Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Duration: 365 days

CONVERTING SAMARITANS AND APOSTLES, DAY 9

Today’s reading is drawn from Acts 8:4-25.

Jesus predicted that His disciples would take His message not only to Jerusalem but also to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). But at the start of Acts 8, the church had not yet left Jerusalem. Several years had probably passed since Jesus uttered His command. But it would take persecution to move the Lord’s people to obedience.

Jerusalem was not the apostles’ home. The church had no buildings dedicated for its use. The authorities certainly had not welcomed the presence of their movement. Why were the apostles reluctant to leave?

One leading factor was that the apostles had been raised in a culture that was deeply divided along ethnic lines. Preaching the gospel to Jews in Jerusalem was a manageable challenge. But to preach to Samaritans was worse than difficult. Cultural barriers may have kept the apostles in Jerusalem despite Saul’s persecution (Acts 8:1).

It took a man who was probably a Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Jew to cross the Jewish-Samaritan divide. Philip was a veteran cross-cultural worker (6:1–7) and knew firsthand what it was like to be considered a second-class citizen. When he preached Jesus in the city of Samaria, multitudes responded. The gospel broke through a centuries-old wall of separation.

When news of the revival reached the apostles in Jerusalem, they dispatched Peter and John to investigate. The two Galileans must have been stunned and humbled by what they saw. John, who once wanted to call down fire from heaven on unbelieving Samaritans (Luke 9:52–54), now joined Peter in praying for the Holy Spirit to fall on the new believers.

Ironically, Peter condemned Simon the magician for wanting to purchase the Spirit’s power with money. “I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity,” Peter said (Acts 8:23). Yet a poison of bitterness and bondage of iniquity were also evident in Christians who allowed ethnic differences to keep Samaritans and others from entering the kingdom.

Peter and John returned to Jerusalem changed men. Along the way, they preached in Samaritan villages (8:25). Samaritans were now embracing the gospel, and at least two of the apostles were beginning to embrace Samaritans.

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