The stoning of Stephen was the kick off of the persecution of the Church. It was also the beginning of the fulfilling of Jesus’ calling to take the Gospel to the “uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) It is interesting to note that these two elements, joined together, resulted in an evangelism outbreak that would sweep through Satan’s earthly strongholds as a flood of truth. Maybe a renewed persecution of the Church would cause more Believers to exit their buildings of security and enter the “Judea’s and Samaria’s” of our world with the Gospel message!
When the persecution of the Believers began, a member of the “First Church Jerusalem” named Philip, packed his bags and headed to Samaria, the hotbed of sorcery and witchcraft. He could have chosen an area where the people would be more open to his message, but knowing that the Truth would open the hearts of the people, he made a frontal attack against the brainwashed people of Samaria. Where do we present the Gospel? Is it always to those of the least resistance or to those who have already punched their tickets to that “non-existent” place of eternal punishment?
The city of Samaria was under demonic control. A man, by the name of Simon, had bewitched the city with sorcery and witchcraft for a long time. The people were so taken up with his magic that they even claimed he was “the great power of God.” (Acts 8:10) The people of Samaria were swayed by what they saw, not by what they heard. One of the dangers today is that signs and wonders have crept into the church under the guise that it is the workings of the Holy Spirit. I believe in miracles, but I also believe there are counterfeit signs and wonders that are performed by individuals that have elevated “their” ministry by self-promotion. Always remember that for something to be counterfeit, it has to have been measured by what is real. I had a person tell me that at their church there was such a move of the Holy Spirit that they did not have time for the preaching. There should have been yellow flags waving, for miracles are not an end in itself, but a prelude and postlude to the Word. (Mark 16:20) Satan will attempt to keep the Word from being proclaimed. His tactics are so closely aligned to the Truth, that if a Believer is not rooted and grounded in the Word, he will be unable to tell the difference. When one witnesses a miracle, there will be excitement and emotional releases, not because of the miracle, but rather, because of the ONE who gave the miracle. Many times, Christians are being taught how they can “work” the Word in order to get what they want, instead of being taught how the Word working in them can bring about God’s purpose in their lives. Most Sunday services are limited by time restraints and, as a result, the “sermon” becomes only a small part of the worship experience ... yellow flag alert?! The Word must dominate the service!
Philip came to this city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. The people heard the Truth and saw it confirmed with true signs and wonders. Multitudes responded to the message and, as a result, great joy filled the city. (Acts 8:1-12)
(The Kick-Off only started the game. In Part Two, we will see how Satan responded to the crisis in Samaria.) ``