Pivotal bulletin copyWhen you trace the early progress of the gospel proclamation in the book of Luke, the story that emerges is nothing less than amazing. You get the feeling that God takes this business of expanding the gospel into the ends of the world very seriously.

To help us see this progression, let’s first think of four groups of people:

The Hebraic Jews. They were native to the land of Israel and as such were the first to be reached with the gospel. The Apostles all originated from this group. Early on in the church, conflict arose between this group of Jews and the next (see Acts 5).

The Hellenistic Jews. These were Jews who had come from other lands outside Israel. Sometimes they are referred to as being part of the “Diaspora.” They had settled in foreign lands after the Babylonian exile but by now many had returned home.

The Samaritans. An ethnic group living within the land of Israel who were the result of intermarriage between peoples from other lands who had been forcibly resettled into Palestine and Jews who were native-born and never left the land. The Jews considered the Samaritans as a sort of “half-breed,” an ethnically polluted mongrel tribe, racially and religiously unclean (see John 4:9 and Luke 9:51-56).

The “Proselytes.” This group was represented by the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8. They were foreigners who were curious enough about the Jewish faith that they took steps to investigate it.

The early disciples initially failed to understand that God’s design was for the gospel to be shared with everyone, including all of the groups listed above (see Acts 1:8).

They way it played out then, as it so often does now, was that these early groups got distracted by peripheral issues. The Hebraist Christians had misgivings about the Hellenistic Christians. The Samaritans suspected the native-born Jews for their veneration of the temple and the foreigners were not even on anybody’s radar screen. In essence, the early Christians took their eyes off the main thing, and Christ became a gift only to an exclusive club that was good enough to make the cut. Well, God was not pleased and the events of Acts 7 represent a game changer.

God sent persecution, so the Hellenistic Christians had to flee Jerusalem. The Hebraist Christians laid low. Following Stephen’s death, Phillip went to Samaria. His stance against the temple provided a natural bridge with the “unclean” Samaritans.

Next, under God’s direct supervision, Phillip was sent to a “proselyte” who was looking for answers. The passage he was reading in Isaiah about someone who was “cut off” against his will and left with no descendants (8:30-34) cut to the chase and provided a bridge to a eunuch who knew firsthand the pain of being despised and rejected.

Because God desires that everyone should come to the knowledge of the Savior (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), there is no group or individual with which He has not planted a bridge to the gospel. Find out what that is and plunge into it with abandon. You will find that God has already been dialoguing with the person way before you got there.

Pastor Ivanildo Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA