Key text: “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it’” (Acts 8:29).
Main point: The old saying “God works in mysterious ways” is true when it comes to the Holy Spirit’s means for evangelizing the lost.
What about those who fail to hear the gospel message? This is a question of great importance. The Bible states that salvation is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). The gospel or “good news” of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity. After Jesus’ death on the cross, all peoples everywhere, Jew and Gentile, are called to repentance and faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior (Acts 2:36-38; 17:30-31).
The gospel is a new and complete revelation given by Jesus Christ and his apostles as recorded in the New Testament. The Gentiles cannot find it by thinking hard, studying the stars or the works of creation, although God’s fingerprints can be seen. Even the Jews cannot see it in the Old Testament Scriptures alone, although there are an abundance of pointers found there. No, this is a story that must be told!
Like a shadow cast from an object in a room, one can make out the silhouette, but cannot see who or what the person or item is until the light shines in. The gospel message is a light shining on the Old Testament Scriptures and on the created world as well.
Spirit-led evangelism has to do with getting the light to shine in dark places. Even in a country where the air waves and Internet are filled with TV and radio evangelists as well as volumes of Christian books, magazines and gospel tracts, there are still multitudes lurking in the shadows of unbelief. The church is not only responsible for getting the word out, but through the Spirit’s leading, to get the message in! For the most part this means personal encounters. Internet evangelism is helpful, but it is a poor substitute for sharing the gospel through personal relationships. Jesus is the friend of sinners, and he uses believers to represent his friendship to the lost, and to get the light of the message through.
The story of the meeting of Philip the evangelist and an old covenant God-fearing Ethiopian on the road to Gaza is classic Spirit-led evangelism (Acts 8:26-40). Supernatural phenomena occurred beyond the norm that most of us experience, but this shows the lengths the Spirit will go to get the gospel message within reach of the lost. All Philip had to do was to make himself available to the Spirit’s leading, and that he did!
The Ethiopian was a royal emissary, the queen’s treasurer, on his return trip from Jerusalem back to his native homeland. It appears that the Ethiopian eunuch had come to Jerusalem for worship at one of the old covenant festivals. “Eunuch” may simply designate his status in the royal court, or it may indicate that he was castrated. If he was literally a eunuch, he was not a full proselyte (Deuteronomy 23:1) but a God-fearer, that is, a Gentile who devoted himself to the study of Old Testament Scriptures and to the Jewish way of life as much as possible, but short of circumcision.
This personal encounter and what was to happen is no accident, from the Spirit’s leading Philip alongside the chariot to the very passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading at the time. This story is Spirit-led evangelism at its best.
Questions for Bible study
1. Acts 8:26-29
a. Where is Philip told to go, and by whom? Verse 26. Where had Philip been ministering previously? See verses 4-8 (Philip probably returned to Jerusalem with the apostles, verse 25). Locate Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza on a Bible map.
b. Who does Philip meet on the road to Gaza? Verse 27. Can you define key words like Ethiopian, eunuch and Candace? Consult a Bible dictionary. Why had this person visited Jerusalem?
c. What is this person doing on his journey back home? Verse 28. What scroll is he reading from and why is this important? Can you think of someone else that read from this prophet? See Luke 4:17-21.
d. Who reveals to Philip an evangelistic opportunity? Verse 29. What is it that Philip does in response? Verse 30. How does Philip calmly start up a conversation? Do you think Philip already knew this person, or is Philip just following the Spirit’s lead?
e. How difficult do you think it is for Philip to run up alongside a moving chariot and introduce himself? See Romans 1:16-17.
2. Acts 8:31-35
a. What is the Ethiopian’s response to Philip’s question? Verse 31. What is it that the man needed most at that moment? With what purpose did he invite Philip into his chariot?
b. What text from Isaiah is the eunuch stuck on? Verses 32-33. If you had not heard of what
happened to Jesus, could you figure it out?
c. What is the eunuch attempting to figure out? Verse 34. Several passages in Isaiah like this one deal with the puzzling identity of the Suffering Servant. Who the reference meant or pointed to was not known until its fulfillment.
d. Where does Philip begin his explanation, and who is the “good news” he is able to share with him? Verse 35. Can you explain the gospel message using Isaiah 52:13-53:12? Read the text and be a Philip.
3. Acts 8:36-40
a. What evidence is there that shows the eunuch understood Philip’s explanation of the gospel? Verses 36-37. What is the significance of water baptism? See Romans 6:3-6.
b. What orders does the Ethiopian immediately give? Verse 38. Where do they both go, and what does Philip do then? There were several brooks, springs or pools of water along the way where they could have stopped. There is no long apparent lapse of time between the eunuch’s hearing the gospel and his baptism.
c. What happens to Philip once his task is done with the Ethiopian? Verse 39. What is the Ethiopian’s attitude after this incident? Early traditions claim the eunuch as Ethiopia’s first evangelist and a missionary of the gospel among his people.
d. Where does Philip find himself? Verse 40. What does he do there, and where does he end up? Locate these places on a Bible map. Philip apparently stays in Caesarea for some time.
e. How in tune to the Spirit’s leading do you think Philip was, to have earned such a title as “the evangelist” and at the same time raise a godly family? See Acts 21:8-9.
1. Who is ultimately responsible for the salvation of the lost? What is the usual means God has chosen to get his gospel message to the lost? Is that just for pastors and gifted evangelists? Is it OK for lay members to cheer the pastors on from a bench, like spectators at a football game? Why not?
2. Does your church have an evangelistic program? How many events per year? Can you name them? What is your role in one of those events?
3. What kind of training have you received from your pastor for doing evangelism? Do you know how to share the gospel message? What methods?
4. What is Spirit-led evangelism? Have you ever been in a situation where you believe the Spirit prompted you to share the gospel with someone? Share your experience with the class.
God works in mysterious ways, but he uses ordinary means to tell the awesome gospel story. All believers are to make themselves available to the Spirit’s leading, for with God there is no limit to reaching out to the lost.
Author: Lorenzo Arroyo