Loving Hands, Loving Lord

Photo by Mike Scheid on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to Acts chapter 8. Last Sunday we looked at the evangelism ministry of Philip to the Samaritans. Philip was the second deacon chosen to wait on the widow’s table at Jerusalem. We saw that Philip’s ministry was highly effective, because he was open to the leading of God the Holy Spirit. We read this last week:

Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy {Spirit}: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy {Spirit}.

The Holy Spirit Comes On The Believer
At The Point Of Salvation

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit had not come on the Church at Samaria as of yet. You who are Bible Scholars know that the Holy Spirit comes on every believer at the moment of salvation. Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:3-7 … Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

The Holy Spirit gives life to the believer. The Holy Spirit also indwells the believer. The Apostle told Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:13-14 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy {Spirit} which dwelleth in us.

And told the Church at Rome:

Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

The Holy Spirit baptizes every believer at the moment of new birth. The Apostle wrote in:

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

The “Falling of the Spirit” is not optional. The Holy Spirit makes and partners with every Christ, saved by faith in Jesus Christ. So here’s the million dollar question:

Why didn’t the Holy Spirit fall on the Samaritans
as it did on the Church at Jerusalem?

We Have To Consider The Histories Of Jerusalem
And Samaria

Samaria is a place of division, of false leadership, of false gods, of false religion. How did Samaria come about? King Solomon, one of the wisest Kings Israel ever had, died in 1 Kings 11:43, and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place. Once Rehoboam was placed on the throne, ten tribes of Israel sent a delegation to Jerusalem to plead for leniency. They told Rehoboam:

1 Kings 12:4 Thy father {King Solomon} made our yoke grievous: … make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

What they wanted from Rehoboam was a lighter tax, and respect. Rehoboam let his power go to his head, and told the delegates:

1 Kings 12:14 … my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

Rehoboam’s pride and foolishness caused ten tribes to break away from Jerusalem and the House of Judah. They chose Jeroboam to be King over this new confederacy. Jeroboam realized that, if his people continued to go to Jerusalem to worship God, that his kingdom would be short lived. So one of his first acts as King of the Northern Tribes was to create false gods for his people to follow.

1 Kings 12:28-29the king {Jeroboam} took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. … he made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.

Jeroboam set up his own temples,
his own gods,
his own priesthood,
and his own capital city, Samaria.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, she said “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). She went on to say, Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus told her:

John 4:22-24 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

The Samaritans had worshiped apart from Israel and Israel’s God for years. The Jews of Jerusalem had shunned the Samaritans as idolaters, rebels, blasphemers, ne’er do wells. The Samaritans also despised the Jews. In

Luke 9:51-53 … {Jesus} steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And {the Samaritans} did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

When Jesus’ disciples heard this, they asked Jesus,

Luke 9:54 … Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

Jesus replied, Luke 9:55-56 … Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.

It is not God’s will that people be destroyed, but that they be saved, if they would heed His Voice.

The Church Will Not Be Another Divided Israel

The Apostles are headquartered in Jerusalem, and are meant to be the foundation of the Church. God begins to establish His Church is Samaria. But there is a terrible and long lasting evil history between Jerusalem and Samaria. And God does not want this in His Church. God does not want a Church of Jerusalem and a totally separate Church of Samaria, like the division that occurred through Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The Church does not exist on division, but on love. The stepbrother of Jesus wrote:

James 2:8-9 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

The Royal Law, the Law that Jesus gave to us, was that we love God with our all, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:38-39; Mark 12:30-31). Jesus even went so far as to say:

Matthew 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

The Mark of God on a believer’s life is that we “have our Father’s eyes”. That we love, even when we are hated. Jesus even extended this Royal Law outward, and creatingas the Son of God what He called “A New Commandment”. We read:

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The Church is called to love, to do good, following Jesus Christ. The Apostles and Prophets were FOUNDATIONAL to the Church. The Scripture says:

Ephesians 2:18-20 For through {Jesus} we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

The Lord wanted the Church to realize that we are called to love one another as Christ loves us. We are not to be divided and hateful, but are to realize every person has dignity and purpose in Christ. When the Apostles, who were Jews, laid their hands in love on the Samaritans, the Spirit of God fell on them. And Jesus’ statement to the Samaritan woman:

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth.

