which would be baptized unto the repentance of their sins. What’s more is that I am convinced with this increase in number comes a tremendous increase of the work of the Holy Ghost. Oh there was the initial work of increasing the number of those which were present in the early church, however, I am absolutely convinced there was a greater work which took place thereafter. There is something to be said about the Holy Ghost adding three-thousand souls unto the number of the believers present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, however, there is something to be said about an even greater work that was needed during those days—namely, fostering a sense of unity, community, fellowship, compassion and hospitality among all those who now made up the early church.

 

            As I sit here today I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the tremendous truth surrounding three thousand souls being added unto the number of the apostles and followers of Jesus of Nazareth on the day of Pentecost. With this being said I feel compelled to draw your attention to just how wonderful and remarkable the work of the Holy Spirit would have been on the day of Pentecost—and not only on the day of Pentecost but also in the days to come. It’s one thing for the Lord to add three-thousand souls unto the number of the apostles and followers of Jesus in a single day, however, there is something for the Holy Ghost to create and nurture a sense of community and fellowship among those that believed. We know that the one-hundred and twenty which returned from the mount called Olivet gathered together in one place and were of one accord in prayer as they waited for the promise of the Father which Jesus would send. We know there was a wonderful and powerful sense of community, fellowship and unity present among the one-hundred and twenty in the upper room during those days and yet I can’t help but think about what would be needed for three-thousand more souls to be added to that number and for that same sense of unity, community and fellowship to be present among them all. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the single greatest works of the Holy Spirit is not merely adding numbers unto the Church and those that believe but also creating a powerful sense of unity and community among them all. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost would take various different races, tongues, tribes and kindreds from Judaea, Galilee, and even from the surrounding regions of the world at that time and would make them brethren one with each other. It would be on the day of Pentecost when men and women would be taken and transformed beyond kindred and race and would actually be made as brethren unto one another.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredibly important this is for it calls and draws our attention to what I am convinced is the single greatest work of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. I am convinced that it was nothing for the Holy Ghost to grant utterance unto the one-hundred and twenty in the upper that they might speak in tongues and even to add three-thousand souls unto those who already believed. Although it is true I have never personally witnessed three-thousand souls being added to the Church in a single day it is something that is absolutely minute and small in the eyes of God and according to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. I firmly believe it is nothing for the Holy Spirit to grant unto men the ability to speak with other tongues as He gives unto them utterance and even to add three-thousand or more souls to the Church in a single day. What I am convinced is all the more difficult and something that cannot be created by man is the sense of community, unity, fellowship, compassion and hospitality among all those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus. Pause for a moment and think about what it would be like for more than three-thousand souls to not only continue stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship but also to be of one heart and of one soul. The beloved physician Luke wrote of the multitude of them which believed how they were of one heart and own soul and how neither said any of them that ought of the things which they possess was his own. Stop for a moment and consider what a tremendous work of the Holy Ghost would be needed to cause more than three thousand souls to be of one heart and one soul and to truly walk and live among each other as community. If you read the words found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that the church was more than simply a gathering together of those who would worship and pray but it was actually a community of brethren that lived in joyful harmony and unity among each other.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the fact that the single greatest work the Holy Ghost wrought on the day of Pentecost was fostering a powerful sense of community that would have as manifestation of it both hospitality as well as compassion. Not only this but the Holy Ghost would also produce this selflessness within the hearts and souls of those who believed as they would sell their possessions and goods and part unto them to all men as every man had need. What we find in this passage is what Jesus offered unto the rich young ruler who came unto Him asking what good thing he needed to do to be saved. Jesus offered unto this rich young ruler selling all that he had and giving unto the poor that he might have treasure in heaven and would be free of the chains and shackles of this world that would hinder him from walking with and following the Lord Jesus. In all reality I am convinced there is something incredibly powerful about this selling of all their possessions and distributing unto all men as they had need for it would deliver and set men free from those things in the world that would choke the life of the word out of their hearts. You will recall the parable Jesus spoke concerning the seed and the sower and how the seed which was sown among the thorny ground represented those who heard the word and received it gladly and yet the cares of this world and the love of money choked the life of the word out of their hearts. You will also recall the offer Jesus made unto the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and to give to the poor that he might not only have treasure in heaven but might also be free of anything in this life that would hinder him from walking with and following Jesus. Scripture makes it very clear that this rich young ruler would walk out of the presence of Jesus incredibly sorrowful for he had much possessions and felt it was too much to sell everything he had. Oh the question I can’t help but wonder is what was more difficult for the rich young ruler—selling all he had and thus delivering him of those things that would keep him shackled and bound to the things of this world or distributing unto the poor.

