Are You Listening?

Posted: September 24, 2018 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 8:26-40, “Are You Listening?”

They have to be two of the most repeated questions of any household with teenagers: (1) Are you listening? (2) Are you ready yet? For parents of all ages, raising children can sometimes be like herding cats: you never quite know how it’s going to go! (If you’re still young, just wait…your turn is coming!) 😊

For all the times we ask those questions of our kids, think about the number of times our Heavenly Father asks them of us. “Are you listening? Are you ready?” We want to have ears attentive to our God – we want to be ready to be used by God. How could we not? What born-again believer wants to forever sit on the sidelines? What Christian doesn’t want an active, vibrant relationship with Christ? After all, we are saved by a living Jesus – we are indwelled by the living Holy Spirit. We can have an active relationship with Him, so why would anyone who truly loves the Lord avoid it? (If you do avoid it, you’ve got some fundamental questions to ask yourself of your faith!)

Part of all of this means that we actively respond to God’s active direction. When He speaks, we listen; when He moves, we move; what He commands, we obey. Much of this is found in the pages of the Bible (the living & active word of God), but other times it comes from God Himself. This shouldn’t be surprising – the Bible is chock-full of accounts showing interaction between the Living God and His people. If He did it then, He can do it today. As the Scripture declares: God does not change (Mal 3:6).

The book of Acts contains some excellent examples of the Living God working with His children, and one of them is found right here with Philip. Recall that Philip was one of the original seven deacons (servants) of the church. Alongside Stephen and others, Philip was filled with the Holy Spirit and chosen to help distribute food & funds to the Greek-speaking widows in the Jerusalem church. Like Stephen, Philip also had a passion for evangelism, but instead of going to the local synagogues (like the one where Stephen was arrested, which led to his martyrdom), Philip went outside of Jerusalem to Samaria. The persecution instigated by Saul as a result of Stephen’s death forced the gospel outside the city, and it spread to people that some of the Jews could have hardly expected. (Just wait! It goes even further!) Philip found great evangelistic success in Samaria, preaching Jesus from a pure heart (unlike Simon the sorcerer who tried to buy his way into the ministry).

What now? Philip has shared the gospel in Samaria, and the apostles verified that many of the people had indeed come to faith in Christ. Yet that didn’t mean the work was done – not by a long shot! There were many more people all over Judea & Samaria that did not yet know Jesus, and they needed someone to share the gospel with them. Philip was willing…he just needed a bit of direction. God gave it! God knew exactly who was ready to hear the gospel & where it needed to take place. God was ready to use Philip; was Philip listening to God & ready to be used by Him?

Are you listening? Are you ready? Don’t quench the Spirit; listen to Him!

Acts 8:26–40

  • Philip listened to the Spirit (26-29)

26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.

