Stephen’s death has begun an intense persecution in Jerusalem that has caused most of the disciples to flee. But this is not all bad. “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word”(Acts 8:4). The gospel spreads as they move throughout the region, explaining their flight and their belief in Jesus as the messiah. “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 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”(Acts 8:5-6). Philip is one of the seven men appointed to help with the widow crisis (Acts 6:1, 5) and is empowered by the Spirit to speak for God and do miracles. Unfazed by common Jewish prejudice, he preaches to the Samaritans.
Philip’s message—new though it is to these people—is effective because it is accompanied by demonstrations of the power of God. They believe when they “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 and lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city”(Acts 8:6-8). “Much joy” sounds like a tremendous understatement. Can we even imagine the excitement and uproar if someone could cast out demons and heal people? Aren’t there even people in our own families that we would bring to such a healer? Yet the focus is on Philip’s message—confirmed by these miracles—that can set men free and bring true, lasting joy.
Joy accompanies the gospel. As we labor under the hardship of sin, sickness, and death, God gives us hope through Jesus. As exciting as healing is, far more exciting is the prospect of being set free from sin and given hope of eternal life.
One thing to think about: Do I rejoice in the gospel—both in my own freedom and in seeing others set free?
One thing to pray for: Joy in Jesus’ power and goodness
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Fairview Park church of Christ, 11820 Fairview Road, Little Rock, AR 72212
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