 

            What we find in the New Testament book of Acts is absolutely incredible for as a direct result of the Holy Ghost men would be free and delivered among themselves to do what the rich young ruler could not and was not able or willing to do. The rich young ruler departed from the presence of Jesus sorrowful when he heard Jesus’ offer of selling everything he had and giving unto the poor that there might be nothing hindering or holding him back from walking with and following the Lord Jesus. There is a stark contrast that exists between the rich young ruler who was unwilling to sell all that he had and make distribution unto the poor and Zacchaeus who was a chief publican in the city of Jericho. You will recall in the New Testament book of Acts how Zacchaeus would play host to Jesus of Nazareth and His disciples in his home as Jesus passed by the place where he was in a tree and declared He must needs have fellowship with him on that day. Standing up in the presence of Jesus within his home Zacchaeus would not only commit to selling half of his goods and possessions to make distribution to the poor but also restoring four-fold that which he had taken from others through extortion. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is found within the narrative of Zacchaeus for within it we are brought face to face with one whom Jesus did not instruct or command to sell half of what he had that he might give unto the poor. There is absolutely no record or indication that Jesus spoke unto Zacchaeus the same words which He had spoken and offered unto the rich young ruler. Luke makes absolutely no mention of Zacchaeus being instructed and commanded by Jesus to sell all that he had or even half of his possessions that he might make distribution unto the poor and yet he would make the commitment to do so regardless.

 

            It is with all of this being said I feel it is absolutely necessary to consider the words which are found in the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew concerning the rich young ruler as well as the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke concerning this chief publican by the name of Zacchaeus. What’s more is that it is in the gospel written by Luke we not only find the narrative and account of this chief publican and tax collector Zacchaeus but we also find the narrative of the rich young ruler told from a different vantage point than that of the apostle Matthew. With this in mind I would like to invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these gospels as they help us to truly understand how incredibly powerful the work of the Holy Ghost truly was on the day of Pentecost—and not only on the day of Pentecost but also in the days of the early Church:

 

            “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus aid unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).

 

            “And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good,k save one, that is, God. Thou. Knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:18-25).

 

            “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a certain man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood and said unto the Lord; behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

 

            Oh dear reader pay close attention to the contrast that is found in these two passages of Scripture for unto the rich young ruler an offer was given to sell all that he had and to deliver himself of the cares of this world and the love of money that he might give unto the poor. Once he had delivered and set himself free from the cares of this world and that which would choke the life out of his heart and soul he would not only have treasure in heaven but would also be free to come after and follow Jesus. Scripture records how the rich young ruler departed from the presence of Jesus sorrowful for he was very rich and had much possessions. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the rich young ruler had many possessions and was great in wealth and yet was unwilling to part from that which he had amassed and acquired. Zacchaeus on the other hand—one who was a chief publican in the city of Jericho—stood up in his own house before the Lord and declared how the half of his goods he would give unto the poor. Zacchaeus was willing to give half of his goods unto the poor that he might give himself unto compassion and hospitality and I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like in Jericho as Zacchaeus—this man who was formerly a tax collector and chief among the publicans began distributing unto the poor. Pause for a moment and think about what it would and could have looked like for Zacchaeus to move throughout Jericho and instead of seeking to extort men and women of their own finances, money and wealth he would distribute unto the poor. Not only this but consider what it was like as Zacchaeus would begin moving throughout Jericho and making restitution unto those whom he extorted through false accusation. Consider what it was like for those who had indeed been wronged by Zacchaeus to not only get back what they had lost but also to receive four-fold more than what was previously lost. What a great and glorious sight this truly was in the city of Jericho as this chief publican was not only a vessel and conduit of compassion and hospitality but was also a vessel of restoration, reconciliation and restitution.

 

            It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to the words found in these passages of Scripture for they help shine a tremendous amount of light on to the wonderful work of the Holy Ghost which took place during the days of the early Church. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest works of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost—and not only on the day of Pentecost but also in the days thereafter—was that of producing this selflessness, this compassion, this hospitality and this grace within the hearts of those who were present among the early Church. It is no small thing to sell all that one has that they might not only give unto the poor and give unto those who are in need but also to make distribution unto the necessity of the saints. Lest you think that this is somehow something small for the Holy Spirit to accomplish ask yourself in this very moment if you are willing to sell all that you have that distribution might be made unto those who are in need. What would you do if the voice of the Lord spoke to your heart and soul and asked you to sell all that you had and give to the poor? What would you do if the voice of the Holy Ghost spoke unto your spirit and instructed you to deliver yourself from the cares of this world and from the love of money and the love of possessions and to sell all that you have? What would you say to the Holy Ghost if He spoke to your spirit on this very day or perhaps in a day to come to sell all that you had that you might give unto the poor or make distribution unto the necessity of the saints? How would you respond if such a command and word of instruction was spoken unto your heart and spirit during these days and whether or not you would and could go through it.

