We are now in Chapter 8 in our reading in the book of Acts.
In this chapter we see the effects of the Jewish leaders persecuting the early Christians during the 1st century. Earlier in chapter 6 and 7, we read that the Sanhedrin Council, made up of the highest Jewish leaders in Israel, we read that they charged the Disciples with filling Jerusalem with their teachings. Particularly, that Jesus was the Messiah and that he had risen from the dead.
For both the Sadducees and Pharisees, this teaching was considered blasphemy, punishable by death. Yet these Jewish leaders were handicapped by the politics of their time, being under authority by the Romans.
At first, the Jewish leaders arrested some of the Disciples. Then next time, Peter and John were flogged with 39 slashes. And then after that, Stephen was falsely accused and stoned to death.
Now it is strange, but very true, that the more the early church was afflicted and persecuted, the more the church multiplied.
There is something in the media that is called the Censor’s Paradox. How trying to suppress information often backfires.
In 2003, A photographer named Kenneth Adelman got up on a helicopter, and took over 12,000 California coastline pictures documenting the coastal erosion in California. Well, one of those aerial photographs included American singer Barbra Streisand’s home.
Furious, she sued the photographer for $50 million dollars for violating her privacy. The lawsuit aimed at removing “Image 3850” off from public records.
Before the lawsuit began, “Image 3850” had been downloaded only six times; two of those being by Barbara Streisand’s lawyers. But Public awareness of the case led to more than 420,000 people visiting the site and seeing the picture over the following month.
And after news outlets reported on the lawsuit, the once obscure photo soon had over one million visits. Streisand ended up losing the lawsuit and had to pay Adelman’s attorney fees. In retrospect, she would have been better off not doing anything.
Now Barbara Streisand became victim of the Censor’s Paradox, where the person doing the censoring, who is trying to suppress information that they want to keep from spreading, ends up getting more publicity and attention than ever before.
And the same effect was happening to the Gospel message during that time. The more the Jewish leaders tried to censor the words of the Disciples, the more publicity and attention their message received.
So we read in verse 1:
1 …And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria…Acts 8:1 KJV
So many of the Christians had been scattered from Jerusalem, and now they were publishing all the news, and all the words of Jesus, to these new areas.
Now the early church was going through a hard time. And God is aware of this. God is intimately acquainted with all of our sufferings. But from God’s perspective, the gospel message was also spreading. And this is God’s will. God wants this to happen!
Remember what Jesus said:
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.Matthew 24:14
God’s will is not that every Christian can attain material wealth and be comfortable, but that all people everywhere can hear the gospel message.
So jumping down to verse 4, we read about a person named Philip preaching the gospel to these new areas.
4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.Acts 8:4-6 KJV
Now this Philip is not the Apostle Philip, but the deacon Philip that was selected in Acts 6:5 along with Stephen. He is also known as Philip the evangelist.
An evangelist is simply a preacher who travels. A missionary preacher who shares the good news of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes people refer to me as a mac evangelist, because everywhere I go, when the topic of computers and software comes up, I’m always talking about how great Mac computers are, and how a person should switch from Microsoft over to Apple.
But Philip was not that kind of evangelist. He traveled and preached on a topic much more important.
Now Luke states here that Philip went down to the city of Samaria to preach Christ unto them.
Now Philip, in Acts chapter 6, is referred to as “one of the seven”, referring to when the twelve Apostles instructed the early church to pick out seven faithful men to handle a disagreement in the church.
And their instructions were:
3 …pick out from among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint…Acts 6:3
And the Bible says that:
5 …they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus (Prock-ur-us), and Nicanor (Ny-cay-nor), and Timon (Tie-men), and Parmenas (Par-men-as), and Nicolaus (Nick-o-lus)…Acts 6:5
Now this Philip, also called “the evangelist”, was a simple and humble servant of God. And we read in our chapter how God gave Philip great success when preaching to the crowds in the city of Samaria.
12 But when they believed Philip’s preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.Acts 8:12
So in this account in Acts, Chapter 8, Philip preaches, the people hear, and the result is that people are saved.
In the eyes of the church, in the eyes of Christians, and in the eyes of God, this is considered most important. This is considered fruit.
What concerns God the most and what the Bible says gives the angels of God great joy is when one sinner repents and turns to God.
The saving of a human soul and restoring a right relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ is God’s primary business.
And because the salvation of the human soul is God’s primary interest, it is not surprising that we see God intervening in the affairs of man and directing his church and his servants to carry out His will.
And we will be reading of one such intervention by God involving Philip the evangelist.
Now Philip was having great success in Samaria, preaching the gospel, and baptizing many people.