  1. We’re not told how much time had passed since Philip’s ministry in Samaria, but the implication is that one immediately followed the other. Philip had just gotten done preaching the gospel and rejoicing the harvest of souls as people put their faith in Christ Jesus. He was perhaps still celebrating that work when he received this angelic word that God had more for him to do. Actually, a lot of details are left out: Did Philip see the angel, or was this a dream (like Joseph)? Did the angel have a name? Was this all the angel said? How did Philip know this was an angel of the Lord? Was this the Angel of the Lord? As to the last question, the answer is likely “no.” The being known as “The Angel of the Lord” is typically a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, and once Jesus put on human flesh in His incarnation, He no longer had any need to appear as the Angel of the Lord. Even so, there’s much about this angel we don’t know, but somehow Philip had total confidence that this angel had been sent by the Lord God, and the angel’s command carried the full weight of God.
  2. That sort of confidence and faith was necessary, because the command was rather vague! Philip was told to get up & go south, along a road to an ancient Philistine city, and a road that wasn’t often used. Like Abraham, Philip was to just get up & go, in the direction of the desert on nothing but his own two feet at the command of God. He wasn’t even told why; he was just told to go. The best part? Philip was willing to go! He didn’t have any other information other than a word from God, but God’s word was enough. If God said “go,” then Philip was ready and willing to go. He was willing to walk by faith in whatever God gave him to do.
    1. Beloved, this is where it starts! Often Christians say they want to be used by God in major ways, but they aren’t willing to follow Him in minor ones. Remember the parable of the talents (Mt 15:14-30): two of the servants were faithful in little things, so their master trusted them with more. If we’re faithful in the small things, then we can be given bigger things. We see the exact same principle in business: a young new employee isn’t given the CEO’s chair on the first day…he/she has to work the way up the ladder. Little tasks turn into larger responsibilities. Why would we expect it to be any different in our Christian walk? Obey God in the little things – obey Him in the things He has given you to do, even if you don’t see a greater purpose in them. Philip couldn’t have known why God told him to walk down a southern-bound desert road, but since it was God who told him to do it, he was willing to do it. Philip was about to have a far greater privilege ahead, but if he hadn’t obeyed in the little beginning, he would never have experienced the later blessing.
    2. Don’t despise the day of small things! (Zech 4:10) Every journey has a starting point, be it the 2nd temple begun by Zerubbabel or the evangelistic ministry of Philip or the ministry Jesus has in mind for you. Start where He tells you to start, and follow His leading from there!
  3. BTW – Even if we don’t know all the details, Scripture makes it clear that it was some kind of heavenly angel that spoke to Philip. The last time an angel spoke in Acts was when an angel freed the apostles from jail in Jerusalem and told them to go back to the temple to preach the gospel (Acts 5:19-20). Angels don’t necessarily speak often in the Bible, but they can That being the case, do we expect angels to speak to us today? It’s possible, but it isn’t expected. It especially should not be sought out. Many false teachers in the word/faith movement place entirely too much focus on angels and extra-biblical revelation from angels, and that’s something that’s never seen in the book of Acts or anywhere else in the New Testament. When angels are shown speaking to Christians, it was when Christians were already serving the Lord, and their priority was seeking God first and foremost rather than seeking supernatural experiences. What God decides to give, He’ll give – and when/if He does, it will always match up with what He’s already revealed of Himself and His character in the written word of God.

27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.

  1. Philip started on the road to Gaza by himself, but eventually he encountered a royal dignitary from Ethiopia. Biblically speaking, the term for Ethiopia wasn’t necessarily the modern nation we know in the horn of Africa; it was a large area south of ancient Egypt, often known as Cush. It may not have been the horn of Africa, but it was still a long way from Jerusalem! Why had the man come to Jerusalem? “To worship.” Scholars disagree as to whether the man was a full-fledged proselyte (Gentile convert to Judaism), or a God-fearer (a Gentile that worshipped the God of Israel without converting). As a eunuch, he would not have been allowed past the outermost courtyard of the temple (due the restriction in Dt. 23:1 about castrated men worshipping in the assembly), although it’s possible that he had still gone through the process of conversion and worshipped as best he could from where he was. Either way, it’s obvious that the gospel was continuing to spread beyond ethnic Judaism. The mission is still within the confines of Judea and Samaria, but the Ethiopian eunuch shows a preview of how the nations of the world would come to Jerusalem to learn of the Jewish Messiah.
  2. Who was he? We’re not told his name; we only know that he was a man “of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians.” “Candace” was the title for the queen mother (much like “Pharaoh” or “Abimelech” were titles for the Egyptian and Philistine kings). This particular man was a high-ranking treasury official – the head of the Ethiopian/Cushite bank, as it were. But as to his background, that’s all we know. Not that we wouldn’t want to know more! How did this man come to worship the true God? How did he obtain a copy of the scroll of Isaiah (which would have rarely been seen outside a synagogue)? What time of year was it, and what feast had the man come to celebrate – or had he come on a personal pilgrimage? We have many questions that are unanswered, but one thing is absolutely certain: God had prepared him for this moment. God prepared the Ethiopian eunuch to receive Jesus. He put the eunuch on the right road at the right time with the right reading to give to the right man to lead him to the Righteous Savior. The eunuch worshipped God, though he probably thought himself restricted from God to some extent (due to his ethnicity or his physical disability). God had not restricted Himself from the eunuch at all! God had prepared the man’s steps, and led him straight to the point that he would soon know of Jesus!
    1. God prepares us as well. When it comes to the work of salvation, God always takes the first steps. God always takes the initiative. When we have the joy of coming to faith in Christ, we learn that although we may have thought we were seeking God, God had been seeking us. He prepared our hearts, and made us ready to willingly receive Jesus as our Lord by faith.
    2. One of the best prayers you could pray for a loved one is that God would prepare his/her heart for the gospel. Some people are so hard-hearted (like ancient Pharaoh) and it seems as if they might never bow their knee to Jesus. But God is not willing that any should perish! His desire is that all would come to repentance. (2 Pt 3:9) Pray that God would prepare hearts for Jesus! For those who are willing to listen to the leading of the Lord, He will lead them right to Himself. 

