The Book of Acts (Chapter 8:25-40) (Part 15)
The Samaritans had received the word of God and had been born again and baptized with the Holy Spirit for their witness and service for the Lord Jesus Christ. They had received their own Pentecost as the apostles had received. God had made no distinction between them and their Jewish brothers and sisters in the LORD. Now the evangelistic campaign went beyond the walls of Samaria to spread to the surrounding villages. Phillip was part of this great move of God. He along with the apostles was ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit to hundreds of Samaritans as they went from village to village proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinners were being saved and heavens hosts were inebriated with joy at the repentance and faith of the Samaritans as they exercised repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ! (Luke 15:7, 10)
(Vs.25-26) “So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road.)
When the Holy Spirit is moving among the masses and hundreds are being saved and sanctified there is always the danger that those who are preaching and winning souls can get caught up in the euphoria of what is happening and lose their sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit. He is not always “in the wind, the earthquake and the fire” but often speaks with “the still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12) While the Holy Spirit is all powerful at all times He is still sensitive and knows what should be done, how it should be done and what needs to be said. Many powerful evangelistic movements have been derailed because those involved have got carried away with the results and manifestations and missed the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Today in the western Church what we see is a lot of noise and commotion but not many are saved or if they are saved what are they being saved into? Real revivals are almost non-existent in the professing Christian Church in the western democracies. It is all hype artistry and entertainment. Mega-Church growth is virtually due to Christians transferring from one church to the other to see the latest performance or to catch the latest show. As to Biblical preaching well you have pop psychology sermons laced with scripture here and there and usually out of context anyway. There are basically two extremes operating in the Body of Messiah.
One extreme is those churches that emphasize the word but ignore and even do away with the gifts of the Spirit. On the other hand there are churches that are always on about the gifts of the Spirit but do not have any real Bible teaching or solid exposition of scripture. They run on a diet of prophecies and dreams and visions and try to bolster these with texts that are usually taken out of context. This is where the Evangelical and Charismatic Churches in the western democracies are today.
Now Phillip was sensitive to the Holy Spirit even though he was heavily involved in the work of preaching and winning souls. The Lord Jesus had someone He wanted to reach in the back side of the desert. Now Phillip could have missed the voice of the Holy Spirit but he understood that he was doing God’s work and that it was important to continuously hear from the Holy Spirit. An angel of the LORD spoke to him and told him to go to a desert road. In the Last Days the ministry of angels will play a greater role in leading and directing God’s servants in their evangelistic work. Well Phillip obeyed without question.
(Vs.27-28) “So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.”
This Ethiopian was a court official in the Queens court and was an important person in a strategic position that could influence, not only the queen, but others in Ethiopia as well. He was in charge of the treasury. He had already been under the influence of the Holy Spirit without realizing it. He knew that God was the God of Israel and in his mind and heart he had been searching to find God for himself. At this time he was sitting in his chariot reading from the prophet Isaiah as the horses slowly trotted down the dusty road. He was reading the word of God and because he was reading the word the Holy Spirit was able to reach the mind and the heart of this man. There are people like this important official that the Holy Spirit wants to reach and He will see to it that the right person is in the right place at the right time.
(Vs. 29-31) “Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”
Now the Holy Spirit is sovereign and can reveal the meaning of scripture to a person just reading the word of God and there are unnumbered cases where this has occurred however, His usual method is to use people to reach other people. As Paul later wrote; “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 13:14-15).
(Vs.32-35) “Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth. “In humiliation His judgment was taken away; Who will relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth.” The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.”
So Phillip began to explain the scripture the Ethiopian was reading. The passage was about the Lord Jesus and His atoning death for sinners and this was no accident as the Holy Spirit had gone ahead of Phillip to prepare the way. In personal evangelism it is vitally important that we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to speak to those He has prepared to receive the word of God. Phillip began with the scripture the Ethiopian was reading from and from word of God preached about the Lord Jesus to him.