And we read in our text:
25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. 26 And the angel of the Lord spoke unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.Acts 8:26-25
So we have God here, directing one of his angels to deliver a message to Philip. Now the Bible refers to angels as God’s ministering spirits. In politics, we have these roles in government called ministers who are leaders of a specific branch or area of government. Agricultural minister, Education minister, Energy minister. In England, you have the Prime Minister. He is the chief minister of all the other ministers.
And God has his ministers too. They are his Angels. And the role of Angels in God’s created world is to serve humans.
Actually, that is what political ministers are supposed to do as well. But they don’t always do a great job at it.
Now in the Bible, we never read of angels preaching the gospel to people. Instead, God equips humans, his servants, with the ability to preach the gospel.
And this angel from the Lord serves Philip by passing on to him specific instructions from God. And the instructions are this: that Philip needs to travel toward the south, to the way down from Jerusalem, into Gaza. Into a desert area.
Now Philip was having great success and seeing many people be baptized into Christ. And he was busy preaching the gospel in the city of Samaria, and in the villages of the Samaritans.
But God called Philip to go into a desert place.
You can imagine for a modern Christian, that being asked to leave a thriving and successful ministry would be a hard thing to do. We humans get so caught up in numbers. But we are going to see how God is concerned with each individual person.
And when God calls you to do something, even if that calling does not make sense at the time, or it seems difficult, or it does not seem like it is the best use of your time, the best way to respond to God is always through obedience.
In the book of Samuel, the prophet Samuel tells us that the LORD delights when a person obeys the voice of the LORD.
22 That it is better to obey, than to give sacrifice.1 Samuel 15:22
And so that is what Philip the evangelist did. And we read:
27 …he arose and went: …Acts 8:27
There is no indication that he asked why, or questioned the instructions given to him. He simply knew that the instructions were from the LORD, and that he was going to obey.
So Philip traveled the way down south from Jerusalem, to Gaza. If he was walking, it could have been a three day journey. And during that time, he was probably wondering why he was being sent to such a remote area. To a desert area, where there were not many people.
And then we read in verse 27:
27 …and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Isaiah the prophet.Acts 8
So a certain man was sitting in his chariot, reading the Old Testament Scriptures. Specifically, he was reading the book of Isaiah.
Now before we have “Philip the evangelist” preaching to large numbers of people in Samaria. And having great success. But notice how God was interested in having “Philip the evangelist” travel a long distance to preach the gospel to a single individual.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.Acts 8
God is very much interested in every individual person. And God is right now examining your heart and your mind. And God is deciding, God is weighing, is this a good time to reveal Myself? Is their heart, and mind, ready to receive my gospel?
God examined the heart of this Ethiopian man. And what was this Ethiopian man doing? He was reading the Scriptures. He was searching for God. And God had decided that he was ready to hear the gospel.
And so God, through the Holy Spirit, said to Philip, Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.
Now observe here: Before, God communicated to Philip instructions using an angel. This time, God communicates to Philip using the Holy Spirit inside of Philip.
And this seems to be God’s preferred way of communicating with his believers.
God created our bodies, which have inside of it, a soul and a spirit. And God has made us in such a way that we can also be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit of the Living God dwelling inside a person.
And the Holy Spirit can interact with your spirit, helping you to have the mind and heart of Christ. The Holy Spirit can also give you wisdom and understanding. The Holy Spirit can also teach you, and bring all things to your remembrance.
The Apostle Paul writes, speaking about God’s Spirit:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery… 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew… 10 But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.1 Corinthians 2
When a young man is interested in a woman, and he wants to find out more about her, he needs to talk to one of the girl’s close girlfriends, who intimately knows her. Who knows the deep things about her. Then the young man can ask that friend questions about the girl he is interested in. Because the two girls, in their spirit, they know each other very well.
And so likewise, if you want to truly know God, you need to be filled with the Spirit of God, who knows the deep things of God.
And God, through the Holy Spirit living inside of you, can reveal to you the hidden things of God.
Let’s review this diagram.
Our body is physiological in nature. It relates to the material things of this world.
Now our mind, our emotions, our will, these are all part of our soul. That invisible part of us that animates us with life.
When you think of your friend, that he is a funny and nice person, those are characteristics, not of a person’s body, but of their soul.
Then you have your spirit inside of you. This is the part of you that yearns for God. That tries to relate to God somehow, even if you don’t fully understand who or where God is. This includes things like your conscience and intuition that we all have.
Then lastly, you can ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. This is God’s spirit living inside of you, that will be able to relate with your spirit, giving your insight, intuition, discernment, understanding.
When your spirit is intertwined with God’s Spirit dwelling inside of you, that affects the attributes of your soul.
And the attributes of your soul, how you think, how you control your emotions, your passions, decisions you make, this affects your body, and how you physically live in the world.
But having God’s Spirit dwelling inside of you is the key foundation.
In 1st Kings, the prophet Elijah finally heard God’s voice in “a still small voice”.
