Welcome… this morning we’re continuing in part 10 of the A/D series “Easter Was Only the Beginning”. Now for the past two weeks we’ve been looking at a man named Saul of Tarsus, but along the same timeline, just prior to this there’s another story going on that I don’t want us to miss. The story involves a deacon name Philip, one of those original seven that were chosen to help serve, and we see the story of him going out in response to the persecution in Jerusalem. And we see today in Acts 8:26–40 what God was doing just prior to meeting with Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.
This is an awesome passage of Scripture related to our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit leading us in evangelism. I love this passage because the focus is on one person. You know, so far we have seen thousands of people coming to faith in Christ in Jerusalem, but the most important thing, more important than anything else, is that that one knows Jesus Christ. And we see that today as God focuses on one guy, because God isn’t all about numbers, but he loves each individual, he loves you, and he’s got a plan to seek you, find you, and save you.
Let’s read together the story in the book of Acts, beginning in chapter 8, at verse 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." 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, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.
"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
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. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth."
The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
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?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 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. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea” (NIV).
So this angel shows up and speaks to Philip. I wish we had more details, but the biblical account only tells us that the angel told Philip to go and Philip went. But you know, it’s not surprising, because that’s what angels do. God created angels to be ministers and messengers. They serve and they speak. That’s what angels do. Angels are so quiet and behind-the-scenes that some of you have met angels and didn’t even know it. The Bible tells us, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). And some of us will, but we won’t even know it, because their goal is not to draw attention to themselves, their goal is to let all of the attention, the focus, and the glory be on Jesus. So they don’t attract any attention to themselves, they simply do their work quietly, humbly, and sometimes very privately.
So we read here, that this guy named Philip, he loves Jesus, he’s filled with the Holy Spirit, and the angel comes to him and says, “I need you to go into the wilderness.” Now he had been part of this great revival where lots of people had become Christians and it was all very exciting. But suddenly this angel came and said to leave. And you know why? I love this, because there was one person that God loves, one person on the peripheral, one person that God was watching, one person that God loves enough to interrupt a revival and put together an entire alternate plan to go get that person. Isn’t that awesome?
I love that, I love this story, because if you’re here and you’re not a Christian, if you’re still wrestling with the Lordship of Jesus in your life, if you’re not to the point where he is sitting on the throne of your life, then you’re one of those people that Jesus loves so much that he has been pursuing and preparing you because he wants you to become a Christian too. He wants to hear you cry out from the bottom of your heart that “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” Jesus loves you.
So God sends this angel to Philip, the angel speaks, and sends Philip to this Ethiopian eunuch. We are not given his name, but we know that he’s in the middle of nowhere, he’s from a godless nation, and he works for a godless pagan Queen. We are told that he’s a eunuch, which means he was highly respected among the Queens court, but among God’s people he would have been considered much less, because he’s castrated himself to serve the Queen. Any guy that does that to himself for a job, doesn’t understand the will of God or the ways of God. Yet we find that God was watching him and God cares that he’s spiritually in a bad place and so there was a sense of urgency here.
So the Spirit of God told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." (Acts 8:29; NIV). It’s a simplified personalized version of Jesus command to: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). It’s the great commission, the Gospel’s going out, the good news about Jesus to an Ethiopian eunuch. We see the good news of Jesus getting out to the nations of the earth through the person, the presence, the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now the Holy Spirit is the very presence of God among us. There is one God, revealed in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and so here we see that the Holy Spirit is not just a supernatural force, but he is a being who speaks. He doesn’t inhabit a physical body, but he has feelings, he has a will, and he can communicate with us. The Bible says, He can be grieved, he can be resisted, and he can be quenched. He’s not an impersonal force, but he is a personal God. That’s why Jesus said, “You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17), He will “remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26), “The Holy Spirit will teach you… what you should say” (Luke 12:12), “He will testify about me” (John 15:26), “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin” (John 16:8), “He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me,” Jesus said (John 16:13-14).
So, the Holy Spirit is personal God, sent not just to bring the message of Jesus to God’s people, but to bring the life of Jesus in and through God’s people. And here, the Holy Spirit shows up, and here’s what the Holy Spirit said to Philip: "Go to that chariot and stay near it." The Holy Spirit tells him to do something and sometimes like Philip we will hear his audible voice, but other times he will speak to us from the Scriptures. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to us through a deep burden or longing. Sometimes it is in the form of a dream or vision. So there are occasions where God speaks, there are times when the Lord tells us something, and here he is telling Philip something. And this same way God wants you to be filled by the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, to be in relationship with the Spirit, and what that requires is a commitment to God and his Word. It requires obedience so that when he speaks to you, you hear him and obey him, like Philip does.