 

            Pause for a moment and ask yourself if you would be willing to sell everything you had that you might give unto the poor as you are completely delivered from the cares of this world and from the love of money. If you are reading the words contained in this writing I would like to urge you in the strongest possible sense to consider just how mighty and powerful this work of the Holy Ghost was in the midst of the early Church as it would be the Holy Ghost that would produce this selflessness and compassion within the hearts and souls of men and women in the early Church. What we find and read in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts is something that is truly wonderful and powerful when you take the time to think about and consider it for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in men being willing to part with their possessions and sell what they had that others might benefit and be blessed. Permit me to ask you whether or not you possess such a selflessness and such a compassion within your own heart and soul that you would be willing to sell of what you had that others might benefit and others might be blessed. Are you and would you truly be willing to part with what you had in this life that you might not only be delivered of anything that would hold you back from truly coming after and following Jesus? Are you and would you be willing to part with what you had in this life that you might give unto the poor and those who are in need that they might benefit and be blessed? We ought not treat what is found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts during the days of the early church as common or trite for it is no small feat or work of the Holy Ghost to produce within the hearts and souls of men and women a willingness to sell everything they had  and distribute unto men as they had need.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book of Acts and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding this work of the Holy Spirit in not only fostering a sense of community among the brethren and saints of the early Church but also of the compassion, the hospitality, the grace and the selflessness that was found within their hearts and souls. Speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance is absolutely fantastic and has its place among the brethren and even preaching itself is powerful in and of itself and has its place within the church, however, I would argue and contend that the single greatest work the Spirit wrought during the days of the early Church was that of uniting the brethren and making them of one heart, one soul and one mind. It is no small thing to add three thousand souls to the brethren in a single day but it is also no small thing to unite and bind together all those brethren in unity. We have a great need to recognize and pay close attention to this for it calls and invites us to welcome and embrace this work of the Holy Ghost within our own hearts and lives. What’s more is I would dare argue and contend that there is a tremendous invitation that is before us this very day to be those who are willing to be united together in one heart, one mind and one soul with the brethren that we might have all things common.

 

            The more I read the words found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the awesome truth surrounding this wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in fostering this willingness to not only sell everything that one has but also to give unto the poor and/or make distribution unto the saints and brethren as they have need. There is something to be said about those who are willing to sell everything they have in this life that they might not only give unto the poor but also that they might be used to make distribution unto the saints and brethren as they had need. Permit me to ask whether or not you are willing to give of what you have that another might benefit and be blessed. Are you willing to sell everything you have in this life that others might benefit and be blessed or would you assume hold on to that which you have acquired and accumulated in this life? The rich young ruler departed from the presence of Jesus sorrowful when Jesus asked him to sell all he had and give unto the poor for he had great wealth and much possessions. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts it’s not only the selflessness, the compassion and the grace to sell what they had but also the great joy that was found within their hearts to do so. It’s one thing to sell all that you have and give unto the poor and/or make distribution unto the brethren and those who are in need, however, it is something else altogether different to do so joyfully with gladness within your heart. Remember what was written concerning Zacchaeus in the New Testament book of Luke and how he not only received Jesus joyfully but I would dare argue there was a sense of joy and gladness within his heart to give half of his goods unto the poor and restoring four-fold unto those whom he had extorted through false accusation.

 

            It is absolutely necessary that we understand what is found within these chapters for they serve as the backdrop and foundation for what is presented in the sixth chapter of this New Testament book. In the sixth chapter of this New Testament book we find this distribution among the brethren continuing even after the day of Pentecost and even after the impotent man who had been lame from birth was healed. In the sixth chapter of this New Testament book we find presented before us a wonderful and powerful picture of this distribution being made among the brethren and although there would arise a murmuring between the Grecians and the Hebrews over an apparent neglect of their widows we must recognize that distribution was still being made. It would be into this realm of distribution and ministration that seven men from among the brethren were chosen—men who were of honest report, full of wisdom and full of the Holy Spirit—that they might look unto and oversee the daily ministration and distribution among the saints and brethren. What we find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts must be carefully understood for in response to the murmuring that took place among the saints and brethren over apparent neglect of certain widows the apostles would instruct them to choose from among them seven men who would oversee the work and ministry of hospitality. I am absolutely convinced we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful ministry of hospitality and compassion that is so vital among the brethren within the Church of Jesus Christ.