Jesus himself said:
27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak in light: and what you hear in the ear, that preach upon the housetops.Matthew 10:27
Again we read in Job:
8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives him understanding.Job 32
And so in our text, we read:
29 …the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.Acts 8
God communicated to Philip, through the Holy Spirit, to his spirit.
30 And Philip ran to him…Acts 8
I like the vigor with which Philip serves our Lord. Philip didn’t walk to him, but ran to him.
30 …and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, Do you understand what you read? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.Acts 8
Now there are many things here to observe.
First, Philip, being an evangelist, was going around preaching the gospel. And he didn’t have much time to work and earn money. He was preaching the gospel for free. So he was not rich. I imagine maybe his clothes were old and worn out. And from the world’s perspective, he was not a man of any great reputation or honor.
And this Ethiopian Eunuch was a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He had the charge of all the Queen’s treasure. And this man of Ethiopia was returning home to Ethiopia after having been in Jerusalem worshiping.
So he was a highly respected individual. He was very wealthy, and he was probably very well educated.
Now a person like this can easily become prideful. When we have our health, and riches, and honor, it is easy for us to think we have life figured out. That we are now in a position where we can instruct and teach others.
But look at the humility of this Ethiopian Eunuch.
While reading the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, Philip approached him and asked him if he understood what he was reading.
And Philip, being on a journey through the desert, not expecting to meet any high ranking government official, probably looked somewhat poor and dirty. He probably didn’t look like a person who could provide much understanding, or answer difficult questions.
Yet we see the meekness and the humility that this man of Ethiopia had, in that he responded to Philip’s question, saying, “How can I understand, except that some man should guide me?” And then he desired that Philip would come up and sit with him.
And so we read in Proverbs 9:9:
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.Proverbs 9:9
No one in our world has answered all the hard questions we humans have. No one in this world has a perfect understanding of the deep things of God, the deep questions we have about life, and of the earth, and of space.
Therefore we, like the Ethiopian Eunuch, should always carry ourselves with meekness and humility.
Meekness, in that we have a teachable spirit. That at any moment, we are open and ready to be corrected for any misunderstandings we have. And humility, that we are free from pride and arrogance. That we never think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.
When a person has this type of disposition, this type of character, that is both teachable, and humble, God will send you your very own Philip. A type of Philip, whom God will use to reveal Himself to you. To make known to you the mysteries of God.
Because ultimately, that is what God is interested in doing. God wants to reveal Himself to you and make Himself known.
And so we read that God made Himself known to this man of Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Eunuch had been worshiping the God of Israel in Jerusalem. He was sitting in his chariot, reading the book of Isaiah, trying his best to understand God’s words. And God could foresee all of this. He anticipated this. And so God planned ahead. He decided that he was going to send one of his servants to preach the gospel to this man.
And out of all the believers during that New Testament time, God in his providence decided that Philip was the right man for the job.
Now here is the text that the Ethiopian man was having trouble understanding.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his justice was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.Acts 8
Let me read it again, but with pictures this time:
32 …He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;Acts 8
32 …and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:Acts 8
33 In his humiliation his justice was taken away:Acts 8
33 …and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.Acts 8
Now this text is easier for us to understand, because we have the advantage of having a compiled Bible, as well as having 2000 years of history that we can study.
But for the Ethiopian Eunuch living in the first century A.D., this text was much harder to understand. And so the Ethiopian man asked:
34 And the eunuch asked Philip, and said, I pray you (let me know), of whom speaks the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
And so Philip, reasoning from the scriptures, preached to the Ethiopian man, and preached to him Jesus Christ and him crucified.
In the Old Testament, God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering for sins.
And so if a person did something wrong, if they sinned against God, and if they wanted forgiveness of sins, they would have to follow God’s rule for receiving forgiveness.
and in Leviticus, Chapter 4, it says:
32 ‘But if he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he shall bring it, a female without defect. 33 He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slay it… 35 …and the priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar, on the offerings by fire to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement (or payment) for him in regard to his sin which he has committed, and he will be forgiven.Leviticus 4
God commanded the nation of Israel to perform numerous sacrifices according to certain procedures prescribed by God.
First, the animal had to be spotless, without defect. Second, the person offering the sacrifice had to identify their sins with the animal. That person would have to lay his hands on the animal, identifying his sins with the animal. And third, the person offering the animal had to inflict death upon it. So that, when the animal was killed, it died for the sins of the person offering the sacrifice.
And the animals, they did nothing wrong. The animals were innocent. And that is exactly the point. They died in place of the person who sinned and who offered the sacrifice.
You can imagine with rules like these, how a person would really think twice about their actions, knowing that sinful choices can have negative consequences, not just for the person, not just for other people, but also for innocent animals.
