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A Clash of Kingdoms

February 11, 2024

A Clash of Kingdoms

Passage: Acts 8:1-25
Service Type:

The Clash of Kingdoms

Rodney Gehman – February 11, 2024 – Acts 8:1-25


[ 001 ] If you’re a guest with us today, we’re going through the book of Acts verse by verse, chapter by chapter, with the goal of learning what Jesus continues to do and say in and through the local church living in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit, and the proclaiming of his word.

If you hate football, you’re going to have to bear with me for a minute because today is Super Bowl Sunday, and people all over the country – possibly the world – are attending parties, tailgating, throwing on their team jerseys, hats, pants, putting flags in the windows, and all kinds of things today, hoping to represent their team well and cheer them on to a Super Bowl championship. Today the two teams who will clash on the football field in Las Vegas are the 49ers, from San Francisco and the Chiefs from Kansas City.

I told you last week that today’s sermon is called “A Clash of Kingdoms” but I had no idea until Monday morning when I started researching this that today’s game is about two kingdoms [ 002 ]  (Chiefs kingdom). See the Chiefs are the football team, but everything else that extends from them is the Chiefs kingdom. If you’re a fan, you belong in the kingdom. The shirt you wear, the hat you put on, the flags, the gear, the influence, the laughter, the money spent… Everything that points to and represents allegiance to the Chiefs is part of what makes up the Chiefs kingdom.

And you probably can’t read it there on the bottom, but here’s what it says: Chiefs kingdom has no borders, and no Chiefs fan should have to celebrate gameday alone. Chiefs Kingdom Worldwide exists to connect the Kingdom, no matter where you are.

Now, on the other sideline, [ 003 ]  the 49ers don’t call their fanbase a kingdom – they call them The Faithful. But again – everything that is under the influence of the 49ers team… all the merchandise, the parties, the beer and food sold and consumed, the glory of a win or the sorrow of defeat… Everything that points to or represents allegiance to the 49ers is all part of being The Faithful. But in either case, you are only in the Chiefs kingdom or the Niner Faithful if you believe that the team that is the source of that kingdom is worthy of your praise. You see where this is going already.

So that’s what’s happening in Las Vegas this evening, and hopefully it’s a fun game to watch. But the two kingdoms we’re looking at in Acts today have far more significance than winning a trophy that is only good for 12 months. The two kingdoms going head to head in the pages of scripture from Genesis 3 where the serpent is introduced in the garden all the way through to Revelation 20 where that serpent and his angels are thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever is a lot more important and of eternal substance than 22 grown men playing an entertaining game for a living.

Both kingdoms are powerful. Both kingdoms have an agenda. Both kingdoms are mysterious in some ways. Both kingdoms revolve around allegiance and worship. We saw these kingdoms clash in the book of Luke when we studied that together, and from what we’ve seen so far is that every time the Spirit of God brings about some new growth, or some new witness to Christ, the old enemy of God – Satan, or the devil – brings about some new opposition to it.

And even as exciting as the growth of the church is from chapters 2-6, running a parallel track to that increase in the church is an increase in opposition, from threats to Peter and John, to the arrest and beating of all 12 apostles, to the murder of Stephen, to now in Acts 8,  full blown persecution.

[ 004 ] Acts 8:1b On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.
[ 005-1 ] [2] Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him. [ 005-2] [3] Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.

Saul, who we don’t know a whole lot about right now, appears to be leading the charge against the church. Severe persecution. Ravaging the church. Approving of murder. It sure looks like the kingdom of darkness is winning. But, it is actually serving God’s purposes to get the gospel into other regions of the world. How?

[ 006 ] Jesus had said back in Acts 1:8 that his followers must be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and then to the end of the earth. So far everything has been happening in Jerusalem. But according to verse 1 here, the church is now spreading out into the second ring of the target.

[ 007-1 ] [4] So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the word. That’s the only way this works. [5] Philip (one of the seven guys we met last week who was chosen to serve widows) went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. [ 007-2 ]  [6] The crowds were all paying attention to what Philip said, as they listened and saw the signs he was performing. And here is one of those signs in verse [ 007-3 ] [7] For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. [ 007-4 ] [8] So there was great joy in that city.

