Two Believers and a Fake
We met Saul on the sidelines of Stephen’s murder in Jerusalem. Now he is the chief persecutor of the church. He spreads terror among those who trust Jesus. But instead of hindering the church’s mission, this persecution sets it on fire! Jesus’ followers, once settled in Jerusalem, now move out of their comfort zone and into the world.
In Samaria, God used another deacon, Philip, to witness for Jesus. With gifts that marked him as having God’s authority, he performed miracles, healed the sick, and raised the dead.
Because the church is growing fast, some who join the body didn’t actually believe in the Lord Jesus. Simon, the sorcerer, was certainly along for the ride, seeing how he could benefit from this new work of the Spirit.
When Saul persecuted the church from the outside, it didn’t hurt them. But people like Simon who only professed to be believers hurt the church. The enemy does damage when we leave the door open for him.
When someone is really saved, the Holy Spirit reveals the Word to us. Usually, He uses His own children to deliver it. Let’s see how that happens ….
After Samaria, God called Philip to go south to the Gaza strip, an ancient trade route from Egypt and Ethiopia. When Philip gets there, he finds God has made his appointment for him.
On his way from Jerusalem, a high-ranking dignitary from Ethiopia rode in his chariot reading the prophet Isaiah, but didn’t understand what it meant. God’s Spirit prompted Philip to approach the official along the road. (The Spirit leads, using His Word, delivered by His child.) He asks, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian doesn’t, so he stops his caravan and invites Philip to ride with him.
The Ethiopian happened to be reading Isaiah 53:7-8 about Jesus, the One who was wounded for our sins, and by whose stripes we are healed. Philip is given a marvelous place to begin. Philip then makes the Scripture clear and preaches to him about Jesus.
The Ethiopian met Jesus in a chariot, but on another day, the apostle Paul met Jesus in the dirt. When persecution broke out in Jerusalem, the church went underground and Saul of Tarsus went after them. He hated Jesus Christ and wanted to exterminate every follower.
On the way to Damascus in search of some believers, suddenly a bright light from heaven struck Saul. He fell to the ground and was the only one who heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Saul answered, “Who are you, Lord?”
And the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (9:4-5).
Saul, down in the dust on that Damascus road, immediately responds to Jesus, and the one who did everything he could against Him, now calls Him “Lord.” Saul is completely changed.
But when he got up, Saul was blind. The Spirit of God opened his eyes spiritually and closed them physically so that he might see the Lord Jesus.
Days later when God opened Saul’s eyes, he is still Saul of Tarsus, but now he is Brother Saul. He’s not the enemy; he’s a brother. He’s filled with the Holy Spirit for service and baptized with water as a sign and seal of his conversion. Finally, he sat down with the followers of Jesus in Damascus and enjoyed a hearty meal.
Thus began in Saul and the whole new church an adventure of faith that would literally turn the world upside down as the church continues to grow and the gospel travels outward.
Next, so what’s the real difference between Jews and Gentiles?