DIVINE APPOINTMENTS!

July 21, 2019 Pastor John Thompson                                 

Acts 8:26-40

Garland Cofield was a missionary bush pilot here in Canada. In 1965 he established Camp of the Woods Ministries between Dryden and Sioux Lookout which is still continuing today.  

In the early days he would fly to Indian villages throughout the region and share the Gospel. One evening while flying, he and a native travelling companion ran into a terrible snowstorm. It was so bad they had to land quickly, but finding a place was difficult. It was hard to see. While looking down, they noticed a light in a cabin on the shore of a frozen lake. They were able to land the plane and went to the remote cabin and knocked on the door.

A voice from inside told them to enter. When they opened the door, an elderly native woman who

was blind was sitting in a chair next to a warm fireplace. Garland and his friend began to talk with the woman and in the course of the conversation, they told her about Jesus Christ and how to be saved.

She said that when she was a little girl she had heard the story but did not understand it. She told Garland that she has been praying and waiting all of her life for someone to explain it to her again. That night she put her faith in Jesus.

The storm eventually cleared and Garland and his friend were able to fly back home. That woman wanted to know the truth and God made sure she had the opportunity to hear it and trust in Him by arranging a divine appointment.

That’s what God does here as Philip shares Jesus with an Ethiopian Eunuch. 

How to witness!  God searching for a man.  A man searching for God. 

There is a wonderful truth that comes through in the verses of Acts chapter 8.  Last week, Pastor Nate led us in understanding God’s desire to save a people as Philip shared the message of the Gospel with the Samaritans.  We would say he was having a very successful ministry in Samaria and God was using him in a great way.  He then receives a message from the angel of the Lord telling him it was time to go.  He was given new directions and a new assignment.  He was told to go to the middle of nowhere and as we read the story we see that he met up with one man. 

What is God doing?  It really did not make any sense to go into the desert in the heat of the day but, Philip was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.    God cares about the crowds but He also cares about the individual.  A large people group matters to God and one person matters to God.  The story shows us how we need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit to reach those who need Jesus. 

1.  THE SPIRIT WILL LEAD YOU TO THOSE WITH PREPARED HEARTS: Acts 8:26-28

2.  THE SPIRIT WILL GUIDE YOU IN WHAT TO SAY: Acts 8:29-35

3.  THE SPIRIT WILL BRING CONVICTION AND SALVATION: Acts 8:36-40

1.  THE SPIRIT WILL LEAD YOU TO THOSE WITH PREPARED HEARTS: Acts 8:26-28

“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.”

This is beautiful as God sets up the situation and all Philip had to do was obey the prompting of the Spirit of God through the voice of the angel of God.  “Philip, I want you to go into the desert.”  Philip was having great success in Samaria, he could have stayed on for a few more weeks.  He loved God and he loved people and God’s Spirit led him to those who needed to hear the message of the Gospel.  First the Samaritans and now one man travelling home to Ethiopia.  Philip is living out God’s mission.  Remember the key verse of the book of  Acts 1:8 (ESV) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The book of Acts forms a full picture of the spread of the Gospel, laying out God’s plan for the expansion of the early church.  Acts 1:8 is the pattern for Jesus’ disciples to follow and He confirms His leading every step of the way through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It has been said that the book of Acts might better be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  It all points to the action of God in bringing salvation to all people! 

To understand a little more fully, walk with me through Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus is saying: “You will receive power, through the Holy Spirit to be my witnesses.”

In Jerusalem -The beginning of the church and the pouring out of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. 

In all Judea -The further expansion of the message to the Jews. 

And Samaria –Now beginning in Acts chapter 8 the sharing of the Gospel message with the Samaritans.  The Jews hated the Samaritans and considered them half breeds involved in false worship.  And through the preaching of Philip they received the message of the Gospel, believed in Jesus and were baptized by immersion.  They were saved through Philip’s preaching but they had to wait until the arrival of Peter and John to receive the Spirit.  Why?  This emphasized the unity of Samaritans and Jews in the church. Otherwise the Samaritans would have formed their own church.

John MacArthur explains saying: If the Samaritans had received the Spirit independent of the Jerusalem church, the rift between Jews and Samaritans would have been perpetuated. There could well have been two separate churches, a Jewish church and a Samaritan church. But God had designed one church, in which Galatians 3:28 (ESV) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

By delaying the Spirit’s coming until Peter and John arrived, God preserved the unity of the church. The apostles needed to see for themselves, and give firsthand testimony to the Jerusalem church, that the Spirit came upon the Samaritans. The Samaritans also needed to learn that they were subject to apostolic authority. The Jewish believers and the Samaritans were linked together into one body.

