“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is desert.” (Acts 8:26) What are the odds that you would listen to an angel tell you to leave a revival and go to the desert? Better yet, what are the odds that you would actually believe an angel would talk to you? Philip is a great example of a miracle doer. He was led in three different ways: persecution, an angel, and the Spirit. The fourth would be that God immediately took him from the desert and put him in Azotus, about twenty miles away.
Let’s take a look at how Philip became a miracle in the life of an Ethiopian dignitary.
Persecution After Stephen’s Stoning
After Stephen’s death, Saul made havoc of the Church, and great persecution was taking place. It scattered many Christians away from Jerusalem. Apparently, Philip was one of them, and he went to Samaria, “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.” (Acts 8:5)
Who Is Philip?
Philip was one of the seven disciples chosen in Acts 6 to serve the needs of the Greek-speaking widows, who felt neglected by the Hebrew-speaking Christians. Those chosen had to have the following qualifications, “…of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” (Acts 6:3) Notice that these men were not called to preach, be apostles, lead in the local church, or be deacons. They met the needs of widows. Persecution drove many Christians out of Jerusalem. Are you too comfortable today? Is God telling you to do something that you are ignoring?
The martyrdom of Stephen was not a deterrent to preaching the good news. It may have caused people to flee from the birthplace of Christianity, but the message of forgiveness in Christ cannot be muted. In fact, Christians are already dead in Christ, so the threat of physical death should not be a concern. Philip chose to preach Christ after Stephen’s death. Have you been shocked by the mistreatment of a Christian and retreated from sharing your faith?
The brief history of Samaria ended in destruction. The ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled against Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, and against the Lord. In their brief history, Israel (as they become known) worshiped idols and not the Living God. God judged them in 722 BC by using Assyria to conquer them. Assyria redistributed conquered people to other locations in order to dilute national identity and unity. This was the case with Samaria.
Samaritans Were Hated
The remaining tribes of Israel, Judah (as they became known), were judged by God in 586 BC by using Babylon. However, the captives never lost their national identity. When Babylon was conquered by Cyrus, he decreed that the captives could go back to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Eventually, Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem and they remnant of Jews were relatively safe. At the time Jesus was ministering, the Jewish people felt superior to the Samaritans and even refused to travel through Samaria. The gospel of Jesus Christ breaks down barriers. Philip was a new creation and preached in Samaria with the love of Jesus Christ.
Samaritans Were Repenting
God is gracious, and the Holy Spirit was saving Samaritans. “And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” (Acts 8:6) Not only was this former servant to widows seeing people respond to his message in repentance, God was using him to perform miracles. You are filled with the same Holy Spirit, and you are equipped to share the gospel and to perform miracles.
Do you want God to use you to perform miracles? He used Philip in supernatural ways, “For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.” (Acts 8:7)
This work was so profound that it caught the attention of the Apostles. Peter and John visited Samaria. The Samaritans repented, believed, and were water-baptized. The Apostles came, “…prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.” Then they laid hands on the Samaritans, and the Samaratins were baptized with (received) the Holy Spirit. Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?
Baptized With The Holy Spirit
Before Jesus ascended in to heaven, He told the Apostles and others to wait in Jerusalem to be bapized with the Holy Spirit, “…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” They were baptized with the Holy Spirit several days after Jesus ascended and certainly after they became Christians. The Samaritans had the same experience when Peter and John visited. “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:17)
Lord, Use Me
If you were Philip, what would you be thinking in your heart about your success in Samaria? Are you set on your identity as a Christian now? Are you asking to be used in any way possible? Are you comfortable in the way that you are being used by God now? If anyone had a right to remain in a place of usefulness, Philip did. However, he was a person truly detached from his identification in ministry. “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.This is desert.” (Acts 8:26) When an angel visited Philip, he was not startled or resistant. What do you think other Christians were telling Philip? “Don’t go. Are you crazy? It can’t be the Lord. Test the spirits. Angels don’t talk to us. It’s the devil deceiving you. You’re throwing away your ministry.” Have you faced opposition from others when you shared with them that God was directing you somewhere? Obey the Lord.
Arguing With An Angel?
Can you imagine arguing with the angel? “Dear angel, I am in the middle of this great work. Your request will have to wait. Oh, by the way, the desert sounds so unappealing, and it is too far away.” Even Peter had a moment of indifference in prison. “Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up…” In fact, the angel gave Peter five commands, and Peter eventually escaped. Philip heeded just one command, “So he arose and went.” (Acts 8:27) If God was to redirect you today, would you go? Do you feel that you are too important to leave a work of God for an unknown destination? Philip must have had a vibrant prayer life and he truly had a spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Obedience – One Step At A Time
Philip was told to leave Samaria and travel along a desert road to Gaza. An angel may give you a message from God, which may seem to be an unusual occurrence. Philip didn’t mope, complain, or second guess himself. He obeyed and as he was walking on the road, he was about to encounter another lovely witnessing opportunity, which was much more humble than the Samaritan outreach.
Racing A Chariot
First, an angel tells Philip what to do. Philip reached the area of the desert and saw a man in a chariot, “And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.” (Acts 8:27-28) Then, the Holy Spirit tells him what to do. Are you listening to the still small voice of the Spirit? Do you pray always, without ceasing? Take time to meet with the Lord. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isa 55:6) God spoke through Jeremiah, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” (Jer 29:12)
The Holy Spirit told Philip to catch up to the chariot, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” (Acts 8:29) Philip must have been in good shape. Perhaps I can use this verse to encourage God’s people to exercise. Has God ever led you to a person who was seeking to understand the Bible? Philip asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch asked him to come aboard, “And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:31)
A Seeker Finds
Philip answered the eunuch’s questions, and preached Jesus to him. He believed, commanded the chariot to stop, and was baptized. Philip left an amazing work of God and led one person to the Lord. It all started with the first step of faith. God unfolded His will as Philip took another step. Is God speaking to you with a vague impression? Do you have a desire to to do something for the Lord without any concrete details? You are in good company. Philip is your example.
After baptizing the eunuch, Philip was caught away to Azotus. What in the world does that mean? God took Philip from the water’s edge and placed him in a city about twenty miles away. “Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.” (Acts 8:39-40) I would like to write a testimony from the eunuch’s perspective. Philip disappeared from his sight. What a miracle.
Availability And Miracles
Philip started his journey in the midst of persecution. He preached, let many to the Lord, did miracles, was led by an angel to the desert, and by the Spirit to a eunuch, led him to the Lord and was instantly transported to a city twenty miles from the eunuch. Remember that Philip was a servant to widows. Philip was used to do miracles and God did miracles for Philip during his obedience. Your effort for the Lord is not insignificant. If you are faithful, God will use you to do miracles and will do miracles for you. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matt 25:23)