29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

  1. Before we go any further in the text, please pay attention to this fact: the Holy Spirit spoke! For the first time in the book of Acts (though not the last time), God the Holy Spirit uttered His own words to a follower of Jesus Christ. Some people wrongly assume that the Spirit of God is some impersonal force (like gravity or electricity) – not so, for a force cannot speak. Some well-meaning Christians assume that the Spirit is silent, never at all calling attention to Himself but only quietly pointing people to Jesus. That’s obviously not true either, for in that case the Spirit would never speak nor command anyone. What is plainly seen in the Bible is that God the Holy Spirit (1) is truly a Person within the Triune Godhead, fully active, engaged, with will, words, emotions, and intellect, and (2) God the Holy Spirit acts in His full capacities as God. Just as Jesus acted as God the Son, commanding His people, so does the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not the lesser of the Three Persons, nor is He a mere side-effect of the other Two Persons; the Spirit is fully and absolutely God, worthy of worship, love, honor, fear, and obedience.
    1. Why does this matter? Because we worship the One God who is Trinity; not a One God who is dual. Christians will often think of Father and Son when they think of God (sometimes forgetting the distinction between the two: for instance, the Father did not die on the cross; Jesus did.), but often forget about God the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity. It’s important for us to worship God has He has revealed Himself to be. When God revealed His name to Moses on Mt Sinai, it emphasized part of God’s essential nature: that HE IS, rather than being a part of the rest of Creation. That was important to distinguish the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob apart from the rest of the false gods of Egypt – it ensured that the Hebrews worshipped God rightly. Likewise here, regarding the Holy Spirit. If we forget the Holy Spirit as God, then we have an incorrect concept of We have to see God as He is, if we are to truly know Him as He is.
    2. That’s not to say we’re to elevate Him to a higher role than what He has. To look at some churches, it’s as if no other Person of the Trinity exists other than the Holy Spirit. (Likewise, the churches that do everything in Jesus’ name-only.) The relationship between the members of the Godhead is mysterious, but we see God as He is: one God, eternally revealed in three Persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
  2. The Spirit spoke – wonderful! What did the Spirit say? “Go near and overtake this chariot.” How fast Philip must have been walking as he went down the road from Jerusalem is unsaid, but it must have been a quick pace if he caught up to a chariot entourage! Obviously the chariot wouldn’t have been galloping along, or Philip would never have caught it – perhaps the chariot had initially passed Philip, and the Spirit told him to catch up to it. Either way, this was no “chance encounter” along the road. This was the very reason the angel had given Philip instructions to start walking. What had been vague in the moment became crystal clear at the word of the Spirit.
    1. Often, we might not know the reason why God asks us to do something – but it doesn’t mean we’ll never know. The only way we’ll never know what God has in store for us later is if we ignore Him in the present. Perhaps God leans upon our heart to take a certain action (buy groceries for a neighbor, give a gospel tract to someone who seems totally hard-hearted, etc.), and we might not see any point to it. We might not see the point, but God God knows why He commands what He commands. Our responsibility isn’t to pick & choose which commands to follow; it’s to obey whatever He gives us to follow! When God speaks, we’re to listen.
    2. That’s not just true regarding the internal move of God upon our hearts. Sometimes He tugs at our spirits – sometimes, it’s as if He speaks to our minds (even if the words aren’t audible). Other times, it’s clear direction through His word. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave what seems to be controversial commands: Matthew 5:38–42, “(38) “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ (39) But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (40) If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. (41) And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (42) Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” Is it easy? No! In fact, it’s impossible for the person who hasn’t personally experienced the grace of Jesus. But even for those of us who have, we might not always know the reason why we turn the other cheek, or give to the unworthy, or not resist compulsion. But Jesus has told us to do it, so we do it. He has spoken, it’s clear in His word, so we’re to listen and obey.
    3. What is it in your life that you’ve not obeyed the Lord? What has been clearly spoken by God to you (either in your heart or in the Scriptures) to which you haven’t listened? Listen to the Lord! Do what He’s given you to do.
  3. How did Philip respond? He went! He was obedient! 
  • Philip preached Jesus (30-38)

