The Conversion of the Samaritans

By Mike Willis

The Great Commission instructed the apostles to take the gospel into all the world – to preach the gospel to every creature of every nation of the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). The apostles and early church did not quickly and easily learn that the gospel was given for all of mankind. The first step outside the boundaries of Judaism was when the gospel was preached to the Samaritans. Acts 8 records the conversion of the Samaritans.

Jewish persecution against the church became so intense that Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:58-60). Under the leadership of Saul of Tarsus a general persecution broke out against the church, resulting in the scattering of Christians throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). How frequently, those events which come to us under the providence of God and which we judge to be harmful to us bring God’s richest blessings!

Philip, The Evangelist

Among those who were scattered abroad was Philip the evangelist, one of the seven chosen in Acts 6 to serve in administering the benevolent needs of the widows. Those chosen for that work were “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). This God-fearing, honorable man went to Samaria and preached the gospel to the Samaritans. Here is the record according to Luke.

Then Philip 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, crying with loud voice, 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. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one. To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done (Acts 8:5-13).

As Philip took the gospel to the Samaritan people, he was moving outside the Jewish race. The Samaritans were a half-breed people, half-Jew and half-Gentile. The Jewish people had no association with the Samaritans (Jn. 4:9) and looked with contempt upon them. Nevertheless, Philip took the gospel to these people, realizing that they had the same need for salvation as did the Jews.

Philip’s Sermon

1. Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans. The Samaritan people accepted the Pentateuch as a revelation of God and, therefore, had an expectation of the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well, she said, “I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (Jn. 4:25). The Pentateuch promised that all nations of the earth would be blessed through the seed of Abraham (Gen. 22:18). Moses foretold the coming of another prophet like him whom the people should obey (Deut. 18:15-17). Based on these and other promises, the Samaritans lived in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. When Philip preached Christ, he preached that the Messiah had come.

2. Philip preached the things concerning the kingdom of God. The newer translations say that Philip preached the good news of the kingdom of God. The coming of the kingdom of God was tied to the coming of the Messiah. When the Messiah would come, he would establish his kingdom. Isaiah 2:14 foretold that “in the last days” the mountain of the Lord’s house would be exalted (in contrast to its desolate condition when the Assyrians invaded and destroyed Israel); instead of being a tottering kingdom on the brink of disaster, it would be established in the top of the mountains. All nations would flow into it. It would be a peaceful kingdom. Daniel foretold that the kingdom would be established in the days of the Roman kings, never be destroyed, and include all nations of men (Dan. 2:44).

When Jesus began his ministry, he announced, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). The kingdom was identified with the church (Matt. 16:18-19). One entered it by being born of the water and the spirit (Jn. 3:5). In the first century, men were citizens of that kingdom (Col. 1:13-14). Hence, when Philip announced the good news of the kingdom, he announced that the promised and prophesied kingdom had been established, not that it had been postponed for another two thousand years as modern premillennialists assert.

3. Philip preached the name of Jesus. By preaching the ri~me of Jesus, Philip identified the promised Messiah with the man Jesus of Nazareth. No doubt, he told the Samaritans of his death, burial, and resurrection, explaining that he shed his blood on Calvary for the sins of man. After being raised from the dead, he ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:18-23). Having been given all authority (Matt. 28:18), Jesus sent his disciples on the Great Commission. He said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:15-16).

The Gospel Confirmed By Miracles

Philip’s message was confirmed and authenticated by God through the miracles which Philip performed. He cast out demons and healed those who were palsied or lame (Acts 8:7). The Lord promised that miracles would accompany the preaching of the gospel (Mk. 16:17-20) and explained that there purpose was to confirm the message which was preached (cf. Heb. 2:3-4; Mk. 16:20; Jn. 20:30-31). God endorsed Philip’s message to the Samaritans by the miracles which were performed there.

The Confrontation With Simon The Sorcerer

As Philip preached the gospel he met a Samaritan named Simon. Simon was a sorceror who had been deceiving the people with his magical arts, giving out that he was someone great (Acts 8:10). Many people were deceived by Simon until they were able to place the miracles of the Lord beside the deceptions of Simon. Then they were able to discriminate between Bible miracles and sorcery. They rejected Simon’s deceptions and believed Philip who was preaching the gospel of Christ.

How often I have wished that people would contrast the modern deceptions of faith healers with that of the Bible miracles. When Jesus healed someone, he was healed instantly and completely, not suffering a relapse. Those who performed miracles did not give out that they were someone great, as Simon did; instead, they gave glory to God. The Bible miracles included the feeding of 5000 with five loaves and two fish, raising the dead (even one who had been dead for four days), calming the stormy sea, walking on water, changing water to wine, and many other things. Modern faith healers would not dare to attempt any of these miracles. They want to “heal” someone, whom we have no knowledge of being sick, of a disease which cannot be verified by the eye. Their “healings” have no purpose. They do not confirm the gospel, for those on whom they are practiced must already have faith. Furthermore, they do not confirm a message not revealed in the Bible, according to those who practice the miracles. Hence, these miracles have no purpose. The practical effect which they have, however, is to create disrespect for the gospel of Christ, as shown by the attitudes which the press has toward modern faith healers.

The Conditions For Forgiveness

What did the Samaritans do in order to receive forgiveness by the blood of Jesus. Luke said, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:12-13). Here is what the Samaritans had to do in order to be forgiven:

1. They gave heed unto those things which Philip spake (Acts 8:6). A man cannot become a Christian without hearing the gospel. He must learn of Christ’s sacrifice for sin.

2. They believed what Philip preached (Acts 8:12).

3. They turned away from false religion. They rejected what Simon was teaching and doing, turning away from his deceptions to follow the gospel of Christ.

4. They were baptized. In obedience to the Great Commission which said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” the Samaritans believed and were baptized in order to be saved from their sins.

These are the same conditions which all men everywhere must meet in order to be forgiven by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. My friends, if you intend to be saved through Christ, you are going to have to meet these same conditions for your salvation.

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 2, pp. 34, 54-55
January 21, 1988