And so here God sends Philip into the wilderness to meet this Ethiopian eunuch who is a seeker, he’s hungry for the things of God. He’s seeking God. He’s been to Jerusalem so he can worship God. But is he a believer? No, not yet. He’s seeking God, he’s traveled a great distance, to worship a God he doesn’t know, and along the way he’s reading the Old Testament. And so God is working on him, God is preparing him for the Good News of Jesus.
The Bible says, “Then Philip ran …” Don’t you love that? No grumbling and complaining. Philip has instantaneous obedience. He’s excited to do what the Lord said. I am sure it was going to be a little uncomfortable to walk up to a total stranger, a little intimidating to approach a powerful government official, but it’s better to feel awkward about introducing someone to Jesus than to feel awkward because you didn’t. And sometimes God asks us to pursue one person and speak to them about Jesus. Who is that for you today? Maybe your family, a friend, neighbor, or coworker? Who is God preparing for you to speak to? You see, that’s what he does with Philip and Philip is willing to be a part of his plan.
In verse 30, “Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ”Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”
Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading just happened to be an amazingly prophetic passage of Scripture about Jesus. "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. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth” (Acts 8:32-33).
So here is a guy reading the Bible, he’s confused, he’s wishing that somebody could explain it to him, and here comes this guy jogging down the road. It’s one of those God moments; a Divine appointment for sure, as “Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).
This passage of Scripture from Isaiah 53:7–8, a prophecy given 700 years before Jesus even walked on the earth, tells us that Jesus is a lamb. And then Jesus enters into human history, he leaves glory for humility, and he comes so gently, humbly, and meekly. And the Bible records that as John the Baptist sees him, he points, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He came and served us through suffering and died for our sin. His blood covers us so the wrath of God would pass over us. This whole section of Isaiah tells us that Jesus came to suffer, he came to be without sin, to suffer at the hands of sinners, to go to the cross and die in the place of sinners, and in so doing, he serves us through his suffering. Isaiah says that after Jesus dies that he would be buried in a rich man’s tomb and that he would rise. He would see the light of life and be satisfied, he would atone for sin, he would make sinners his friends, and his enemies his family.
So Philip tells him that it’s all about Jesus, from beginning to end it’s the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s about who he is and what he has done. He is God in the flesh. He is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no way to the Father but through him. There is no other name by which we can be saved. Philip told him, “It’s all about Jesus”. It’s all, always, and only about Jesus!
So they’re going along the road and in verse 36, “They came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" (Acts 8:36). Can you feel the tension, the sense of urgency? He wants to take this next step, he wants to identify with Christ through his death, his burial, and his resurrection. He wants to be baptized, he responded instantaneously, and “He gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:38).
They went down into the water and Philip dunks him and brings him up, just like Jesus was baptized. The eunuch’s baptism illustrates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism is how the Christian goes public to show externally what God has done internally. “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” (Acts 8:38-39).
The eunuch was rejoicing, it’s a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer: there is rejoicing. You know it’s like, God loves me, my sins are forgiven, and I am welcomed into his Kingdom. Praise be to God! He rejoiced, because he discovered salvation, he discovered it wasn’t about going to church, it wasn’t about being religious, being spiritual, or even about morality. He discover that it was all about Jesus and that was it.
As we close I want to ask you a question. Have you discovered what it is to be a Christian? Do you love Jesus? Have you submitted to Jesus? Have you surrendered to Jesus? If not, I would urge you to have a sense of urgency. This is your day, God brought you, the Spirit of God brought us together, so that I can speak to you and Jesus can save you.
Would you trust him today? Would you give your sin to him? You can do that right now. It’s a decision of the heart, the mind, and the will. God knows your thoughts. Would you become a Christian today? If today you hear his voice, do not harden your heart, open it and invite the Holy Spirit to bring the love of Jesus to you. This is the day that God has chosen for you. You’re not here by chance. You are here by God’s supreme foresight.
Some of you may have been Christians for a while and you’ve not been baptized. You have never publicly identified with Christ and you need to be baptized in obedience to Jesus. Baptism doesn’t save you, but it shows how Jesus saves you. His death, burial, resurrection was ours, and if people get saved, we get excited, when people get baptized, we get excited, because we need to rejoice. And here’s what the Bible says, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). God is rejoicing. The angels are rejoicing. We want to share in God’s joy. We want you to share in God’s joy.
So, I invite you to give your life to Jesus. And I just want to encourage you today because Jesus is using us and working through us to reach the ends of the earth. This morning, if you met Jesus today, or if you’re a Christian and you’ve never had a believer’s baptism, I want to invite you to meet me afterwards, so I can talk to you more about Jesus, and more about baptism. I would encourage you to be faithful, to be obedient to what the Spirit would be doing in your heart right now. As we close, let’s stand together, singing and celebrating our Lord Jesus Christ who saves us.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
June 07, 2015