30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

  1. Historically, it was quite common for any reading to be done aloud, and as Philip caught up to the chariot, he heard the eunuch reading. And Philip instantly recognized it! What the eunuch was reading was a perfect bridge for Philip for Philip to share the gospel, and he jumped at the chance. The man freely admitted he didn’t understand what he read (which makes sense, for the natural man cannot understand spiritual things – 1 Cor 2:14), and he asked Philip to join him and teach him. Obviously the eunuch could not have known that Philip was a believer in the Lord Jesus – nor could he have known anything about Philip’s qualifications to teach, other than he was dressed as a Jew. But God had prepared the eunuch for this moment, the eunuch saw his opportunity to get some spiritual understanding, and Philip saw his opportunity to preach Jesus.
  2. In their own ways, each of them were listening to the calling of the Spirit, and each responded appropriately. The eunuch as an unbeliever seeking the truth of God, and Philip as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. The Spirit calls unbelievers to the truth, and He calls believers to obey. Are we listening to Him? Are we ready to respond? Philip was! Just look at what happened next.

32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”

  1. Philip could have hardly asked for a better OT text to preach Jesus, than Isaiah 53! It is the song of the Suffering Servant, prophesying the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross for us. Isaiah 53:5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” What a wonderfully clear prophecy of Jesus! Philip was lobbed a giant softball by the Lord for evangelism, and there’s little doubt Philip praised God for such a gift! 
  2. The text that was read by the eunuch comes a bit later in the passage: Isaiah 53:7-8 (LXX). How well this also speaks of Jesus! Jesus was a silent, willing sacrifice. He did not argue against the priests who condemned Him, nor against the Roman governor who let Him be railroaded to the cross. He was silent, “led as a sheep to the slaughter” – why? Because it was the will of God! Isaiah 53:10 goes on to say that “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.” Jesus’ death on the cross was not thought up by the Sadducees and Pharisees – it wasn’t planned by the Romans; it was planned by Almighty God. From before the foundations of the world, God had a plan to purchase the redemption of all mankind, and it meant a perfect sacrifice from a perfect Man must be made. That Man was Jesus, and His sacrifice is sufficient!
  3. Jesus’ death was ultimately due to the will of God, but it doesn’t mean that mankind bears no blame. As vs. 33 (Isa 53:8, LXX) says, Jesus was to die a disgraceful unjust death. He was humiliated by the Jewish leaders, and deprived of the justice they were obligated to deliver. The Creator God died at the hands of His Creation: the ultimate act of betrayal and rebellion.
    1. Though we live 2000 years later, we bear no less guilt. After all, it was for our sin that Jesus died. It was our redemption price He paid. We may not have driven the physical nails through His skin, but we may as well have.
  4. But there is good news in all of this tragedy: All of it led to victory! Jesus’ life may have been “taken from the earth,” but it was only taken for 3 days. Jesus rose again! He lives today, having conquered death, having fully paid the price for our sins. Because He did, He can offer His life freely to us, which He does! Praise God! 
  5. Of course, this is getting a bit ahead of the text. At this point, Philip just heard what the eunuch read; the eunuch was about to give him an opportunity to respond.

