“God works for the good” – Summary of Sermon on July 21, 2019

This is a summary of the sermon preached on July 21, 2019.

  • Date: Sunday July 21, 2019
  • Venue: A Sunday service at Tokyo Multicultural Church
  • Title: "God works for the good"
  • Scriptures: Acts 8:1-25

    1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
    On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
    4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
    9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
    14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
    18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
    20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
    24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
    25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

    THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.1



Have you ever been in a situation where everything you do just doesn’t work?

When you encounter a problem, you may pray for a solution, asking God for help and wisdom. And you’d try to do things which you think/believe you ought to do in order to resolve the issue or problem. Yet, whatever the things you may try, the situation just gets worse and worse, or say things do not go the way you expect. So you ask God in desperation,

What shall I do, God?
What did I do wrong?
Please help me God!

The disciples of Jesus in Acts had been through such a situation. Even though the disciples were all faithful to their mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ, their life situation just got worse and worse; first they got arrested, and questioned by the authority (Acts 3:1—4:22), and then they got arrested again, and flogged (5:12-42).

The persecution hit its climax when Stephen was stoned to death in chapter 7. He became the very first martyr in the Christian history. And from today’s text we see that because of a great persecution, many of the believers were forced to leave Jerusalem and scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (8:1).

But what is going on here?

It seems like the more the disciples preached the gospel, the more severe the persecution became. And in the end, they’ve lost their home, Jerusalem, the holy city.

Where is God here?
Why didn’t God protect them from the persecution?
Was God not powerful enough to stop it?
Is God really sovereign?
Where is God in all this?

God can use anything for His plan


what would you do if you were one of the disciples there?

The disciples "preached the word wherever they went” (v. 4). And Philip preached in a city in Samaria (v. 5). But as you may know, in this time, Jews and Samaritans were not good friends to one another (see John 4:9). For Jews, Samaritans were not pure both in ethnicity and religion, and Jews treated them like Gentiles.

So in Jesus’ time, the Jews would never thought of going to Samaria and being a witness to Jesus there. But

God used the persecution in Jerusalem to scatter the disciples so as to spread the good news around the world.

As a matter of fact, this is to fulfill what Jesus said in Acts 1:8,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Jewish leaders were persecuting Christians out of their own motive. They did not know that they were a part of God’s master plan of salvation. Yet, God can use such an evil act in order to accomplish His good plan.

God can use anything, both good and bad, for His plan. God works for the good.

In our eyes, sometimes things may not go the way we expect. The situation may get worse and worse no matter how much you may pray or no matter what you may try. Nothing works. You may feel like you’re losing.

Yet, it doesn’t mean that God is not working or God is losing. God is always in control, and He is sovereign. He can use anything, or everything, both good and bad, to work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

So no matter how bad the situation may look right now,

keep on trusting God and being a witness to His kingdom by sharing His love with those around you.

God can use anything for His people

Philip "went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there” (Acts 8:5). He also performed many signs by casting out demons and healing many (vv. 6-7). And eventually they came to believe Philip, and were baptized, both men and women (v. 12).

When I read this passage, it appears to me that they were so quick to believe in the Messiah. I wondered whether there is any reason for their quick conversion. And I think there may be at least two reasons for them to come to know Christ so quickly.

First, like Jews, the Samaritans were longing for the Messiah (cf. John 4:25). They were waiting for “a prophet like Moses” written in Deuteronomy 18:15. With such an expectation for the Messiah, it might be rather easy for them to believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah whom they’d been waiting for. They were ready to accept the Messiah.

Another reason for their quick conversion may have to do with the man named Simon who had practiced sorcery there. The Samaritans in the city were all amazed at his magic and they had followed him (v. 10). But when Philip came to preach the gospel, they turned their back on Simon, and believed Philip. Why?

Well, I think a part of the reason is written in Deuteronomy 18:14, which is one verse before the prophecy about “a prophet like Moses.” It reads

The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Here Moses is saying that you, Israelites, must not listen to sorcerers or magicians, but rather you must listen to a prophet like Moses, the Messiah.

It seems likely and reasonable to me that when the Samaritans heard that Jesus is the Messiah, the prophet like Moses, they must have remembered Deuteronomy 18:14, and come to realize that they had been doing what God forbids them to do, and thus compelled to repent and believe in Jesus, the Messiah.

In our lives, we also do something God forbids, something displeasing to God.

This is especially true before we come to know Christ. Before believing in Jesus, we’d all gone astray from God, and lived self-centered lives in one way or another. We’d done so many things displeasing to God. Yet, He had not given up on us. Rather

God used such displeasing things to have brought us closer to Him.

In all things, both good and bad, God works to bring His people closer to Him. God works for the good of His people.

God can use anything for His purpose

About how God works in our lives, we can learn one more thing from today’s text.

Even though the Samaritans were baptized in the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them (v. 16). But when Peter and John came from Jerusalem, and prayed and laid hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit (v. 17).

If you just read this passage for the first time, you may come up with many questions like

Why hadn’t the Holy Spirit come on any of them when they got baptized?
Was there anything wrong in the ministry of Philip?
Are the apostles only ones who can pray for the Holy Spirit to come on people?

To answer these questions, we must remind ourselves that what is written in Acts is very unique in that particular time of the Christian history, and that Acts mainly describes how the early Church started with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In other words,

we should be very careful when trying to apply what is written in Acts to our lives because it is more descriptive than prescriptive in nature.

For the case of the Samaritans, the reason why Peter and John went down to Samaria was not because the Samaritans had not yet received the Holy Spirit or not because Philip’s ministry was lacking something.

Rather, Peter and John were sent from Jerusalem because the apostles heard that “Samaria had accepted the word of God” (v. 14). So they visited there to witnesses what God had been doing in Samaria.

But when they arrived there, they found out that the Samaritans had not yet received the Holy Spirit. I think that not only Philip but also Peter and John must have wondered why the Samaritans had not yet received the Holy Spirit.


if you were Peter or John, what would you do?

You don’t really understand what is going on. Things do not seem to be going the way you expect. What would you do in such a situation?

As we know, Peter and John did what they could do without knowing exactly what God would do and why. Namely

they simply trusted that God would work for His good purpose, and prayed for His Spirit.

I think this is how we are to live as followers of Christ. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what is going on in our lives. Things go in the way we do not expect. We cannot fully understand God’s purpose. Yet

we can still trust God who can use anything, both good and bad, for His good purpose.


And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

No matter how bad the situation may look right now, God is sovereign and He is in control.

God can use anything for His plan to be accomplished.

God can use anything for His people to be saved.

God can use anything for His purpose to be sustained.

You may have tried everything you could think of in order to make things work. But nothing worked, and the situation is just getting worse and worse.

If you’ve been going through such a difficult situation, know that no matter how bad the situation may look,

God is still working for your good.

And trust God who is sovereign and who works for the good of those who love Him.

But it’s easier to say than do. And I understand that you would not feel that way when you’ve been going through a difficult time.

Yet even so, I’d like you to pray to God that you may be able to see things not from your own perspectives, but from God’s.

Because, in many cases,

what you think is good for you may not be the same as what God thinks is good for you.

And maybe, the situation is not really getting worse; but actually it’s getting better in God’s eyes.

Bibliography and Notes

  • Peterson, David. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Nottingham, UK; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Apollos; Eerdmans, 2009.
  • Witherington, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids; Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998.
  1. Unless otherwise noted, all the Scripture verses will be quoted from NIV.