Today I read Acts 8 which is largely the story of Phillip, another assistant to the Twelve Apostles. It has always been intriguing to me that the 7 assistants were supposed to look after matters of the Spirit for the Twelve but the two we actually hear about, Phillip and Stephen, did a lot of preaching, which is what they are known for and we don’t really hear about them taking care of the temporal needs, which is originally what they were called to do.
After Stephen was stoned to death, his body was taken up by those who followed Jesus Christ and he was given a proper burial. I’m sure the Apostles and the church were saddened by the loss of one so great and so full of the Spirit. I’m sure it would be akin to if one the members of the current Quorum of the Twelve were to meet a violent death today. It would be a shock to the church. But the church does move forward. Luke makes a brief mention about Saul and how he was consenting to the death of Stephen and how afterwards Saul was arresting followers of Jesus Christ, men and women alike in Jerusalem. Now, in Saul’s defense, he thought he was doing the will of the Lord. He was doing what was right as far as he was aware and was following the light and knowledge that he had at that time, and that is commendable in my opinion.
Phillip gets led by the Spirit to Samaria to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ where he has much success. I believe he is able to have so many people believe him because of the ground work that Jesus Himself did during His ministry. If you will remember when Jesus talked to the woman at Jacob’s Well she believed and then stayed for 2 days afterwards to preach His Gospel to the people in Samaria. A few years later when Phillip comes to preach the Gospel he finds the people ready and accepting of the message. When the Apostles hear of the success Phillip is having, they send Peter and John down to help. This is significant because the reason they are sent is so that those who are converted may receive the Holy Ghost. Phillip only has the Aaronic Priesthood and so is not able to give the Gift of the Holy Ghost. So the Apostles come down personally to make sure that all those Phillip has baptized receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
There was a man named Simon, the sorcerer in Samaria that was an important man in the community. He was important in the community and had used his knowledge of herbs and what the scriptures declare to be magic to bewitch the people and to make a place for himself in the community. Luke tells us that he heard Phillip preach and believed his words and was baptized. However, he was not truly converted. When Simon sees Peter and John giving the Gift of the Holy Ghost to all those in Samaria, he desires to be given the Priesthood and makes the mistake of offering money to Peter for it. Peter rebukes him and it is made very clear to all those around that Simon is not truly converted. If he had been, he would not have tried to purchase the Priesthood from Peter. We do not hear anymore about Simon in the scriptures but I imagine he fell away into inactivity as we would say in our day and did not stay true to the faith since he was not really converted anyway.
The last part of the chapter has to do with Phillip again. He is led by the spirit to a man from Ethiopia, a eunuch, who is reading Isaiah. Phillip asks the man if he understands what he is reading and the man replies that he can’t unless someone teaches him. Well of course this is what Phillip wants to hear and he sits with the man on his chariot as they are driven towards whatever the Ethiopian’s final destination is. Phillip preaches all about Jesus Christ to the man and he believes. They come up to a body of water, probably a small pond, and the man asks Phillip what is to prevent him from being baptized? This is what most missionaries refer to as a golden contact! This man was most certainly prepared by the Spirit beforehand and was ready to receive the Gospel. Phillip baptizes him and the Spirit carries Phillip away but states that the Ethiopian man went on his way rejoicing.
As you can see, the work was progressing quite nicely in the early days of the Apostles. It reminds me a lot of the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, people were drawn to it and would flock to the missionaries in droves. The truth resonates within people and they listen to it when they hear it. It is one of the most wonderful things in the world to be a part of the changes people make to their lives when they hear the Gospel and it must have been truly amazing to be around Phillip and the Apostles in those days. They were men of sound understanding, as the scriptures state in reference to others of a similar caliber. I’m sure the Lord was very pleased with them and their efforts and were able to say like Paul did years later that they had fought the good fight. Until tomorrow.