34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

  1. Although the interpretation of Isaiah 53 seems obvious to us, remember that we are Christians living 2000 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. To a man introduced to Jewish teaching in the 1st century, it wasn’t so simple. The rabbis did not all agree as to the identity of the Suffering Servant. Some thought it was the nation of Israel – others believed it to be Isaiah – and without a knowledge of Christ, this was a completely logical question. “Who’s this prophet writing of?” The eunuch had a need for a teacher, and thankfully God had provided one!
  2. It was a logical question, and Philip was able to give a ready answer. Looking at this text, Philip was able to see Jesus in the Scripture (just like we did), and he was able to preach the gospel to the man. That brings up two points:
    1. Preach Jesus in the Scriptures! All the Bible points to Christ, from Genesis to Revelation. If we can read the Bible without seeing Jesus in its pages, then we’re not reading it rightly. That’s not to say we’re to force our interpretations, coming up with wild allegorical pictures everywhere we look – after all, the Bible says what it says. We look at the text, observe it for what it says, interpret it for how it was originally written, and look for the application to both its original audience and to us today. There are individual Scriptures that don’t picture Jesus at all (quotations from the devil, for instance). But the Scripture as a whole does point to Jesus. The Bible is not a book about us, nor about instructions on how to live a better life; the Bible is about the Savior sent by God for the world. Genesis shows the beginnings of sin, our need for a Savior, and the nation through which the Savior would come. Exodus demonstrates the power of God in His chosen deliverer with pictures of what it takes to defeat sin. Even with all of its sacrifices, Leviticus shows that sin is bloody, constantly before God, and it anticipates the work of Jesus. And the list could go on. All the Bible directs us to Christ (which is one reason we need to read and study all the Bible!) – we need to read the Bible all the way to Jesus.
    2. Be ready to preach Jesus in the Scriptures! Philip was ready and willing to be used by God, but Philip was also ready to be used in this specific way by God. Yes, Philip was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3), but there’s no doubt Philip was also familiar with the Biblical text in advance. How can we preach the gospel to someone, if we don’t know the gospel? There are many born-again Christians who truly believe Jesus died for their sins and rose from the grave, but far fewer Christians who would tell someone why they believe it. Likewise there are many Christians who receive the word of God during Sunday worship, but they rarely read the word of God outside of Sunday, and they are ill-equipped to be able to use the word of God in their witness to others. Beloved, we don’t know what kind of opportunities God the Holy Spirit will bring our way to tell others of Jesus, but we want to be prepared for them when He does! Part of being ready to be used by the Lord is active preparation: a daily time in the Bible, spending time with the Lord in prayer. If God gave you an opportunity this afternoon to lead someone to Jesus through the Bible, would you be ready? Be ready!
      1. That said, don’t let this intimidate you. Philip was not a degreed Biblical scholar. You don’t need to have every passage in the Bible memorized in order to be able to use the Bible to lead someone to Jesus. We do need to have a basic familiarity, and an ongoing active relationship with the Lord in which we’re continually learning to listen to Him. He will equip you for the tasks that He provides you; it starts with us being prepared to be equipped.

