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Wherever the Spirit Leads

Acts 8:1-5, 12

 

 "Saul was one of the official witnesses at the killing of Stephen.  A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria. [2] (Some godly men came and buried Stephen with loud weeping.) [3] Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail. [4] But the believers who had fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the Good News about Jesus. [5] Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah." [12] "But now the people believed Philip's message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized." (NLT)

 In our study last week, a courageous warrior died for his faith.  Being led of the Spirit, Stephen preached the word of God with boldness resulting in his death.  If we think following God's Spirit is the path of least resistance and will lead us to a life of comfort we're sadly mistaken.  Peter was filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, preached the word of God with boldness and 3000 men were saved and baptized.  Stephen did the same just a few chapters later and his audience stoned him to death.  If you choose to live a spirit-led life you must be prepared for either outcome.

 In my opinion,  Acts 8:1 is as important a passage of scripture as Acts 1:8.  As you know, Acts 1:8 says, "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (NASB) This is a key passage of scripture for three reasons.  First, it is one of the five commissions Jesus gave his Church.  Through really, it is more of a prophecy than a commission, we lump it with passages like Matthew 28:18-20 to clearly annunciate the church's mission.  Second, it is important because it provides an outline for the entire book of Acts.  Like concentric circles it shows the progression of the gospel to Jerusalem, which happened in the second chapter and beyond.  The second ring of the circles is Judea and Samaria, which happens in Acts 8, and then to the remotest part of the earth which begins with Saul's conversion in Acts 9.

 Three major events propel this progression.  First was the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit fell and thousands were saved.  Second was the persecution that scattered the believers after Stephen gave his life for his faith. Those who were dispersed proclaimed the Gospel.  And the third major event was the miraculous conversion of Saul in Acts 9.

 Which leads me to the third reason this verse is so important.  It explains what caused the dispersion of the Christians into Judea and Samaria and because it introduces Saul into the narrative and foreshadows his conversion. 

 It would be correct to say that the gospel spread to Jerusalem because of the work of the eleven remaining Apostles, but it would not be correct to say that they were the main characters in the continuing spread of the Gospel.  Chapter 8 highlights the work of Phillip.  Chapter 9 and beyond highlights the work of Paul and his partners in ministry.  This doesn't mean the Apostles didn't play a role, because they did.  Later in chapter eight they would come and complete the work that Phillip began by laying their hands upon the converts and giving them a blessing that led to their lives being controlled by the Spirit.  But please notice the spread of the gospel because of the work of the people of God.

 Phillip enjoyed success because of the blessings of God, and his faithfulness to follow the Spirit.  As a result, many people were saved and were baptized.  Have you noticed a pattern emerging as we've studied the book of Acts.  Whenever someone is saved, they are always baptized.  Every time.  It happened in Samaria, and in a few minutes we are going to read how it happened on the road to Gaza.  It is God's will for his children to follow Him in believer's baptism.  Let's read Acts 8:26-40. "As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, 'Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.' [27] So he did, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, [28] and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. [29] The Holy Spirit said to Philip, 'Go over and walk along beside the carriage.'  [30] Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah; so he asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' [31] The man replied, 'How can I, when there is no one to instruct me?' And he begged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. [32] The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: 'He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.  And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. [33] He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants?  For his life was taken from the earth.'  [34] The eunuch asked Philip, 'Was Isaiah talking about himself or someone else?' [35] So Philip began with this same Scripture and then used many others to tell him the Good News about Jesus. 

 [36] As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, 'Look! There's some water! Why can't I be baptized?' [37] 'You can,' Philip answered, 'if you believe with all your heart.' And the eunuch replied, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'   [38] He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. [39] When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. [40] Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the city of Azotus! He preached the Good News there and in every city along the way until he came to Caesarea.  (NLT) 

 Phillip left a community where he was enjoying great success to go to a new location and minister to one person.  On the surface, this doesn't make a bit of sense.  Why would a man do such a thing?  Because the Spirit of God prompted him to.  The key to Phillip's success was his willingness to follow the Spirit of God, not his superior intellect or his ability to innovate.  Being an obedient Christian isn't intellectual suicide.  God uses our brains, but, as you know, our brains have their limitations.

 As you know, it is hot in Mesa, Arizona.  So to protect the riders of the bus lines, the city council approved the expenditure of $30,000.00 to build bus shelters to protect people while they are waiting for the bus at two bus stops.  The only problem is that neither of the bus stops is used by the bus line. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 It is possible to over think and under pray.  Because he was obedient to the movement of the Spirit, Phillip assisted this man in his Spiritual quest.  We know that the Eunuch was returning from Jerusalem to worship, we also know that he would not have been allowed to enter into the congregation.  Deut. 23:1 says "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord." (KJV) Disappointed that he couldn't find help in Jerusalem, he sat reading the scripture without anyone to explain it to him.  When Phillip joined him, he asked him if he understood what he was reading.  The eunuch admitted that he didn't understand and that he needed someone to explain it to him.  After Phillip explained the passage of Scripture then Eunuch looked up and saw water and asked to be baptized.  Because the man believed, they went into the water and Phillip baptized him.

 The Spirit of God led Phillip away to Azotus and the Eunuch continued on his journey.  And I don't just mean his journey home to Ethiopia.    Though church history records no missionary journey to Ethiopia, there has been a church there since the 1st Century.  Whom do you think carried the gospel there?  Most likely it was this man.  Perhaps the Spirit of God knew what He was doing when He led Phillip to witness to a man who would witness to his nation.  That's why we must be willing to go...wherever the Spirit leads. 
 

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