Text: Acts 8:26-9:19
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
Who begins there life saying, “I want my life to be totally unremarkable, commonplace.”?
Illustration: When my kids grow up I want them to be totally unremarkable and unexceptional. I want them to be totally un-noteworthy, commonplace, mediocre.
This sounds crazy doesn’t it? Especially in our culture.
When it comes to God, our notions of value and success have to be totally re-evaluated.
More recently, parents seem to be increasingly anxious that there just isn’t going to be enough — enough room at good colleges or graduate schools or the top companies — for even the straight-A, piano-playing quarterback, and we end up convinced that being average will doom our children to a life that will fall far short of what we want for them. As Brené Brown ... said, “In this world, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life.” (Alina Tugen, Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary)
So when a High School teacher from Mass. told a graduating class in his commencement speach, “You are not Special. If everyone is special, then no one is special”, people freaked out online.
When it comes to God, we need to seriously reconsider and redefine what a successful life, a successful church looks like. Why?
In the ministry of Philip and the conversion of Saul we see that …
Main Idea: God can use anybody, to go anywhere, to save anyone.
Philip—not Phillip the disciple/Apostle we know from the Gospels
Philip was on the seven deacons appointed to serve widows in .
Unlike Stephen, Philip is a pretty unremarkable guy. We are not told that there is anything special about him. We’re simply told he goes to Samaria and preaches the gospel, then goes to a desert road to convert an Ethiopian.
There’s nothing before this and very little after this (other than where he ends ups settling down)
This is why we don’t hear many sermons about this Philip. He’s not exciting. He’s not exceptional.
Christianity is all about the concept of world-changing impact right now.
It’s a trend. Every speaker, every author, every pastor wants you to be a world-changer for Jesus. It’s what I call the “if only” theory. If only you loved the way God loved, you’d have revolutionized your entire neighborhood and your workplace by now. If only you had the faith that God asks of you, then you’d go do that Big Awesome Thing that you said you never had the time strength or energy to do. If only you took off your spiritual blinders, miracles of all sorts would be happening up and down the street every time you reached out in the name of Christ.
You are called, everyone says, to great things. Big things. Huge things. Life-changing, earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting amazing things. All in the name of the Savior Jesus Christ. (L. Philips)
But with Philip we see that this isn’t true. God uses ordinary, unexceptional people.
What then about Paul?
Everyone knows his story. Paul was certainly extraordinary. His story is exciting. (I’ve always wanted Mel Gibson or someone to make an epic movie of his life—ship wrecks, imprisonments, miracles, martyrdom).
But is this why God called Paul and converted him? No!
Paul tell us why: ,
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
God chose Paul in order to show his glory through his brokenness.
What we see in Paul is that God uses broken, messed up people in exceptional ways for his glory.
God can the worst, most messed up people—in fact if you survey the Bible you will see that is the most common type of person God uses.
So we see that God can use anybody, not matter how unremarkable or how messed up.
God called Philip to the desert road. He did not tell himWe are if he would meet anyone there or if anything special would happen.
"The most strategic place you can be is the very place where God calls you." Eric Alexander.
God was calling Philip to the desert, and he went. If God calls you to the desert, will you go? Will you follow God's will even if it means the dark valley or desert road?
So let’s take a look at this part of Acts from the perspective of the early Jewish Christians. We need to see the truly remarkable nature of these two conversions.
So Philip is called to this desert road. And there happens to be a Ethiopian eunch, a court official of Queen Candace.
First of all, this Ethiopian is Ethiopian. A foreigner. Secondly, he’s a eunuch—which meant he would have been barred from participation in Jewish worship rites. He’s traveling to go worship but he will not be included.
Then there’s Paul. Yes he is a Jew, but he is seeking to kill and imprison Christians and destroy the church.
So both of these men are perfect examples that no-one is too far outside, too far gone for the grace and love God.
Illustration: Jesus saves the demoniac at Gerasenes ()
Jesus was willing to go to the worst places to save the worst off.
Jesus was willing to go to the worst places to save the worst off.
But this is the story of Jesus. God sending his Son to the worst place to save the worst off—us.
There is nowhere too far, too remote that God does call us to take the gospel
oint 1: there is nowhere too far, too remote that God does call us to take the gospel
There is no-one too far gone, too resistant that God doesn't call us to take the gospel
• Point 2: There is no-one too far gone, too resistant that God doesn't call us to take the gospel
Are you not exceptional enough to be used by God? Are you not good enough or worthy enough?
Are you too far gone for the love of Jesus?
Are you willing to go where God would call you? Maybe that’s means to continue on in your mundane life being faithful? Maybe it means heading to the desert?