Thursday, March 27, 2014

Philip’s Gospel to the Samaritans

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. (Acts 8:12)
The Greek verb for “preached” is euangelizo, which means to evangelize, to preach the gospel. The New International Version translates it as “proclaimed the good news.” Notice then how Luke, who is the author of the book of Acts, summarizes what the gospel message Philip preached was about: 1. The kingdom of God, and 2. The name of Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God. Back in those days, the Greek word for “gospel,” euangelion, did not refer to just any piece of good news there might happen to be but was about the announcement of an important victory that had been won, or of the arrival of a great king or other dignitary. The book of Mark tells us that “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus was preaching the gospel, announcing the arrival of the God’s long-promised kingdom. And now Philip was taking that good news to the Samaritans, announcing that the kingdom of God had now come into the world.

The name of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God has come into the world precisely because Jesus the King has come into the world. Identifying Jesus as Christ, or Messiah, shows Him to be the King God promised in Psalm 2 (throughout the Old Testament), who would set things right for Israel and rule over the nations.

Going to the Samaritans was a new stage in the mission of the Church. These were not Gentiles, but nor were they altogether Jewish. They were mixed, both ethnically and religiously, and practiced an incomplete form of Judaism. But they did have an expectation about a Messiah who was to come, as we can see from Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in John 4. “I know that Messiah is coming,” she said. “When He comes, He will tell us all things” (John 4:25).

And now here was Philip, venturing out beyond Jerusalem and Judea, stepping outside the boundaries of proper Judaism, to announce to the Samaritans that the Jewish Messiah and His kingdom had now come. That was significant in itself, for as the woman at the well had said, Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (John 4:9). Just as significant, however, is that these Samaritans eagerly received this good news about Jesus the Messiah and the kingdom of God, and were baptized in His name.