[Ed – wow, and just like that we’re nearly done. We’re at the penultimate day, after a big evening, rounding off our strand groups and getting ready to prepare what we’ve learned in the Bible this week. Please keep praying for energy to sustain the delegates and leaders for our remaining time this week!]
Acts 8:4-40 | Philip, the Evangelist | Tim Omrod
Confessions of a RELUCTANT evangelist…
Confession from Tim: he is not an ordinary or spectacular evangelist. It’s easy to make him feel guilty – simply ask him how his prayer life is going, how much he’s spending on coffee, and how his evangelism is going.
We all find evangelism hard. There’s opposition to speaking about Jesus – and so it’s hard to work up the courage to face that. Sometimes we don’t feel equipped for the task – I’m not great with my words, I don’t think quickly on my feet, I don’t know the answers to their questions. Some of us lack opportunities – we don’t have many non-Christian friends.
“…the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist” Acts 21:8
So, there’s lots of reasons why we might struggle with evangelism.
Today we’re focusing on chapter 8 in Acts which has so many different things going on, and is mostly about evangelism. The focus is on Philip, not one of the apostles, but a man gifted as an evangelist.
As we go through this passage we need to remember: the Bible was written for us, but it wasn’t written about us. So as we look at Philip we’ll learn things about evangelism, but we’re not expected to be like Philip.
Learning from the MODEL evangelist
WHERE he goes?
The basic answer to this question – Philip goes where the Spirit leads him.
Part of that leading is through the natural course of being scattered (v4). And as Philip goes to Samaria they flock to him (v6) turning to him in repentance and joy.
Even as they were scattered from the persecution of Saul (and martyrdom of Stephen) the Christians did not sit around moping – they got on with the gospel work.
How do we view times of opposition? The culture we live in? We often bend over backwards to avoid difficult situations.
When we consider the Andrew Thorburn incident, City on a Hill – his church – got on the front foot. They didn’t hide away and complain about it all being unfair – they got on the front foot to use the media storm as an opportunity for Jesus. Guy Mason, their lead pastor, went on Sunrise and got grilled. They changed their church website to make sure the gospel was front and centre. They cancelled their sermon series and preached the gospel clearly for a few weeks. They leaned in as an opportunity for the gospel.
How can we too use our difficult circumstances as a means of proclaiming the gospel? If we believe that God is sovereign then we don’t believe in freak occurrences or accidents. We should pay attention to the way God is work and be on the front foot.
WHO he seeks out?
Notice that Philip seeks out the Samaritans. A people who had a terrible backstory – considered traitors to Israel. They were the 10 northern tribes but when they were exiled the people remaining intermingled with foreigners. Yet he is at work among them, preaching the gospel to them. The gospel knows no boundaries!
Then, in v26, the Spirit whisks him away to meet with an Ethiopian eunuch. Problems abound in this intro to this part of the story. First, this man is an Ethiopian. At best he’s a foreign convert. Second, he’s a eunuch – a man who has been castrated for service to someone (usually in the royal court). Why is being a eunuch a problem? The OT Law specifically excluded eunuchs from God’s people. See Deuteronomy 23:1.
Yet, Philip goes to him with the gospel.
Philip is seeking out the lost, those who are truly outcast. And as he does this he is reflecting God’s heart for the lost. See Isaiah 56:4-5 – God’s heart is to bring people like the eunuchs back in. Same with the Samaritans. See Ezekiel 37:21 – God’s heart is to reunite his people, Israel and Judah.
Who are the lost in our lives? What causes us to write them off? Those who are same-sex attracted? Those with their own religious beliefs? Will the gospel and God’s heart for the lost compel us to speak?
WHAT he does?
He preaches. Throughout this chapter Philip preaches, proclaims, and speaks the gospel. Despite what the misattributed quote to St Francis of Assisi says (ie preach the gospel, and if necessary use words) – the gospel is to spoken with words.
When Philip meets the Eunuch he speaks about Jesus – he begins with an Isaiah passage and points to Jesus.
Applying Philip’s lessons…
- Pray – before we get to speaking we need to pray. God is sovereignly orchestrating all the events in this passage. So we must pray that this sovereign God would help us take the opportunities that are before us, and for boldness to speak.
As we pray it helps us to be mindful of those around us who need Jesus.
- Spend time with people who don’t know Jesus. As you get older you can end up spending so much time with church stuff – that spending time with unbelievers gets pushed out.
We should push against that. It’s ok to say no to good things at church. We should be careful about making our church calendars so full and expecting people to attend all of them.
- Work out how to get known among non-believers. Work out ways we can insert our Christian life into our conversations. Speaking about church activities during the week. Work out ways to drop these things into conversations so you can create opportunities later.
- We’re not all the evangelists – but we do this work together. We need each other, we have one another to bear witness to the world. Work with each other to reach out to people!
- The golden rule in evangelism: listen. The better we listen to our friends the better we understand where they come from, the better we can speak with people about Jesus. Asking questions to work out their heart, their experiences:
“Do you have a faith?” – a good one to work out if they are keen to talk
“Tell me more…” – a great one to get deeper
- Share Jesus with a Bible in your hand. See how Philip opens up the scriptures with the Eunuch. As we get more into conversation with our friends/family – let’s work out how they can engage with the Bible themselves. If someone has deep questions about stuff – take a risk and invite them to read the Bible with you.
A concluding note. Philip is active and speaking in this passage. But he’s not the hero of the passage. God is. God is the sovereign one, moving Philip to different places, placing different people in his life. And how does Philip go about his task? Not with fancy words or arguments – but by pointing to Jesus.
God is the one we are trusting as we go about evangelism. Depend on him, entrust yourself to Him.
[Ed: I’m not a good evangelist either. Another encouraging reminder to keep speaking and getting to know people and listening in order to keep pointing to Jesus.]
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