We have been looking at the life and ministry of Stephen. We have seen that his message to the Sanhedrin caused them to go into a murderous rage. They dragged him out of the temple and stoned him. Stephen becomes the first Christian martyr.
Immediately, on the heels of his martyrdom, "on that day" Saul instigated a persecution against the church in Jerusalem, he went house to house dragging off Christians, some of which were tortured, some were imprisoned and some were killed. This lead to a the scattering of the Church. But rather than stopping the spread of the Gospel, Saul's persecution scattered the seed into new areas.
Up to this time, the knowledge of God had been primarily focused in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the single beacon of light which was to draw all the nations to herself. This is what happened at Pentecost. Jews from all the nations gathered together to meet the Lord. But this all changes now. Instead of the world coming to the Church, now the Church will go to the world:
Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:4 NASB)
These first century believers were suddenly under great persecution. They were being dragged out of their homes, tortured, and some of them were being killed. So they fled Jerusalem. They left their homes, their jobs, their friends; this would have been very stressful. How would you respond to this happening to you?
I think that it is important to see that we have no record by our careful historian, Luke, that would even suggest that the Christians complained over their persecution and dispersion. No one griped. No one whined. No one acted with self-pity. Instead, they believed with simplicity that their God is sovereign over every situation in life. Therefore, they must view even the persecution and scattering as God-ordained to accomplish His purpose.
We are going to look at these verses in a little different manner this morning. We are going to be looking at the "Samaritan Revival" in verses 5-8, verse 12 and verses 14-17. Then in our next study of Acts we will look at one particular Samaritan, Simon the Sorcerer. Alright let's examine this "Samaritan Revival" and see what it teaches us.
And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. (Acts 8:5 NASB)
Philipwho is this Philip? This is not the same Philip who was one of the apostles. This is a different Philip. He was first introduced to us when the seven men were chosen to help free up the apostles. He was named immediately after Stephen:
And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. (Acts 6:5 NASB)
Philip, like Stephen, was one of the men chosen when the dispute regarding Hellenist widows arose. Like Stephen, the hand of God was powerfully evident in the ministry of Philip. He was one of those forced to flee persecution (Acts 8:1), and he ends up in Samaria.
From verses 5 through 40 of chapter 8, it's all Philip, but then we don't hear of him again except for a reference to him in Acts 21:8, where he is the only man in the Bible called an evangelist.
Our text says he "went down to Samaria"but on the map Samaria is north, which is up. But if you were in Jerusalem, everything is down because Jerusalem is way up on a high plateau, and you would go down to go to Samaria, down to go to Jericho, down to go to anywhere. It was "down" from Jerusalem topographically, not geographically.
And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. (Acts 8:5 NASB)
Philip was proclaiming Christ to the Samaritans. The word "proclaiming" is from the Greek verb kerusso, which is from the noun keruxz, which means: "a herald for a king." In fact the official kerux or herald would stand in the market place and blow a trumpet, calling the attention of the crowd to the edict of the emperor, and his proclamation was as a command. He declares the policy of the king.
So, kerusso means: "to declare the policy of the king." That is what Phillip is doing. He is declaring the policy of the King, he is preaching. We often think of preaching as loud, bombastic speech. This word has nothing to do with the manner in which you say something. It has to do with declaring a policy, God's policy.
The word "Christ" is "Messiah." And the article is here, it is "the Christ." Phillip is proclaiming the Messiah has come. Jesus is God's Messiah.
Now notice where he is preachingSamaria. Should that surprise us? shock us? What do you know about Samaritans? They and the Jews hated each other:
The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:9 NASB)
This Samaritan woman was shocked. She couldn't understand why Jesus was talking to her in a friendly way. We also see this animosity in:
and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him. 53 And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:52-56 NASB)
This gives us a clear picture of the hostile relations between the Samaritans and Jews. The Samaritans will not allow Jesus to spend the night in their village. So James and John are ready to call down fire from heaven to burn the Samaritans alive.