The commentary at Got Questions notes:

The presence of Peter and John kept the early church unified. Remember, there was great animosity between Jews and Samaritans (John 4:9). If the church in Samaria had begun on its own, with no connection to the “Jewish” church, the church in Jerusalem would never have accepted it. The Samaritans were known historically as corruptors of Judaism (John 4:20). So God made sure that Peter and John, apostles and Jews from Jerusalem, were present to witness the gift of the Spirit given to the Samaritans. God’s message: the church in Samaria was no heretical start-up. The Samaritans were part of the same church that had been started in Jerusalem, and they were filled with the same Spirit (see Galatians 3:28). Peter and John were eyewitnesses. Their testimony was clear: what happened in Samaria was not a separate religious movement. In this way, God prevented the early church from immediately dividing into different sects.”

Now let’s go to Chapter 9.

Religion That Is Hateful And Hurtful
Is Not From The Holy Spirit

Acts 9:1-2 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

There is nothing worst than a self righteous person. Saul was a self righteous person. He would later describe his unsaved self in …

Philippians 3:5-6 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Saul was a high placed Pharisee, a person who viewed this “new faith of Jesus” as heresy and idolatry. Saul was driven by zeal, the Greek ζῆλος zēlos, {pronounced dzay’-los}, which means “excitement or fervor of mind, to act as if jealous, indignant, contentious”. Saul was right, just as every Pharisee was right. How dare these Christ followers come into the Temple? How dare they meet on Solomon’s Porch? They are a cancer, a lesion, an evil in the world. Saul was doing God’s business by attacking this new “church”.

You see Saul in the Middle Eastern Terrorists, those who attacked us on 9-11, and who plot against us still. It is an offense to their god that we do not do as they do. Rather than allow their god to bring retribution, they elect to do so themselves. Saul is in the Jihadists, in Al-Qaeda, in the three white men who gunned down the young black man out for a run. Saul is in the policeman kneeling on a man’s neck. Saul is in the rioters of 2019-2021 who burned property not their own, or who destroyed public property in the name of their god. Saul is in the white hooded men who ride to terrorize people of color. Saul is in the Black Lives Matter groups who say that only black lives matter, and who do that which is lawless and demeaning to others. Saul is in the preacher who justified lynchings and slavery. Saul is the devil dressed up in Sunday best, doing the work of the god of this world, but not the God of Heaven. What did James say earlier?

James 2:9 if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

God is not racist or evil. God told Israel, Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?” (Amos 9:7). Heaven will be composed of:

Revelation 7:9-10 … a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb…

Jesus came for whosoever will. God needs no assassins. God needs people who, following Jesus, we will share the glorious Gospel to all who will listen. Saul believes himself to be God’s assassin. We read:

Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and
slaughter against the disciples of the Lord

Saul, yet breathing out, the Greek ἐμπνέω empnéō, {pronounced emp-neh’-o}. Threatening and slaughter was the very air that Saul breathed. He lived to kill Christ followers. He was obeying his god, his idol, and desired of {the High Priest} letters to Damascus to the synagogues. As Christ followers were showing up in the synagogues, Saul got some what you might call wanted posters to bring to the synagogues in Damascus.