36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then 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.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

  1. Philip and the eunuch spoke about Jesus – the eunuch heard the gospel of Jesus, and a response needed to be made. And the eunuch ready to respond! Part of following the Lord Jesus is to receive baptism in His name (Mt 28:19-20), and as the pair was travelling the road to Gaza, they came across some sort of pool of water or creek bed which was full. Voilá: Instant baptismal! And why not? Baptism doesn’t need to be done within the four walls of a church – it doesn’t need to be done according to certain confessional traditions, surrounded by people acting out a rehearsed ritual. Baptism is to be done following belief. A person places his/her faith in Jesus, then he/she is baptized. Whether it’s a pool, a lake, a river, a horse-trough, whatever – as long as a person is publicly proclaiming his/her faith in Jesus, then that baptism is valid.
  2. That said, it does need to come with belief. In the Scriptures, baptism always follows faith. The gospel is preached, people believe, then people are baptized…always in that order. Even when whole households are baptized (Acts 16:33), there is zero indication that infants were present among them. A person must first be able to express faith before that person can be baptized in response to that faith. That was the case with Philip and the eunuch, and that’s the case for all. Thus, the eunuch heard the gospel, believed, saw water, and Philip gave him immediate baptism.
  3. FYI: If you’re following along in the ESV or NIV, you may notice a gap between verse 36 & 38, and even the NASB has verse 37 in brackets. Although verse 37 is true doctrine, it is unlikely original to the text. It’s found in neither the oldest manuscripts, nor in the majority of manuscripts. It seems to have been a very early tradition that was incorporated into certain copies. (Part of the blessing of having so many thousands of Greek manuscripts is that these things can be seen. We can be certain that the Bible we hold in our hand contains the Bible as it was given by God!)
  4. So put yourself in the shoes of the eunuch. You’ve heard the gospel from this man who has been obviously sent by the Lord to help you. You’ve put your faith in Jesus, and you just received baptism to proclaim your newfound faith. As an Ethiopian official, your baptism was a witness to all who were traveling with you, which not only made it an act of personal devotion but also of personal evangelism. You wouldn’t have thought the day could have gotten any better…just wait!
  • Philip continued to preach Jesus (39-40)

39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

  1. The eunuch and Philip were still in the water celebrating the baptism when all of a sudden “the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away.” The Holy Spirit gave Philip his own personal mini-rapture! One moment Philip was there; the next he wasn’t. And that this was a rapture, is without question. The same word is used here as is used by Paul to the Thessalonians: 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” The “caught up” is the word in the Greek that is translated in Latin as rapio, from which we get “rapture.” The Greek (ἁρπάζω) means to seize, to snatch away, to take by suddenness. For Paul, he was giving comfort to his Thessalonian readers, telling them that born-again Christians who have died have not missed their opportunity to participate in the resurrection. Though they are dead and with Jesus (absent from the body, but present with the Lord – 2 Cor 5:8), their bodies will one day rise at the call of Christ. That’s the moment Jesus calls all of His church home to him. The dead in Christ will rise, and those who are still living will be raptured (caught up) to be with Him. We will be snatched away from this earth to suddenly be with the Lord in heaven. When will it happen? We don’t know…but it could be any day! 
  2. As for Philip, he received a personal preview of the event and was raptured at that moment – not to heaven, but to another city (vs. 40). But consider what that meant to the Ethiopian eunuch. What wonderful confirmation! God had providentially brought this man to him at exactly the right time he needed to hear of Jesus, and as soon as he heard and believed in Jesus, being baptized, God took the man away in a sudden miracle. If there was any question as to whether the eunuch made the right decision, it was taken away in the blink of an eye! The Bible doesn’t say what happened with the man after this event – tradition writes of him returning to Ethiopia and preaching the gospel to his countrymen. If true, then Philip’s readiness to be obedient and share the gospel led to someone else who was ready to be obedient and share the gospel. A new missionary had been born in the moment, and the Great Commission expanded even further. 

