Acts 8 opens with the early church believers experiencing tremendous persecution from Saul and other zealous religious leaders. At this point, Saul has been given authority to go from house to house, dragging men and women off to prison if they profess to believing in Jesus. This would’ve been considered blasphemy by the religious leaders, and after having been put in prison, the believers would then be sentenced to death by stoning.
But what we find, is that Saul and the religious leaders’ efforts to destroy and squash the spread of the gospel actually has the opposite effect. The early church believers scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria in what at first seems like fear but leads to the spread of the gospel into regions that had been unreached until now. This movement of the gospel into Samaria is part of the fulfillment of Acts 1:8 when Jesus told the disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.
One of the believers scattered from Jerusalem, Philip, began preaching the good news to those in Samaria. The people there believed in the message that he taught after hearing and witnessing the signs and healings being done through him with the power of the Holy Spirit. After preaching the good news to the people in Samaria, an angel of the Lord told Philip to rise and go south toward the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. In verse 27, Philip follows the direction and has an encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch.
I love the immediacy in Philip’s obedience. He didn’t ask questions, and he doesn’t second guess whether God actually spoke to him or not. He simply hears from God and then follows the instructions that he was given. But this wasn’t the only instruction that God was going to give Philip that day. He sees the Ethiopian eunuch on the road in a carriage returning to Gaza after having gone to Jerusalem to worship. The Holy Spirit spoke to Philip and told him to go over and walk alongside the carriage. Acts 8:30 says, “Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah”.
Can you imagine being the eunuch in this story? You’re calmly reading scripture and riding in your chariot on your way home when all of a sudden you start hearing rapid footsteps approaching? Then you look over and the man is running next to your carriage asking you if you understand what you are reading. It’s like a scene out of a movie. But Philip didn’t let the initial awkwardness or fear of what others would think prevent him from obeying what God had told him to do. He didn’t just walk to the carriage; he ran to it because he was so passionate and confident in what the Holy Spirit had told him.
How often are we scared to step out in faith and obey the voice of God? We tell ourselves that God wouldn’t ask us to do that. It would embarrass me. Or it’s an inconvenience. We tell ourselves that it was just a random thought we came up with, so we don’t obey. We let the fear of what others will think or say stop us from listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Today I want to challenge you and encourage you with this passage of scripture. The first thing we see is that Philip was obedient to God above all else. He didn’t allow worry or fear to stop him from following the voice of God. Each of us as Christ followers have to face that same decision. Are we going to listen to God when we don’t have all the information? Are we going to obey Him even when humanly it doesn’t make sense? Today we have to be obedient to God above all else.
The second thing we find in this chapter is God’s heart for the lost. Look at the great lengths that God put Philip through in order to reach one man: sent him into a desert, had him chase a chariot, and have a spiritual conversation with a complete stranger, all without any instruction or information other than “go”. Philip was willing to do whatever God asked him to in order to reach the lost. In the same way that God used Philip to reach the Ethiopian eunuch, God wants to use you to reach the people in your life. So the question is – are we willing to sacrifice in order to be used by God? Today, let’s choose to listen and obey God’s voice as he gives us wisdom and promptings on how to reach the lost in our lives!