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Faithlife

Acts 8:26-40 The Church Grows One at a Time

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Acts 8:26–40 ESV
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.

Main Idea

Jesus has called us to be His witnesses through personal evangelism.
The church continues to grow by the thousands, and one at a time.

Introduction

We have seen amazing works of the Holy Spirit in Acts already
miracles & supernatural wonders
preaching of the apostles
thousands added to the church at a time
the spread of the gospel in spite of martyrdom and persecution
entire cities come under conviction and be transformed by the gospel
Chances are, most of us are not going to get the same opportunities that Peter did, to preach the gospel to thousands at a time.
How can average Christians like us be effective witnesses for Jesus today?

1. Everyday, 1 on 1 Evangelism

Acts 8:26 ESV
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.
Acts
Philip was in Samaria when he was called
Revival is breaking out
The Gospel preaching is attracting masses to Jesus
Even attracting people for the wrong reasons
Philip has a successful gospel ministry
“Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza”
“This is a desert place.”
“Desert”
Could mean the city of Gaza
Destroyed in 96 BC
Later rebuilt closer to the Mediterranean Sea in 57 BC
Or the road itself
Probably both -
Point is, the specific place Philip was being called to was deserted
From a massively fruitful ministry, to a desert road?
Imagine being part of a wildly successful missions team, and then being sent to an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere
Or, being called as a pastor from a mega church to go and serve a congregation of 50?
Acts 8:27 ESV
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 he rose and went.
Philip doesn’t hesitate. Doesn’t argue or try to reason. Trusts and obeys.
And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.
And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.
This was a rare sight for Philip
not just that there was actually someone on that road
but that he was an Ethiopian - an African man
We are used to living in a mixed culture
but this was rare for 1st century middle east
an exotic man
Luke tells us he was a Eunuch
Castrated
Unclear why men would undergo this procedure
Maybe gender confused?
Maybe to gain a high ranking position
Eunuchs were commonly employed as court officials
Or any high ranking government positions that required a high level of sensitivity and trustworthiness
This particular man was a court official of Candace - Queen of the Ethiopians
Not her name - a title - like Pharoah
Luke says he was in charge of the queen’s treasury
A very high ranking official - like the Minister of Finance
Also must have been very trustworthy and pious
because...
“He had come to Jerusalem to worship”
More than likely a Gentile convert to Judaism
Come to Jerusalem to worship - maybe at one of the major annual Jewish feasts
Would have taken a long time to travel there and get back home - as long as a year?
The queen must have had a high regard and a lot of trust in this man to allow him a year leave to fulfill his religious convictions
Can you see our president giving the Minister of Finance a year’s leave?
or the CEO giving a years leave to the CFO?
Acts 8:28 ESV
and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
Acts 8:28–29 ESV
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.”
Acts 8:28-
seated in his chariot
a fancy method of transportation in that day
big enough for 2
The Spirit said to Philip “Go over and join this chariot”
Philip take your donkey, and go join that exotic, wealthy government official in his chariot
Take your skateboard, and ride up alongside the Mercedes Benz limo and join Pravin Gordhan for a ride
Craziest thing is, Philip obeys and goes...
… hears the man reading the prophet Isaiah…
… Asks him if he understands what he’s reading…
… And the man invites Philip into his chariot…
… where Philip gets an opportunity to explain the gospel to him and bear witness about Jesus…
… and the man is baptized as a believer.
Why does Luke tell us this story?
Why include this story in his book?
This is an unknown man - an important man in Ethiopia, but unknown to the rest of Scripture, and isn’t referred to again
Why is it important to include in his narrative of the growth of the church?
This is the start of a string of stories of individuals coming to faith
Until now its been mass evangelism
The apostles preaching to thousands and even to whole cities in , , , and Philip evangelizes a whole city and villages in Samaria in .
We see whole cities changed and people joining the church in their thousands
All by the simple preaching of the gospel and the apostles bearing witness to Jesus name.
It is all an amazing work of the Holy Spirit and further evidence that Jesus is continuing to act in this world to build his church
but if we’re honest…
most of us are never going to get a platform to address thousands of people and preach the gospel to them.
most of us - even in this age of TV, radio and the internet, are never going to get an opportunity to preach to large audiences and see entire cities come under conviction…
… or thousands be added to the church after a single sermon
but…
There is absolutely no reason to believe that none of us are going to get plenty of opportunities to bear witness to Jesus in 1-on-1 conversations
The call from Jesus to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth is given to every Christian - not just to apostles, or pastors and evangelists
Every one of us has been called to this mission
And I believe Luke is showing us that mass evangelism and preaching to large audiences is not the only way of fulfilling this mission
Here, he shows a singular man, Philip, who is not an apostle, having a 1-on-1 conversation with another man, and a man is added to the Church
In chapter 9, we see another singular man, Saul, being added to the church and God uses another man who’s not an apostle, Ananias, to pray for him.
In chapter 10, we see Peter speaking to a Gentile man and his family, and they are baptised and receive the Holy Spirit.
The point is that Jesus builds His Church in both the preaching of the gospel to the masses…
… AND through every day, 1-on-1 evangelism.
Jesus builds His Church by the thousands… AND one at a time.
How can you answer the call of to be Jesus witness?
Through every day, 1-on-1 evangelism
by holding conversations with people
by inviting people to join you for a meal
by joining them for a meal
by asking them question

