Evangelism Explosion — Part One
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Evangelism Explosion — Part One

Acts 8:1–25  (ID: 2443)

The early members of Christ’s church met with hostility for sharing the good news of Jesus. Then, after the stoning of Stephen, the religious leaders became even more zealous to imprison and kill new believers. Alistair Begg shows how this persecution actually helped the church spread throughout the Roman world. Everywhere the believers went, they shared their faith. We can imitate them not just by preaching but also in casual conversations with people we meet.

Series Containing This Sermon

When the Church Was Young

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 26401

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read the story in Acts chapter 8 over the next few hours of the day so that we are familiar with it. I invite you to turn there now, and we’ll pray together as we proceed. Acts chapter 8.

Lord God, we come now to the time when we want to hear from you. We want desperately to understand the Bible in a way that is life changing. And to this end we seek you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

God’s Amazing Providence

Tertullian on one occasion defiantly said to the Roman authorities, “Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust. … The more you mow us down, the more we grow; [for] the seed [of the church] is the blood of Christians.”[1] And the whole notion of the blood of the martyrs being the seed of the church is something which, if never before, finds its origins here at the end of Acts chapter 7. And if you haven’t read for some time the story that leads to the stoning of Stephen, then I commend it to you at your earliest convenience, because certainly the events that follow upon the stoning of Stephen bear testimony to what Tertullian had to say.

The death of Stephen at the end of Acts 7 heralds a significant expansion in the story of the gospel. And what Luke is describing here in verses 1, 2, and 3 and into 4 is really that which sets the stage for a centrifugal explosion of evangelistic activity. Whatever was happening before is now moved forward at an exponential rate. And it is the death of Stephen which has given the impetus to the idea of persecution. The whole idea of “Let’s deal with this man, and perhaps he will be an example to others” is now to be followed up by Saul and others with a campaign of intimidation and brutality and imprisonment. And you will see there that, in verse 2, while “godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him … Saul began to destroy the church,” and that was his express purpose. And he began, with others, “going from house to house … dragg[ing] off men and women and put[ting] them in prison.”

Any thoughts that these early believers may have had about following Jesus and finding a life of comfort and ease were going to be very quickly obliterated. Some of them had come on the day of Pentecost to believe in Jesus. The message had been proclaimed, they had understood that Jesus was the King, that he was the Messiah and the Savior, and they had committed their lives to him. They had followed the instruction of Peter: they had turned from their sins, and they’d been baptized.[2] And hopefully they had had sufficient instruction in the interim to recognize that for them to be on the receiving end of this kind of persecution was not an indication of sin in their lives but was an indication of the fact that the same grace that reconciles a person to God antagonizes that person to the Evil One  and that the transformation in coming to faith is being removed from the kingdom of darkness and being placed in the kingdom of light.[3] So we now live in another realm. We now march under another banner. We now submit to another King. And the realm in which we previously lived, the one to whom we were previously submitted, the orders from whom we previously took direction, that has all changed. And the opposition that is part of that is significant, and it may from time to time, as it does here, erupt in persecution.

None of these folks would have been very interested in a Christianity that went along the lines of “If you trust in Jesus and if you follow Jesus, you’ll have a wonderful life,” because they would have had to say, “I don’t have a wonderful life. In fact, the empty place at my breakfast table is an indication of the fact of persecution, and the sound that I hear when I waken up in the morning is not the sound of somebody coming to deliver my mail but is the sound of somebody coming perhaps to take away my wife or my children or my husband.” It is in that context that Acts chapter 8 unfolds.

Now, this morning, as we sit here in the relative tranquility and ease of suburban Cleveland, we have to be honest and say that this is a realm of spiritual geography that we’ve never experienced. Some of us may, but I would reckon that most of us haven’t. But at the same time, as we read and as we hear reports from various parts of the world, we realize that what may be unfamiliar to us is not unfamiliar to our brothers and sisters. So whether they’re in Nepal or whether they’re in Pakistan, whether they are in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia—wherever it might be—many of them, when they read Peter’s words “Do not think it strange, and don’t be surprised at the fiery trial you’re suffering, as though something strange were happening to you,”[4] they realize that that is a word very much for them. And of course, that would be a word that was very apropos the circumstances here.

The same grace that reconciles a person to God antagonizes that person to the Evil One.