Skip down to verse 12

[ 008 ] [12] …when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

So this is where we’re getting the idea that what’s happening here is about kingdoms. Philip is proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God. So what are the markers of this kingdom in the verses we’ve read:

  1. [ 009-1 ] Importance of the word of God – Philip and the others who are scattered out across Judea and Samaria are not going in their own name or their own authority…they aren’t claiming special authority even to teach the word. They are letting God’s word do the talking. Look at verse 4 – the disciples were scattered “preaching the word.” Then down in verse 14, it says the people had “received the word.” And then in verse 25, they testified and “spoke the word”, and went “preaching the gospel” in many villages. So, speaking the word seems to mean they are pointing to the good news of Jesus. Which is…

  2. [ 009-12] Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Christ. Which means the entire Scripture points to him. He’s the one that all of God’s promises find their fulfillment in. He’s the true Noah’s ark; he’s the true tabernacle; he’s the true Joshua, the true David, the true Abraham, and on and on it goes. He is the word of God with skin on. In Matthew 28:20 and John 17:2, Jesus says all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He is God’s chosen servant. Everything points to him.

  3. [ 009-3 ] And wherever Jesus is exalted, Darkness is confronted and overcome.

    1. Unclean spirits there in verse 7, according to Revelation 12:9, are Satan’s angels. They belong to and work for the kingdom of darkness, and they have been living in the people of this city. But as Philip proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, with the authority of the word of God, one of the signs that Philip is performing is that these unclean spirits are loudly coming out of some of the people.

    2. Additionally, many people in the city who were lame and paralyzed were being healed. And where there was darkness, sadness, and sickness, now joy is infiltrating the city.

  4. [ 009-4 ] And lastly, the goal of those in this kingdom is to be faithful witnesses – Why is everyone who is being scattered preaching the word and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah everywhere they go? What's in it for them? Why not just be scattered, take some time to regroup and just lay low for a bit? Well, because that’s not the instruction Jesus gave them. Acts 1:8 – You will receive power and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the end of the earth. So the mission of the kingdom is to be faithful witnesses for Christ, and that’s what these disciples appear to be obedient to.

Now, let’s go to the other side of the field for a look at the other kingdom at play here in this Samaritan city. Take a look: .[ 010-1 ] [9] A man named Simon had previously practiced sorcery in that city and amazed the Samaritan people, while claiming to be somebody great. [ 010-2 ] [10] They all paid attention to him, from the least of them to the greatest, and they said, "This man is called the Great Power of God." [ 010-3 ] [11] They were attentive to him because he had amazed them with his sorceries for a long time.

  1. [ 011 ] The highest Authority isn’t the word of God: It’s myself. The counterfeit kingdom always promotes people – specifically, self. Simon claimed to be somebody great. He was his own marketing department. Self is king; self is the authority.

    1. I used to really enjoy watching a show called Parks and Recreation, and there’s a scene where a character named Ron is wanting to barbeque a pig in a public park. Except, he wants to do the butchering and everything in the public park. When a park ranger approaches him and asks if he has a permit, [ 012 ] Ron produces a piece of paper that says: I can do what I want. This is a marker of the counterfeit kingdom – I am my own authority. In John 5:43 even Jesus didn’t come in his own authority: I have come in my Father’s name, and yet you don’t accept me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. It’s a human nature/sin problem that we are attracted to people with power, even if they give that authority to themselves.

  2. [ 013-1 ] Entertainment Saves – The people of this city called this man “the great power of God” simply because he amazed them with magic. They didn’t have joy because of a transformed life – they were simply entertained by Simon, and it gave him great power, and it gave them a savior. Bored? Just go watch Simon. Feeling a little down? Go watch Simon, the Great Power of God. We just love being amazed, whether it’s a gal that can shoot the lights out in Women’s basketball games, or illusionists that can make your card appear in a crazy place, or even if we are amazed at how dumb people can be. None of those things are necessarily bad, but they can be incredibly distracting.

  3. [ 010-3 ] Counterfeit Miracles  In Exodus 7 and 8, Pharaoh’s magicians/sorcerers could do the same miracles Moses did. In fact, if you read through the book of Revelation you’ll see that Satan counterfeits the entire story of Christ – to the point where Satan will even one day produce his own “messiah” who has survived a fatal wound, and the goal is to…

  4. [ 010-4 ] Deceive the world. I don’t understand why God allows this, but Satan is able to produce counterfeit prophets. Counterfeit deliverance ministry. And as we see here, some pretty convincing miracles in order to deceive. Because look at verse 10-11. Look what happens when people see a couple miracles: Everyone fell for it!!! Not just the losers or the weak or the uneducated. Even the greatest people in the city – the educated, the informed, the “wise”, the influential, the famous – EVERYONE, from the slave in the barn to the family that runs the town paid attention to him, obeyed him, and hung on his every word because for years he used dark magic to do amazing things.

So what do we do today? Is this still a possibility? Is it still true that there is a counterfeit kingdom working against us? Is it still true that there are prophecies, miracles, and even exorcisms that are being done by people who are filled with unclean spirits who have no part in the kingdom of heaven?

