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The Reluctant Evangelists

03 Jan

Our ancient ancestors were not that much different from us? For about three and one-half years the disciples had been witnesses at Jerusalem, the capital of Judaism. Miracles were done in the name of Jesus and the Gospel was preached and believed in power. Thousands were baptized into the Kingdom of God and most of these travelled home to various parts of the Empire taking the Gospel with them. Nevertheless, the power behind the Gospel seemed to build up pressure at the capital like waters behind a damn of clay. Something had to occur sooner or later, and finally it did.

Jesus, the King of the Kingdom of God, interjected phase two of the evangelistic effort by working thorough those expelled from Jerusalem to bring the Gospel to all Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8). Tertullian, a 2nd and 3rd century Christian writer, wrote “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The three plus years spent in a faith building environment finally exploded into the regions of Judea and then into Samaria. Luke leaves the now dead Stephen to speak of another of the Seven, Philip, and what was done in Jesus’ Name through him.

Luke shows in Philip’s evangelism that Stephen’s message of the decentralized Temple was preached. Jesus said it first in John 4:20-24 when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well who disputed with him concerning the proper place of worship, but Jesus claimed God is Spirit and desires to be worshiped in spirit not necessarily in a central place of worship. Philip, by the way, would probably have been viewed as an apostate by many Jews simply by preaching to the Samaritans in a manner in which they could understand and follow the Messiah.

Samaritans were a mixed society. Centuries earlier the king of Assyria after his victory over Israel removed what was left of the elite and powerful there and resettled the land with other conquered colonists from “Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sephar-vaim” (2Kings 17:24), and these lived with the Israelite peasants left behind. Eventually, they intermarried with the Israelites and syncretized the worship of Yahweh with that of their own gods. The Samaritans looked for a Messiah as did the Jews of Judea, but rather than a conqueror (son of David), they looked for Taheb (the Restorer) who was supposed to be the Prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; cp. John 4:25; Acts 3:22). Their Scriptures were the Torah or the five books of Moses, just as the Sadducees of Jerusalem, but they emphasized Mount Garizim as the place of worship rather than Mount Zion . They believed in circumcision so, conversion to Judaism would require baptism alone, but considering the religious animosity between Samaritans and Jews baptism would alienate them from their own people, just as the Hellenist Messianic Jews were now alienated from Judaism.

The Samaritans “gave heed to those things Philip spoke…” meaning they listened with faith. The miracles that accompanied the Gospel demonstrated that the Kingdom of God had come at last and that Jesus, the King of the Kingdom is the Restorer (Taheb) and Healer (cp. Numbers 20:11; Isaiah 35:6), so with much joy (cp. Acts 2:46; 8:39) they believed the Gospel and received Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Thus, was the beginning of the fulfilling of Jesus’ promise that the Gospel would go out to the nations from Jerusalem even to the uttermost parts of the eath. The Samaritans represented the nations under Shem, the Ethiopian eunuch represented the Gospel going to Ham and Later, Cornelius in chapter 10 would see the Gospel going to Japheth (cp. Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).

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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Kingdom of God

 

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