THE GOSPEL GOES NON-JEWISH
"And with that the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God's salvation, preaching in every Samaritan town they passed through on their return to Jerusalem." Acts 8:25 (The Message).
At last the apostles were getting it! Jesus' instruction to take the message beyond the confines of Jewish geography and religion did not seem to have penetrated until the persecution unleashed by Saul forced the believers outside of Jerusalem. Even then, the apostles remained in the city while the rest of the church fled.
Philip was one of the men chosen to serve the widows, along with Stephen and five others. He certainly had no intention of suffering the same fate as Stephen so he took his family and settled in Samaria beyond the clutches of the fanatical Pharisees in Judea.
Unlike the apostles, he had no scruples about spreading the message wherever he went. When he began to preach Jesus to the Samaritan people, something amazing happened. They believed and shared in the life-changing miracle their faith in the Messiah brought.
Peter and John were commissioned to check on what was happening in Samaria. They were still hesitant about stepping outside their Jewish boundaries but what was happening in Samaria through Philip was enough to convince them that the Holy Spirit was doing the same thing in non-Jewish people as He was doing among the Jews.
They left the city where Philip was ministering, convinced that the message of Jesus was not only for the Jews. They set off home armed with a new freedom to spread the message wherever they went, including to the half-breed Jews they had previously despised.
Like any other ordinary believer, their progress in understanding the message and the heart of God was a step-by-step journey, loosing them from their old yoke of superiority and prejudice and teaching them to walk in the yoke of their Master where the artificial divisions caused by race, colour, culture and language were superseded by the new culture of the kingdom of God.
This is part of the miracle of the Message. Jesus has broken down the dividing walls of prejudice and hatred and created a family of people from every race and language who are bound together by the power of the Holy Spirit and who are free to love one another above their differences.
It must have been quite a struggle for these men to let go of their idea that they were superior to non-Jews, a centuries-old conviction that had bred a deadly arrogance in them. The Holy Spirit had to root it out of them thought by thought, experience by experience until they could relate freely to all people with a good conscience.
The story of Acts is not only the story of the growth of the church. It is also the story of the growth of the men who were entrusted with leading the church -- tracing their story and learning with them how to walk in the Spirit and to follow the Master.
It is a miracle in itself that Jesus was willing to entrust His church to fallible men and to trust them to lead His people with understanding and integrity, knowing what they were like when He was with them. As long as they acknowledged that He, not they, was the head of the church, the church was in safe hands. When church leaders began to usurp His leadership, the church began to slide the wrong way.
My cry to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is this: "Let's get reconnected to our Head." His call is simple. "Follow me! Learn, imitate and obey me."
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