Humanity, as a whole, seeks things larger then themselves.
Those professing the name of Christ seek evidence of God supernaturally manifested before them, claiming to know God only by the miracles that He performs.
Yes, for all of those that Christ miraculously fed, only 120 made it to the upper room on the day of Pentecost. How many souls were gained by miracles?
In the first historical document of the Church, we read in chapter 8 concerning two men: one a sorcerer and one a eunuch.
In the city of Samaria, the Gospel of Jesus Christ had come, preached by Philip (8.5; 12). Along with this Name, as was apt in the early Church, things happened:
And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. (Acts 8:6-7 NKJV)
There was a man, by the name of Simon, who practicing magic, and bewitched the city as to his might, but when he saw real power, he craved it. As the city fell to the Gospel, Simon too believed (but in what?):
Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. (Acts 8:13 NKJV)
Upon baptism – not having received the holy Spirit as of yet, Simon continued with Philip, but saw only the miracles. I have to wonder what heed was given to the Scriptures. Simon saw the power, the ‘great power’ of God, the miracles and the signs that accompanied the Preacher, but did he ever hear the Word of God being preached to the city?
When news returned to Jerusalem, the Apostolic Council (of if you like, Bishop Board) sent Peter and John – those that had ran to the tomb of the Saviour – to bring the holy Spirit. (Only baptism in the name of Jesus Christ had taken place, but the Spirit was yet to fall.
The Apostles came, the Spirit fell, and Simon retreated to his flesh – he desired the authority to give the holy Spirit as he perceived the Apostles to have done. Instantly, Peter rebuked him, saying:
“Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23 NKJV)
Let us not dwell, only note, that Simon’s serious of sin came on this side of the flood waters of baptism. Who is to say that if Simon had first asked Philip for this, the response to a sinner would have been easier? Peter knew that the man’s heart was not right – but he didn’t know if the sin could be forgiven him. (Compare this with John 20.23) Simon who believed, focused only on the miracles and power that he saw, but did not head the word of the Gospel.
Philip, after Samaria, is found by divine command, walking south to Gaza. There, he saw a great caravan of the chief of the Queen of Ethiopia’s house who had been to Jerusalem, no doubt for the Passover. It was during this season which people would bring their copy of Scriptures to the Temple to correct any errors that had crept in due to copying. This tells us that this Eunuch was at least someone who believed in the Jewish Scriptures – although by Mosaic Law he could not participate.
Philip was commanded not to just join up with the caravan, but to overtake it. As he was running, he noticed the Eunuch reading, and after a little conversation, was invited up into the chariot to help explain the Scriptures. Reading from the Servant Song in Isaiah, Philip was able to preach the Gospel. The man, realizing that he was in sin, but that he could now leave that reproach in the southern Palestinian desert, and asked for baptism.
He believed not by power or might, but by the word of God. Paul would say in Romans 10.17 that Faith comes from what is heard when what is heard, is the Word of God. Miracles entertain, but for the Faithful, the Scriptures are the bread of life by which we know God, and move towards God.