5Philip went down to a city of Sama'ria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. 7For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8So there was much joy in that city. 14Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Sama'ria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
And then read more...
There is so much hope in the Book of Acts. So much joy! Thanks be to God for His Holy Spirit, who enlivens, sustains, and comforts us. Although I know that the same Holy Spirit is present and available to us today, I’m tempted to think that He was closer to Philip, Peter, and John because of their proximity to Jesus; their experience of knowing and loving Jesus in the flesh. They had the benefit of His life, death, and resurrection having occurred in their lifetime. In the world today, of those who either don’t know or deny Christ, there exists for us as evangelists the double challenge of building bridges over both the “heart distance” and the “time distance” from Him, which brings with it the illusion of progress which can so easily keep us from His presence and wisdom.
In many ways, I’m sure it’s true that the proximity of the apostles’ experience of Jesus animated their lives in a way that I worry my life doesn’t represent, despite the fact that I have encountered Jesus in powerful ways. So often, my prayers of repentance are of my failure to represent Jesus in my interactions with others.
So, what does it mean to proclaim Christ? He is proclaimed through preaching and signs and the laying on of hands, as we see in Acts, but I believe there are also more subtle ways where the fruits of the Spirit are evident in us and can allow others to see the power of Christ at work. At least, I hope this is the case, because it is not always easy, especially in our culture, to proclaim the name of Jesus. I feel the tension between my desire to interact credibly with the world (e.g., to blend in with the crowd), and the call to boldness that requires I forget my fear of what people might think. With my introverted tendency to want to hide, I am personally drawn toward the quiet witness of a life of virtue; yet I know that in truth, that kind of life is neither a hiding nor a denial of the call to evangelize. Rather, I can’t avoid that if I truly aspire to a life of virtue, I will inevitably encounter situations that require both boldness and great courage.
As such, the pursuit of truth through the cultivation of personal virtue should not be underestimated as a form of the proclamation of the name of Jesus. In my experience, though we must be ready to give an answer as to the reason for our joy, what people remember are genuine encounters with someone who has been given a joy-filled heart of flesh through their rebirth in Christ. The Holy Spirit comes in power through those kinds of encounters and makes them beautiful, which is more likely to awaken the desire for God that exists in all of us.