So if you’d stood and looked at the events, you might have said, “Well, Acts chapter 2, it looks like Christians three thousand, non-Christians zero—a healthy gain.” And then you stand at the end of Acts chapter 7, and it looks like the devil fifty, Christians zero. And as you try and assess what’s going on, it may appear as though the Evil One has an upper hand and that the church is going to be persecuted into extinction. Clearly, that’s what was the hope. But God is amazingly providential in these things, and what we discover is that the disruption of their lives led to their dispersion. So they were disrupted, and they were dispersed. “All except the apostles,” we read in verse 1, “were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Remember, Jesus had said to his followers, he said, “I’m giving you a promise: you will receive the Holy Spirit. And you’re also going to obey my command, which is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth.”[5]

Now, I think in every generation, most people like their comforts. Most people say, “I don’t want to go, really, beyond my territory. I don’t want to move home. I want to stay where it’s comfortable and where I have my friends and my relationships.” And here, as a result of the activities of the animosity of these persecutors, God accomplishes a purpose in a strange way but in an effective way.  And suddenly, people realize that they’re waking up in a whole new territory—that they’re no longer within the familiar streets and little narrow thoroughfares of Jerusalem. And people are asking them, “When did you move here?”

“Oh, I came here just in the last week or so.”

“And where were you before?”

“I was in Jerusalem.”

“I see. You don’t like Jerusalem?”

“Oh, no, I love Jerusalem! Jerusalem’s my main place. I love Jerusalem.”

“Well, if you love Jerusalem, why did you move here?”

“Well, we really had to move here.”


“Well, it has to do with Jesus of Nazareth. I don’t know if you’ve heard about him.”

“What, the one that—that thing about Stephen?”

“Yeah! You heard about Stephen?”

“Oh, we all heard about Stephen!”

“Oh, you heard that Stephen was stoned because he loves Jesus?”


“Well, our family, we love Jesus too. We have actually come to trust in Jesus. And the persecution broke out, and we actually made a run for it. And that’s why we’ve come down here.”

“Well, Jesus must really mean a lot to you. I mean, why wouldn’t you just say you don’t believe in him or something? Or why don’t you, when someone shows up at your door, just say, ‘No, I don’t know him’? You must really love him if you’re prepared to go to this extent.”

“Well,” says the person, “I don’t know how much I love him, but I do know that I’m here, and I’m glad of the opportunity to talk to you about it.”

Now, that’s really what we read in verse 4, isn’t it? “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” This doesn’t mean that everybody that was scattered became a preacher. The word that is used here for “preach” or “to preach” is a word that would be used not directly or even primarily of somebody standing in a public place delivering a monologue but is a word that would be used, if you like, for the gossiping of the good news—the kind of interaction that I’ve just tried to describe for you: the way in which a conversation unfolds and the opportunity for people to speak concerning Jesus.

And, of course, it is our prayer at Parkside that when we scatter—albeit not as a result of persecution—but when we scatter, as it were, out of the salt cellar here, if you think of this as the salt cellar, and we go out into the potatoes of life, that the salt would get into the potatoes, as opposed to the salt would all be in the salt cellar, and if any of the potatoes wanted salt, they could come to the cellar. But no, we’re supposed to get all shook up and all shaken out and all scattered and have conversations in directly this way.

“What were you doing yesterday?”

“Well, I went to Parkside.”

“What’s Parkside?”

“Sometimes I ask myself that. But I went there.”

“What did you do there?”

“Well, we sang some songs, and there was a talk. In fact, it was a talk about such and such.”

Now, that conversation may go nowhere, but it may actually lead somewhere. And every day we live our lives, if we are scattered anywhere, we’re scattered for the express purpose of conveying this story in simple, straightforward, kindly, honest, imaginative terms—not laying a trip on people, not seeking for an opportunity to come down on them, but just, in the unfolding story of life, sowing seeds as we’re scattered.

Philip’s Simple Faithfulness

Now, it was within that context that this individual, Philip, in verse 5, he decides to go down to a city of Samaria. We don’t have any other background to that other than the phrase: “Philip went down to a city in Samaria,” and he “proclaimed … Christ there.” And what you have in Acts chapter 8 is, really, the camera focuses on Philip, and we see him in two contexts. First of all, we see him preaching to the crowds in the city, and then, secondly, we see him preaching to the man in the chariot. We’ll get to the man in the chariot this evening, God willing, but for now, this morning, the only time that we have is for him speaking to the crowds in the city.