2. Explaining the Scriptures

Acts 8:30–31 ESV
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.
Acts 8:30
I’d imagine that Philip might have wondered what exactly he was going to say to the Ethiopian.
He is unprepared, doesn’t know what to expect...
He’s just obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit and is suddenly told to go and speak to this man.
What should he say?
He hears him reading Isaiah, and he asks him if he understands what he’s reading
the guy invites him into the chariot and Philip explains how what he was reading points to Jesus.
Luke says in verse 35 “beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
Jesus did the same thing. in we read “… beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Luke 24:27 ESV
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
If you have no idea how you can go about engaging in 1-on-1 evangelism, and you don’t know what you could possibly say…
If you have no idea how you can go about engaging in 1-on-1 evangelism, and you don’t know what you could possibly say…
… consider the power of reading and explaining the Bible
says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
says “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
When we read the Bible, we in effect hearing from mouth of God.
There is simply no better way of cracking open the hard hearts of unbelievers than by using the sword - by using God’s word.
The way to lead people to faith in Jesus is to give them His word
says “… faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
This is what the Church has been doing all along
In every evangelistic situation we have seen, we see the apostles preaching the Word and explaining the Word
They quote from the Scriptures and explain what it means
Philip did the same thing here in and you can do the same thing
What physical steps can you take to do this?
You can ask questions (like Philip does here)
Which church do you attend?”
What do you think about Jesus?
What do you think about Jesus?
Is there anything in the Bible that you struggle to understand?
Is there anything in the Bible that you struggle to understand?
You can invite them to a daily / weekly Bible study or Community Group
Avoid simply emailing or texting things - these can be used by God, but its so much more effective to meet in person and develop a friendship around the Word
This means that you must have a good grasp of the Word yourself
The reason Philip could lead the Ethiopian to Jesus through explaining was because he himself knew the text and understood what it meant
We will struggle to be effective in personal evangelism if we ourselves don’t know the Bible
So we must see our personal study of Scripture as evangelism training.
study the Scripture and take notes, read commentaries and think about how you might explain this text to someone else
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Acts 8:35 ESV
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
Acts 8:
Romans 10:17 ESV
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
:

3. Entrusting the Results to the Lord

Having engaged in personal evangelism…
and using the Bible to explain the gospel and how it all points to Jesus…
we entrust the results to the Lord
A lot of people don’t engage in personal evangelism because they’re scared they are going to mess up
“I’m not Philip the evangelist”
The Lord hasn’t called us to save people. He has called us to bear witness. Jesus does the saving. Jesus builds His Church
He’s chosen the proclaiming of His Word to be the
The Lord’s sovereignty is written all over Acts, and is clearly seen in this passage
The Lord has orchestrated everything thats happened
It was a messenger of the Lord who called Philip to go to this place
Philip was involved in a massively successful ministry in Samaria
Why would he leave and go to some deserted road to a deserted city unless specifically called there by the Lord?
Not just told where to go, but which road to take.
If Philip took any other road, he would have missed the Eunuch
It was no coincidence that he found the Eunuch there
And then it was the Holy Spirit who told Philip to join the Ethiopian’s chariot
It was no coincidence that the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53
It was no coincidence that they passed by some water
Evidently, after Philip’s explanation of and how it all points to Jesus, the Ethiopian man believed and was saved
And at that very point, they happened to pass by some water, and Philip baptises him.
Jesus is continuing to act in the world to build his church
He is working all things according to his ultimate purpose
We’ve seen God’s sovereignty in numerous places already in Acts
The apostles pray that the Lord will reveal the one HE has chosen to be the 12th apostle
,
the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles at a time when Jerusalem is filled with hundreds of thousands of Jews, and they all hear the gospel
3000 new believers are added to the church
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
“Sovereign Lord… do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.  … look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders…”
The message is, the Lord is sovereign over His church, and we can entrust the results of our evangelistic efforts to Him.

do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

This is no way removes our responsibility
In as much as the Bible declares emphatically that the Lord is sovereign over everything, the Bible is also very clear that man is held responsible for his response to the Lord
When Philip was told by the Angel of the Lord to go to this deserted road, his response was to obey and go
When He was told by the Holy Spirit to join the man on the chariot, he responded in obedience
We have the same responsibility to respond to the Lord’s calling
You may have already experienced the unction of the Holy Spirit before - a sense in your spirit that you need to go and speak to somebody
It may just be your imagination, but it may also be the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t hesitate, go and speak to that person
But even if you can’t say that you have experienced anything like that…
We may not hear the Lord’s voice talking to us, but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to sit around waiting for some “still small voice” (whatever that’s supposed to mean)
You already have it in black and white
You can find it in
We have all been called to be His witness
How can you be intentional about fulfilling your calling?
Pray for opportunities
Write down the names of every person you know and pray for them
Ask for opportunities to witness
Create opportunities by inviting them to a meal, or to church
God is just as pleased to build His Church 1 at a time as He is to build it thousands at a time
One more thing about this Ethiopian
Luke mentions that he was a Eunuch
and that he was on his way back home from worshiping in Jerusalem
In Jerusalem, he wouldn’t have been allowed into the temple
Old Testament Law did not allow castrated men to enter the temple and says they were not allowed to be part of the Israelite assembly
Acts 2:47 ESV
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
They were outcasts and could never become part of the congregation
This Eunuch is reading Isaiah
Maybe he had a particular interest in Isaiah because of certain promises contained in that scroll concerning eunuchs
For example, the Lord makes this promise: “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
This promise has just been fulfilled for this man
Isaiah 56:3–5 ESV
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
He was no longer an outcast, separated from God and His people…
because he is now in Christ and baptised into the Lord’s Church.
There is nobody beyond the reach of God
There is nobody from whom we should withhold the good news.
Jesus didn’t die to save the already righteous, or the already whole, but to save the sinner, the outcast, the poor, the messed up, the broken.
God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility - As Philip obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit, so must we
Might not hear the Spirit’s voice, but you have it in black and white
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