Acts 8:26-40 - Answer God's Call
When Philip proclaimed the gospel in Samaria, many people believed and were baptized. Then Peter and John came to Samaria and prayed for the people to receive the Holy Spirit. When their ministry in Samaria was finished, Peter and John started back to Jerusalem.
Apparently, Philip stayed to minister to the new converts in Samaria. Then, in Acts 8:26-40, God called Philip to another great task. The title of my message is: Answer God's Call! Several points stand out as we think about this story.
One, let us answer God's call.
An angel of the Lord directed Philip to travel south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Of course, Philip first had to go from Samaria to Jerusalem then on to Gaza. Luke notes that the road from Jerusalem to Gaza was a desert road. Even so, the evangelist Philip was quick to respond to God's call.
While he was traveling on the road to Gaza, he came across an Ethiopian eunuch who had been to Jerusalem to worship. Fernando (p. 283) says, "This suggests that he may have been a God-fearer or a proselyte." He was returning to his home and had a long journey ahead of him.
The Ethiopian was sitting in his chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "'Go up and join this chariot.'" Philip then ran to the chariot. As he ran up, Philip heard the Ethiopian reading and asked him, "'Do you understand what you are reading?'" The Ethiopian answered, "'Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?'" Then, the Ethiopian invited Philip to sit with him.
Two, let us be faithful to witness.
The encounter with the Ethiopian gave Phillip an opportunity to witness. Philip seized the opportunity. The Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53:7-8 concerning the suffering servant. He wondered if the prophet was speaking about himself or someone else. The passage was a prophecy about Jesus. So this was Philip's opportunity to preach Jesus to him.
While recording this story, Luke indicates what, from his perspective, one has to do to become a Christian. When they came to some water, the Ethiopian asked, "What prevents me from being baptized?" In the NAU verse 37 says, "And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'" The eunuch stopped the chariot and Philip baptized him in water. Through faith in Christ, the Ethiopian became a Christian.
Three, let us expect God to manifest His presence.
Philip, the evangelist, had just come from Samaria where the Spirit was mightily outpoured. No doubt he expected the Spirit to manifest His presence in this situation as well. He was not disappointed. We, too, can expect the Spirit to be powerfully present when we proclaim Christ.
When Philip and the Ethiopian came up out of the water, "the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away." The Ethiopian did not see him any more. Philip found himself at Azotus, which was 20 miles north of Gaza.
From Azotus Philip traveled north to Caesarea. As he traveled, he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea. We find him in Caesarea twenty years later. He is known by Luke (Acts 21:8) as "Philip the evangelist." He is the father of four daughters who prophesied.
The Ethiopian went away from the experience "rejoicing." Luke does not say anything about receiving the Spirit, but joy is a part of the work that the Spirit performs. When disciples (Acts 13:52) see spiritual results, they often have an accompanying joy. It is Paul, however, who writes about joy as a fruit of the Spirit.
Four, let us rejoice in the expansion of the church.
The ministry of Philip brought about the expansion of the church. Jesus said that empowered disciples would be witnesses in Samaria and to the uttermost part of the globe. Philip, the former deacon, ministered in Samaria and to the Ethiopian who, in turn, no doubt witnessed at home in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian eunuch was a Gentile secular official from a foreign land. He took Jesus home with him. He was an African and a high government official. His conversion was the beginning of missionary outreach in the continent of Africa
The breakthrough of the gospel among the Gentiles, experienced at the house of Cornelius, was nearing. The gospel reached Samaria and then this Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit of God in all these cases was powerfully at work.
As we think about this story, let us answer God's call, let us be faithful to witness, let us expect God to manifest His presence, and let us rejoice in the expansion of the church.
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