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Mid-Week with Christ
June 2, 2020

The Spirit of Unity

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Acts 8:4-17

4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 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. 7 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. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Prayer for the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, you fulfilled your promise by sending the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

At first glance, the account in Acts 8 of the work of God among the Samaritans seems to be a story of two baptisms. The people of Samaria hear Philip preach the Good News of Jesus' salvation, life and forgiveness and they receive Christ's gifts through baptism. When the disciples in Jerusalem hear about the conversion of the Samaritans, they send Peter and John to investigate, who discover that they had only been baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus." They lay hands on them, and the Holy Spirit falls on them. Does this imply that their first baptism was not enough? 

We should ask, first, what gifts were given to the Samaritans before Peter and John arrived. Did the Samaritans have faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour? It seems so, or they would not have desired baptism in the first place. Are signs and wonder performed among them? It seems like they were, for Simon a magician also believed and saw "signs and great miracles performed" (Acts 8:13) before Peter and John come.

There is yet one thing missing; a confirmation of unity between Samaritan convert and Jerusalem believer. The Spirit's often-underappreciated work is in confirming oneness in the Body of Christ. The church in Samaria was not yet united by the Spirit with the church in Jerusalem. So Peter and John, representatives of Christ and participants in the "1st Pentecost," lay hands on the Samaritan Christians. The Spirit falls on them, and their unity in the body is made certain by God himself.

Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). Through visits from other Christians and pastors, attendance at mission festivals and even church conventions, the Spirit does his essential work of keeping us one, just as the Son and the Father in the Spirit are one. Sound preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom of God is how the Spirit enlivens our faith and keeps us united, whether Christians and churches are just around the corner - or around the world.
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