Vol. 1 - No. 11
Power At Samaria
by Terry Sumerlin
“Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4). This is Luke's description of what happened as a result of persecution. Though the work of all that were dispersed is not detailed, the work of Philip is described in this eighth chapter of Acts. We are told, “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” (vs. 5). It is here that we begin to notice “power at Samaria.”
When Philip “preached Christ” (“the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ”, v. 12 -- “the word”, v. 4), and confirmed it with miracles, some changes began to take place. The people saw the difference between Simon, who claimed to be some great one, and one who truly manifested the great power of God. Though bewitched for a long time, they believed. Moreover, by the power of the gospel Simon was also converted (v. 13). This same gospel, having been revealed, confirmed, and recorded; still has that power. It, and it alone, is God's power unto salvation (Romans 1:16).
As evidence of the Samaritans' fellowship with Jewish Christians, Peter and John were sent from Jerusalem to Samaria. The apostles prayed for their Samaritan brethren, and when they laid their hands on them the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. They were thus enabled to work miracles, as Philip had done. Yet, though Philip did such, he could not enable others to do so. This is evident by the presence and actions of the apostles (c. Romans 1:11). Thus, we conclude that the power of the apostles involved the impartation of spiritual gifts. This being the case, when the last apostle died, and the last one on whom he had laid hands died, spiritual gifts ceased. Naturally s& By then, the purpose of such gifts, the confirmation of the word (Hebrews 2:1-4), would have been served.
In connection with the miraculous, we have occasion to look at something else in the account --the power of money. Simon wanted to buy the power of the apostles. This he was unable to do. In this, money was powerless, yet the power of money was still present. As a means of corrupting men's hearts, it is indeed powerful. Not only did Simon see money as a means of buying the gift of God, he saw the gift of God as a means of gain. Truly, he fell from grace. Though, like the other Samaritans, he believed and was baptized (vv. 12, 13, 16), he was soon “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (v. 23).
Though the preceding quotation describes Simon's condition, it is more than a description. It is part of the rebuke issued by Peter, in which he called upon Simon to repent. As with most rebukes, it may not have been the thing most desired at the moment. It was surely painful, for both Simon and Peter. But, we are reminded: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools” (Ecclestiastes 7:5). In this case, we see the power of rebuke in Simon's repentance.
Peter instructed Simon to repent and pray, in order to bring about forgiveness. “Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me” (vs. 24). Here is set forth God's arrangement for forgiveness for one who has been baptized -- repentance and prayer. Furthermore, we see one Christian praying for another (cf. James 5:16-20). It is not a matter of revealing private sins to the hierarchy nor to anyone else. It is simply a matter in which one follows through in his concern for another -- the rebuke followed by the restoration. Thus, the power of prayer.
In conclusion, we are interested in you. Whether you are where Simon was before baptism or shortly thereafter, make your heart right with God. If you are neither unconverted nor apostate, we exhort you toward continued faithfulness.