The Gospel in Samaria
AFTER the death of Stephen there arose against the believers in
Jerusalem a persecution so relentless that "they were all scattered
abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria." Saul "made
havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women
committed them to prison." Of his zeal in this cruel work he said at
a later date: "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many
things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did
in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison. . . . And I
punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and
being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange
cities." That Stephen was not the only one who suffered death may be
seen from Saul's own words, "And when they were put to death, I gave
my voice against them." Acts 26:9-11.
At this time of peril Nicodemus came forward in fearless avowal of his
faith in the crucified Saviour. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin
and with others had been stirred by the teaching of Jesus. As he had
witnessed Christ's wonderful works, the conviction had fastened itself
upon his mind that this was the Sent of God. Too proud openly to
acknowledge himself in sympathy with the Galilean Teacher, he had sought a
secret interview. In this interview Jesus had unfolded to him the plan of
salvation and His mission to the world, yet still Nicodemus had hesitated.
He hid the truth in his heart, and for three years there was little
apparent fruit. But while Nicodemus had not publicly acknowledged Christ,
he had in the Sanhedrin council repeatedly thwarted the schemes of the
priests to destroy Him. When at last Christ had been lifted up on the
cross, Nicodemus remembered the words that He had spoken to him in the
night interview on the Mount of Olives, "As Moses lifted up the
serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up"
(John 3:14); and he saw in Jesus the world's Redeemer.
With Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus had borne the expense of the burial
of Jesus. The disciples had been afraid to show themselves openly as
Christ's followers, but Nicodemus and Joseph had come boldly to their aid.
The help of these rich and honored men was greatly needed in that hour of
darkness. They had been able to do for their dead Master what it would
have been impossible for the poor disciples to do; and their wealth and
influence had protected them, in a great measure, from the malice of the
priests and rulers.
Now, when the Jews were trying to destroy the infant church, Nicodemus
came forward in its defense. No longer cautious and questioning, he
encouraged the faith of the disciples and used his wealth in helping to
sustain the church at Jerusalem and in advancing the work of the gospel.
Those who in other days had paid him reverence, now scorned and persecuted
him, and he became poor in this world's goods; yet he faltered not in the
defense of his faith.
The persecution that came upon the church in Jerusalem resulted in
giving a great impetus to the work of the gospel. Success had attended the
ministry of the word in that place, and there was danger that the
disciples would linger there too long, unmindful of the Saviour's
commission to go to all the world. Forgetting that strength to resist evil
is best gained by aggressive service, they began to think that they had no
work so important as that of shielding the church in Jerusalem from the
attacks of the enemy. Instead of educating the new converts to carry the
gospel to those who had not heard it, they were in danger of taking a
course that would lead all to be satisfied with what had been
accomplished. To scatter His representatives abroad, where they could work
for others, God permitted persecution to come upon them. Driven from
Jerusalem, the believers "went everywhere preaching the word."
Among those to whom the Saviour had given the commission, "Go ye
therefore, and teach all nations" (Matthew 28:19), were many from the
humbler walks of life--men and women who had learned to love their Lord
and who had determined to follow His example of unselfish service.
To these lowly ones, as well as to the disciples who had been with the
Saviour during His earthly ministry, had been given a precious trust. They
were to carry to the world the glad tidings of salvation through Christ.
When they were scattered by persecution they went forth filled with
missionary zeal. They realized the responsibility of their mission. They
knew that they held in their hands the bread of life for a famishing
world; and they were constrained by the love of Christ to break this bread
to all who were in need. The Lord wrought through them. Wherever they
went, the sick were healed and the poor had the gospel preached unto them.
Philip, one of the seven deacons, was among those driven from
Jerusalem. He "went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ
unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things
which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For
unclean spirits . . . came out of many that were possessed with them: and
many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was
great joy in that city."
Christ's message to the Samaritan woman with whom He had talked at
Jacob's well had borne fruit. After listening to His words, the woman had
gone to the men of the city, saying, "Come, see a man, which told me
all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? They went with her,
heard Jesus, and believed on Him. Anxious to hear more, they begged Him to
remain. For two days He stayed with them, "and many more believed
because of His own word." John 4:29, 41.
And when His disciples were driven from Jerusalem,
some found in Samaria a safe asylum. The Samaritans welcomed these
messengers of the gospel, and the Jewish converts gathered a precious
harvest from among those who had once been their bitterest enemies.
