While pictures can reveal any moment frozen in time, family albums tend to preserve only the momentous milestones, beautiful moments, and perhaps an occasional humorous event. In some ways, Acts is like a family album of the early church. However, unlike the typical family pictorial history, this story reveals a realistic portrayal of both the church’s highs and lows.
Like ripples emanating from a rock’s impact upon still waters, Acts chapter 8 provides a snapshot of God’s approval that the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection should expand beyond the Jews to include even the Samaritans.
That moment when the Holy Spirit fell upon the new Samaritan converts provided divine confirmation that this expanding Christian community wave across the Jew-Samaritan chasm fulfilled God’s intention.
The next photo, however, reveals darkness lurking within the Lord’s community. Earlier when Philip had arrived and the Lord performed miracles through him, Simon’s sorcery had been swept aside and with it his prestige. But Philip did not bestow the Spirit upon anyone after they were baptized.
Then two apostles had come. Simon had witnessed the results of the Spirit falling upon the new converts through their hands. His previous wonder at the miracles now transformed into a new opportunity. Perhaps he could purchase the apostles’ special role thereby reclaiming his lost position in Samaria.
These ancient snapshots sometimes can function like an introspective mirror on today’s church. God wants the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection to flow to all peoples and groups of society. Do I hang on to a chasm between myself and those whom I’d rather not call brother and sister?
While Simon had been baptized, his subsequent actions revealed that he had not fully died to himself by picking up his cross daily to follow Jesus. It is easy to criticize him for his self-serving consumer arrogance. But as a member of the Lord’s community, how completely am I serving God’s will, rather than my own?
The good news is that the Lord continued to be at work and the church grew. The sobering news is that our Lord desires to use us.
“If a man cleanses himself …,
he will be an instrument for noble purposes,
useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”
2 Timothy 2:21 (NIV)