And so animal sacrifices were commanded by God so that the individual could receive forgiveness of sin.
The animal served as a substitute—that is, the animal died in place of the sinner. But the covering was only temporary. Which is why the sacrifices in the Old Testament needed to be offered over and over again.
But now, in the New Testament, animal sacrifices have stopped with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrificial substitute, both once, and for all.
Jesus Christ did nothing wrong. He was innocent. He was without sin. In that sense He was spotless.
But He willingly gave Himself up to die for the sins of mankind. Like the innocent animals in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ took our sins upon Himself and died in our place.
As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says:
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5
So the good news for you, and for me, and what Philip preached to the Ethiopian man, is that through faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, being the lamb of God, you can receive forgiveness of sins.
You can be saved from the consequences of your sins. One of the major themes in the book of Acts that we learn is that all people everywhere will have to one day give an account to God for everything they have done. Whether good or bad. The Bible even says that every idle word that men shall speak, we shall give an account of it on the day of judgment.
And the Bible very clearly teaches that God has a place of punishment for those people who die in their sins.
In Revelation 21:8, we read:
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
So God has given to us a very clear warning about His judgment. But also, God has provided a way for us to escape His judgment and to be reconciled back to him, even becoming a child of God.
Paul tells us in Romans 10:9
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;Romans 10
And the Ethiopian man was also concerned about this. And we read:
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what does hinder me to be baptized? 37 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. 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.Acts 8
And so the Ethiopian man was saved.
Jesus himself tells us:
3 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 5 …Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.John 3
So if you want to enter the kingdom of God, if you want to receive forgiveness of sins, if you want to be in right relationship with the Creator of the Universe, if you want your heart to be cleansed and renewed…Jesus says, you must be born again.
Just like this Ethiopian eunuch.
In the next verse, we read:
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus (Az-o-tus): and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.Acts 8
So, from this whole text that we just read, there are three main points that we can take away:
First. The importance of the Word of God. For a person to accept truth, that person must first hear truth preached, or read truth in a book. And it is God’s desire that truth be preached and published everywhere.
According to Guinness World Records, as of 1995, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed. It is also the most translated book in the world. And this is God’s doing. God wants all people everywhere, from every nation, tribe and tongue, to read and hear His words.
Second. The Holy Spirit is actively involved in drawing people to God. The growth of Christianity is not the result of men, but of God. The Spirit of the Lord had been preparing the Ethiopian’s heart to receive the gospel. And God also sent an angel to Philip, with instructions on where to go preach.
And Third: God uses people to preach the gospel. He uses people as evangelists. And at just the right moment the Lord brought Philip to the Ethiopian man so he could answer his questions, and give him understanding.
And Philip gave the Ethiopian man enough understanding so that he could make an informed decision, and choose to be saved.
Using a common figure of speech in the Bible, the Ethiopian man is the field. And the field here was “ripe for harvest”, like when wheat is ready to harvest. And Philip was God’s laborer in the field. But the whole operation belongs to God.
Philip was only being obedient to God’s plan.
God gets all the credit because it was God’s plan and work.
That is why Paul writes:
I have planted, [another] watered; but God gave the increase.1 Corinthians 3:6
God is interested in reaching out to every individual person. And God right now is reaching out to you. God is standing at your door and knocking. He wants to reveal Himself to you. And God calls you by your name.
Every time in the Bible, we always see God calling people by their name.
In the story of Zacchaeus, that tax collector who was hated by everyone in Jerusalem, he was considered the worst type of sinner in town. Now can you imagine how startled Zacchaeus was, when he was up on that tree, that out of all the people and religious leaders in the crowd, Jesus called Zacchaeus by his name.
In Genesis we read that God came in the Garden of Eden personally to call Adam. He said, “Adam, Adam, where are you?” And later he called Abraham. He said, “Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon.” He called them all by name. “Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel.” He called them by name.
And then when the Lord Jesus Christ came, he called his disciples by name. He went down by the seashore and he called out Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John. And from the tax collector booth, he called another man, Matthew, who like Zacchaeus, was a tax collector. “Matthew, come and follow me!”, Jesus said. And Matthew rose and followed Jesus immediately. And on the Damascus road, Jesus said, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” And on the Isle of Patmos, he said, “John.”
And Jesus also calls you by name. What is your name? Jim, Mary, Susie, Peter? He calls you by name right now. He knows your name, He knows all about you, and he calls you.
And you right now can respond to God.
If you humble yourself before God. If you repent of your old way of living. If you repent of your sins and come to Jesus Christ in faith, believing that Jesus is who He says He is. If you become baptized in the name of Jesus.
When you have this level of belief, the Bible says, you will be saved. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And you will begin to learn how to have a right relationship with God.
There is nothing more important in this world than to have a personal relationship with the true and living God.
Let me close in prayer.