Focus Text: Acts 8.4-8
One of my favorite TV shows used to end with a segment called an epilogue. I’m not sure I knew what the “official” definition of epilogue was, but I gathered it to be a comment which was added as a supplement to the main story line. Well, there’s an epilogue to the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman that certainly belongs in our study of How God Treats Sinners.
The inspired record does not focus on the Samaritans after Jesus’ brief stint there. In fact, almost nothing is said specifically in the Divine record of what occurred there after “…many more believed because of His [Jesus’] own word” (John 4.41). However we do know that before Jesus went back to the Father, He gave some fairly specific instructions to His apostles as regards their future role in the spreading of the good news of the coming kingdom. Hear Him speaking to His apostles just prior to His ascension: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8). For reasons not explained by Jesus, He specifically included Samaria in the short list of places that the apostles would carry His gospel; this is a part of the epilogue of the Samaritan woman, but more is to be said.
Months had passed since the establishment of the church in Acts 2; localized persecutions of the believers had escalated culminating with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Then a general dispersal of believers occurred in and around Jerusalem. “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 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, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8.4-8).
The epilogue of the Samaria woman now continues with great specificity. An evangelist by the name of Philip went to this region with the express purpose of preaching the gospel to its inhabitants. His credentials could not legitimately be challenged in as much he was an inspired man who had the conferred ability to perform miracles and do other mighty works as a means of confirming the word which he spoke. Luke’s record states that “…multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip.” Such a reception, though not unprecedented in other places and at other times, would likely not have occurred had Jesus not prepared the soil of good and honest hearts in Samaria by His evangelistic foray there with the Samaritan woman and her countrymen. Be that as it may, the preaching of Christ to the Samaritans was well received and the words of Jesus to the apostles foretelling of their preaching in Samaria were about to be literally and completely fulfilled.
J. W. McGarvey succinctly writes, “As the blows of the blacksmith’s hammer upon the heated iron scatter the scintillations in every direction, so the effort of wicked Jews to crush the Church of Christ only scattered its light more widely abroad.” That’s how God treats sinners!
1. Where did Jesus tell the apostles they would be His witnesses?
2. Who was Philip? Where else do we read about him prior to Acts 8?
3. Who was one of the names of the persecutors present at the stoning of Stephen?
4. How were the “credentials” of Philip similar to those of Christ when He encountered the Samaritan woman? Why did they each need “credentials”?
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