Peter and Simon, the Magician (Acts 8:14-25)

Peter was the first disciple to be called by Jesus. Later Jesus appointed him to lead the Church, after his death and resurrection. Jesus did this when he referred to Peter as the rock upon which he would build his Church:

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Therefore Peter became the leader of the Church after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. It was he who announced and supervised the replacement of Judas by Matthias. He spoke on behalf of the Church when they were accused of being drunk on the Day of Pentecost. Peter carried out a ministry when he travelled far and wide to preach the gospel message. The activities in his ministry included: his encounter with Simon, the magician; healing miracle of raising Dorcas from the dead; the conversion of Cornelius; the defense of his action in Cornelius’ house; and his imprisonment and divine release.

Some of the Christians who escaped the persecution in Jerusalem went to many places to seek refuge. And in staying there, they preached the gospel message and made many converts. Philip, one of the seven deacons was one of them. He went to Samaria and preached the gospel and performed many healing miracles. Many of the Samaritans believed and were baptized with water. Among them was Simon, a magician. He gave up the practice of magic and joined the Church.

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When the Church in Jerusalem heard of the success of Philip at Samaria, they sent Peter and John so that they might encourage the Samaritans in the Christian life. When Peter and John arrived there, they were very happy with the efforts of Philip.

They prayed for the Samaritans and laid their hands on them so that through Jesus Christ, they might receive the Holy Spirit; and there and then, they received the Holy Spirit.

When Simon, the former magician, realized that the apostles could impart the Holy Spirit by laying hands on the people, he offered money to Peter and John to give him the power of calling down the Holy Spirit on whomever he laid his hands. Peter condemned Simon and told him that no one could buy God’s gift with money:

“Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money. Your heart is not right before God. Turn from this great wickedness and pray to God to forgive your evil thoughts. For I see there is jealousy and sin in your heart. ”

When Simon heard these words, he fell on his knees and begged Peter to pray for him so that God would not be angry with him and punish him.

 

Healing miracles of Peter

Some of the persecuted Christians who fled Jerusalem went to other parts of Judea, and spread the gospel message. Wherever they settled, they converted the people there and built their own Churches. Therefore, when some of them got to Lydda and Joppa they converted the people and established churches there. When the news reached Jerusalem, Peter went down to visit them and encourage them in the faith.

1) Peter heals a cripple in Lydda: (Acts 9:32-35) When Peter reached Lydda to visit the Christians there, he met one of them called Aeneas. He was paralyzed and for eight years he had laid in bed. Peter had compassion on him and said to him:

“Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you, rise and make your bed.”

Immediately Aeneas got up from his bed and was well again. The news of Aeneas’ healing soon spread throughout the town of Lydda and the neighbouring village, Sharon, and many people believed and were converted to Christianity.

 

2) Peter raises Dorcas from the dead in Joppa: (Acts 9:36-43): Joppa was a town on the sea coast, not far from Lydda. Among the members of the church was a woman called Tabitha (or Dorcas). She was very kind, generous and devoted. She spent all her time helping the poor and the needy. But while Peter was at Lydda attending to the Christians there, Tabitha fell ill and died. When they heard that Peter was at Lydda, they sent two members to him, ? asking him to come at once, for Tabitha was dead.

Peter immediately left Lydda and went to Joppa. He went to the room where the body was lying in state. He saw many people weeping. They showed him the coats and other dresses that Tabitha had made for them while she was alive. Peter asked them all to leave the room. Then, he knelt down and prayed. After praying, he turned to the body and said:

“Tabitha, rise.”

The dead woman opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. Peter took her by the hand and lifted her up. He called the other Christians to her room to see her alive and well. There was great rejoicing in Joppa. The news spread once again and many of the people in Joppa who heard it believed and became Christians.

