Read - Acts 8v9-25
Message - Scott Woodburn
Who is the Gospel for? The Sunday School answer is that the Gospel is for everyone, but perhaps in the quiet of our hearts we might answer differently. The Gospel isn't for the alcoholic. It's not for the murderer. It's not for the wife beater. It's not for the really, really bad. May God forgive us if we have ever limited the reach of His Gospel. The Gospel is for all who the Lord calls.
As the Gospel is preached in Samaria we shouldn't underestimate the scale of what is happening. Jews and Samaritans didn't see eye to eye. They didn't mix. They didn't see each other as brothers and sisters. They worshipped in different places and while the Samaritans aren't quite Gentiles, they're also not quite Jews. Yet the Gospel of Christ is preached and Samaritans in great numbers are saved (v12).
There is much discussion about this passage. I'm certain when I say that the Scriptures speak here of true conversion. The Samaritans had believed the Gospel and truly they were saved and yet, they had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit (v16). Some take this passage to show that we should expect a two-fold experience of the Holy Spirit. First, we believe the Gospel and then, at a later stage, we experience what some call the "baptism of the Holy Spirit". I would humbly disagree.
If Pentecost was a unique event, then so too is this moment in Samaria. The Apostles hear of what is taking place in Samaria and they travel to investigate (v14). Finding an authentic work of God they pray for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit (v15) and with the laying on of hands the Spirit falls upon the Samaritans (v17).
What's going on? The Gospel is leaving Jerusalem and moving into the surrounding nations. The Gospel of grace has been proclaimed since Genesis primarily in a Jewish context but now this same Gospel is going to the world. Soon the Gentiles will hear it but now in Samaria the Gospel has come to the Samaritans, to these "lesser Jews". How should the Samaritans be received by the church which, at this stage, was from a predominately Jewish background? They should be received as brothers and sisters in Christ.
No divisions. No super Christians and slightly lesser Christians. Jesus has come and broken down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2v14). His Apostles arrive in Samaria and lay hands on these formally untouchable Samaritans. By faith in Christ they have been saved and now with Apostolic confirmation it is made clear that these men and women are part of the family of God and they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The news of this would have been incredibly shocking to those from a Jewish background, Christian and non-Christian alike. The Gospel was for everyone who called on Christ - even unclean Samaritans. It is still the same. Do not write anyone off. Do not withhold the Gospel from those who are not like you. Do not doubt the power of the Gospel to save right across this world in every nation, tribe and tongue.
Q102 What do we pray for in the second petition? In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come,” we pray, that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.