“A Scriptural Model for Evangelism”
(Acts 8:26-40 – Easter 5 – May 2, 2021)
Acts 8:26-40 – 26Now 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. 27So he arose and went. 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, 28was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 33In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” 34So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39Now 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. 40But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.
Dear Redeemed in Christ Jesus,
Before ascending to heaven Jesus told His disciples: “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). By His Spirit’s power the disciples preached the Gospel at Jerusalem and a congregation formed. Already by Acts 4:4 the Church had grown to 5000 men, plus women and children. And it continued to grow in despite persecution. The stoning of Stephen by the Sanhedrin, and violence against believers by Saul, only served to further the Gospel’s spread. As we come to Acts 8, we read that in connection with persecution, scattered Christians “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). So the Gospel spread in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth, according to Jesus’ Word.
In our text, we meet a man who was part of this great Spirit-led movement in the early Church, bringing Christ’s Gospel to the ends of the earth – Philip the Evangelist. From his example, let us consider “A Scriptural Model for Evangelism” and our own role in sharing the Gospel today.
1) It follows the Lord’s command and His Spirit’s lead
A first point in this Scriptural model for evangelism is that it follows the Lord’s command and His Spirit’s lead. In this, Philip sets a good example. An angel of the Lord told him: “‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ … So he arose and went” (vs. 26, 27). Later when Philip saw a man riding in a chariot, the Spirit of the Lord told him: “Go near and overtake this chariot” (vs. 29). So Philip ran to the chariot. Earlier in this chapter, we read of Philip beginning work in a thriving mission field in Samaria. Yet here, he is told to go to a seemingly barren mission field in the middle of the desert! The reason for going was not fully revealed. Success was not foretold. Yet Philip obeyed the Lord’s command and His Spirit’s lead.
In our daily walk, are we prepared to be witnesses of Christ’s Gospel wherever He leads? I am not saying we should wait for a voice from heaven to direct us. Nor is everyone called like Philip into the public ministry of the Word. But God’s Word tells us that we are all part of His evangelism plan wherever He places us in life. 1 Peter 2:9 says: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” God has called us out of the darkness of walking in sin and unbelief apart from Him. By His Spirit He has called us to repentance and faith, so that we confess our sins and cling to the forgiveness Jesus won on the cross for us. Now that God has made us His holy people through faith in His Son, we can proclaim His praises. We live in the marvelous light of His Gospel of salvation and eternal life, which is ours in Christ. And it is ours freely to share with others. He will give us opportunities to share His Gospel with others around us, wherever He places us in our daily callings, wherever He leads us to go day by day.
Sometimes, sharing the Gospel with a person may seem like that desert road Philip was called to take, a seemingly barren and fruitless venture. The road to a person’s heart with the Gospel may seem so long and hard, with no promise of success. We are good at making excuses why not to go: “My relationship with so and so is fine now. Why should I make it uncomfortable by bringing up religion? I wouldn’t know what to say anyway. God should send someone else to that person.”
Sometimes it takes hard times, perhaps an unexpected shift in our life tracks, to prod us out of our comfort zone. It was true among the early Christians, who were uprooted and scattered by persecution. It was true for Philip. But as those believers saw themselves as pilgrims and strangers in the world, they seemed to follow the Spirit’s lead and to share the Gospel with such vitality.
A lot of our readiness to witness has to do with remembering who we are as God’s redeemed in Christ. Philip was not perfect. He was a sinner, just like us. He became a saved sinner as he heard the Gospel and the Spirit brought him to faith, just like us. Philip knew that Jesus gave His life on the cross, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Remembering who he was as a redeemed child of God in Christ, he was led with joy to proclaim his Savior’s praises. That is the evangelist spirit. As we remember who we are as God’s blood-bought children in Christ, on our way to our heavenly homeland, we can keep proper perspective on our purpose in this world. With Philip, we can be led forth in joy to proclaim our Savior’s praises wherever His leads!
2) It seeks the individual and ministers where he is at
A second point in this Scriptural model for evangelism is that it seeks the individual and ministers where he is at. Philip was led to one described as “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” (vs. 27). As a convert to Judaism, this Ethiopian took God’s Word seriously enough to travel hundreds of miles to worship at Jerusalem. Now on his return journey, he continued to ponder God’s Word. He did not understand it fully. But God’s Spirit had planted a yearning in his heart, even as the Spirit led Philip to share the full message of the Gospel with him.
