Friday, October 19, 2012

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday October 21, 2012

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(The power of GOD cannot be purchased)
(Acts 8:4-25)

Second Kings, chapter 17 chronicles the origins of the Jew’s and Samaritan’s hatred for each other. By the first century A.D., the quarrels between the two groups were centuries old. One would have to go all the way back to the eighth century B.C., when the Assyrians, under the leadership of Shalmaneser, the son of the great Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser, conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (722 B.C), whose capital, at that time, was Samaria.
As Syrian conquerors often did in those days, Shalmaneser transported the greater portion of the Jewish population to Assyria, and then, resettled Israel with his own people. The small portion of the Jewish people who were left in Israel eventually began to intermarry with the Assyrians who were transplanted there. The progenitors from those marriages became the hated group of Samaritans, who were the “half-breed” Jews of JESUS’ day. On the other hand, the Jews who were transported to Assyria, for the most part, stubbornly refused to lose their identity by intermarrying with the Assyrians and most were able to retain their “pure breed” status.
In the days, long before King David made Jerusalem the center of Jewish worship (2 Samuel 6), all of the Jewish people went to Mount Gerizim to pay homage to the LORD (Joshua 8:33). The Samaritans never stopped worshipping at Mount Gerizim, even after King David’s restructuring of Israel, while the “pure breed” Jews, held fast to the new system of worship.
In John chapter 4, verses 4-41, fourteen generations after King David’s death, we see JESUS finally entering into Samaria to initiate an end to this ancient hostility. The Apostle John gives us a vivid description, through his writings, of JESUS’, now famous encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. There, we see JESUS attempting to teach HIS Disciples, and all who wish to follow HIM, that, the time had indeed come to put an end to petty disputes, that had spilled over, even into the way people were worshiping GOD.
In Acts chapter 8, verses 4-25, after the scattering of the Believers from Jerusalem, by way of the Christian persecutions that followed the death of Stephen, we see Philip, one of the seven chosen servants of the early Church (Acts 6:5), fleeing Jerusalem and later finding himself preaching to the, still hated, Samaritans of that day. It was now the appointed time of the LORD, to show all mankind that the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST would be embraced by Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike.
While in Samaria, Philip performed many miracles, and the people of that city listened to him because of those miracles. Many evil spirits were cast out of people, and many who were cripple, were healed. There was a man by the name of Simon Magus, or Simon the magician, who had become known as a great man in Samaria, because of the magic he performed. All the people of Samaria thought him to be the possessor of the great power of GOD.
Philip’s miracles and message of the good news of GOD’s kingdom, and the name of JESUS CHRIST, had won the people over from Simon. In fact, Simon himself was baptized and began following Philip everywhere he went. He was utterly amazed by the miracles and signs that Philip performed.
When the news that the Samaritans had accepted GOD’s message got back to Jerusalem, Peter and John also went to Samaria to pray for the new Christians, that they would receive the HOLY SPIRIT. They then laid their hands on the new believers and they did indeed receive the HOLY SPIRIT.
When Simon saw this, he offered the apostles money to teach him how to do what they were doing through the power of GOD. He actually wanted to be in charge of the HOLY SPIRIT for his own personal gain. Peter, however, explained to the misguided magician that faith cannot be purchased at any price, but rather, must be freely given by GOD.
Even though Simon had accepted JESUS with his lips, and been baptized, his heart had still remained captive to satan, at least up to this point. It takes time for a new believer to get to know JESUS through a deep study of GOD’s Word, before they are really ready to accept CHRIST with their whole heart. Simon’s heart had not yet changed, in fact, Peter even called him wicked, full of bad intentions, and bitter about losing the praises and interest of the people to the works and message of GOD.
After testifying and preaching the Good News about CHRIST to the Samaritans, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. Along the way they stopped at many Samaritan cities and villages to preach the Good News of CHRIST to them also. The miracles that accentuated the ministry of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, we can see, continued on into the infancy stages of the Christian Church. Those miracles were used by GOD, to authenticate those men who were acting as HIS representatives in carrying HIS Gospel message to the people.
The purpose of the HOLY SPIRIT was to make the connection man needed to be able to worship GOD in “spirit”, just as the purpose of JESUS’ first advent was to make that connection man needed in order to worship GOD in “truth”. It has always been the purpose of GOD to call Christians into service at the proper time, and by the work of HIS HOLY SPIRIT, any person’s life can now be hallowed towards GOD. And because of the sprinkling of the blood of JESUS CHRIST, our past sins are forever forgiven, and we can look forward to a future life of continued obedience to GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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