Summary: The difference between the gift of the Holy Spirit (regeneration), and the baptism of the Holy Spirit (entire sanctification).
I’d like to look at a few things this morning that are relatively apparent in this passage of scripture. I’d like to take a look at the two distinctive works of God’s grace—salvation, and sanctification. I’d like to look at the qualifications for receiving God’s gift of sanctification. Then I’d like to end by examining Peter’s statement “…your heart is not right in the sight of God.”
Before we can apply this passage of scripture to our own lives here in the 21st century, we look at things as they were at the time this event occurred. Christ had only recently ascended back into Heaven. I mentioned at the beginning that Stephen had just been stoned, and that the believers in fear for their own lives, had scattered abroad. Not surprising because Christ had told them that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth. And so Philip has been led to Samaria, not by chance, but because Jesus Christ said that the Samaritans would be evangelized with His gospel of salvation. Now this is where it gets interesting. See the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. So when news came back to Jerusalem (where most Jewish Christians still resided), they were shocked at the news that Samaritans were also being converted. In fact they doubted the validity of the information. So, they decide to send Peter and John to Samaria. Why? They wanted to see if it the report was true. Could Samaritans also accept Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior? They didn’t think so. Now this I find particularly interesting. I feel it shows that humor in God’s Personality. The Jewish Christians could have selected anyone to go and check out this “rumor”. But that God led them to choose John as one of the individuals is quite funny. See this is the man that one time asked Jesus for permission to ‘call fire down from Heaven to consume a Samaritan city.’ How appropriate that now God will allow John to see first hand that His grace has been extended to people that the Jews thought were unworthy of any of God’s blessings. So the Bible says they went down to Samaria. ‘The meaning of down here doesn’t imply direction like we would think—down meaning south—it means more like Jerusalem being the greatest city, they went down (the Jews would say “way down” to go to a city like Samaria). They actually went north to Samaria.’ Anyway, Peter and John have set out for Samaria.
Let’s look at the first three verses of our reading, again:
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.
Just to pick up on our thought about John calling down fire from Heaven to consume a whole Samaritan city. ‘Now, after Jesus Christ has down a work in His heart and life, John’s desire is to see the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit!’ Isn’t it amazing the change that Christ brings about in our feelings toward people after He comes in and changes our heart! That’s just a side note. The first thing I want you to notice this morning is that salvation, regeneration, being born again—whatever name you want to give for this act of God—this work of grace happens before the baptism of the Holy Spirit . ‘When Peter and John arrived in Samaria, they discovered that, although the Samaritans had received both the Gospel and Christian baptism, they had not yet received the Spirit.’ How is that Peter and John knew that the Samaritans had received the Gospel of Jesus Christ? ‘The Word of God that they received is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ But Peter and John went to see if the Samaritans had really indeed accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. How did they know that they indeed were Christians? I have to assume that they knew them by their works. The Bible says that we will know each other by the fruit that we bear. We know someone is a Christian, not because they tell us they are, but we know them by their characteristics, and their actions. Have you ever met someone who said they were a Christian, but you felt that they forgot to tell their face? A Christian is someone who resembles Christ, not just someone who calls themselves a Christian. A Christian is someone who obeys the commandments of Christ, not someone who thwarts them. You shouldn’t have to convince someone that you’re a Christian, they should already know you are by the way your live your life.