By Ken R. Speakman
Member, Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory
Focal Passage: Acts 8:26-31, 35-39
The mandate of Acts 1:8 which Jesus gave the disciples is about to begin. Following the martyrdom of Stephen, persecution of the Jerusalem church intensified. Believers (except the apostles) flee Jerusalem for their lives into the nearby regions of Judea and Samaria.
Philip, like Stephen, had been chosen to care for the needs of the Hellenistic widows. He also healed and preached the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Philip goes to Samaria (v. 5) and a revival begins. The Samaritans were half-breed Jews whose area had been prohibited to the apostles (Matthew 10: 5-6).
Philip was not only a faithful preacher; he was also an obedient worker. He was willing to leave the crowds where he was having great success and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. An angel appeared to him and told him to go to the desert of Gaza (v. 26). Philip must have thought, “Lord my work here is a great success, I am experiencing a national revival, what is there in the desert?” Philip was not after the spectacular ministry to thousands; he was ready to go into the desert as the angel directed. His humility teaches us the value of one soul. He got up and went.
God’s instruction to Philip was: Leave the city for the desert, leave the ministry to many for the ministry to one, and leave the known for the unknown (he was not told whom he would meet or why he was sent). God has given us the commission of Matthew 28:19 to go and make disciples.
As Philip started out he met a man from Ethiopia who had come to Jerusalem to worship. Verse 27 tells us a lot about the eunuch. Because eunuchs are men the king trusts, they often rose to great positions of power. According to the laws of the temple, eunuchs were denied access to the temple. Even though this verse tells us his motive for coming to Jerusalem was to worship, he would have been unable to participate in the temple worship (Deuteronomy 23:1). However, he had in his hands a copy of Isaiah’s prophesy. He left the center of Judaism going home just as empty as when he arrived. He had not found the answer he sought. The Spirit said, “Philip, go up and join this chariot.” The eunuch was reading Isaiah, chapter 53. Philip explains the Scripture and the eunuch believes and is baptized.
The exciting thing about this story is that it teaches us the wonderful truth of God’s sovereignty. God knew everything there was to know about this Ethiopian. He knew the man’s power and prestige and, also, his emptiness. God knew why he had come to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 29:13). It is evident from the text that Philip explained not only the plan of salvation, but the identification of the believer with Christ through baptism.
God needed a willing worker to co-labor with Him and encounter this man in his hour of need. Are you available to the Lord to be that kind of worker? We must be more than a silent witness for Christ. There is no such thing as a silent approach to witnessing. Someone has to take the initiative and ask the questions.