The leading rabbinic schools of the day give us a good picture of the hostility between the Jew and Samaritan. When asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Rabbi Shammai would answer: The religious Jew! "What about the non-religious Jew? the pagan? the Roman?" His answer would be, No! "What about the Samaritan?" No way.
When asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Rabbi Hillel would say, "The religious Jew, and even the non-religious Jew"; he even included the pagan and the Roman-because they were created in the image of God. What about the Samaritan? No way. He did not consider the Samaritan as being in the image of God-they were seen as subhuman.
There was no Rabbinic school that interpreted the term "neighbor" liberal enough to include those hated, detested Samaritans. The scribes and Pharisees considered the Samaritans as the most hated people on earth.
Samaritans believed in the Law of Moses, having their own version of the Torah, and in general observed the laws of cleanliness. They also awaited a "Coming One," the Taheb, the deliverer, an idea based on Deuteronomy 18:15. They had at one point erected their own temple on Mount Gerizim, but that was destroyed by John Hyrcanus in the 2nd century B.C., something for which they never forgave Jerusalem. The way the Jews and the Samaritans felt about one another is similar to how most Israelis and Palestinians feel about one another today.
Why this hatred? This is an important question, but one that involves a Biblical history lesson. We'll look at this in a minute, but first notice what happened in Samaria.
As Philip travels to Samaria, I want you to realize that he is crossing the barrier of hundreds of years of racial prejudice.
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. (Acts 8:6-8 NASB)
Philip's message was supported with signs and wonders beyond anything that they had seen before. Unclean spirits were cast out, and paralyzed and lame people were healed. This should remind us of Jesus' ministry:
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. (Acts 8:6 NASB)
The Greek word used for signs is semeion, which means: "a mark, an indication or a token." It can also mean: "an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers or miracle." It is used of miraculous acts as tokens of divine authority and power. A sign is a miracle that conveys a truth about our Lord Jesus or the apostles:
Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31 NASB)
The purpose of the signs was that "you may believe that Jesus is the Christ." So Philip is performing these signs, which Luke tells us are exorcisms and healings:
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. (Acts 8:7 NASB)
This is only the second time in Acts that we run into "unclean spirits." They were mentioned earlier in 5:16. "Unclean," is from the Greek word akathartos, which, in this sense, refers to evil. "Spirit" refers to an angelic creature that is a created being, but without a physical body. Angels were originally created by God with some form of personal will or choice. Fallen angels are what we call "demons."
Notice what Jesus says about demons:
"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 NASB)
Jesus, the apostles, and now Philip's power over demons proved that Satan was being defeated, and that the Kingdom of God had arrived.
In order to really understand how these people would have processed this, you have to understand that in the first century they saw demonic spirits involved in everything bad. If you had a disease, it was a demonic spirit; if you had a tragedy, it was a demonic spirit; if you had a mental illness, it was a demonic spirit. The demons were under every rock. They were responsible for everything. Much the same as the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement today. They understood there is nothing they could do about it; they just had to live with it. And it tortured these people.
Just to help you understand how desperate they were, they entered into a practice called "trepanning." Basically, that meant while the person was alive, if they reached a point of torture where they couldn't stand it any longer, they would take a drill and literally drill a hole into their skull hoping that the demonic spirits would escape out the hole. Now that doesn't sound very pleasant. But it gives you some idea of the level of desperation they lived with.
Historians have gone back and dug up the cemeteries from the first century and found about five percent of the skulls had a hole drilled in them. I mean, this was a significant thing to them. Along comes Jesus and His apostlesnow there's the solution! They have the power to deal with the Demons. End of problem. And the Samaritans were just stunned with that. Jesus is seen as the One who could solve their problems; as the One who could remove the demonic spirits.
Not only are the demons being cast out, but Luke says, "many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed." These acts of healing were real, not like the ones done on TV today by Benny Hinn and his buddies. These were real miracles, the lame were walking. Now notice the results:
And there was much rejoicing in that city. (Acts 8:6-8 NASB)
I'll bet there was! After seeing the miracles that Philip did in the name of Jesus Christ, the people were open to hearing about Him. Those miracles verified Philip's message. Notice what happens:
But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. (Acts 8:12 NASB)
They believed the message of Jesus Christ and were baptized. This is a Samaritan revival. The Gospel moves out of Jerusalem and the Samaritans gladly receive it.