Wholeheartedly YES! This is why so many times, from Jesus in the gospels and all throughout the New Testament, we are told to watch out that you are not deceived; and be on your guard. [ 014-1 ] 1 John 4:1 says Dear friends, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. And in the very next verse, he says, [ 014-2 ] this is how you test the spirits: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, [ 011-3 ] and any spirit that doesn’t is not from God. [ 014_4 ] Anyone who knows God listens to the teaching of Jesus. Anyone who is not from God doesn’t. That’s how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

That’s the key to knowing which kingdom you’re dealing with. Do you walk away from the miracle or the healing or the deliverance or the prophecy or whatever with a higher view of the man or woman doing the talking, or a higher view of Jesus? Do you come away praising Jesus, or praising the ministry? The Church? The leaders? The denomination? Etc.

In v 13, it appears that even Simon himself believed, and followed Philip everywhere and was amazed as he observed the signs and great miracles that were being performed. We’ll come back to this in a second.

Well, word got back to Jerusalem as to what was going on in Samaria, and so the apostles sent Peter and John to check things out. [ 015-1 ] [15] After they went down there, they prayed for them so the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit because he had not yet come down on any of them. [ 015-2 ][16] (They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) [ 015-3 ]  [17] Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

This is one of the more difficult sections in the book of Acts – how in the world were these people able to trust Christ for salvation, but not yet have the Holy Spirit? It appears to contradict Acts 2:38, where Peter’s own sermon to the Jews of Jerusalem was “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Never said you have to have a second experience. Or what about Ephesians 1 says “you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed.”  Sealed at the moment of belief.  Or Romans 8:9 – If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.

Yet here in 8:15, these people were baptized into Christ, but did not have the Holy Spirit until someone laid hands on them. Why couldn’t Philip do it?

Well, a lot of Bible commentators agree that because there was such hostility between Jews and Samaritans, this was God’s way of assuring the Apostles (who were all Jews by the way) that the gospel really had taken root in Samaria. That these no good half breeds, enemies of the Jews really did receive salvation through faith in Christ. And so God drew Peter and John up to Samaria, and allowed them to be part of seeing the Holy Spirit come in power on these new disciples a couple days after they trusted Christ, so that they as church leaders would be convinced that the gospel had come to Samaritans. That’s one explanation, and I think it works, but only God really knows the fullness of the situation.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what that looked like when the Holy Spirit came on the Samaritans here in verse 17, it just says “they received the Holy Spirit.” There’s a good chance that they were speaking in tongues, just like the believers did at Pentecost – speaking human languages they had not learned. But whatever it was …

[ 016-1 ] [18] When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money,[ 016-1 ]  [19] saying, "Give me this power also so that anyone I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit."

He’s like, oh, now that’s power. I know what I was involved in and it was powerful. But nothing like this. This is real power. I want to be able to do that kind of magic. I want to have that kind of power. Hey Peter… hey ol’ buddy, eh, say, ehem, uh my grandpa died last year and left me a stash of cash if you know what I’m saying, and I’ll split the pile with you if you let me in on how you’re doing what you’re doing here.

Here’s what I want you to see and examine for yourself:

  1. Simon didn’t ask for the Spirit, he asked for the power.

    1. Look there at verse 19 – Give me this power. Simon was used to a certain amount of attention, right? We saw that earlier. So when Philip rolls into town healing paralyzed people, and then Peter rolls in and when he puts his hand on someone’s shoulder, they can speak a language they never learned, Simon realizes the attention that was on me has now moved to them. So how do I get that attention back? Look at verse 21 – His heart was not right before God. v 23, he was bound by wickedness.

    2. In John chapters 14-17, Jesus calls the Spirit the helper, the counselor, the Spirit of truth, the teacher, the reminder, the guide, the Jesus-glorifier, the Jesus-declarer. And in Acts 1, Jesus says when the HS comes, you will receive power.

    3. Simon wants the power, but doesn’t want the counselor. He wants the miracles but he doesn’t want to be taught. He wants to make the paralyzed man stand up, but he doesn’t want the truth that HE is paralyzed by bitterness. It boils down to this: He wants the abilities of Jesus without the Jesus.

      1. That’s convicting to me. You ever been there?

      2. Do you ever find yourself wanting the power of the Spirit without wanting the transforming presence? I want my kid healed immediately of this sickness, but I’m not interested in you using this sickness to convict me of my fear, or desire for control, or idolizing my family. I want to mysteriously receive a gift of $500,000 in the mail that will make all my bills go away, glory to Jesus, but I’m not interested in him using this financial situation to daily transform my affections, or changing my definition of success. I want to be able to make other people speak in tongues when I put my hands on them, but I’m not interested in daily obedience to the word. I’m guilty of all three.

