ACTS 8:26- 40 NOVEMBER 27, 2016
“BEING LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT”
In my line of work as a pastor and as a chaplain for the Sheriff’s Office I have noticed that there is a common thread that is often present with the people with whom I interact. This common thread is present when dealing with most tragedies and with most sins. It is the failure to listen! In many of the shootings by police officers, the individual who was shot had failed to listen to the commands of the police officer. It can be argued that the root of most sin is the failure to listen and obey the commandments of God. As a Christian many of my problems and difficulties have resulted when I failed to abide by the teaching of Scripture and my failure to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Philip is a role model in allowing himself to being led by the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a closer look and see if we can pick up some principles that can guide us in our Christian walk of faith. Acts 8:26 (NIV) “26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Obedience is very important and should not be overlooked. Not everyone obeys. Jonah 1:1-3 (NIV) “1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish.” Philip did not run away but obeyed the command given by the angel. The command to go down a desert road might have seemed to be a bit crazy but Philip obeyed.
Acts 8:27-29 (NIV) “27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
At this point it is necessary to see how eunuchs were viewed according to Jewish customs. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NIV) “1 No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” He would be considered to be permanently ritually unclean. It is thought that the Ethiopian eunuch was a God-fearer. Because he was a eunuch he would not have been allowed to go past the court of the Gentiles in the Temple. He also would not have been allowed to convert to Judaism because he would not have been able to be circumcised. Even though he acknowledged the LORD he would not have been accepted.
It would be evident that the Ethiopian eunuch was very wealthy as he was sitting in a chariot, which could be two or more sets of wheels like a carriage. He was not driving the team which indicates the presence of one or more servants. His attire and the fact that he was reading from a scroll revealed that he was wealthy enough to purchase a hand written copy of the book of Isaiah. The Spirit told Philip to go up to the chariot and again he obeyed.
Philip made the first step in being bold in going up to this wealthy black man. Yes, he was most likely a black man as he came from the region which is now Ethiopia and Sudan. When the Spirit urges us to go up to someone we have to get past our fears and our doubts and do it. What we will find most often is that God has already been at work preparing the way. Acts 8:30-31 (NIV) “30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”
It was the standard practice to read aloud the scriptures. This practice of reading aloud aids in understanding and in memorizing the passage. The passage he was reading from is from Isaiah 53, the well known passage of the suffering servant, which the early church saw as applying to Jesus the messiah. Philip saw it as the opportunity to open a conversation about Jesus. As I am sure you have experienced that many people do not understand the scriptures and will often ask believers about a passage they do not understand. This is another principle of evangelism is that we begin where a person has questions. From that point we should turn the conversation to Jesus. This is what Philip did.
Acts 8:32-35 (NIV) “32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”
Luke does not indicate how long this conversation lasted but it went on long enough that the eunuch asked Philip if he could be baptized. Faith in Jesus means confession and repentance of sin and accepting the grace of Jesus and by identifying with Jesus through the rite of baptism. Acts 8:36-39 (NIV) “36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”
Remember that as a eunuch he had been unable to become a member of the Jewish people and worship God in the Temple. In Jesus he is now accepted and welcomed into the church. The lands of Ethiopia were often identified in Greek, Roman, and Jewish culture as being the ends of the earth. Acts 1:7-8 (NIV) “7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Luke has now in this chapter has shown how Philip was used as an evangelist to go to Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
In contrast to Simon the sorcerer, the eunuch shows the signs of the Holy Spirit in his great joy in being accepted by Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 indicates that joy is evidence of the Holy Spirit. Irenaeus, a second century church father, wrote that the Ethiopian eunuch went back to his homeland and was a missionary to the Ethiopians.
Philip continued on his way preaching and teaching about Jesus. Philip is now most well known as Philip the Evangelist. Acts 8:40 (NIV) “40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” Some Christians are called to be evangelists where they preach to large crowds. However, most of us are simply called to speak one on one to others about Jesus.
Leighton Ford in his book on evangelism, “Good News is for Sharing”, tells the story of a young pastor friend who was used by God to lead a hardened criminal in a country jail to Christ. The man told the preacher after praying with him, “Now preacher, don’t get the big head because I have accepted Christ. You are just the twenty-fifth man.” On asking what that meant, the pastor was told that at least 24 others had witnessed to him about Christ and that his conversation was the effect of all these together.
God is always at work and he uses us to plant seeds. So let us follow the example set for us by Philip the Evangelist. Are you willing to be a gardener for Jesus and plant seeds?
Let us pray.