Welcome to the second of my Romans 15:8 monthly blogs. If you have recently joined the Romans 15:8 network may I thank-you for doing so. It is so important to build up a ‘community of like- minded Church leaders’ who will stand for God’s ongoing purposes for Israel and the ongoing call to share the Gospel with Jewish people.
It is also hoped that at some point later in 2019 or early in 2020 the Romans 15:8 network will host a theological symposium day, more details to follow, however the plan is that the first 100 leaders who have signed up to the network will be given early booking access to this event.
Teaching reflection of the month
This month I have been doing some preparation study for a future book 100 Days with Acts. This will be a follow-up to the recently published (see previous blog) book 100 Days with Luke. Outlined below are some notes from my study on Acts 8:9-25.
In this reading we see how the power of God displayed via the preaching of the good news (:12) directly enters into conflict with the sorcery practiced by Simon. For some time (:9) this sorcery held the people of Samaria captive by its illusory display of power. Yet this hold was broken through the preaching of the good news and Simon himself believed and was baptised. This passage raises a lot of questions. Perhaps, firstly the question is how genuine was the faith of Simon? Luke’s statement in verse 13 gives no indication that it was not genuine; on the contrary the fact Simon followed Philip everywhere and saw miracles, perhaps indicates a deep level of commitment. However, Simon’s foolish attempt to buy the ability to give to others the baptism of the Holy Spirit (:18-19) and Peter’s subsequent rebuke “…your heart is not right” (:21) does suggest there is some significant doubt about the genuine nature of Simon’s faith (1).
Secondly, there is a wider question, namely why was there a delay for these Samarian believers receiving the Holy Spirit? This delay (2) seems unusual as the ‘normal’ pattern within the early Church seems to be a continuous ‘four-fold process’ of repentance from sin, belief in Jesus, baptism in water and then receiving the baptism of (in) the Holy Spirit. Does this delay suggest that there was something false about their repentance, belief or water baptism which subsequently blocked the baptism of (in) the Holy Spirit?
Some commentators argue that there was something indeed false about the faith of the Samarians- perhaps this was linked in some way to the hold the sorcery still had had on them? Other commentators see that the delay was not due to a ‘problem’, but was part of God’s perfect plan for this special occasion. Namely that this work in Samaria was indeed breaking new ground and therefore it was important for these new believers to wait for representatives of the Apostles to arrive in order to validate their new faith and to minister to them through prayer and the laying on of hands. This subsequently took place (:17) and the fact that some of the Apostles were present, was essential in maintaining the unity of the growing Church.
In whatever way one interprets the events here, what is clear is that the Gospel message was breaking into new areas and the great commission beginning from Jerusalem (1:8) is unfolding with amazing power and speed.
In reading this passage it is worth reflecting upon firstly, how do you understand the links between repentance, faith in Jesus, water baptism and baptism of (in) the Holy Spirit? What has been your experience? Does your experience differ from other Christians you know? - If so how, and does this matter?
Secondly, in this passage we see that the message of the Church begins from Jerusalem in a strong Jewish context. This message is destined to go out into the entire world and this will require ministering and proclaiming in some very different contexts. Maybe the ministry in Samaria was a very useful step (or bridge) for the Church in moving primarily from a Jewish context to mainly a Gentile context?
Simon is known as Simon Magus and the ‘sin of simony’ is often spoken of to describe the exchange of temporal gifts for spiritual power, for example using your wealth to purchase a position of influence within the Church. This sin of simony is mentioned for example, in the book by James Joyce- ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. In some Christian teaching and early writing Simon the sorcerer is seen as the main source of later Gnostic heresy.
- A delay also occurs in Acts 19:1-7 but here clearly there is something ‘defective’ about the faith of the believers and their subsequent baptism as they did not know anything about the Holy Spirit and their baptism was not in the name of Jesus.
Ministry news update
The past few weeks I have had the opportunity to minister in Northern Ireland at the invitation of CMJ Ireland. During this time I spoke at the CMJ Ireland spring meeting in Belfast. I spoke on the ‘Eight Blessings given to Israel’ based on Romans 9:3-5. If you wish to see some of the background to this teaching please download the Olive Press Research Paper – Paper 17 (July 2013).
In addition to this event both the ‘Bible Come to life’ team has been busy with two events, and the Outreach team has shared in a major outreach in London over the second May Bank Holiday weekend. More details of both these events will appear either on the CMJ website or in the next edition of News and Views.
CMJ is pleased to announce a new book by Charles Gardner. The book is- “Peace in Jerusalem- but the battle is not over yet!” The book is published by Olive Press Publishers. This is the fourth book written by Charles and it explores in a lively narrative style the Biblical significance of Jerusalem and current day events. There is special focus on the ‘At the Crossroads’ conference hosted by Christ Church, Jerusalem in 2014.
This book will both challenge and encourage the reader to delve into the promises of Scripture and to see how the LORD is working out His purposes today.
Charles will also be presenting a workshop at the CMJ conference in July.
Monthly Memory Verse
“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters of stone, came with such glory that Bnei-Yisrael could not look intently on Moses’ face because of its glory –although it was passing away—how will the ministry of the Rauch not be even more glorious.”
(2 Corinthians 3:7-8) (Messianic Jewish Family Bible)