[ blank ] But God’s grace is so good – In verses 20-24, the Holy Spirit speaks through Peter to Simon, counseling him to repent, speaking the truth that his heart is not right, pointing out his sin of thinking he could earn or purchase something that God gives as a gift, instructing Simon to throw himself on the mercy of God for forgiveness and to turn away from evil – and yet verse 24 Simon would rather have the power. EH You pray.

And that’s what we know of Simon. Did he repent? Did he confess his sin and turn to Jesus wholeheartedly? Did his allegiance ever change from the kingdom of self to the kingdom of Jesus? Was he ever truly filled with the Spirit? Did he ever consider Jesus worthy of his praise, miracles or no miracles, power or no power, followers or no followers?

I think Luke the author intentionally leaves us hanging here because the question is for you and me today too.

Apart from Christ, none of us have any part or share in the kingdom of heaven because, unlike the 49ers fans, we may as well be called “the Unfaithful.” That Christmas song that says “O Come all Ye Faithful” is not talking about me. Apart from Christ, we deserve to be destroyed like Simon because our hearts are not right before God. Meaning our commitments, allegiances, and the things we love have wicked intent behind them. We are poisoned and bound – dead in our sin, Ephesians 2 says.

But at the cross of Christ, these two kingdoms collide in one massive battle. Jesus allowed the forces of darkness to lead him like a sheep to the butcher shop, humiliating him in open air for everyone to see – all because he was standing in for my unfaithfulness – everything I had ever done that earned me no part and no share in the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus hung there in the balance, his body broken and crushed, his blood was poured out to forgive our sins, and purchase us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God!

Then on the third day, God raised him from the dead to prove that the cross worked and that everything Jesus did and said was acceptable to the Father. The check Jesus wrote with his own body and blood to pay the penalty for my sin cleared the bank! Then, God ascended him to heaven, where to this day, Jesus lives to make intercession for us – praying for us, working for us, through his Spirit living in us, teaching us, counseling us, guiding us into truth, and yes by his grace from time to time, moving powerfully and miraculously to give us glimpses of our home country in the here and now through miracles and wonderful signs that point us to our true King.

So, as we head into our response time, I’m going to give you a couple minutes to just be silent before the Lord in prayer. These are some things you can consider as you pray:

  1. [ 017-1 ] Maybe you’re here today and you’ve been using Christ to get what you really want. It’s not him you really want. You may even complain to God, listen, I am a good person, I do good things, I give more than 10% of my money to church, I could have complained about this thing at work last week but I didn’t. I do my quiet time every day, I am serving, praying, walking with you, and yet I’m still sick. Still financially right on the fence. Still single. Still in a marriage that is tough. Still didn’t make the team or get the part. Still have kids that don’t love God. I do all the right things for you, God, when will you do something for me?! You might hear someone in this camp say “I tried faith in God, and it didn’t really work for me.” That’s the same as Simon trying to buy the gift of God.

    1. But the greatest problem you have is not disobedient kids or financial struggles. The greatest problem you have is the corruption of your own heart.

    2. And The good news of the kingdom is that you don’t have to buy the gift of God’s forgiveness and grace – Jesus purchased it for you with his blood. Repent of your unbelief, trust that what God’s word says is true, that it is by grace you are saved through faith, and let him be a good and loving Father over all those other things.

  2. [ 017-2 ] Maybe there’s someone here who, like Simon, you’re into some witchcraft or occultic practices, horoscopes, palm reading, tarot cards, etc because you like the sense of power or control or insight that it gives you. Those are not markers of the kingdom of heaven, and so on one hand you need to hear Peter’s words today – you have no part or share in the kingdom of God if you’re pretending to be a Christian but your allegiance is to dark things.

    1. The good news of the kingdom, as you see here in Acts 8, is that Jesus has infinitely more power than any dark thing that could capture your heart or your mind. Ephesians 1:21 says Jesus is seated far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given. And if you are in Christ, it’s under you as well. You can be free from all of that garbage.

    2. You also need to hear Peter’s words in verse 22 to repent of your wickedness, and pray to the Lord for his mercy and forgiveness. Peter wouldn’t have suggested that if he didn’t really believe that God can and will forgive any and all kinds of sin, and set you free from your bondage. And then, please find a pastor here this morning – anyone with a lanyard on can help you find us – and we would like to help you take your next step in renouncing those things.

  3. [ 017-3 ] Or maybe like Simon you have been living your life poisoned by bitterness. You have had a grudge against someone for weeks, months, years, even decades. It’s poison to your life, it’s destroying your thoughts, your work, your family, or whatever. Today’s the day. Let go of it. Repent of trying to control your story and entrust it to Jesus.

I’ll give you a couple minutes to pray, and then the team can lead us out in song.