Do we stress enough the value of an individual soul? The Lord of the Church does. In His death on the cross, it was all about saving individual sinners. Jesus would have laid down His life even if it were only for you or me! And 1 Timothy 2:3-4 tells us: “God our Savior… desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That is why He called Philip from a thriving mission field and brought him on this desert journey to win one soul by the Gospel truth!
Scriptural evangelism recognizes the eternal value of every soul. It also recognizes that each person has particular needs and must be ministered to where he is at. Philip began by asking: “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch replied: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (vs. 30-31). He invited Philip to come and ride with him in his chariot. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (vs. 35).
So too, we do well to start where the individual is at – to find out what he or she understands of God’s truth, and what particular needs he or she may have in life. Then like Philip, we can apply God’s Word with understanding, especially as we share how God’s Son gave His life to save this person. From the beginning, believers have been won this way – individual by individual. You and I were ministered to individually, as God put someone in our life to teach us from His Word. Let us pray for His Spirit’s guidance as we in turn reach out to individuals to share His saving Gospel!
3) It proclaims the crucified and risen Christ
A third point in this Scriptural model for evangelism is that it proclaims the crucified and risen Christ. As Philip approached the eunuch, he heard him reading from Scripture at Isaiah 53:7-8: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth” (vs. 32-33). The eunuch was puzzled and said: “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip, beginning with this Scripture, told him the Good News about Jesus.
Imagine the situation with the eunuch. He had just been to Jerusalem, where God’s salvation in Christ should have been most clearly taught. Only lately at Jerusalem, Jesus had been “led as a sheep to the slaughter” on the cross, where He gave His life to take away the sins of the world. Yet all this man heard from the teachers of the Law was a legalistic lesson on morals, telling you how God wants you to live and love – a message empty of hope in the crucified and risen Savior of sinners. This man came away reading Isaiah’s prophecy about Christ, the Lamb of God who had been slain to save even him, not knowing it was fulfilled in Jesus!
Likewise, many around us are so close to the Gospel, yet still lost in false teaching that has no substance for salvation. They may hear moralistic preaching about a God of love who commands us to love. They may hear lessons on how to make their lives better and holier to God. But for all that, they still carry a burden of sin and guilt, and face death with uncertainty. For they do not hear what they are to do about all their failures to love and their unholiness before God. They are not pointed to Christ, who was crucified on the cross to take away all our sins. They are not pointed to the Lamb of God by whose blood we are washed and set free from all condemnation.
That is why the apostle Paul said: “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul also emphasized Jesus Christ the risen Savior, who lives to forgive sinners, and to give His eternal life to all who believe (1 Corinthians 15).
Like the Ethiopian eunuch, there is many a sin-sick soul around us hungering for forgiveness, facing death with uncertainty. Like Philip, let us clearly and boldly share the Gospel. Let us point to the Lamb of God who was crucified to take away our sins, and who rose to give us eternal life!
4) It gives proper place to the Sacraments
A fourth point in this Scriptural model for evangelism is that it gives proper place to the Sacraments. By the Gospel Philip shared, the Spirit brought the eunuch to right understanding and faith in Jesus. Instruction in God’s Word also brought him to see his need for Baptism: “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?'” (vs. 36). So He stopped the chariot and Philip baptized him.
Along with preaching His Word, Jesus commands His Church to administer His Sacraments. He said in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The Sacrament of Baptism comes with a promise, as Peter told the crowd on Pentecost: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). So like Philip, we baptize in order that God’s forgiveness and Spirit may be sealed unto His children. Also, when a person is instructed in God’s Word and prepared to receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we administer Jesus’ Body and Blood as He says: “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). By the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, God’s Spirit applies Christ’s forgiveness and salvation to the individual, working faith in the heart and continuing to strengthen that faith unto eternal life.
Finally it says: “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” (vs. 39). There went Philip, on to new mission fields as the Lord led him. And there went the eunuch, taking the Gospel with him to the ends of the earth!
Let us too go wherever God places us in our daily calling, bringing the Gospel of our crucified and risen Savior to souls around us. If at first we see no success, let us remember Philip’s example, and how God works out His purpose. God sees souls in need and places us near them for a reason. Let us simply be faithful with His Word and Sacraments, and let His Spirit work through them. And we pray that, through our witness to some, and their witness to others, many souls to the end of the earth may be led to rejoice in the good news of God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.