Notice again that instead of stamping out this Christian virus, the authorities have spread it. Remember, you get poison ivy; someone says, “Don’t pick that. Don’t touch that. If you touch that and you touch something else, you’ll have it all over the place before you know where you are. Leave it alone.” They weren’t smart enough to leave it alone: “Stephen’s gone. Let’s keep this going now. Let’s go from house to house. Let’s drive these people out.” Little did they realize that they were actually fulfilling the purposes of God. The Evil One is letting all hell go, and heaven is rejoicing. What a faithful God! What an amazing story! It’s like the story of Joseph. It’s just the story of providence, really. “You intended this for evil,” says Joseph to his brothers, “but God intended it for good.”[6] And that’s what we have in this drama before us now.

I often wonder where my friend is who showed up in the sixth-form common room in Yorkshire, England, all these years ago at the end of the ’60s with Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. He was so proud of the fact that he had got one of the Little Red Books of Chairman Mao. He decided he was a communist. He couldn’t hardly spell communist, but he was in the room giving it Chairman Mao, and “Chairman Mao will be doing this,” and “Chairman Mao will shut the churches down,” and “Chairman Mao’s driven out the Christians,” and the Cultural Revolution, and man did we have fights and discussions, and mainly discussions. And I often wonder where he is, ’cause I want to see him. I want to see him and say, “How’s Chairman Mao doing today?” Number one: Chairman Mao, bye-bye. And the Cultural Revolution—a total disaster! A disaster from his perspective! Because even conservative estimates of the number of true, believing Christians in mainland China is so exponentially beyond what it was when he tried to suppress Christianity as to reveal the fact again: Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell [will] not prevail against it.”[7]

So Philip, on the strength of the promise of Jesus and the command of Christ, takes the initiative and goes down to a city in Samaria. Now, if you think about that for just a moment—and it’s good, when you read your Bible, to think—you say, “What’s unusual about this?” Well, you say, “Well, what do I know about Jews and Samaritans?” Jews and Samaritans don’t talk to each other. That was the lady at the well, remember? “It’s strange that you would ask me for a drink of water. You’re a man; I’m a woman. You’re a Jew; I’m a Samaritan. We’re the Gerizim bunch; you’re the Jerusalem bunch.”[8] And “Philip went down to a city in Samaria.” Cross-cultural evangelism.

Do you remember when Jesus took a couple of his disciples on a Samaritan evangelistic venture in Luke chapter 9? I’ll just read it for you. Luke 9:51. You can turn and see that it’s there.

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samarian village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.

“We’re not going to talk to you. You’re a Jerusalem man. We’re the Gerizim boys.”

[And] when the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”[9]

That’s nice, isn’t it? “Jesus, shall we torch the place? I don’t think they’re really interested in you, Jesus. Why don’t we burn the place down? They don’t get it! Let judgment fall on them.” Jesus says, “No.” He rebukes them, and off they go now to another village.

Oh, we’re not too far from that ourselves. I don’t think there’s much humor in it at all. As I listen to evangelical Christianity respond, routinely, in its public face to the issues of our world that rejects Christ, so often it sounds like the question of James and John: “Shall we call down fire from heaven on these people? Look at what they’re doing! Look at the place! Look at their reaction! This is what they should have!” That’s not the response of Christ. The response of Christ was to look at the crowds with compassion[10]—to see them and to say of Jerusalem itself, “How often would I have drawn you and brought you, as a hen gathers her chicks, but you wouldn’t come to me.”[11] “James, John: no. Philip, I like your strategy. I like your initiative. I like the fact that you are proclaiming Christ there.”

It may well be that Philip had fastened very much on the stories of Jesus—how Jesus had often introduced Pharisees… It seemed just to tweak the nose of his listeners. He made the Samaritan the good leper coming back to say thanks. Ten lepers healed, one comes back and says thanks, and Jesus says, “And the one who returned was a Samaritan.”[12] He tells the story of the man who’s beaten up and left for dead between Jerusalem and Jericho, and he has a few people come down the road—the religious establishment, the orthodox Jew—and then he has the hero in the story: a Samaritan.[13] Man, that must have really annoyed people! What’s he making the point? Well, Philip got the point somewhere.

