…On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said.– Acts 8:1-6
Life can be a little crazy and confusing at times. You never know exactly what’s going to happen. Things are going well, but then they seem to go completely awry. Be grateful, you are not the only person that has seen everything fall apart, be ripped to pieces, and to become completely displaced from the way life should go.
You’ve been there, right? Life should not have taken you the path that it is taking you. It should all be going great. You did everything right. You have followed the plan perfectly. More than that, you have honored God! And so, if God is for me why are so many and why is so much stacked against me.
For Philip and the early church, a leader, Stephen, has been killed. Stephen has been dragged through the streets of Jerusalem and then stoned to death so that the city and all the followers of Jesus knew the days of the show with Pilot or stern warnings was done. You will be mercilessly put to death if you speak about Jesus the way He had called them to.
Their hopes, dreams, and way of life have been drastically redirected. They had followed God’s plan, they had spoken about Jesus, and they had cared for the hurting and poor among them and outside of their core. The church had honored the Lord, yet their reward was death, imprisonment, ad after physical threats they were pushed out of the city they had lived in and spread the Gospel in.
And so, the message of Jesus was scattered because those who believed had scattered from Jerusalem. Many in Jerusalem had been imprisoned and this had started the attacks of a man named Saul aimed to destroy what Jesus and the Apostles had built.
But, where the believers of Jesus went so did the message of Jesus. A man named Philip went to a place called Samaria. Yes, Samaria was to Jerusalem and Judea like Osceola is to Stromsburg and let’s call Galilee Benedict here in Nebraska. Yet, Stephen started the process that Jesus had commanded in Acts 1:8 by going and sharing what Jesus had done on a cross and through His resurrection in Samaria.
Is Jesus proclaimed everywhere you go?
Really, whether you’ve lived in the same square mile your whole life, or if you have had to move numerous times are you talking about Jesus where you are. Philip spoke about Jesus as he was forced out of Jerusalem and went to Samaria. And, like we all hope to be, he was successful in bringing people to know Jesus and to be baptized.
Now here’s where the awkward moment happens. If you’ve ever been a teacher or brought people to Christ it can become a little weird when others come, and start being involved in that ministry. Philip’s success caught the attention of the Apostles who had stayed and endured the attacks in Jerusalem.
When Peter and John came, a man who had been influential in the town, a sorcerer, that was amazed at the power of God, through Philip, who had been baptized and believed in Jesus got distracted. He had lost sight of the importance of Jesus and started seeking power again through the Apostles gift.
The man wanted power and not Jesus. And, as Peter as bold as ever said, “…May your money perish with you…” (Acts 8:20) What God had given freely the man thought he could buy and use for wickedness.
But, here’s the thing, Peter, John, and Philip not only shared who Jesus was where ever they went they shared who God is to everyone they met. Even the man so firmly called wicked, full of bitterness, and captive to sin was offered repentance…again.
Is grace proclaimed everywhere you go and to everyone you meet, repeatedly?
The sorcerer was not simply condemned for the sinful attitude he had in the body of Christ and toward the gift of Christ. Instead, Peter who knows something of grace, called him to repent. We need to realize that when people both in the church and outside of the church hurt us, are arrogant toward us, Christ, the church, and are entirely self-seeking this does not reprimand them from grace.
Coming to know Jesus and falling into sins like bitterness and selfish self-interests does not preclude anyone from the grace Jesus so richly paid for. Instead, it should open our eyes to not only speak more boldly about Jesus and the truth, but more boldly about the life-giving way of grace in Jesus our savior.
Your sins, your failures, are just that failures and actions against God, but these acts are nothing in comparison to act of God bringing grace to you, to me, and to all the messed up broken people you meet. How big is your God? How big is the grace of your God? Speak boldly, speak loudly about the God whom you love and His truth; speak just as loudly and speak just as boldly about the overwhelming grace that He has!
See this is what the believers do. After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages. – Acts 8:25
During this historical epic you still find a man named Philip who had simply went and shared the Gospel. And, he was successful in teaching many people about the Lord. His success was in large part because he did talk about Jesus. Now after the Gospel had been proclaimed in Samaria Philip has returned home to Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem a messenger of the Lord comes to him and says, and I love the English Standard Versions ESV translation of the Greek here, “Rise and go toward the south…”
“Rise and Go…” There are several other examples in Acts where God tells someone to “Rise and Go” each one is a pivotal moment in the history of the church, but it starts here with Philip in Acts 8:26. In Acts 9:11 Paul then going by his Jewish name Saul is blinded, and God tells a man terrified of a reviled hater, abuser, prison taking, and murder enthusiast of the followers of Jesus, Saul, to go and help him find grace. This moment is found in Acts 9:11.