 

The significance of Peter’s visit to Lydda and Joppa: The importance of Peter’s visit to Lydda and Joppa, lies in the fellowship that results when Christian leaders visit their parishes and branches from time to time. The leaders learn of their parishes’ problems on the spot and do their utmost best to solve these problems with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The visit also shows the importance of the miracles of healing in the life of the Church. The miracles caused many people to believe and become Christians. Miracles are therefore one of the strongest means of the Church in winning people to Christianity.

Peter’s visit exposed him to see the lives of the ordinary members of the Church. There is strong love and fellowship among the Christians because they cared for and helped one another.

 

Peter converts Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48)

Caesarea was a town to the north of Joppa. In this town lived a Roman army officer, a captain of the Italian Regiment whose name was Cornelius. He was God-fearing and all the members of his family were also devoted to God. He was very kind and generous. He spent much of his free time praying and giving alms to the poor and the needy.

One day, about three o’clock in the afternoon, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming towards him. The angel said that God had heard his prayers and seen his kindness. The angel then said to Cornelius:

“Now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter, he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside. ”

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called three of his men and sent them to Joppa to fetch Peter. About noon the next day, as they were near Joppa, Peter was on the roof of the house, praying to God. He was hungry and fell asleep. Then he fell into a trance; that is he had a strange dream. He saw the sky open and a great sheet like a big canvass, suspended by its four corners, settled to the ground. In the sheet were all kinds of animals and birds. Then a voice spoke to him:

‘Rise, Peter kill and eat.

But Peter answered:

No Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or. unclean.

Peter said this because the Jewish law did not allow Jews to eat the flesh of some animals, which were called unclean, such as the pig.

Again, Peter heard the voice telling him that he must not call things unclean that God had made clean. Three times the vision was repeated and then the great sheet was drawn up to heaven again.

Peter was confused and wondered what the meaning could be. As he wondered, the men sent by Cornelius came to the gate, asking for him. Peter heard the Holy Spirit telling him that he must go with them, for he (the Holy Spirit) had sent them to him. When he came down from the roof-top, the three men narrated how an angel had asked Cornelius to go and fetch Peter. Peter received the messengers warmly and kept them for the night.

On the following day, Peter and the messengers, together with some Christians at Joppa, left for Caesarea and arrived the day after. Cornelius, who was waiting for him was full of joy when he saw Peter. He fell at Peter’s feet and worshipped him. But Peter said:

“Stand up; I too am a man. ”

When Peter went into the house, he found many people there, the family, neighbours and friends of Cornelius, waiting for him. Peter told Cornelius that the Jews were not allowed by law to mix with foreign people, for they were regarded as unclean or unholy:

“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation. ”

But God had shown him that all men were His people. He must not call any man unclean.

Peter asked Cornelius why he had been invited, and Cornelius narrated his vision to him. Peter confessed that he had now realized that God does not discriminate between Jews and foreigners; for in every country, those who worship Him sincerely enjoy His favour.

Peter then preached the good news to Cornelius and to all those who were present. He told them of God’s plan of salvation for man, from the prophets to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, including his Resurrection and Ascension, which the apostles had witnessed. Even as he spoke, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those listening to him. When that happened, Peter himself was convinced that God wanted Cornelius and his people to be brought into the Church. So, he baptized them all in the name of Jesus. Cornelius and his people formed the foundation members of the Church in Caesarea.

 

Significance of the conversion of Cornelius: Cornelius and his household were the first foreign family to be converted to Christianity. Before then only Jews and Samaritans (who were also half Jews) and one foreigner – the Ethiopian eunuch had been converted. The Church had therefore become truly universal; covering all races, for Cornelius and his people were representatives of all other races.

The conversion of Cornelius further confirms the fact that in the sight of God, all men are equal. There are no clean or unclean people. Hence there should be no discrimination within and outside the Church. All are to be treated equally.

 

Peter defends his action in Cornelius house (Acts 11:1-18)

When Peter got back to Jerusalem after the conversion of Cornelius, some of the Jewish Christians were not happy that he mixed with foreigners and ate with them. This was because the Jews discriminated against foreigners and would not mix freely with them as Peter did.

