I want to talk about living a life of faith vs. living a life by sight. And in particular, we’ll be looking at 2 characters found in this chapter – Simon the Sorcerer and Philip.
Last week, we studied Stephen being martyred. Now this week in the very next chapter, the church is under persecution and is being scattered. And this persecution broke out on the SAME DAY as Stephen being martyred. Talk about when it rains it pours.
Have you had days like that? Bad event is followed by another bad event. Fight with a roommate, bad grade on a midterm and on top of that it is raining and you stepped into a puddle and your feet are soaked.
This is what is happening in the early church, but far worse. A key leader is dead, Saul is trying to destroy the church and believers are being thrown into prison.
If you were a believer in that community, what do you think is going through their minds? Let’s say you are one of the believers who was thrown into prison.
If they were people of sight, focusing on the visible circumstances, then they would have plenty of reasons to doubt. God, where are you? Why did Stephen have to die? Why is this crazy guy named Saul persecuting our people and why am I suffering inside this dank prison?
It takes eyes of faith to see what God is doing in the absence of visible evidence. Why would God allow such hardships? I have one reason which is proven by history.
But things are not as they seem.
Eyes of faith can take a step back and see the bigger picture of what God is doing.
Without this kind of persecution, the gospel message might not have spread geographically as fast as it did. Perhaps, the early church would have been comfortable and continued to fellowship with one another and grow into a first century megachurch. When you have something good going, it is difficult to leave the familiarity and comfort of their church in Jerusalem and move outward to other regions, unless you are forced to leave.
God does not endorse persecution but he promises that those who follow him will be persecuted. And God uses this persecution to route people to areas that they normally would not choose to be in.
Through this persecution, the church did spread. It spread so fast that by the fourth century, the gospel spread throughout the entire Roman Empire and Christianity even became the official religion of the state. We already see the fruits of the gospel being spread in this chapter as the Ethiopian eunuch is converted by Philip.
Philip was a man of faith because he overcame obstacles of ethnicity and socio-economic classification to see an Ethiopian eunuch as a man in spiritual need. Things are not as they seem. How easy it would have been for Philip, a poor Jewish man, to walk past and not even notice him. The Bible is indeed true that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Are we seeing and hearing the cries of the harvest around us?
On the contrary, Simon the Sorcerer is a man who lived by sight. He saw Philip doing all these amazing things and he said, what that guy has, I want.
It sounds kind of weird that there was such a thing as sorcerers, but in the first century, magic was a a very viable worldview. In fact, the city of Ephesus was the center of magic and that is why Paul talks about the evil forces and spiritual warfare in the book of Ephesians.
And the basic premise of magic is by speaking some chant or performing some incantation or spell, I can create life as I want it. Life of manipulating the gods to get what you want. A life of sight.
This is a common theme throughout Acts. As amazing works of the Spirit are happening and amazing miracles performed, and mass conversions, and radical acts of compassion and generosity, there is also this constant group of people who witness these same things and still just don’t get it, esp. among the religious leaders. There is the real and there is the counterfeit right alongside it. Faith vs. sight. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear vs. those who are blind and deaf. Things appear one way but actually they are quite different from God’s perspective. The death of Stephen, persecution, the church being scattered — these tragedies did not thwart the church, Christians were not defeated by these things. Instead, these were means that God used to spread the gospel, like sparks of a flame flying out from the original fire and igniting nearby areas with a passion for God. Things are not as they seem.
We must have faith because as Christians, we live by faith.
2 Cor 5:7 – 7We live by faith, not by sight.
Heb 11:1 – 1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Faith is being certain of what we do NOT SEE.
Heb 11:6 – 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith, we can please God.
Are you a person of sight or faith?