He did not tell him to try to live a better life, or to do charitable works, or to become more regular attending the Temple worship or confessing to a priest, no, he did none of those things but showed him the Lord Jesus Christ from scripture. Using the word of God Phillip was able to point this man to Jesus. This is the whole thrust and point of evangelism. Preach Jesus and Him crucified, dead and buried and risen and as the soon coming KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. This is at the heart of the gospel. As Paul also wrote; “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
To preach Jesus is to preach the word of God. He is the grand theme of the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is all about Him not you and me or even our own spiritual experiences. We need to have a testimony of course but primarily our task as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ is to point men and women to Him. Jesus is the Living word of God incarnate in flesh. When we are preaching the word of God we are preaching Him. Phillip included the necessity of believers’ baptism for this new convert.
(Vs.36) “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
Believers Baptism was the norm for new converts. They did not have to attend baptismal classes. The act of baptism is not necessary for the work of salvation but if a person is saved then baptism is the next step followed by the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This is consistent with scripture. It also needs to be said that the order may change. In the case of the household of Cornelius they were born again and baptised with the Holy Spirit simultaneously and afterwards were baptised in water. In the case of the Apostle Paul after he had encountered the Lord Jesus on the Road to Damascus he was later filled with the Spirit and then baptised in water. The normal Christian experience should be repentance, faith, baptism in water followed by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) This is the normal and Biblical order.
(Vs.37-38) “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. And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”
Phillip understood that believers’ baptism needed to be accompanied by faith in the heart. The outward act of immersion in water had no spiritual merit in itself. It was the outward sign of the inward change of heart. There is no doubt that being baptized brings with it a definite sense and inner confirmation to the new convert of a spiritual change and as a public witness will help the newly saved person continue to make a public confession of their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ as they go on in their new life in Him.
The outward washing of the water symbolizes the inner washing and cleansing of the life from sin through the blood of Jesus. Baptism symbolically cuts the believer off from the Egypt of this world. They leave behind their old life and start a new one. The act of immersion in water symbolizes a death and burial of the old life and rising again to a new life. Just as the water cut off the Israelites from Egypt so baptism severs the believer’s allegiance to this world and to the god of this world Satan. (1 Corinthians 10: 1-2) (Romans 6:1-7)
To believe with all of your heart is the requirement for baptism. It is not a religious ritual but an experience that confirms a sincere faith with a clear conscience in the one being baptized. (1 Peter 3:21) Scripture clearly teaches that genuine faith, is not only believing that Jesus is the Son of God, but confessing Him as such and proving it by making Him Lord of your life. If you have thoroughly repented and renounced sin, and genuinely believe in your heart that the Lord Jesus is God’s Son and have confessed Him as such before men, then you have been saved.
As the apostle John writes; “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:1-4).
Paul also wrote; ““The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on Him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved” (Romans 10:8a-13).
(Vs.39-40) “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.”
Immediately after Phillip had baptized the Ethiopian the Spirit of the LORD translated him instantly. This is what the text says. One minute he was in the desert and the next moment he was at Azotus. The Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing at his new found faith. Through this man the good news of Jesus would spread throughout the whole of the Ethiopian empire. Because Phillip listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and went into the desert to speak to a solitary man he had no idea how God would take that encounter and use this Ethiopian court official to bring the good news of Jesus to his people in Ethiopia including the Queen herself. They often say “big doors swing on little hinges” and metaphorically speaking this is also true in this instance. One man’s obedience was used by God to bring blessing and salvation to a whole nation. Scripture tells us not to despise the day of small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10)
Now you may not be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher but you can be involved in evangelism. You can witness one on one. It may be you are working in a secular profession or doing administration work behind the scenes in the office of a missionary organization but your obedience is allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work through you and you will by no means lose your eternal reward. Who knows how many the Lord Jesus will reach through you? Eternity will reveal all things. As the Lord Jesus said; “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Mark 10:31). When you consider our human bodies we give greater honour to those hidden parts do we not? Likewise in the Body of Messiah the hidden ministries are given greater honour than those that are seen. (1 Corinthians 12: 18-24). After he had been ‘airlifted’ as it were by the Holy Spirit and landed at Azotus Phillip went on doing what he did best and continued to preach the good news about Jesus and undoubtedly the Spirit of God continued to work with him and through him confirming the word with signs following.