A question that we need to answer is, "Can We Expect Miracles Today?" Is what we see here in Acts the norm? Should God's representatives still be able to do signs and wonders today? No! In both Hebrews 2:3 and Mark 16:20, the signs, wonders, and miracles are referred to as being in the pastat the time of the writing. All this was past at the time Hebrews was written.
The voice of history confirms the temporary nature of the signs. If the miraculous signs of the New Testament age had continued in the Church, one would expect an unbroken line of occurrences from apostolic times to present. The miraculous signs of the "last days" ceased when the last days ceased, which was in A.D. 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed and the Old Covenant and Judaism came to an end. The miracles only confirmed the Word. Once the Word was recorded, the miracles stopped, because they had no reason for existing.
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17 NASB)
News of the great work which was taking place in Samaria reached Jerusalem and the apostles immediately dispatched Peter and John in order to confirm the work. Remember it was John who was one of the disciples who asked permission to call down fire on the Samaritan village in Luke 9:54.
What is happening here? Why did these Samaritan believers not receive the Holy Spirit until the apostles arrived and laid hands on them? God is deliberately ensuring that these Samaritans recognize that they are to be seen as one with the "Apostolic Church", and, until they are, withholds the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the apostles laid their hands on the Samaritans, and the result was that they received the Holy Spirit, this was for the purpose of identifying the Samaritans with the Jerusalem church. The laying on of hands is always for the purpose of identification. Here the two apostles were identifying these people with themselves in the church of God at Jerusalem. This laying on of hands was uniquely important here for it established the oneness between the new Samaritan church and the church in Jerusalem.
Why is there a gap between their believing and their baptism with the Holy Spirit? This is a providential work of God. The Samaritans needed to be shown the truth of John 4:22 "Salvation is of the Jews." This act connected them with Jerusalem so the schism would not be carried over into the Church. The Samaritan believers had to be subject to the authority of the apostles. The Jews and Samaritans are one in Christ, this preserved the unity of the body.
Those who take the Book of Acts as normative, rather than as a transitional book from the Old Covenant to the New, have caused much confusion. They claim (based on this and a few other passages in Acts) that not all believers receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, and that we must have a subsequent experience where we receive the Spirit, accompanied by speaking in tongues. But the clear teaching of the New Testament is that after this transitional period, all believers receive the Holy Spirit through faith at the moment of salvation. It is not a second experience, it is not subsequent to salvation. The moment we are saved, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit; we don't do anything to receive it except believe the Gospel.
Paul teaches this in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 12, verse 12 Paul begins to deal with the concept of the Church being the Body of Christ:
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12 NASB)
We are the Body of Christ, and within that body there is unity and great diversity:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB)
Here Paul answers the question, "How did we get into that body?" We were not born into it as infants; the Body of Christ does not consist of everybody in the world, only certain individuals are in it. So how do we get into the Body of Christ? His answer is clear, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." That is the "baptism with the Holy Spirit"
So these hated Samaritans are now joined to Christ and spiritually share all the Jewish believers share. They are united, Jews and Samaritans in one body.
Now let's go back and answer the question, "Why this hatred between Jew and Samaritan?" This is an important question, but to answer it involves a Biblical history lesson. If you don't like history, I'm sorry, but this is important.
When the Bible talks about Jews, who is it referring to? I think that many Christians would answer this question by saying that the Jews are the 12 tribes of Israel, God's covenant people. But this is not correct! The term "Jews" was first used in the Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians called them Jews because they were from the land of Judah. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, during the Roman Kingdom there were only two tribes in the Palestinian area: Judah and Benjamin. There were certain individuals from other tribes, but for the most part, it was only the two tribes. It was only those two tribes who were called "Jews."
Let's back up and look at the history of Israel so we can understand this. Israel became a nation at Sinai when God gave them His law and entered into covenant with them. They were called the "house of Israel."
For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel. (Exodus 40:38 NASB)
Here the term "house of Israel" refers to the 12 tribes, the nation Israel.
