Building the right foundation part 13
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralysed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.
English Standard Version Anglicised
Last time we saw that the persecution of the church was escalating and that Stephen had become the first recorded martyr for Jesus. His death was a glorious one in which he looked only to Jesus and saw heaven open up for him to freely enter into. His death according to Psalm 116 was precious to God and so the Lord Jesus awaited His precious servant into His eternal presence.
Stephen of course was one of the seven righteous men chosen by the church to deal with the contention between the Hebrew and Greek widows. Both in life and in death Stephen displayed the true characteristics of a man of God. He was clearly a man who was full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and so he proved the church to be correct in their calling of him to serve them through their difficulties.
Another man chosen by the church on that occasion was Philip who Luke now concentrates on. For Stephen the gospel was the cause of his martyrdom from which followed severe persecution resulting in the scattering of the church far and wide. Philip was included amongst those scattered; many went throughout the regions of Judea but Philip went to Samaria. This is a direct fulfilment of the promise of Jesus found in Acts 1:8 where He told His disciples that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
The gospel is spreading out!
But who would ever have thought that it would be due to severe persecution that the promise of Jesus was to be fulfilled! The devil's intention was that through persecution the church would be stopped in its tracks, but in reality the scattered believers as good disciples could not be silenced.
They took the gospel everywhere thy went!
Philip is an example in this; as a refugee he had to start a new life in a very different place. We could forgive him if he had thrown his hands up in anger to God blaming Him for his plight but he did not. He saw his inconvenience as be an opportunity to proclaim Christ.
The gospel comes to Samaria:
As we have said before; the Samaritans were odious to the Jews because they had seriously strayed from the true worship of God. They had set up idolatrous worship in Dan and Bethel, the excuse being that Jerusalem was too far for them to go. In direct opposition to the temple at Jerusalem they had set up their own temple on Mount Gerazim. Remember when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well He said to her that the Samaritan's worshipped what they did not know on their mountain but the Jews worshipped the God of salvation from their holy mountain. Samaritan worship was heretical and therefore odious to the Jews. It is true to say that they both had a common belief in the Pentateuch that was really the only similarity in faith. (I suppose that in this it is a little bit like Islam today who believe in the first five books of the bible and also in some of the prophets.) For approximately 1000 years there had been an acrimonious separation of the Jews and the Samaritans therefore Philip preaching the gospel to the Samaritans was almost miraculous.
Many believers of the day would have kept away from evangelising the Samaritans but Philip simply could not do anything but speak of Christ.
Are we so taken up with Christ that whatever the circumstance we find ourselves in we cannot but speak of Him? Last time we saw that Stephen could do no other than speak of Christ even though it meant certain death! Now we find Philip in the land of the outcast, where contention between the two faiths is part of their normal life. Samaria was a place where their near neighbour Judah was hated and that was reciprocated by Judeans.
The one thing that they were totally united in was their hatred of each other.
Philip was in the land of the unlovely but yet He so loved Jesus and was concerned for the spiritual state of the people that he was amongst that he simply had to tell of the hope that he had in Christ Jesus. Do we love Jesus and are we concerned for all that we are in contact with that they might come to know salvation? We may not have been sent to Samaria but we are here in our daily routine as was Philip on that day. Have you told of Jesus to those whom you rub shoulders with?
Signs and wonders accompanied Philips proclamation. They heard his gospel and saw the signs that he did which caused them to pay close attention to what he said. It is amazing how this theme is recurring so far throughout Acts:
The signs draw attention and the word takes effect!
At Philip's command paralysed and lame people were healed and devilish spirits were noisily cast out which in turn brought great joy to the city. This new gospel outreach to the Samaritans was authenticated by powerful signs by the Holy Spirit of God.
Note that it was not the signs that affected the people but that it was the preached word. Luke simply says that the result of which brought joy into the city. God was at work in the hearts of unlovely people and a difference was visibly seen in the city. During the revivals in Wales the effect was seen clearly in the community. There are many anecdotal accounts of children wearing shoes, happy wives, pit ponies fed and treated well all due to men having heard and responding to the gospel call. This in turn was the cause of much rejoicing in mining villages all over Wales.
Signs and wonders do not proliferate today as they did in the days of the early church:
“Joy fills my soul for Jesus has saved me, freed me from sin that long had enslaved me, lifted me up from sorrow and shame now that I belong to Jesus.” When that is true of you and me then we naturally want others to know that they too can have true joy in their hearts if they will only come to Jesus in full repentance and trust in His saving blood. The only way that they will ever know is if they are told, how can they hear without a preacher and who will that preacher be if it is not you and me?
The gospel was spreading beyond the borders of Judea and had now entered the land of the heretical outcast and guess what they were being saved! We also need the gospel to extend beyond our boundary and out into the street and to go from there throughout Callington and into the surrounding district and then guess where: into Devon and further afield. Who is responsible for taking it?
You and me.