 

            It would be into this realm and world of compassion and hospitality that seven men from among the brethren would be chosen, which would include both Stephen who was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit and Philip. In the sixth chapter of this New Testament book we find that the saying of the apostles pleased the brethren and seven men were chosen from among them to oversee the work of hospitality and compassion among the brethren. We know from the rest of the sixth chapter that Stephen was a man full of faith, full of power, full of the Holy Spirit and who did many wonders and miracles during those days. What’s more is that there were those who sought to dispute and reason with Stephen and yet could not withstand the spirit and wisdom by which he spoke. We know from the words found in the sixth chapter that Stephen would be brought before the council and would be falsely accused by those who would accuse him of blasphemy during those days. As a direct result of these accusations which were brought against Stephen we find him standing up before them and giving his defense—a defense that would bring them face to face with the history of their nation beginning with Abraham and continuing all the way through Joseph, unto Moses, and even unto the time of the building of the Tabernacle and Temple. In response to the words which Stephen had spoken unto them those present were cut to the quick and were hardened in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. Not only this but they would also pick up stones with which to cast at Stephen and would ultimately stone him to death. This man who was of honest report, who was full of faith, who was full of wisdom, who was full of power and who was full of the Holy Ghost would become the church’s first martyr and would be stoned to death in the very city where Jesus of Nazareth would be delivered unto Pilate to be sentenced and condemned to die. Here in the very city where Jesus was flogged and beaten and where the apostles themselves were threatened, persecuted, imprisoned and even beaten Stephen himself would be stoned to death thus becoming the church’s first martyr.

 

            When we come to the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find a great persecution breaking out against the Church and brethren in the city of Jerusalem. As a direct result of this persecution all but the apostles were scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria. In fact Luke goes on to write that despite the brethren being scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria they would preach the word concerning Jesus of Nazareth wherever they went. Although on the surface it might seem like the persecution of the early church in Jerusalem was in and of itself negative in nature it would actually be the instrument that would cause the Church to become witnesses in Judaea and Samaria as Jesus Himself had spoken of while at the mount of Olivet. It was Jesus Himself who declared unto His disciples and followers that they would be endowed with power from on High and would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judaea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. What is found in the opening verses of the eighth chapter of the book of Acts is the catalyst and instrument used by the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to cause and allow His followers to witnesses for Him in Judaea and Samaria. Although the Holy Ghost would arrive and be poured out upon the one-hundred and twenty who were present in the upper room He was never meant nor was He ever intended on abiding and remaining in that upper room. Similarly the Church and spiritual body of Christ was never intended on remaining in the city of Jerusalem but rather was created to spread throughout Judaea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning the words present before us in the eighth chapter it’s how through persecution the Holy Ghost would take the brethren who believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and make them witnesses in Judaea and Samaria. When previously the brethren would be confined and present only in the city of Jerusalem the Holy Ghost would use persecution to thrust the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ into the areas of Judaea and Samaria that the community of brethren might expand into each of these places, that the gospel might be preached among those living in these areas, and that the Holy Ghost might be received by those who believed and were baptized. You cannot read the words found in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth of the ministry which would take place in Samaria for pretty much the entire eighth chapter centered upon Philip and the works which the Holy Spirit had anointed and appointed him to carry out and complete. We know from the opening verses of the eighth chapter that as a direct result of the persecution which would break out against the early church the brethren would be scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria and with this being said we also encounter Philip who would be one of those who would enter into Samaria. Beginning with the fifth verse of the eighth chapter we find how Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. What’s more is that Luke goes on to write and record how the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. In addition to the preaching of Christ as well as miracles being performed among those in Samaria Luke also writes how unclean spirits crying with a loud voice came out of many that were possessed with them. Moreover many which were taken with palsies, and those which were lame were healed and great joy filled the city.

