The Gospel Spreads

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The Jew looked upon the Samaritan as he looked upon the Gentile. His hostility to the Samaritan was probably the greater, in proportion as he was nearer. In conformity with the economy which was observed before the resurrection, Jesus Christ had said to His disciples, "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles (to preach the gospel), and do not enter into a city of the Samaritans; But go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5 - 6, HBFV).

Jesus, however, did give anticipative hints of His favor to Gentiles and Samaritans. He was merciful to a Canaanite woman who begged him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24 - 30) and preached the gospel to a Samaritian woman at Jacob's well (John 4:5 - 26). He also healed the servant of a Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:5 - 13). And now the time was come for both the "middle walls of partition" to be destroyed (Ephesians 2:14) and the gospel to spread.

Samaritans hear the gospel

The dispersion brought Philip, the companion of Stephen, the second of the seven, to a city of Samaria. He came with the power of miracles and with the gospel message of salvation. The Samaritans were convinced by what they saw and joyously listened to what he said (Acts 8:5 - 8). When the news came to Jerusalem, Peter and John were sent by the Apostles and the same miraculous testimony attended their presence (verses 14 - 25).

God's spirit in Peter rebuked the powers of evil, which were working among the Samaritans in the person of Simon Magus, as Paul afterwards, on his first preaching to the Gentiles, rebuked in Cyprus Elymas the Sorcerer. The two Apostles returned to Jerusalem, preaching as they went "in many villages of the Samaritans" the Gospel which had been welcomed in the city (Acts 8:25).

Once more we are permitted to see Philip on his labor of love, which was preaching the gospel. We obtain a glimpse of him on the road which leads down by Gaza from Jerusalem. He meets an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading about Elijah the prophet but does not quite understand the meaning behind the text. Philip explains the passage and the eunuch is immediately baptized (Acts 8:26 - 38). The official from the Queen of Candace then leaves rejoicing he has become a Christian!

Philip, after finishing his work of preaching the gospel to the Ethiopian official, is miraculously whisked away to Azotus from where he proceeds to Caesarea (Acts 8:39 - 40). We do not hear of him again until several years later when he receives under his roof in that city one who, like himself, had traveled in obedience to the Divine command in order to disperse the gospel.

The other traveler

Our attention is now called to that other traveler. We turn from the desert road on the south of Palestine that Philip walked to a desert road on its north. This road, from the border of Arabia near Gaza, to its border near Damascus, is experiencing a rapid spread of the gospel near it. The dispersion of the Christians had not been confined to only Judea and Samaria (see Acts 9:1, 11:19, 26:11).

Saul (before his conversion to become Paul) went of his own accord to the high priest, and desired of him letters to the synagogues in Damascus, where he had reason to believe that Christians were to be found. Armed with authority and a commission from the High Priest (Acts 26:12) he intended "if he found any of this way (who believed the gospel), whether they were men or women," (Acts 9:2) to arrest them in Damascus and bring them to Jerusalem for punishment (Acts 22:5).

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