You see, the Samaritans, within their theological grasp of things—and they were a kind of hybrid—but Samaritans expected a Messiah. They expected a great teacher who was going to come. So for Philip to go down into this environment and proclaim the Messiah there was to do so where there was an obvious point of contact. And the fact is that “they … paid close attention to what he said.” That’s what Luke tells us in verse 6. “Close attention.” And in verse 8, they responded joyfully to the dramatic displays of God’s power. “They … paid close attention” when he spoke, and they responded joyfully to what God had done.

Now, let me point something out to us that’s important here. If you look down to verse 12: “When they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” This is a very significant verse. This is a key transition in the unfolding story of the church. Because this is the first occasion that we have recorded in which non-Jews are responding to the gospel. The Jewish mind couldn’t get this. The Jewish mind thought almost entirely in relationship to its nationalistic perspectives. Even the apostles themselves, in listening to what Jesus was saying, must have taken deep breaths when they heard him say, “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth.” They must have been thinking, “How is this going to happen?” And how strange it would be, as a result of persecution, that the purpose of God would begin to be fulfilled. And so, as a result of Philip’s sortie into this city in Samaria, we have these people believing the gospel and being baptized.

Now, we jumped to verse 12, but we need to go back up to verse 9 to set the context in which Philip was doing what he was doing:

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic.

Talk about a challenge!

“Philip, what are you going to do?”

“Well, I think I’m going to try and tell people about Jesus in one of the Samaritan cities.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little daunting?”

“Yes. But I believe that Jesus has promised the power of his Spirit so that men and women will be converted.”

“Well, good for you, Philip.”

He gets down there, and not only does he have the Samaritan factor to deal with, but he has the sorcery factor to deal with. He has to deal with the fact that there is one dominating influence in this city, and it’s the domination of magic, which is encapsulated, enshrined, in a person by the name of Simon, who has built a power base in the city. Everyone knows him—small and great, they all know him. They know that he’s a sorcerer, they know that he is amazing in what he does and says, and they know that he is apparently somebody great. And the crowds declare when they see him, “This … is the divine power known as the Great Power.” He must have been quite a figure! When you try and imagine him, you wonder what he looked like.

Now, when Philip was out there preaching—and presumably, he was taking every opportunity the way that Paul would do, as is described elsewhere, going into the marketplace and talking with those who would listen, going into the synagogues and proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ,[14] going into this mixed-race environment and this mixed-religion environment. Because Samaria was essentially a halfway house between the Jewish world and the gentile world. They weren’t gentiles. They were within the framework of Judaism. But they were not proper Jews. And on top of all of that, he has a magician.

Now, if you think about it in contemporary terms, it would be… Imagine a situation where Cleveland is under the sway of one dramatic individual—has a church, a building, that is full all the time. People are consumed with his every word. He’s constantly covered on television. He has outlets all over the place. And into that environment comes this fellow called Philip. And he doesn’t have a building. He doesn’t have a place. He doesn’t have an infrastructure. He’s got nothing at all except a burning passion to tell others that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

You know, friends, that’s exactly what’s happening today in cultural centers throughout the whole of our world. We’re disguised from the issue here by numbers and buildings and pretenses at usefulness, but there are people today in Hong Kong who live in high-rise buildings that have fifty thousand people in the high-rises. And in the common-room area of that building, they are meeting on a Sunday and saying, “If you would like to come and join us in this room, we would like to tell you that Jesus Christ is Lord and King.” And the whole of Hong Kong teems with Taoism and Confucianism and secularism. What possible hope does some tiny remnant of Christianity have in this paltry little room, without any apparent effectiveness, no power, no great this or that? What power do they have? They have the same power that Philip had when he stepped into the city in Samaria. And what Philip does here is what is supposed to be done by every Christian in every city in every age.

When he came home at night, surely his wife said to him… I’m just inventing his wife now. I don’t know if he had a wife. I hope he did. But when he came home at night, she said to him, said, “Philip, what are you going to do about Simon? I mean, everywhere I go—I go for my shopping; it’s ‘Simon, Simon.’ I was at the library: ‘Simon this, Simon that. Simon says… Simon says…’ It’s everything! You’re at the roller rink: ‘Simon says…’ And what are you going to do about him?” Philip said, “Nothing.” “Nothing”! And then they knelt by their bed to say their evening prayers, and his wife took his hand as he prayed, and this is how he prayed: “Gracious Father, you’ve blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.[15] Open the eyes of my heart that I might know the hope to which you’ve called me.[16] Help me to remember that, by your mighty power, Jesus was raised from the dead and that he’s seated at your right hand, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, not only in the present age but also in the age to come.[17] Help me, Father, in my preaching, to make much of Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.” And as he and his wife got into bed and she fought for her half of the duvet, she looked across at him, and she said, “Oh, I get it now. That’s what you mean by nothing, is it?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s what I mean by nothing.”

