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|Last Updated||August 29, 2018|
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PHILIP - DEACON TURNED EVANGELIST
Redhill. 26 August 2018. Presented by Gordon Green
The book of Acts records some of the most powerful events in the New Testament. The birth of the church. The coming of the Holy Spirit. Bold preaching, dramatic missionary journeys and transformed lives. Today we will look at one of the great, wonderful New Testament stories Philip.
Lesson 1. God works powerfully through “unimportant” people
During the persecution of the church Philip fled to Samaria. The Samaritans were neither fully Jewish nor fully Gentile - a mixed race. As soon as he arrived he began preaching about Jesus. He was one of the first preachers to take the gospel beyond Jerusalem. Nearly the entire city was converted. He changed the lives of many (perhaps 100s) of people (Acts 8:6-8) . These healing and miracles were being accomplished by someone who was not an apostle. Never underestimate what God can do through you (feeding of 5000).
Lesson 2: God accepts all people.
God was preparing the church for the gospel to go to the Gentiles. This was beginning to show the Jews and others that the gospel was starting to go out into the wider world and it was starting in Samaria. This was an astonishing breakthrough because the Jews refused to have anything to do with Samaritans. They were seen as half breeds The two cultures had hated each other for a 1000 yrs. It was so bad that even the Samaritans beds and utensils were considered unclean by the Jews. Most Jews would not travel through Samaria.
But Jesus was different. He was bringing something new. In John 4 J did the unthinkable. He breaks all social conventions and talks to a woman in public. Jews didn’t do that. They were not supposed to speak to Samaritans. Especially a woman like this (she had had 5 husbands and the man she was now living with wasn’t her husband). Also, he shared with her some of the greatest things a human being could ever hear. And not only that but when Samaritans from the town urged him to stay with them he spent two days in that town. Obviously he ate their food and slept on their bed! People were more important to him than human traditions. Jesus broke down walls.
Acts 8:26 - Philip was sent to preach to a high official from the court of the queen of Ethiopia. He was a man in an important position. He was in charge of all the queen’s treasures. He was a very able man. He could read. Not many people could read at that time. He was an educated man and a man of good character. He could be trusted. He had travelled all the way to from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship - 1000’s of kilometres’s. Although he had everything in life he was obviously unhappy, dissatisfied with everything and had taken up the Jewish religion. Most likely he was brought up as a pagan. He was an outsider. But there was something about the Jewish God and the Jewish way that had attracted him and so he had made a long journey to Jerusalem to worship
So here the gospel was spreading – it was going to one of the highest government officials in Africa. It had gone to Samaria and who took it to Samaria? Philip. Now Philip, in a sense, takes it to the ends of the earth. The man left rejoicing – he had become a Christian. Tradition has it that he went home and evangelized Ethiopia. We can at least be sure that he who went on his way rejoicing. He would not be able to keep his newfound joy to himself.
This was an important task. You’d think God would at least have sent Peter, or John or Andrew, or one of the other apostles to speak to such an important person. But he didn’t. Why not send in the important church leaders – to preach to this treasurer from Ethiopia? Why send Philip? He wasn’t nearly as important as those other men. Why would God send in an ordinary person when converting people of importance? I think a reason is that God did it that way was so that we’d understand that he doesn’t need the “important” Christians to share our faith with others. He wants all Christians to share their faith. We are all the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Too often we compare ourselves to others in the congregation and say: “I don’t know as much as they do. I don’t have the training they do. I don’t have the ability to talk like they do.” What we’re really saying is “I’m inferior to others in my ability to share Jesus.” But in God’s eyes our value does not depend on our ability – we are at this very moment valuable to God and always will be.
So Philip ran to the Ethiopian’s chariot. He didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share the good news. Do others see this kind of passion and excitement in your life? He asked to be baptised. Imagine if Philip had said “Sorry. We don’t take your type”? But Philip was involved in breaking down walls – in fact he blasted through the wall of discrimination, bias, prejudice and culture. Do you get beyond your biases? Do I? Who are your Samaritans? Ethiopian eunichs? Whom have you been taught to distrust and avoid? Don’t let class, race, gender, politics or culture hinder God’s work or what He desires to do through you.
So quite a large missionary work had already begun. Philip had already taken the Gospel to Samaria and in a sense to North Africa. Later we hear of him going up the coast all the way to the Roman city of Caesarea – he’s covering a lot of territory. The gospel was advancing.
But there is something else. Who was really orchestrating all of this? Who was leading the way into Samaria? Ethiopia? N Africa? Rome? The Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit leads the way
The Acts of the apostles could be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit. There are manifestations of the Spirit in many different ways. He was leading the way and the disciples were running after him trying to catch up. In this story the Spirit was already working with the eunuch. But he wanted Philip to go there and teach him. The Holy Spirit works with all people in different ways – in ways we don’t always understand. It is up to us to help them and explain things to them. The Spirit will work in their hearts and minds. In this story He was moving in the background. At the most unexpected moment and place suddenly the man is confronted by the teacher he needs – and his life is transformed. We also learn more about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Notice it was one on one. One facet of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is that His ministry is personal and relational. His work is customised for each individual. There was something else about Philip.
- Philip was prepared
When Philip taught the Ethiopian, he knew exactly what the prophecy meant that he was reading and was able to lead him from there to the point where the man excitedly pointed to a pond and asked/begged to be baptized into Christ. But, even if you should encounter someone who asks you about a scripture you don’t understand… you could always say “I don’t know… but give me a few days and I’ll get back with you.” So, it is important for us to be prepared to use God’s word to edify others when the need arises – and sometimes it happens when we least expect it. Philip was prepared. Abraham Lincoln said “I will study and prepare myself and when the opportunity comes I will be ready” Ask God to put His words on your tongue, His thoughts in your mind and equip you to do His will and work in you that which pleases Him.