40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

  1. Philip was raptured – not to heaven to meet the Lord in the air, but to Azotus, known in older times as Ashdod, another city of the Philistines. If Philip and the Ethiopian had reached Gaza, then it was 19 miles away – although we don’t know exactly where they stopped along the road for baptism. (Sites have been suggested, but there’s no possible way of knowing for certain.) If Philip had been walking, it would have taken him much of the rest of the day. As it was, his journey was instantaneous. (Better than any transporter beam on Star Trek!)
  2. What did he do when he arrived? Philip kept preaching. He had already shared the gospel with one person, with glorious results! No doubt he rejoiced, and most of us might have been celebrating that moment for weeks. But he didn’t let even his joy stop him from serving. For Philip, it was his motivation to keep preaching. If one person could respond to Jesus unto salvation, then more could – and there was only one way to find out: keep telling others about Jesus. From city after city, to person after person, Philip kept proclaiming the gospel all the way to Caesarea. Did more people get saved? Probably – we don’t have their stories in the text, but no doubt we will speak to many in heaven who will say, “I’m here because Philip shared the gospel with me.” 
  3. Why keep preaching? Because there are always more people who need to hear the gospel! We never give up – we never stop. We can easily limit ourselves to a certain crowd of people, thinking that those are the only folks that we even have an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. “Those are my friends – those are my family. I can talk to them! I can’t just talk with anyone.” Why not? Granted, not everyone has an outgoing personality and can strike up conversations with strangers (myself included!), but we don’t need a certain personality type to share the gospel; we need obedience. We need to listen to the Lord, go where He says to go, and do what He says to do. Maybe it’s as simple as handing a gospel tract to your restaurant server (along with a big tip!) – maybe it starts by asking people how you can pray for them, and let that take you to a gospel conversation. It will look different from person to person, but this is how you start: be willing. Be willing to be used by the Lord – be ready in your advance preparation (prayer & Scripture) – listen to His internal leading and clear direction…and then simply act. Philip did, with great success. He wasn’t an apostle; he was just a normal Christian. If Philip can, you can. Listen to the Spirit – be ready to respond – and then act!

Conclusion:

What an amazing day of ministry for both Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch! The eunuch had come from his own pilgrimage of worship, and wanted to know more about this God to whom he knew a little about. God answered that prayer by sending him Philip. Philip had already been actively engaged in ministry when he heard God’s call to walk on a desert road, which led him straight to this Ethiopian and the opportunity to preach Jesus again. What Philip had seen in Samaria, he saw again with the Ethiopian, and saw yet again in Azotus and beyond. Philip had an incredible ministry – it’s no wonder that he was known later on as “Philip the evangelist,” (Acts 21:8).

Again, Philip wasn’t an apostle. He hadn’t walked with Jesus during the three years of ministry in Galilee & Jerusalem. Philip was like any of us: he heard the gospel from someone else, put his own faith in Christ, and started serving Jesus. Titles aren’t needed to do great things for God; anyone can be used mightily by the Lord for His glory. (Even us!)

But again, we need to be willing to be used. Are you listening to the Lord? Are you ready to follow Him in obedience in what He gives you to do? Learn to listen! Obey the Holy Spirit in the little things, and soon it will lead to larger things. And guess what? You’ll be ready. We tend to think that God is going to throw us into to the deep end of the pool without warning. “If I tell God I’ll do anything, He’ll send me to Africa!” He won’t send you to Africa unless He gives you a heart & yearning for Africa. Don’t forget: God is our Heavenly Father – He loves us! He knows us. He knows our hearts and desires – He knows our personalities and abilities – He knows what will make us thrive and what will cause us grief. God never guarantees to make us comfortable, but He surely will not send us somewhere in which we will be miserable. Paul was often uncomfortable, but he could rejoice in his weaknesses and sufferings, because God had equipped him for them. For what God commands, God equips.

For some of you, you’ve said “no” to the Lord too often (and once is too often!). For some, you’ve never learned what it was to listen to the Lord. Pray that God would help you hear Him. Pray that He opens your eyes to what He tells you in the Scripture, and that you learn to hear His still small voice. And pray also for a heart of obedience! That you would be ready to follow through on His leading.

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