            It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to what is found in this portion of the eighth chapter for this one who was ordained and appointed from among the brethren to help oversee the daily ministration and distribution among the brethren would find himself according to the work of the Holy Spirit in the city of Samaria preaching Christ, casting out unclean spirits, working miracles and healing those who were lame and taken with palsies. There in Samaria we begin to see that which took place in the city of Jerusalem manifested among those whom the Jews previously had no dealings. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for persecution which broke out in the city of Jerusalem would cause the brethren to be scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria. One of those who was scattered abroad was Philip who was among the seven chosen to help oversee the daily ministration and distribution among the brethren. Much like Stephen was wonderfully and mightily used by the Holy Ghost to work great miracles and perform signs among the brethren in the city of Jerusalem so now would Philip be present in Samaria and preach Christ, cast out unclean spirits, and work miracles and healings among the people there. Oh we know that while Jesus walked upon the earth He Himself entered into the region of Samaria and spoke unto a Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well outside of Sychar. What’s more is that we know that Jesus revealed Himself unto this woman as the Messiah and the Christ and would spend two days among those men of the city fellowshipping with them, breaking bread with them, and perhaps even demonstrating and declaring Himself to be the Messiah.

 

            The words which we find in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is actually quite astounding when you take the time to think about and consider it for within it we find a powerful description of ministry which would take place in Samaria—Samaria which up until that point in time only Jesus Himself together with His disciples had entered. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book it is how the ministry of the Church would indeed make its way into Samaria—Samaria which was a place that was avoided and largely untouched by Jews. The apparent schism and division between Jews and Samaritans was evident in the four gospels—not only in the words which the Samaritan woman spoke unto Jesus being shocked that He being a Jew would ask her for water but also in the parable which Jesus spoke concerning the good Samaritan. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the preaching of the gospel beginning to expand beyond the borders and boundaries of the city of Jerusalem and moving into those places Jesus Himself had spoken would receive His witnesses. It was Jesus Himself who declared that His disciples and followers would be witnesses in Judaea and Samaria and up until this point in time that hadn’t yet come to pass. Up until this moment in time the gospel had not yet been preached in the city of Jerusalem and only Jesus and His disciples had entered into Samaria. When the Holy Spirit would come and be manifested in the earth this would all change as the Holy Spirit would bring the disciples and brethren of Christ into the regions of Judaea and Samaria. More specifically we find how Philip who was one of the seven deacons ordained and appointed from among the brethren would engage in ministry in Samaria.

            As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words and language that is found in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book I am absolutely captivated with the fact that the presence of the Spirit as well as persecution would bring Philip unto Samaria where he would preach Christ. What we must needs realize is how truly astonishing this is for Samaria would already experience the person and presence of Jesus of Nazareth as he needed to pass through on His way from Judaea unto Galilee. It would be there in Samaria at Jacob’s well and in the town of Sychar that Jesus would demonstrate and declare Himself to be the Messiah and the Christ. It would be there in Samaria Jesus would spend a full two days among them fellowshipping and breaking bread with them as He undoubtedly taught them concerning Himself as well as concerning the Father. We know that Jesus declared unto the woman he encountered how He which spoke unto her was both the Messiah and the Christ and upon hearing these words this woman would not only speak unto the men of the city of a man who told her everything she did but would also ask if this man was not the Messiah and the Christ. Those men of the city would come out with the woman unto Jacob’s well and would behold this man who proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah and the Christ. We know that the men of the city must have believed the word and report of this woman for they were willing to come out of the city based on her report to see and behold Jesus. Once they had seen and beheld Jesus they would entreat Him to abide with them—a request which He honored by spending two full days among them.

            What I find most intriguing about the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John versus the eighth chapter of the book of Acts is that while Samaria would indeed experience the physical person of Jesus of Nazareth who was indeed the Christ and the Messiah they would not see or behold any miracle, sign, wonder or healing. Jesus would speak unto the woman at the well concerning living water and worship and would even speak unto her of her past relationships having been married five times and being with a man who was not her husband. What’s more is that Jesus would emphatically declare unto this woman that He was indeed the Christ although He would not work any miracle or offer healing to any among them which were present in their midst.  Jesus would spend two full days among those in this city of Samaria and yet the apostle John provides no clue or indication as to what took place during those two days. What we can surmise and deduce from the passage in this gospel account is that Jesus undoubtedly taught and spoke unto them for the men of the city would declare unto the woman how they initially believed because of her word but how they now believed because they have heard Him for themselves. I have to admit there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what it was like in this city of Samaria after Jesus departed and went on His way to Galilee. This Samaritan woman had encountered Jesus by Jacob’s well outside of the city and Jesus had not only spoken to her of her past relationships but also of living water, everlasting life, never thirsting again, and worship of the Father. Not only this but Jesus would proclaim and declare unto her that He which spoke unto her was the Messiah and the Christ. This declaration would come after the woman had spoken of her belief, expectation and anticipation that the Messiah and Christ would indeed come. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that both the Father and the Son were aware of this expectation and anticipation in this city in Samaria and the only begotten Son would come unto this city that he might demonstrate and reveal Himself as the Messiah.

