New Testament Types in Acts: Part 8
Dec 04, 2006
In the eighth chapter of Acts we find the story of Philip, who went to Samaria to preach the word in the midst of persecution. Stephen had just been stoned to death for his witness, and this appears to have been the beginning of Saul's idea to lead the great persecution of the earth Church. As the result of his subsequent actions, the Church was scattered to other parts of the Roman world (Acts 8:4).
What Saul did not realize was that he was helping the Church to fulfill its type of the good figs of Judah. In the days of Jeremiah, the good figs went into the Babylonian captivity for their ultimate good (Jer. 24:5-7). But the evil figs, whose zealous, religious hearts could not believe that God was behind their judgment at the hands of the Babylonian king, decided to fight to defend God's "holy" city and its temple (Jer. 24:8-10).
In the New Testament, this distinction continued to manifest itself in the hearts of the people, and so once again there were two kinds of "figs" among the people of Judah. The evil figs not only rejected Jesus Himself, but they also could not submit to Rome, whom God had clearly raised up in judgment against the nation. Daniel's revelation makes it very clear that Rome was the iron kingdom in the succession of empires whom God had empowered to rule the world for a time.
The good figs acted as Jesus did. Jesus did not lead a revolt against Rome, though some of His disciples at first thought He was supposed to do this as a good Messiah. But by the time of Pentecost, they had changed their minds and followed Jesus' example as good figs. And so God raised up Saul to persecute the Church, even as Jeremiah had been persecuted before them. In this way the Church was scattered into the Roman Empire, essentially going into the land of captivity, even as Daniel had gone into Babylon before them.
It is doubtful that they would have understood this to be a good thing, but after 70 A.D., when the city was destroyed, there is no doubt that they saw the wisdom and mercy of God in this. Most of the early Church avoided the war that destroyed Jerusalem and killed over a million Judeans.
As I showed in my book, Who is a Jew?, Jesus was the lawful Heir of King David and held the scepter as the prince of the tribe of Judah. In Him was the tribeship itself--and whoever followed Him had the divine right to be called Judah. Thus, the early Church was true Judah, and the Christians true "Jews" (Rom. 2:29).
The bad figs, however, lost their citizenship in the tribe according to the law. Though they continued to be recognized by the world as "Jews," their claim to be of Judah was hollow and without divine authority from that time to the present. The only way a modern "Jew" can rejoin the tribe of Judah is to accept the authority of the King of Judah, along with His Sacrifice on the cross.
So this scattering of the Church set the stage for Philip's evangelism in Samaria, that hated and despised country in the eyes of their rivals in Jerusalem. But Philip had remembered Jesus' parting words in Acts 1:8, saying,
"But you shall receive power [exousia, "authority"] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and SAMARIA, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
Jesus had specifically singled out Samaria as the first place outside of Judea where the disciples would bear witness of Him. So Philip took up the challenge. Verses 6-8,
" (6) And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. (7) For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. (8) And there was much rejoicing in that city."
As I have stated earlier, Philip is a type of the second manifestation of Christ, even as Stephen is a type of the first. Thus, Stephen dies, while Philip preaches the Word with boldness. Recall that Jonah manifested both types in his two callings. In his second calling he preached to Nineveh with great success, for the entire population of 120,000 took heed to the Word.
Philip preached to Samaria with the same results that Jonah received with Nineveh. The difference is that Philip was not afflicted with the bad attitude, for he sincerely desired the Samaritans to receive the Gospel and to be saved, whereas Jonah wanted Nineveh to reject him and to come under divine judgment.
But Philip soon encountered a spiritual leader named Simon Magus (vs. 9). Magus was what people called him, for it means "great one." He was called Simon the Great. He too believed and was baptized (8:13). But he had an inner problem of heart idolatry, as many religious believers do today. So he thought the power to lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit was an exclusive right of a priestly clique, and he wanted to purchase such a position.
Through this story, we get our English word, simony, which means "the buying or selling of ecclesiastical pardons, offices, or receiving profits from one's office." Simony has been a common practice in the Church for many centuries in one form or another, according to Church historians, many of whom were high Church leaders and in positions to know. Even today, many televangelists sell tickets to their meetings, and it is common practice to charge money for people to stand in a prayer line--whether or not they make to the front of the line and are actually prayed for. This is simony today.
When the apostles heard that the Samaritans were turning to Christ in great numbers, they appeared to be taken by surprise and came quickly to pray for the people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (8:14-17). It was at this point that Simon wanted to purchase this power from the apostles, but they refused his money, telling him to repent. In verse 23 Peter says to him,
"For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity."
In my book, The Laws of Wormwood and Dung, I show that "gall" is the poppy plant, the source of opium, which, in Scripture, is the counterpart to the "balm of Gilead." Opium treats symptoms and masks pain, while the true healing from God goes to the source of the problem. Opium brings men into "the bondage of iniquity." And so in Scripture, gall (opium) represents heart idolatry, which masks the symptoms of sin through rationalizations and self-justifications.
What is also interesting is that Acts 8 sets forth two Simons in opposition to each other. Simon Magus is contrasted with Simon Peter. Simon means "hearing" in Hebrew. Both men hear the Word, but it has a different effect upon them and their subsequent ministries. Simon Magus is a type of believer who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think. He makes himself to be a great one in the eyes of the people. Simon Peter, on the other hand, knows that to be truly great in the eyes of God, one must become the greatest servant of all.
These two attitudes are manifested clearly in the Christian world today. There are those who truly believe that Christians should pay for prayers of healing. And they truly believe that they themselves have the divine right to a lavish life style. Some drive expensive cars, build impressive Church buildings, and associate only with the rich, in order that they might be seen as "great" in the eyes of God. Out of this spirit comes the idea that prosperity (gain) is godliness (1 Tim. 6:5). Such men follow the example of Simon Magus.
This is the eighth part of a series titled "New Testament Types in Acts." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones