Acts 8:4–8: Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
In this passage the story shifts to a man named Philip, a man we were introduced to in Acts 6 as one of the first Deacons of the Church. (At least that’s how I was thinking of him when I blogged about it at the time.) Because of Saul’s persecution (see the previous post), the members of the Church are scattering, preaching the Word as they go, and Philip ends up in Samaria:
And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. (verses 6–8)
Part of what Philip is doing here is spectacular1, but we shouldn’t forget that part of it is what all of the other scattered Christians are also doing at this time: spreading the Gospel and, therefore, the Church.
I don’t want to take away from what Philip is doing here, but neither do I want to take away from what everyone else is doing: verse 4 tells us that “those who were scattered went about preaching the word,” which means that there are lots of places where Philip isn’t performing miracles and the Church is growing anyway via normal Christians sharing the Gospel through their actions and their words.
A lot of those Christians would probably have said that they didn’t feel they were eloquent, and that they didn’t really have all of their theology worked out, and yet people heard and were saved anyway. Modern day Christians should be doing the same thing; it should be normal that the Gospel is shared wherever we go.
The Church needs people like Philip who demonstrate the power of God (though we don’t tend to see a lot of miracles in the 21st Century Western world); the Church needs people like Saul/Paul, who preach with authority and can explain the mysteries of God; and the Church needs the other 90% of us who simply live our lives as Christians, trying to obey and speaking falteringly about Him when the opportunity arises (or is forced upon us). In the 1st Century, the Church grew far more from the latter category than from the first two combined.
Or perhaps that’s too strongly stated; many of those “normal” Christians would have traced their own membership in the Church back to the Apostles…
I mean “spectacular” in a very literal sense: these actions are a spectacle. One doesn’t normally see healings or exorcisms. ↩︎