            The more I consider Jesus’ encounter in Samaria—both with the woman at the well as well as with the men of the city—the more I find myself being absolutely gripped with the fact that in the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John Jesus Himself comes unto Samaria. In the eighth chapter of the book of Acts we find Philip who was one of the seven deacons ordained by the apostles earlier on preaching Christ in Samaria. What’s more is that Philip would not only preach Christ in Samaria but would also cast out unclean spirits and would heal those who were lame and those with palsies. Luke is sure to make us aware of the tremendous work Philip did in Samaria—in healing of those with various illnesses, in working miracles, in preaching Christ and in casting out unclean spirits. What a truly wonderful and powerful ministry would take place and be manifested in the midst of Samaria during those days as the ministry of the spiritual body of Christ would indeed be present and manifested in the midst of them. What’s more is that if you continue reading you will find that a sorcerer within the city by the name of Simon would believe in this Jesus of Nazareth together with many in the city. Luke records how those who had previously been bewitched by the sorceries of Philip believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ were baptized. Not only would there be great joy in this city in Samaria but men and women would both believe in the name of Jesus Christ but would also be baptized unto the remission of sins.

            As you continue reading the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that when the apostles who remained in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent unto them Peter and John. Upon arriving in Samaria Peter and John prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost for up to that point the Holy Ghost had not fallen upon any of them as they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Luke writes how when the apostles Peter and John laid their hands on those in Samaria they received the Holy Ghost. Pause and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for Samaria had already experienced the person of the Lord Jesus Christ while He walked upon the earth and had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus through the ministry of Philip. Now when the apostles Peter and John arrived and prayed for them laying their hands upon them they would receive the Holy Ghost. What we witness and behold in this portion of Scripture is a tremendous picture of a people who were first baptized into the name of Jesus Christ which is manifested through hearing His name preached among them and then being baptized by the Holy Spirit. This is an important them which will continue to be manifested within the book of Acts as there are essentially different baptisms which are mentioned and spoken of. There is of course the baptism in water unto the remission of sins which is referred to as “John’s baptism” while there is also a baptism in the name of Jesus which occurs upon hearing the gospel and name of Jesus being preached. There is a third baptism that is subsequent to each of these baptisms and is what Jesus spoke of as being a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. If there is one thing we must needs understand as we approach this particular portion of the book of Acts it’s the tremendous presence of these baptisms among those who would receive the ministry of the apostles and the followers of Jesus. As the church begins to branch out into Judaea, into Samaria and even among the Gentiles we will discover this initial baptism in the name of Jesus which takes place when men hear the gospel concerning Jesus of Nazareth. It is this initial baptism in the name of Jesus that leads to the first of two additional baptisms which is a baptism in water unto repentance for the remission of sins. This baptism of water is the precursor to another baptism which is not merely a baptism of the Spirit but also one of fire as Jesus mentioned.

Upon bringing this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize the significance and importance of these baptisms as it is incredibly important for men to be baptized into the name of Jesus. It is of great importance to hear and receive the name of and gospel concerning Jesus of Nazareth and how such a baptism first leads to believe before subsequently leading to being baptized in water which Scripture refers to as John’s baptism. It is through this baptism in water where our old man is buried with Christ in death and just as the corruption and wickedness in the earth was destroyed during the days of Noah under the flood waters and just as Pharaoh’s army was destroyed under the waters of the Red Sea so also is our old man buried and crucified with Jesus. It is when we emerge from these waters of baptism that we do so as a new man clinging to new life in Christ as we are prepared for a subsequent baptism of fire. It is this second baptism of fire that is accompanied by the person of the Holy Spirit as the work of sanctification, holiness, purity and transformation begins to take place as we are changed into the image, the character and the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is important for us to read and understand what is found in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts for what we find here is the beginning of this baptism in the name of Jesus among those beyond Jerusalem as well as those outside of Jerusalem being baptized in John’s baptism and baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire. If we truly wish to understand the book of Acts we must needs recognize and understand this baptism of water unto repentance for the remission of sins as well as the baptism of fire and of the Holy Spirit that is provided unto us by and through the exalted person of Jesus the Christ.

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