READ: Acts 8:9-24 (esp., v14-17)
- In Acts 2:38, it seems a paradigm is established. Hear the word, believe you need redemption, respond in repentance and baptism. As a result, according to that text, two things happen. You are forgiven and you receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. That’s what makes this text sound a bit odd. These people heard, responded in baptism and rejoiced, but the Holy Spirit appears to have not appeared in some way.
- It seems that the manifestation of the Spirit ceased after Philip preached. The Jerusalem church sent apostles to lay on hands. From what we can tell, they had the power to give the miraculous work of the Spirit to others. When they laid their hands on the new converts, we can only assume that miraculous works arose. As we’ll see tomorrow, that got Simon’s attention. What these believers were empowered to do is never revealed in this text and our speculation would be just that, speculation.
- It would seem impractical to think that God’s presence was not provided, since He made that promise in chapter 2. But it seems that the Spirit doesn’t always appear in miraculous manifestation. That seems reserved for those moments when God chooses to do something specific. The most compelling solution is that those in Jerusalem needed evidence that these Gentile converts also received the Spirit as the Jewish experience had provided earlier. It happens again in chapter 10 for what appears to be the same reason.
- Why do you suppose the early Jewish believers needed so much confirmation of Gentile conversion?
- When have you had serious questions about the genuineness of someone’s salvation?
- What activity of the Holy Spirit has been most compelling for you?
PRAY: Thank God for faithfully being present in us as we come to faith. Pray that you can accept the conversion of others without special affirmation. Pray that your own salvation appears real to others.