Philip Casts out Unclean Spirits
Acts 8.4-13 (NIV)
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
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 rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
What does this miracle say about God’s power?
Well, I think it shows that miracles happening has little to do with our own action or our own power. Phillip simply preached the good news of Jesus to the people, and that was all it took for God to move among them.
We get no detail about what actions Philip took in order to perform the signs other than the fact that he told them about the Messiah. We see that witnessing God’s power brings great joy as many people in this city afflicted with paralysis, and many of those who were lame, were healed.
We also see that God’s power is infectious, we see that even Simon, a man declared ‘Great’ by himself and the people, decided to follow God when confronted with His power, as did the people who used to follow Simon.
So, what does this miracle teach us today about how we engage with those thin moments, when God and the heavenly realm breaks through to earth and upends the natural order for a moment?
Well, in this instance, God’s power inspired people. When we witness God’s power in our lives our lives change in an instant, and our actions change as a result.
Simon laid down his old ways of living, of being revered and being impressive, in favour of following God instead. I’m sure he rather liked being followed himself, having the people pay close attention to him and being amazed by him. But when God came along with Philip and upended their definition of what truly was ‘Great’, everything changed for them.
What can we take away from this passage?
I think we have to consider the fact that Philip was doing the hard work. He went to a foreign place and all he took with him was the knowledge of the good news of the kingdom of God. The main thing he did was share that knowledge.
All too often I think we can take up the view that we can sit back and watch God do all the work without having to lift a finger, because of course He could. What we forget in those instances however is that God chooses to partner with us, and for that to work we have to partner with him. That means doing the hard work, putting the effort in, digging deep.
Going to Samaria was no easy task for Philip, the Samaritans and the Jews did not see eye to eye to say the least of it, but God clearly called Philip there. Had Philip decided to not go, not do the work, but sit back and wait to see what God did with the Samaritans, would Samaria have seen God’s power through these wonderful miracles?
I’d suggest possibly not. How often have we prayed for God to break out in another place or community then observed from a distance and seen nothing happen? If we want to see God’s power break out, we need to fulfil our side of the partnership, do the work, meet the people, share the gospel.
God, I just thank you Lord that you choose to partner with us. I thank you Lord that when we accept that partnership, and we partner with you, amazing things happen, and we see your power move in miraculous ways.
Father, I pray today, for everyone listening to this, that we can be encouraged to do the work. I pray Lord that we can ask ourselves ‘who are those people that you are calling us to reach?’
‘Who are those people that you are calling us to partner with You to do hard work with, to share the gospel with, and to see your power move in their lives?’.
Holy Spirit, reveal that to us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Adam and Hannah Archer