There’s something in this nothing. Until we, as individuals, recognize that we can do nothing, we will always be running around doing something. And the activation and the agitation, at multiple levels in a culture, of contemporary Christianity in the Western world may in large measure be directly related to the fact that the contemporary church hasn’t fully reckoned with what Jesus said: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” [18] We can do more than we’ve prayed after we’ve prayed, but we can’t do more than pray until we’ve prayed.[19] And the great challenge for all of us is that we always think that if we’re on our feet talking, we’re going to be more effective than if we’re on our knees crying, because we are driven by the notion that we can fix this, we can do this, we can topple this down, we can reinvent this, we can…

The impact of the gospel in a culture has actually seldom, if ever, come about as a result of Christians taking on things from an external perspective.

And Philip—what does he have to say? He goes against this man who’s known as “the Great Power” in his own powerlessness, in his own weakness. He was the antithesis of “the Great Power.” There is nothing, apparently, about Philip that is commendable in terms of stature or significance. And then, in verse 13, “wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles,”[20] Simon—the great Simon, “the Great power”—he shows up at his baptism class. And Luke tells us that Simon actually believed and was baptized, and he followed Philip everywhere. It’s almost humorous, isn’t it? Because if you go back up to verse 9: “He boasted that he was someone great, … all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.’” So you’ve got all these people hanging on his every word. “Well, he’s the divine power. He’s the Great Power.” Now we’ve got the divine power, “the Great Power,” and he’s actually following Philip. And Philip is walking, and the divine “Great Power” is coming behind him.

And people say, “What are you doing, Simon?”

He said, “Well, if I can’t beat him, I might as well join him.”

“What are you talking about? You had the… You got the… You’re dominating the whole city!”

See, if you read the history of revival, you will discover that the impact of the gospel in a culture has actually seldom, if ever, come about as a result of Christians taking on things from an external perspective.  You don’t have the closing down of sorcery in Samaria as a result of Philip going in and encouraging the fledgling believers to stand outside the spooky lady’s shop and protest against the fact that she’s reading tarot cards. That’s easy enough to do. But when the gospel hits a community, when the gospel invades, when the power of the Spirit breaks loose in a community, those things will eventually go. And they will go not as a result of an external process whereby, exercising our right to protest, we bring things down but as a result of our recognizing the power of the gospel invading a community. You say, “Well, I would love to see that.” Well, I would, too, because I’ve only read about it. And who knows but God may allow us to see it?

Simon’s False Profession

Now, we have to pick this up later on, because our time is gone. But notice that Simon is a real quandary. If you read this this afternoon, it will do you good. Simon, in verse 18, after the apostles have arrived—and we’ll pick this up later on—but after the apostles arrive and the Holy Spirit is poured out, Simon shows what’s really going on inside of him: “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands,” he said, “Hey, let me give you some cash for that. You give me the ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit also.” Well, I mean, if you’re a magician and somebody turns the ultimate trick, you know, what are you going to do? I mean, people are going to move to the next booth. “I mean, you got to see this guy! See what happens with these fellows. Simon the Great Power? We’re going to have to change that to Simon the Average Power.” And it may be going down from there. It may be Simon the No Power before long.

So he says, “Hey, let me let me buy the ability to do this.” And in doing so, he reveals the fact that he’s devoid of any true grasp of the work of God. That’s why Peter speaks so dramatically to him in verse 20. When he makes this inquiry about buying the power of the Spirit, Peter says, “May your money perish with you.” “May your money perish with you.” Phillips paraphrases it quite graphically. I apologize, but he paraphrases it, “To hell with you and your money!” That’s what he’s saying: “You perish, and let your money perish.” And where will a man perish? So it’s a fair paraphrase. He doesn’t monkey around with it.

Now, here we have—and again, I urge you to read this record for yourselves—but here is a clear reminder, in the story of Simon, how possible it is for people to change one set of external influences for another and even to frame the change with professions of belief and baptism and yet, at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, to go out from the community of faith revealing the fact that they were never actually part of the community of faith.[21] Here is a reminder to us that there is a clear difference between professing to believe and believing.