Philip's work in Samaria was marked with great success, and, thus
encouraged, he sent to Jerusalem for help. The apostles now perceived more
fully the meaning of the words of Christ, "Ye shall be witnesses unto
Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the
uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8.
While Philip was still in Samaria, he was directed by a heavenly
messenger to "go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from
Jerusalem unto Gaza. . . . And he arose and went." He did not
question the call, nor did he hesitate to obey; for he had learned the
lesson of conformity to God's will.
"And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under
Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure,
and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in
his chariot read Esaias the prophet." This Ethiopian was a man of
good standing and of wide influence. God saw that when converted he would
give others the light he had received and would exert a strong influence
in favor of the gospel. Angels of God were attending this seeker for
light, and he was being drawn to the Saviour. By the ministration of the
Holy Spirit the Lord brought him into touch with one who could lead him to
Philip was directed to go to the Ethiopian and explain to him the
prophecy that he was reading. "Go near," the
Spirit said, "and join thyself to this chariot." As Philip
drew near, he asked the eunuch, "Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he
desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." The scripture
that he was reading was the prophecy of Isaiah relating to Christ:
"He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before
his shearer, so opened He not His mouth: in His humiliation His judgment
was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is
taken from the earth."
"Of whom speaketh the prophet this?" the eunuch asked,
"of himself, or of some other man?" Then Philip opened to him
the great truth of redemption. Beginning at the same scripture, he
"preached unto him Jesus."
The man's heart thrilled with interest as the Scriptures were explained
to him; and when the disciple had finished, he was ready to accept the
light given. He did not make his high worldly position an excuse for
refusing the gospel. "As they went on their way, they came unto a
certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder
me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine
heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ
is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they
went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized
"And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the
Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on
his way rejoicing. But Philip
was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities,
till he came to Caesarea."
This Ethiopian represented a large class who need to be taught by such
missionaries as Philip--men who will hear the voice of God and go where He
sends them. There are many who are reading the Scriptures who cannot
understand their true import. All over the world men and women are looking
wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls
longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge
of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in.
An angel guided Philip to the one who was seeking for light and who was
ready to receive the gospel, and today angels will guide the footsteps of
those workers who will allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify their tongues and
refine and ennoble their hearts. The angel sent to Philip could himself
have done the work for the Ethiopian, but this is not God's way of
working. It is His plan that men are to work for their fellow men.
In the trust given to the first disciples, believers in every age have
shared. Everyone who has received the gospel has been given sacred truth
to impart to the world. God's faithful people have always been aggressive
missionaries, consecrating their resources to the honor of His name and
wisely using their talents in His service.
The unselfish labor of Christians in the past should be to us an object
lesson and an inspiration. The members of God's church are to be zealous
of good works, separating from worldly ambition and walking in the
footsteps of Him
who went about doing good. With hearts filled with sympathy and
compassion, they are to minister to those in need of help, bringing to
sinners a knowledge of the Saviour's love. Such work calls for laborious
effort, but it brings a rich reward. Those who engage in it with sincerity
of purpose will see souls won to the Saviour, for the influence that
attends the practical carrying out of the divine commission is
Not upon the ordained minister only rests the responsibility of going
forth to fulfill this commission. Everyone who has received Christ is
called to work for the salvation of his fellow men. "The Spirit and
the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come." Revelation
22:17. The charge to give this invitation includes the entire church.
Everyone who has heard the invitation is to echo the message from hill and
valley, saying, "Come."
It is fatal mistake to suppose that the work of soul-saving depends
alone upon the ministry. The humble, consecrated believer upon whom the
Master of the vineyard places a burden for souls is to be given
encouragement by the men upon whom the Lord has laid larger
responsibilities. Those who stand as leaders in the church of God are to
realize that the Saviour's commission is given to all who believe in His
name. God will send forth into His vineyard many who have not been
dedicated to the ministry by the laying on of hands.
Hundreds, yea, thousands, who have heard the message of salvation are
still idlers in the market place, when they might be engaged in some line
of active service. To these
Christ is saying, "Why stand ye here all the day idle?" and
He adds, "Go ye also into the vineyard." Matthew 20:6, 7. Why is
it that many more do not respond to the call? Is it because they think
themselves excused in that they do not stand in the pulpit? Let them
understand that there is a large work to be done outside the pulpit by
thousands of consecrated lay members.
Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the
whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his
ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in
the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel
commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will
return to this earth with power and great glory. "This gospel of the
kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations;
and then shall the end come." Matthew 24:14.
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