And all the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, "We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. (Ruth 4:11 NASB)
Jacob married two sisters, Leah and Rachel. With these two women and their maids came 12 sons, who were the 12 tribes of Israel. They remained united until after the death of Solomon:
Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice... 11 So the LORD said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. 12 "Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 "However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen." (1 Kings 11:9-13 NASB)
Now drop down to verse 29:
And it came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field. 30 Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak which was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, "Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes (1 Kings 11:2931 NASB)
So the house of Israel was split into two kingdoms. The 10 northern tribes were known as the "House of Israel." And the 2 southern tribes were known as the "Southern Kingdom" or Judah. There were times when the northern and southern tribes were at war literally killing each other, and at other times they worked together, but they were separated, there was no unity.
Jeroboam, the new king of the 10 northern tribes realizes that they were supposed to go to Jerusalem to worship. He doesn't want this to happen, so he creates a false system of worship:
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27 "If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah." 28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt." 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. (1 Kings 12:25-29 NASB)
This is a return to Egyptworshiping the gods of Egypt. Dan is in Samaria:
Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. 31 And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 33 Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel, and went up to the altar to burn incense. (1 Kings 12:30-33 NASB)
Jeroboam set up a false priesthood and false feasts and a false worship. This false worship continued for hundreds of years under various kings. Let's fast forward about 200 years:
And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight. 21 When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin. 22 And the sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day. (2 Kings 17:20-23 NASB)
Following the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., the largely depopulated region was resettled by colonists brought in by the Assyrians from various parts of their empire:
And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sephar-vaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities. (2 Kings 17:24 NASB)
Here many foreigners are brought into the land. So Samaria is corrupted spiritually and racially. They were not considered Gentiles, but they were not considered Israelites either.
When the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile and began to rebuild the temple, the Samaritans offered to help, but were rejected, and then they proceeded to prevent or delay the project (Ezra 4:1-6).
When the returned exiles began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans protested to the authorities in Persia (Artaxerxes) that this constituted an act of rebellion, and the work was stopped until the arrival of Nehemiah, whom King Artaxerxes commissioned as governor (Ezra 4:7-24).
The Samaritans maintained their hostile attitudes and actions, which were now directed against Nehemiah (Neh 6:1-13). Their opposition proved unsuccessful, but the division was now complete. Samaritans were forbidden to offer sacrifices at the Jerusalem temple or to intermarry with Jews.
God had promised that He would bring back the 10 tribes of Israel, and that he would reunite the 12 tribes. Isaiah 11:1-9 predicts the coming of Messiah and His rule:
Then it will come about in that day That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.(Isaiah 11:10 NASB)
Paul quotes this verse in Romans 15:12 to justify his ministry to the Gentiles. Paul says that the fact that the Romans became Christians was a fulfilment of Isaiah 11:
Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, And from the islands of the sea. 12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations, And will assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12 NASB)
The Assyrians had scattered them, but God had promised to re-gather them. God says here that He is going to gather Israel10 northern tribes and Judah2 southern tribes. Now watch the next verse:
Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, And those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim.(Isaiah 11:13 NASB)
Ephraim is Samaria. There is going to be peace between Israel and Judah. Notice also:
The word of the LORD came again to me saying, 16 "And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, 'For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions'; then take another stick and write on it, 'For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.' 17 "Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 "And when the sons of your people speak to you saying, 'Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?' 19 say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."' 20 "And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. 21 "And say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations, and they will no longer be divided into two kingdoms. (Ezekiel 37:15-22 NASB)
We are seeing the fulfilment of this in our text in Acts 8. The apostles are laying their hands on the Samaritans, and they are becoming one with them in the Body of Christ.
The New Covenant is promised to who? House of Israel and house of Judah. In our text we see both houses united under Messiah. God is fulfilling His promises to Israel.
Philip's trip to Samaria carrying the Gospel is God's plan being fulfilled. The houses of Israel are being united and next on the agenda is to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. That means us! We become one with Israelsons of God. We inherit all the promises:
in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:14 NASB)
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