Today, believers receive the Spirit at salvation 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV) “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”  There was no need for delay after Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles and Old Testament saints were already included in the church.

And to the end of the earth -The Jews’ distaste for the Samaritans paled in comparison to their hatred of the Gentiles.  Before the Gospel could be preached to the end of the earth, this final barrier to unity had to be torn down.  Including the passage we are looking at today, much of the rest of the book of Acts shows the expansion of the church, as those from every tribe and language and people and nation become believers in Jesus.  Acts 9 depicts the conversion of Saul from persecutor to Paul the apostle to the Gentiles from Acts 10 to Acts 28, the expansion of the church is among all peoples, to the end of the earth with the specific affirmation of the Spirit bringing unity in Acts 10 and 19. Here in Acts 8 we do not learn this man’s name but we do learn that he is a Gentile, the first Gentile converted to the Christian faith.  In God’s plan the Gospel is beginning to reach out to the whole world.  Through this man the Gospel would be extended into Africa.  He was a eunuch which was a term used in this case to designate the man as an official in Ethiopia, what we would call today the Upper Nile region reaching from Aswan to Khartoum. As an official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. That means he fulfilled the responsibility of what we would call the minister of Finance. Candace was not a proper name but an official title, like Pharoah or Caesar.  This man feared God and had come to Jerusalem to worship but he could not experience full membership in the Jewish worshipping community because not only was he a Gentile, he was a eunuch.  While he could visit the temple in Jerusalem, he was forbidden to enter it.  The longing in his heart to draw near to God was great as seated in his chariot, no doubt with his entourage all about, he was reading a parchment he had secured while in Jerusalem, probably at great price, a copy of the prophecy of Isaiah.  He was reading aloud a common practice in that day and thinking about the promises of the prophet. 

And God by His Spirit leads Philip to the specific place in the desert to connect with this man. He didn’t need GPS to find his way in the desert, he was lead by GPS, the Great Power of the Spirit. 

The Spirit of God will lead you to those with prepared hearts.  I remember years ago in our College and Career group in Brantford we did park evangelism one summer.   Just going out into the park to share the gospel with people we met there.  And two of us met a young lady who had been trying to read the Bible on her own and we were able to give her a gospel of John and share Christ with her and she responded with faith in Jesus. 

Philip demonstrates how to respond to the Spirit’s leading. 

First, he immediately obeyed.  He didn’t question, “why are you sending me to the desert?”  He didn’t protest, “But the work here is going really well.”  He obeyed. 

Second, he loved as Jesus loves.  The Samaritans.  The Ethiopian.  Love for the crowds and love for individuals, those of differing ethnicities, different ranks, even those with different religious views. 

Third, he was ready to share Jesus.   

2.  THE SPIRIT WILL GUIDE YOU IN WHAT TO SAY: Acts 8:29-35

“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.”

Again responding to the leading of the Spirit, Philip caught up to the chariot in which the Ethiopian was travelling.  I was thinking:  If I was in the middle of the desert and the Spirit said: “Catch up to that chariot.” I think I’d run pretty fast.  

Fourth, Philip asked good questions.  “Do you understand what you are reading?”  What an opportunity God is giving Philip as the man’s heart has been prepared by reading the Gospel of Isaiah.  Isaiah 56:3-8 contains promises given specifically to foreigners and eunuchs.  Little did he know as his day of travel began that he would soon understand the fulfillment of those promises. 

This is a God ordained meeting.  What an invitation to share the Gospel as the Ethiopian answers  Philip’s question: “How can I (understand), unless someone guides me?”  Note this:  Philip gets to ride in the chariot.  Riding in the chariot sure beats walking in the desert.  The Ethiopian has been reading Isaiah 53, as Alex explained to us a few weeks ago, the promise of Jesus, the suffering servant of God.  Isaiah wrote 700 years before Jesus was even born and described His suffering on the cross for your sins and mine to bring us to God through the sacrifice of His perfect and sinless life.  Acts 8:34-35 (ESV) says it all: “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.” 

Fifth, he was able to explain the good news, the Gospel.  