You remember the story of whoever that fellow was—I always call him Blondin, and people tell me afterwards he wasn’t Blondin. Maybe he was Brunettin. I don’t know. But he did the high-wire thing across the Niagara, right? At Niagara. And the famous story of him walking across with a wheelbarrow with a sack of potatoes in it, getting to the other side, everyone applauding, saying, “You are terrific at this!” He said, “Do you believe that if I take the potatoes out and put you, sir, in the barrow that I can take you back across to the other side?” “Yes,” said the man, “I believe.” “Then,” said Blondin, “get in the wheelbarrow.” And at that, the man made a run for the Canadian border.

It is one thing to profess to believe; it is another thing to believe. And what the Bible says is that he who continues to the end will be saved[22]—not that by our continuance we save ourselves, but by our continuance revealing the ongoing, keeping grace of God which affirms the fact that our simple, childlike cry to God for his forgiveness and for his goodness has been met, and our lives are marked now not by religious externalism, but our lives are marked by faith and trust in Jesus.

You see, what’s happening here Sunday by Sunday when I speak, and particularly when I have the opportunity to share what Jesus has done upon the cross—some people may think that what’s going on is something like this: I’m a salesman; you’re consumers. And basically, the consumers are not really interested in what I’m selling. So what I have to do is I got to really get myself pumped up to try and find ways to overcome your consumer resistance so that I can convince you that what I actually have on offer is something that you would really like if you would take it. I think I could do that with a number of things. I think I could do that with gardening equipment. I actually think I could sell you quite a lot over time.

But I’ll tell you right now: that is not what is happening in what I’m doing. I’m not a salesman. I’m a herald. I’m a town crier. I don’t have a product, but I have a person. And I have a responsibility to say to you, “I beseech you, I implore you through Christ, be reconciled to God.”[23] Cry out to him individually, personally: “Lord, don’t let me be like Simon, going through the motions, just cleaning things up on the outside, but let me really trust in you from the core of my being. Help me,” if you like, “to get in the wheelbarrow instead of just telling you that I believe you’re capable to save but unwilling to have you take me safely to my destination.”

Well, we’ll pick it up from there.

Let’s pray:

Father, I pray that your Word may rest in our hearts—not the word of a man but your word as it would come to us from the Bible. I pray for those of us who are feeling much like Philip and the desire to go places and to be scattered and to tell of Jesus; I pray that you will match desire and opportunity in many a life. I pray, Lord, for some of our brothers and sisters today who are on the receiving end of brutal persecution, that you will be grace and mercy to them. And I pray, Lord, for any of us who are tempted to take the Simon route, signing up for the package because of what we think we’re going to get out of it. I pray, Lord, that you will bring us to understand why Jesus died and was raised from the dead: to deal with our sin and our foolishness and our failure. And I pray that you would help us, as we go out into our communities this week, as we’re scattered in different ways and in different places, not to try and lay on people some great trip but to seize obvious and simple opportunities to give a reason for the hope we have.

Now, will you bless us throughout this day? Guard and guide and keep us. Be with our loved ones where they are. And those of us who gather in the evening hour, may we do so in the power of your Spirit and in the prospect of your return.

And may grace and mercy and peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon each one, now and forevermore. Amen.

[1] Tertullian, Apology, chap. 50, quoted in John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church, and the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1990), 119.

[2] See Acts 2:38, 41.

[3] See Colossians 1:13.

[4] 1 Peter 4:12 (paraphrased).

[5] Acts 1:8 (paraphrased). See also Mark 16:15.

[6] Genesis 50:20 (paraphrased).

[7] Matthew 16:18 (KJV).

[8] John 4:9 (paraphrased). See also John 4:20.

[9] Luke 9:51–54 (NIV 1984).

[10] See Matthew 9:36.

[11] Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34 (paraphrased).

[12] Luke 17:16 (paraphrased).

[13] See Luke 10:30–37.

[14] See Acts 17:2–3, 17.

[15] See Ephesians 1:3.

[16] See Ephesians 1:18.

[17] See Ephesians 1:20–21.

[18] John 15:5 (NIV 1984).

[19] S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Prayer (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1904), 16.

[20] Sheldon Harnick, “Miracle of Miracles” (1964).

[21] See 1 John 2:19.

[22] See Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13.

[23] 2 Corinthians 5:20 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.