8:14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday we explored the reality that baptism in water for forgiveness is only half the story. The New Testament, beginning with the baptism of Jesus and the testimony of John the Baptist makes it clear that beyond water baptism is Spirit baptism. When a forgiven believer in Jesus is filled with the Spirit of God fear is replaced with boldness. Self-preservation gives way to self-sacrifice. The believer's life is marked by overwhelming evidence that he or she is no ordinary person.
Jesus had told his water baptised forgiven followers to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Spirit. He said after they received this gift they would become His witnesses starting in Jerusalem and spreading across the globe. They waited, they received, and they went.
One of those who waited was Philip. He was one of the twelve. So radically different was Philip after receiving God's Spirit that Samaria was turned upside down. Miracles were taking place, Jesus was being uplifted and seemingly everyone wanted to follow Him. They were baptized with water. News spread back to Jerusalem. Peter and John came to see what was happening. When they arrived something was missing. God's Spirit had not fallen on any of them. The obvious question is why? Clearly Philip was filled by His Spirit. Clearly he would have prayed for them to receive His Spirit too.
What was God up to? Why did He delay until Peter and John came?
Even though the immediate context offers no explanation I am going to propose one based on other evidence from Peter's life. Soon in chapter ten we are going to discover Peter struggling mightily with his racism. In the book of Galatians we find him still covered with the stubborn residue of prejudice.
Man classifies men. God knows we are all His and all equal. He knows the same blood runs through all our veins and arteries. Still today in our imagined sophistication racism and prejudice run rampant. At the core of the worst war this planet has ever seen was the belief that some of us are naturally superior to others.
What I believe happened in Samaria is that God hit the pause button. Philip prayed for them to receive His Spirit and nothing happened. God wanted Peter and John there. The same John who had asked Jesus to bring fire down from heaven and nuke the Samaritans. They came and laid their hands on them. The human touch.
Picture the highest representatives of the KKK coming into an all black community and laying their hands on them not in violence but in prayer. Prayer not to curse them as a white senator did toward Obama yesterday but prayer for God to fill them. Prayer for them to become fully and equally filled and blessed by God.
This was more about God changing Peter and John than about the Samaritans lack. He could have easily filled them with His Spirit through Philip. He wanted Peter and John there. He wanted them to reach out and touch these "half breeds" and come to the undeniable realization they were full children, full heirs of the Promise, full children of Abraham.
What a moment. What a giant step toward restoring the image of God in broken, prejudiced, racist, and hate filled people. The Good News is the power of God for healing. (Romans 1:16,17)
To be Spirit filled is to be filled with the heart and mind of God. It's the last phase of healing and we need it desperately. The rising angst in society today being fueled even by our leaders will become the fertile soil in which God teaches us we are one.