“The most critical need of the Church at this moment is men, bold men, free men. The Church must seek, in prayer and much humility, the coming again of men made of the stuff of which prophets and martyrs are made.” ~AW Tozer
I don’t think the apostles realized the calibre “laymen” they were putting in place when they appointed deacons (Acts 6:1-5) to oversee the daily distribution. Granted, deacons are usually “helpers,” not ministers in the sense of preaching; but the deacons that Peter, John, and the other apostles had ordained were filled with the Spirit. Every person filled with the Spirit is an evangelist or witness. You cannot scare Spirit-filled people. “The fear of the Lord tends to take away all other fears … This is the secret of Christian courage and boldness” (Sinclair B Ferguson).
After Stephen’s martyrdom and the beginning of “great persecution” (8:1), believers were “scattered abroad” and “went everywhere preaching the Word” (8:4). Philip, one of the seven deacons, went to Samaria, a city set on a hill, the capital of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), and the city where Jesus talked with the woman at the well (John 4:4-30). There Philip preached Christ, and the people responded. Unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of possessed persons. People physically afflicted were healed. And there was great joy in Samaria.
Among the people there Philip met a shaman: Simon the Sorcerer. The townspeople feared Simon, believing that he had supernatural power; but when they turned to God and were baptized, then Simon, seeing the signs and wonders, followed suit. Philip baptized him in water, as he did other converts.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about the revival in Samaria, they sent a couple of real preachers (apostles), Peter and John, who laid hands on the Samaritans and prayed for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit; and they did. This excited Simon. When he saw that through laying on of hands, people received the Spirit, he wanted this new power and offered the apostles money. “Give me also this power, that on whomever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:19).
Peter was appalled. “Your money perish with you because you thought the gift of God could be purchased with money. You have neither part nor lot in this matter: for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent of this wickedness, and pray God, if He’ll forgive you. For I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (8:20-23).
Not only are righteous men of God as bold as a lion, but God tells them things. “The truer we become, the more unerringly we know the ring of truth and can discern whether a man be true or not” (Frederick W Robertson). As he had ferreted out Ananias and Sapphira, Peter saw through Simon. Milquetoast Christians would counter, “We are not here to see through each other, but to see each other through.” That is a hollow aphorism when it comes to spiritual warfare. As Elijah wrestled with the prophets of Baal, as Jeremiah fought with the waning kings of Judah, as Nehemiah battled Tobiah, so Peter warred on the frontlines. The whole history of God’s people is one of conflict and conquest (cf 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-18). “A Christian life is an unending engagement on the battlefield” (Watchman Nee). If you’re not fighting, something’s wrong with your religion. You have to confront evil face to face and put it in its place. If you want an aphorism to remember, try that one.
Simon changed his tune. “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of these things you have said come on me” (Acts 8:24).
We assume Peter took this prayer request seriously, but we not told what happened to Simon. After Peter and John had preached the Word, they returned to Jerusalem and, en route, preached the gospel in surrounding villages.
An angel of the Lord caught up with Philip and told him, “Arise. Go toward the south to the way that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert” (8:26).
When he went, Philip met an Ethiopian, a eunuch of great authority under Queen Candace, who had charge of all her treasure. This man, a Jew of the Diaspora, we assume, had gone to Jerusalem to worship, was now returning to his own country, sitting in his chariot, and was reading the Book of Isaiah. The Spirit told Philip, “Go near and join him” (8:29).
So Philip ran, caught up with him, and heard him reading Isaiah. Philip asked in Hebrew, we assume, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” (8:30).
“How can I, except some man should guide me?” (8:31). And the Ethiopian motioned for Philip to come up and sit with him. That he had a scroll and was literate shows privilege.
The man was reading Isaiah 53:7, 8. “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before His shearer, so opened He not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgement was taken away. Who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth” (Acts 8:32, 33).
The eunuch asked Philip, “Who is the prophet talking about? himself or another man?” (8:34).
Then Philip, using Isaiah and the Old Testament as a launching pad, preached to him Jesus. As they continued on their way, they came by a stream, which must have been rare in the desert. The Ethiopian said, “See. Here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (8:36).
Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
“I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (8:37): the same words Martha said to Jesus (John 11:27).
The Ethiopian commanded the chariot to stop, and the two men went down to the stream, where Philip baptized the eunuch in water. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip—as Elijah was accustomed to being caught away—and the eunuch saw him no more, but he went on his way rejoicing.
Philip was found at Azotus, and passing through the land, he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea, the grandest city in Palestine, after Jerusalem. Its deep sea harbor was the largest harbor on the eastern Mediterranean coast. Later, we are told that Philip the Evangelist had a house in Caesarea and four daughters, virgins, who did prophesy (21:8, 9).
“The Scripture can only be read intelligently by inspired men and women. The value we get from our reading is in direct proportion to the measure in which we are filled with God’s Spirit.” ~G Campbell Morgan
Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Lee