Peter defended himself by narrating the circumstances leading to the conversion of Cornelius. He told of the vision and the command to eat any of the animals both clean and unclean and his refusal on three occasions to do so, and the voice of God telling him:

“What God has cleansed you must not call common or unclean.

Peter continued that, at that moment, three men came from Cornelius looking for him and the Holy Spirit told him to go with them without distinction for he had sent them. When they reached there Cornelius told him of his encounter with the angel and the instructions to send for him (Peter). As he was preaching the gospel message to them, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household. He then remembered what Jesus said concerning John’s preaching that baptism with water would be followed by baptism with the Holy Spirit; and so he baptized them with water. Peter concluded by saying that if God gave the same gift to foreigners as He had given them, when they believed, who was he to challenge God? When his critics heard this, they were silenced.

 

Peter’s divine release and death of Herod (Acts 12:1-24)

Peter’s divine release: When King Agrippa saw that the killing of James pleased the Jews, he wanted to please them the more by arresting Peter. He put Peter in prison and intended to kill him after the feast of the Unleavened Bread. But an angel of the Lord came to Peter in the night and woke him up, told him to dress up, put on his sandals, wrap his mantle around him and follow him. The angel led Peter through all the guards, and the Iron Gate opened on its own. When they came into the street, the angel vanished. Peter then confessed:

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

 

Death of Herod: There was a misunderstanding between Herod and the people of Tyre and Sidon. As a result, Herod stopped the supply of grain to them. The people of Tyre and Sidon met with Blastus, one of Herod’s counsellors, to arrange a meeting with him to settle the misunderstanding so that the supply of grain could resume. On the day of the meeting, Herod was inspired by God to give a wonderful address. The people were so impressed that they shouted:

“The voice of God and not man.

Immediately, an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God. His body rotted and he died.

 

Religious Guidance and Counselling

  1. God wants you to accept all men as equals: Some of us continue to look down on others because of their tribe, clan, religion or political belief. This is discrimination and it brings about disunity. We are unable to use our will power to successfully fight against discrimination. Only Jesus can give us the spiritual courage to fight against discrimination. Therefore, God wants all of you to call upon Jesus to give you the spiritual courage to overcome discrimination and accept all men as equals, so that you can all live in peace and unity (peaceful co-existence). Indeed, all Nigerians are equal in the sight of God.
  2. God wants you to give all the glory to Him: When we achieve success, we are supposed to give God the glory because we know that it was by His grace that we have succeeded. But some people who achieve success refuse to give God the glory, as if they succeeded by their own effort. This is wrong. God wants all of you to give Him the glory when you achieve success because it is by His grace that you achieve success in this world.

 

Religious and Moral Lessons

  1. Peter rejected the bribe offered by Simon, who wanted to influence him to do what was wrong. You must pray to God through Jesus to help you avoid giving or taking bribes. When you grow up to become responsible Christian citizens you must learn to reject bribery and corruption so that you would not be influenced to do what you know is wrong. In that way, you shall avoid being rebuked and punished by your superior officers, being sent to prison or even losing eternal life.
  2. God’s healing power was manifested in the miracles performed by Peter after he had prayed to God. You must learn to always pray to God for His healing grace, and praise and glorify His name when you regain good health.
  3. Cornelius, like Tabitha, was a kind and generous man. The examples of Cornelius and Tabitha should encourage you to be kind and generous to the less fortunate in your community.
  4. Cornelius was a man of prayer and encouraged his family to do the same. You must learn to pray to take your prayers seriously and encourage others to do likewise, like Cornelius did.
  5. God showed Peter that both Jews and foreigners were His children, and wanted all to be saved. This shows that Christianity has no place for tribalism, caste system and racism. You must learn to pray to see your fellow Nigerians as brothers and sisters in God’s family who need the salvation that God had brought through Jesus Christ, like Peter did.
  6. God killed Herod because his refusal to give Him the glory meant that he was ungrateful. You must learn to give God all the glory for the success you achieve because it is by His grace that we succeed in life.

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