Jesus Hurts When We Do Evil

Acts 9:3-4 … as {Saul} journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

The Church belongs to Jesus. “Upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). “Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25-26). The Church is the body of believers who gather in Christ’s name. The Church is Jesus’ sheep, gathered (John 10:14). The Lord knows who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). Jesus loves His Church. He watches over His Church. Jesus is the Head of His Church:

Ephesians 1:22-23 (ESV) And {God} put all things under {Jesus’} feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Nothing happens with His Children that Jesus does not see. Jesus knocks Saul down on the Damascus Road, a major trade route, and asks, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me. When the darkness hurts the Church, Jesus sees it. The Church is the Body of Christ. The Apostle said:

1 Corinthians 12:27 (ESV) Now you (believers) are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.

When Saul persecuted and killed Christ followers, it was the same as if he was persecuting and killing Jesus. Jesus felt it. If you were to slap my wife, it would hurt me probably more than it hurt her. My love is so deep for her, that an offense on her is a terrible offense on me. Jesus Christ shed His blood for the Church.

Acts 20:28 … the Church of God, which {God the Son} hath purchased with His own blood ..

The Church belongs to Jesus. You are cherished.

Acts 9:5 And {Saul} said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Saul’s reply to Jesus is almost comical. He asks, Who art thou, Lord?. Saul was startled by the power and brilliance of the light from Heaven, the Shekinah Glory of God. Saul would later describe this light as:

a great light from heaven” (Acts 22:6 ESV)
“a light from heaven, brighter than the sun” (Acts 26:13 ESV)

The reply? I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. Where the King James continues with, it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks, this is a Greek proverb. When oxen were driven by farmers, they usually used a long pointy stick called an ox goad. To direct the oxen, the farmer would “prick” the animal on the left or right flank. A foolish ox would kick back at the prick or the goad, hurting itself much more than was intended. What Jesus was saying was, “Saul, you are hurting yourself terribly, doing what you are doing” (see also Acts 26:14). When we do evil that God does not endorse, we hurt our very soul. Saul was hurting not just the Church, but himself. Jesus in Grace was reaching out to save this deluded man.

Acts 9:6-9 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

The Love Of Jesus Changes Saul To Paul

Saul is told where to go, and being blinded, he is led to Damascus. Where he once led others to death, now Saul is led to salvation and eternal life.

Before Saul met Jesus, he was religious. He went to the High Priest for letters. He got his marching orders from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council. After Saul met Jesus, he got his direction from the Lord. Saul is not looking to others for validation, but to Jesus. Jewish names have meaning.

The name “Saul” means “death”.
Saul was a bringer of death.
Then Saul met “Jesus”.
“Jesus” means “Savior”.
When “Saul” met “Jesus”, he became “Paul”.
The name “Paul” means “little”.
He went from destructive, to constructive.
From self righteous, to Christ righteous.

Now Jesus calls another of His servants to go to Saul. We read:

Acts 9:10-12 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

When Saul met Jesus he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” But when Ananias met Jesus, he says, “Behold, I am here, Lord”. Saul will not gain his sight until Ananias puts his hand on him. Now stop and think for a moment.

The Church at Samaria did not receive the Spirit, until the Apostles put their hands on them. Saul will not regain his sight until Ananias puts his hand on him. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. God’s Church operates on love. Ananias knew who this Saul was as soon as Jesus mentioned him. Ananias said:

Acts 9:13 …. Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem..

Saul is dangerous. He is an enemy of the Cross, and enemy of Christ. But Jesus says:

Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

Jesus is going to redirect Saul’s zeal and passions. Whereas he was an enemy, Saul would become Paul, and be a great Friend of Jesus. This is what the Lord wants to do. He wants to save whosoever will believe on Him. We must not limit the power of God, but trust in Jesus, and do good to those who would do bad to us. Ananias put away his fear, and went to Saul. Notice his words:

Acts 9:17-18 …. Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy {Spirit}. 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

Oh, that we would hear the Master’s Voice, and reach out to others in love. Let us lay on hands in love, loving our enemies, trusting our Savior. It is only through Jesus that Saul can become Paul. It is only through love that this world will be transformed. May God the Holy Spirit move on your hearts through this His Word. Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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