Joy in Samaria
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip” (Acts 8:5–6a).- Acts 8:5–8
Jesus had given His followers a road map to guide them in their outreach; they were to go from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the end of the earth. In His providence, God used persecution to propel the disciples outward from Jerusalem. Forced to leave their home city, the Christians “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4), founding the first churches outside Jerusalem. Whereas the church had been in an evangelistic phase, reaching out primarily to Jews of many nationalities within Jerusalem and its environs, it now entered a missionary phase, taking the Gospel to Jews and others where they lived. To illustrate this burst of missionary activity, Luke focuses on Philip, who had been chosen along with Stephen and five others as the first deacons.
Going with the Gospel into Judea would have been a natural progression for the disciples, but Samaria was a different matter. The Jews’ old prejudice against Samaritans might well have stood in the way of the Gospel’s penetration there had Jesus not commanded it. Still, we have no evidence of a great rush to evangelize the Samaritans. Only Philip apparently was willing to venture across the ethnic and religious boundaries that divided Jews and Samaritans.
Ironically, however, Samaria was fertile territory for the Gospel, for it had been evangelized previously—by Jesus Himself. Jesus spent two days in the Samaritan city of Sychar after conversing with the woman at the well, and we’re told in John 4:39–41 that many believed in Him because of the testimony of the woman, and still more because of His own teaching. It may have been to this very city that Philip went, for Acts 8:5 says only that he went to “the city of Samaria.” This can also be translated “a city of Samaria,” and this reading seems preferable, for the city of Samaria had been renamed by apostolic times and had become a Gentile enclave.
Philip preached Christ to these people, and Luke tells us that the people “with one accord” heeded his message. Two factors in particular were used of God to reach them—the things Philip said and the miracles he did, including exorcisms and healings. The result was joy in Samaria, the fruit of the Spirit that commonly marks those who have recently come to the kingdom of God.
It has been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. This should not be, for Christ is building His church from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Ask your church leaders what you can do to take the Gospel to any unreached people in your area. And ask God to help you overcome any prejudices you might have.
Passages for Further Study
Psalm 2:8; 72:11, 17; 102:15