Then in Acts 10:20 Peter is told to go bring the grace of God to the occupying Roman forces profaning, imposing rule, and desecrating (idol worship) the land of God. Peter was told to “rise and go” to a military commander at odds with the very people of God.
Peter and Ananias did rise and go, but so did Philip. The difference is that those two were told who to go to. Philip was just told to go to a certain place and eventually was taken to a new place by the Lord.
What do you do when you are just in a place? When there is no one you know to go to in order to talk about Jesus, do you find someone to talk about Jesus with?
Yes, Philip heard the man reading scripture. And, yes, the man was reading out of Isaiah a passage about the messiah, Jesus. But, here’s the question we must ask, do we look for opportunities and then do we capitalize on those opportunities to talk about Jesus.
Talk about an awkward situation Philip was in a desert on a road hearing a guy reading to himself on a chariot. That sounds like the perfect opportunity to talk about Jesus, right? You’re walking and another guy who is obviously different…is riding in a chariot reading. He was not driving the chariot, he was reading in the chariot. And, somehow Philip gets his attention in order to comment on what he is reading about. Spectacular, odd, and not the norm and yet extremely effective.
It is okay to speak about Jesus in normal and awkward situations.
None of Philip’s interactions were said to have been planned by Philip. None of his interactions were said to be exactly what God told him to do. After Philip helped a man from a chariot he met on a road that he was on come to know Jesus the Bible says, he is carried away and once he finds himself, in the English Standard Version’s translation of the Greek it says, “found himself”, he told more people about Jesus.
But, that’s not even the most intriguing thing. We know nothing about what happened after this with these people. We know the man on the chariot was rejoicing about the Lord after Philip left. But, we do not know if he went on to share who Jesus is with his family, friends, or the people he meets. We do not know much about the people in all the towns Philip went through sharing the gospel, it does not even say if one more person believed in Jesus.
Our success when sharing about Jesus is not the reason we share Jesus. We do so because we believe in Jesus. No, I’m not talking about some lovey dovey miniature Jesus that fits nicely into a box. No, we believe that Jesus is the God of the Universe who created everything from nothing! We believe that eternity in heaven is much more than a great place. We believe that heaven is more than time with friends and family.
Heaven is eternity with the amazing God who eternally shares with you who He is.
Eternity in heaven is about being with God. Being with God in heaven is knowing Him in an ever-increasing way as eternity continues to reveal its never ending amazing infinite God more and more! Being with the one who formed the atoms that shaped the stars, the moons, the planets, and the open expanse that they exist in.
Philip wanted to share about His God, not just a man. He wanted to share with others what His God had done for them. More prevalent to us is that although we know what Philip did here, we know nothing else about what he did. We know that Philip left a legacy of sharing the Gospel everywhere he went, not what came out of him sharing the Gospel.
Why do you share the Gospel, not simply where do you?
Philip’s legacy now in perspective we must ask ourselves about why you or I would leave a similar legacy. Two obvious points should be addressed. Firstly, we must appreciate that Philip’s simple and short example is fantastic yet may not be the testimony that might ultimately cause you to change your whole life priorities even if it is part of God’s Word.
Secondly, if speaking about Jesus everywhere you go while also intentionally creating opportunities in every situation without predetermined people to speak to is not part of your regular life, then changing that with any amount of ease is a joke. Be honest. Be realistic about this truth. Even if it is something you have known to do, that does not mean that you have made it a habit or that it comes easily or naturally.
Take Nicodemus for example.
Many of us have heard of when a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to meet with Jesus at night. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God and how today will affect whether or not you or I get to see it eternally. Jesus told Nicodemus bluntly that he should have easily understood and rested in what Jesus was teach. Becoming a new creation being born again is necessary for salvation.
But, Jesus explained also in John 3:14 and 15 says that, “The Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life.” Jesus had spoken of how our time here and now, effectually whether we have been born again spiritually, will determine our eternity. More emphatically the verse that so many learn as children is the purpose and action statement of Jesus.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
We know this. This is something we know, but how do we apply this truth. Since this is the purpose and action statement of Jesus it is also the action and statement of those who imitate Him. For those who are being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:18-25) will be the ones who imitate the God of the universe and the God of the universe gave an immeasurable amount of himself so that you, I, and the world could know eternal life with him.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1
How do we imitate the son of God? How do imitate Philip who seemed to understand what Jesus said to John’s disciples that,
… Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. – John 3:36
You who have received eternal life in Christ Jesus, you who are a new creation and have been born again in Christ through His love and painfully costly sacrifice imitate Christ Jesus. Imitate Christ because He is the example. Imitate Christ because you have the power to save through the message of the Gospel, do not withhold it, seize every opportunity to share it.