Philip’s dialogue is based on the Scriptures.  He knew his bible and he knew Jesus and he shared how the Bible reveals Jesus.  That’s what we need to be able to do. 

The Christ Centered Exposition Commentary says:  When was the last time you opened the Bible and explained the good news to someone? Will you pause and pray for such an opportunity this week? If you don’t feel capable of explaining the gospel from the Scriptures, it’s time for a more rigorous plan of study. Consider opening a copy of Sally Lloyd-Jones’s Jesus Story Book Bible first; technically it’s a kids’ book, but it’s a great overview of the metanarrative of Scripture. Then progress to a good study Bible or a book on biblical theology. You may even want to look for podcasts you can listen to during your daily commute that focus on teaching Christ as the hero of the whole Bible. No matter what steps you take, pray and remember that such study will help you faithfully and more confidently explain the good news to others.

I wanted to share that quote with you from CCE because that is the book “The Jesus Story Book Bible” that we are using in our Junior Church ministry.  Take a look at one of your kids copies or we’d be glad to let you borrow one. 

The Gospel is made clear.  Jesus died for our sins, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.  The sinless Son of God died to bring us into right relationship with God.  The guarantee that Jesus made the one sacrifice for our sins is what we celebrate at Easter. Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  All you have to do is believe on Jesus and be saved. 

John 5:24 (ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

3.  THE SPIRIT WILL BRING CONVICTION AND SALVATION: Acts 8:36-40

“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.”

The Spirit of God has brought conviction and salvation to the Ethiopian’s heart.  It becomes obvious that the message took hold and the Ethiopian believed in Jesus because they come to an oasis and he asks to be baptized.  Believer’s baptism by immersion is an outward evidence of the inward change.  By it the believer identifies with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  The Ethiopian expresses his desire to identify with Jesus through baptism.  He believes.  And Philip baptizes a new believer, a new Christian brother.  The pattern of the book of Acts.  People getting saved and baptized.  Have you been obedient to the Lord’s command and followed His example to be baptized?  Note that it was baptism by immersion.  They both went down into the water and they both came up out of the water. 

We need to remember that the Eunuch went back to serve and to share the Gospel in the nation of Ethiopia.  In reaching an individual God was providing a means for reaching a nation of people.  The Gospel was being spread to the end of the earth, to the Gentiles.  God’s plan, God’s purpose being worked out.  We probably would have said, Philip, it’s going great in Samaria, you should stay there a while, but God had other plans to reach more people with the Gospel.  And he wants us to be a part of His plan today.  A reminder of Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”

The Christ Centered Commentary says:  Expect God to Work as You Explain the Good News. 

Some people will repent and believe when they hear the gospel.

In this story a double barrier gets broken—physical and racial barriers fall (Polhill, Acts, 226). A eunuch, who was also a black man, was received into full membership in the people of Jesus Christ. Though he never would’ve been able to become a full Jew, he could become a Christian! And so can everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (2:21,37-41).

We don’t know much about what happened to this new convert after this scene, only that he journeyed on “rejoicing” (v. 39). Church fathers, however, claim that he became a missionary to Ethiopia. And while their accounts can’t be proven, he surely went home and told the good news to others (cf. Psalm 68:31).

And now Philip is taken from the scene by the Spirit of the Lord and goes on to share the Gospel all the way from Azotus to Caesarea.  We read about him later in Acts 21:8 (ESV) “On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.”  Here he is called Philip the evangelist.  And we learn his four daughters are also serving the Lord as prophetesses.  How to witness? 

First, immediately obey.

Second, love as Jesus loves.

Third, be ready to share Jesus.     

Fourth, ask good questions. 

Fifth, be able to explain the good news, the Gospel.  

Do you believe that God still cares about the individual?  Do you believe that God can lead you to witness to someone who needs Jesus?  Are you willing to let God use you?  Is God laying someone on your heart right now?  Will you pray the three open prayer?  “Lord, open the door.  Lord, open their (my) heart.  Lord, open my mouth.”  Or is God speaking to your heart and you hear the Spirit saying within you.  “I want to understand more like the Ethiopian did.” 

Simply pray: “Lord, open my heart. Bring someone along like you brought Philip to the Ethiopian.  And help me to ask what it’s all about?” 

Or maybe you are ready to believe in Jesus.  Pray: “Jesus, I believe in you, Save me, I pray.” 

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