Friday, October 2, 2015

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday October 4, 2015

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(Following GOD requires a willingness to change)
(Acts 8:1-25)

The day that Stephen was killed a great persecution swept over the Church at Jerusalem causing most of the believers to flee into Judea and Samaria. Only the apostles remained in Jerusalem, along with a few GODly men who came and buried Stephen. Saul, one of the official witnesses to the slaying of Stephen (and who later became the great Church leader, the Apostle Paul) was on a rampage, going from door to door, dragging Christians from their homes and throwing them in jail because of their belief in JESUS.
In Acts chapter 8, taking up at verse 4, we see that, after the believers were scattered from Jerusalem, Philip, one of the seven chosen servants (Acts 6:5) of the early Church, fled to the forbidden territory of the, still hated, Samaritans in northern Israel. It was now the appointed time of the LORD to begin to show all mankind that the Gospel of CHRIST was intended, not only for the Jews, but for Samaritans and Gentiles as well. JESUS had already left a clear message through HIS life examples that, in the coming Christian Faith, there would be no such thing as an enemy, except satan, in all the world. No one is outside of the love of CHRIST, and no one is outside of the purpose of GOD. GOD wishes all mankind to be saved.
Second Kings, chapter 17, chronicles the origins of the Jews and Samaritans hatred for each other. By the first century A.D., the quarrels between the two groups were centuries old. In fact, one would have to go all the way back to the eighth century B.C., when the Assyrians, under the leadership of Shalmanaser, 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 conquerors often did in those days, the Assyrians transported the greater portion of the Jewish population to Assyria and re-settled Israel with its own people. The small portion of the Jewish people, who were left in Israel, eventually began to intermarry with the Assyrians who were supplanted there. The progenitors from those marriages became the hated Samaritans, or, so-called, half-breed Jews, that we read about in JESUS’ day.
Most of the Jews who were transported to Assyria, stubbornly and steadfastly refused to lose their identity as “pure-blood Jews”, by intermarrying with the Assyrians. They held strong resentment towards their brothers and sisters back home in Israel, because they did not cling to the same convictions that they had towards their “pure-blood” status.
Before King David moved the Worship Center up to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6), all of the Jewish people, including the Samaritans, went to Mount Gerizim to pay homage to the LORD (Joshua 8:33). After David’s restructuring and move to Jerusalem, the Samaritans continued to worship at Mount Gerizim (John 4:20) while the pure blood Jews adhered to David’s new system in Jerusalem.
In John chapter 4, verses 4-41, some fourteen generations after King David’s death, we see JESUS finally entering into Samaria to initiate an end to the ancient hostilities that had so long crippled the unity possibilities of GOD’s people. There the Apostle John, through his writings of JESUS’, now famous encounter with the women at “Jacob’s Well”, gives us a vivid description of what JESUS now expected from those who desired to be one of HIS followers into the future.
Here we see JESUS attempting to teach HIS disciples and future believers that the time had indeed come to put an end to petty disputes that had spilled over, even into the way that they were worshipping the FATHER. There JESUS tells us that GOD is looking for anyone who can worship HIM in “spirit”, and in “truth” because GOD HIMSELF is SPIRIT.
While in Samaria Philip performed many miracles, and the people of that hated city listened to him because of those miracles. Many evil spirits were cast out of people, and many who had been crippled were healed. Scripture doesn’t even hint that Philip may have wanted to withhold what power GOD had given him, from the people of Samaria. Instead he gladly healed, and he exorcized demons, and he taught everyone who cared to listen, the Word of GOD, and, the good news about CHRIST, and the HOLY SPIRIT.
There was a man by the name of Simon Magnus, or, “Simon the magician” who had become known as a great man in Samaria because of the magic that he performed. All of the people of Samaria thought him to be the possessor of the great power of GOD. However, Philip’s miracles and the message of the good news of GOD’s Kingdom and 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 he performed, and he foolishly sought to buy the power of the SPIRIT that enabled Philip, and also Peter and John (who had just arrived in Samaria to pray and share the news of the HOLY SPIRIT with the people) to do those miracles. However, after being rebuked by Peter that he repent from his evil thoughts, Simon requested that the Apostle pray in intercession to GOD for him that nothing terrible would happen to him because of his ignorant thoughts.
And so see, that, the miracles that accentuated the ministry of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, continued on in the early days of the Church. Those miracles were used by GOD to authenticate those men and women who were acting as HIS representatives in carrying HIS Gospel message to the people.
The greatest purpose of JESUS was to communicate to man how he must worship GOD in “truth”, the true sense of HIS Word.  The purpose of the HOLY SPIRIT was to make the connection man needed in order that he may be able to worship GOD, not only in “truth”, but also with a discerning “human spirit”. And so, it is for the purpose of GOD that the Christian is called, and by the work of the HOLY SPIRIT that a person’s life is hallowed towards GOD. But it is by the sprinkling of the blood of JESUS CHRIST that past sins are forgiven, and we can look forward to a future of obedience to GOD.
It is important that a person comes to realize the purpose for which he or she came into the world, and that purpose is, and always has been, to serve GOD. And until a person is able to grasp and understand that, they will continue to find themselves living a life similar to that of the Samaritan woman before she met JESUS at Jacob’s well. She had been meandering around aimlessly for many years looking for “physical” answers from men, to problems, that had always been “spiritual”. We who are created must to know the truth of the CREATOR GOD. And when that happens, we will be able to embody the SPIRIT that can help us stay focused on HIM whose Word is the whole spiritual truth. And we also learn, just as Simon did, that the power of GOD (the HOLY SPIRIT) cannot be bought and sold, but rather, is given freely to those who believe in CHRIST JESUS.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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