Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church ACTS #7: More Than Magic (To hear this message and others get our free app @ The App. Store: Go to The Gathering Connect)
This message was presented by Ryan Bruce
THE SPREAD of CHRISTIANITY Acts 8:4-8
You might think that after the stoning of Stephen believers would keep their mouths shut. They did not. The persecution of the church did scatter the people; however, everywhere believers went they shared the gospel of Christ. The words of the Pharisee, Gamaliel, were coming true: “If their (the disciples) purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men.” (Acts 5:38b-39a)
The message of Christ was unstoppable and has continued to be unto this day. If the message of Christ was only in words it would have ceased long ago; however, the message of Christ was and is proclaimed in power and accompanied with signs and wonders. Of these miracles, the greatest of them is the changed lives that occur when one is filled with the Holy Spirit.
MORE THAN MAGIC Acts 8:9-25
The fine art of deceiving people has always been a lucrative business. Today, magicians have been reduced to mere entertainers. Publications of their cleaver tricks and illusions have all but wiped out progressive society’s belief that any man can have real magical powers, but in the first century a deep belief in magic permeated society. A “good” magician was assured a following of superstitious people and Simon Magus (lit. of magic) was known as the best! “All the people, both high and low, gave him their attention…he was known as The Great Power.” (lit. The Power of God).
The people may have been amazed by Simon Magus, but Simon was amazed by the Apostle, Phillip, and “he followed him everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.” Being a magician, there is no doubt that Simon watched Phillip closely to see what trick or illusion he used to accomplish the “magic” that he was doing in the name of Jesus Christ. It is likely that Simon “believed and was baptized” in order to attain the powers that he saw Phillip doing. It is clear that Simon wanted the “power” associated with Jesus and not the friendship He offered with God. That is why he offered the Apostles money. Peter made it clear that the Holy Spirit was more than mere magic and rebuked Simon for such a thought. Peter was quick to recognize that Simon’s interest was in the acquisition of his own personal power and control of others. Simon’s response to Peter’s rebuke was also self serving. He wanted Peter to pray that his money or his power would not perish.
WHAT BECAME of SIMON MAGUS?
The Bible record of Simon Magus ends after the verses quoted above, however there are other direct references to him in existence, including that by Justin Martyr, a prominent Christian writer and historian who lived in the early second century, just after the close of the New Testament period. Justin wrote that Simon Magus went to Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius where he, being the skilled deceiver that he was, corrupted and became the popular leader of a large portion of the Christians (many of whom had earlier been personally converted by the apostles) in the city. Simon’s teachings did not reject Christianity, but rather grossly perverted much of it to his own liking, including making himself out to be a god. His followers, despite what they were doing, believed themselves to be, Christians. Simon Magus blended a type of Christianity, Judaism and paganism into a single system which came to be called Simonianism, which later became known as Gnosticism. Simon Magus was labeled “the father of all heretics” by Irenaeus in the Preface of his “Against Heresies” Book I. From Simon Magus the term was also coined, simony which means to buy a religious office or to attempt to sell anything sacred. A “Simoniac” is one who has committed the sin of simony.
TRUTH Acts 8:26-40, Luke 11:9-13
In direct contrast to Simon’s self serving interest in God, which later led him and millions of others into spiritual blindness, Phillip is led to a man (an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official) who sincerely desires to know the truth.
A Eunuch is a castrated man, not a homosexual or transsexual man. Some eunuchs were castrated as slaves others were volunteered by parents or themselves to secure a job. Eunuchs were guards, servants in harems or chamberlains to kings. These were the original positions for the eunuchs, but many succeeded in climbing in social status, and could reach positions like bodyguards, confidential advisers, ministers, even generals and admirals. Many of the advisers under the Ottoman Empire were eunuchs. Eunuchs were desired for these positions because they could not get women pregnant. Their personalities were also more submissive.
When we truly seek the truth, like the eunuch did, God will answer our questions and even bring people into our lives to direct us to Himself (as He did with Phillip). Notice the signs of one who truly seeks the truth in the eunuch:
- He went out of his way to seek out the truth (from Ethiopia to Jerusalem)
- He studied to know the truth (reading the book of Isaiah)
- He asked questions to find the truth
- He responded with his actions to the truth
Simon and the Eunuch both desired the Holy Spirit of God. One looked for his own advancement among men , the other looked for truth to fill his soul. One formed his own brand of “feel good” religion that remains with us today in the false religions of T.M., New Age, Christian Science, Wicca, and other forms of modern day Gnosticism. The other became the first Christian in Ethiopia. African tradition knows him as Qinaqis who preached in Ethiopia and founded a Christian community in the Sudan. Today there are some thirty million Ethiopian Christians throughout the world.