July 5, 2020
THE RESULTS OF PENTECOST VI, PHILLIP THE EVANGELIST ACTS 8: 1-8
The disciples had chosen 7 men to help with the organizing of the Church. The Church had grown so much and so fast that more people were needed to help with all the new converts that were coming. We know about Stephen who was the first Christian Martyr. We discussed the stoning of Stephen last week, but there is another one of the “seven chosen” men that made a great impact for the spreading of the Gospel. All of Acts chapter 8 talks about Phillip and some of the works that he did. Let us meet Phillip the Evangelist.
Saul was persecuting the church so severely that it caused many of the believers to be scattered. One of those that was forced out of Jerusalem was Phillip. He probably knew Stephen very well. They were probably good friends. He probably watched as Stephen was being murdered. Phillip, like Stephen and Peter was a great preacher. It is interesting, this thing we call preaching. Many of the disciples had discovered it. Peter, we know about. He loved to preach, and he was highly effective. One day 3000 people were saved after one of his messages, then again 5000 people were saved after his second message. We know about Stephen and his message to the Jewish religious leaders; it is a beautiful message that is found in Acts chapter 7. But now we meet another preacher, Phillip. I said Philip was a great preacher, though I never heard him preach, I can prove that he was a great orator because, “multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Phillip”. (read 8: 3-7)
Phillip lost his job with the newfound Church, because of the “havoc” that Saul was causing. He was forced out of Jerusalem, so he went to Samaria. Samaria was about 40 or so miles north of Jerusalem. This does not sound that far away today, but Phillip did not have a “Car Mart” or “Uber” or a bus or plane, all he had was his two feet. The Bible does not give an exact city in the region of Samaria, but it must have been a large city for the Bible says that “multitudes” were converted by Phillips preaching. This was probably a city known as Sebaste (say-baa-ta). Sebaste was a city that had been destroyed by the Assyrians around 700 B.C. but was rebuilt by King Herod. The same King Herod that helped in the crucifixion of Jesus.
Though they lived close together there was a great dislike between the Jews and the Samaritans, it was more like a hatred for one another. The Samaritans were Jewish, but the pure-bred Jews considered them as half-breeds. During the Assyrian Captivity (722 BC) many of the Jewish people in the Northern Kingdom had married the Assyrians and these offspring were called Samaritans. They had their own version of the first five books of the Bible, and they worshiped on a different mountain than Jerusalem. They worshiped on a Mountain called Mount Gerizim. They had their own temple there. All these things had led to a great schism between the Jews of Jerusalem and the Assyrian Jews of Samaria. They hated each other. Now it is important to note that the Samaritans had just as much prejudice against the Jews as the Jews had against the Samaritans.
Let us look at the “prophesy of Jesus”. He said to the disciples just before or maybe as He was Ascending into heaven, “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. They had already been preaching and witnessing in Jerusalem and Judea and to any of the Jews who would listen to them. Multitudes of Jews, even some of the Jewish priest were being converted (Acts 6:7). The Church in Jerusalem was exploding in Growth. Now the second part of the “Prophesy of Jesus” is taking place. The Samaritans were going to hear and experience the Good News of Salvation. Jesus said it would happen, and it is. The “witnessing” is beginning in Samaria and Phillip is going to be the first to start spreading the Gospel. People heeded the words of Phillip, unclean spirits came out of people who were possessed, the paralyzed and lame were healed, and there was great joy in that city. Even though Phillip was a Jew, whom they hated, the people of Samaria accepted him.
God said to Isaiah, 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) It continues to amaze me how God accomplishes His Will. It never seems to be like I think it should be. He does things in ways that only He could think of. Sometimes the things that He may ask us to do seem a bit strange to us at first, sometimes even dangerous. I wonder if when Jesus said to the Jewish disciples “you will be my witnesses in Samaria” they shook their head and said, “what did He say, He wants us to go to those half-bred Jews and witness to them”? They probably did not question the command of their Master at all. They were so sold out to Him that whatever He ask they would do. But now the time to fulfill the command was at hand. It was time to go to those whom they had grown up despising and offer to them the same gift that they had been given. There is going to be a little bit of a struggle by some of the new Jewish converts to do what Jesus had commanded them, but it was no problem for Phillip. Phillip was glad to go to Samaria and give them the Good News of Salvation through Jesus, for all who will accept it.
I have heard all my life this statement, momma used to say it, “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform” sounds like a Bible verse, but it is not. Just because it is not a Bible verse does not mean that this statement is not true. Not only does He move in ways that are mysterious to us, He is able to find men and women who are willing to trust Him enough to do the things that seem so strange. When it had never rained on the earth, He found a guy named Noah to build a boat. When the wandering Israelites crossed over the Jordon River, God found a guy named Joshua who led the people to carry the Arc of the Covenant around the city of Jericho 7 days, then on the 7th day they blew some horns and shouted at the walls and they came tumbling down. Now this is a very strange way to destroy a city. I would have never done it this way. If I were to say to you, “come with me, bring your horn, we are going to march around Jericho 7 times, then we are going to shout at the these giant walls, and the walls are going to come tumbling down”, you would think I was crazy and have me committed.
One man, Moses was called by God to go up against one of the mightiest nations that ever existed, Egypt. Moses did question God when he was called to do this mighty work. He did not say, “you want me to do what”, but the call seemed strange to Moses at first, he tried to make excuses to God why he was not the man for the job. Yet, because Moses trusted God and did His will the people of Israel were freed from their bondage. Moses’ faith had grown so strong that when they came to the Red Sea and the Egyptian Army was after them, Moses never faltered, He just raised his Staff (was the Staff the Holy Spirit? Just a thought) and the Sea parted. They walked across on dry land. The Egyptian Army followed after them and when every Israelite was safely across, Moses raised his Staff again and the waters consumed Pharaoh and all his Army. The story of the Exodus is very strange, so much so that it is almost unbelievable. The world looks at it as a fable, but those who know God know that He does things like no one else would have ever thought of. “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform”.
Throughout the His-story (history is really His Story) of God and man, God has asked men and women to do things that seem strange at first, but when there is a man or woman with courage enough to stand and do the will of God, no matter how strange it may seem, they are blessed and everyone around them is blessed and sometimes the whole world is blessed. Phillip did not question the will of God he just did it. He had met a Savior, He had the promise of the Holy Spirit in him driving him to do the will of God, no matter what may happen he was doing what God had called him to do. Phillips thoughts are, ‘Jesus told us to witness to the Samaritans, I am going to Sebaste’(say-baa-ta).
What do you do about it when God calls you to do a task for Him? What do you do when God puts a call upon your life to do something for Him? What do you do when the voice of Jesus is knocking on you heart and telling you to go to a foreign land and be a witness for Me? What do you do when God is calling you to be a Missionary, or a Sunday School teacher, or a Pastor, or in the case of Phillip, an Evangelist? What do you do when God asks you to go to the people that all your life you have been told to hate, and tell them that you love them? What do you do? You surrender to it. If you do not surrender to the call of God upon your life everything else that you do in life will seem unfulfilling. You may gain the whole world, but if you have neglected the call God has on your life, your life will seem as an empty vessel. You may hunger and thirst after the things of the world, but it will leave you hungrier and thirstier than when you first partook of it. Jesus will give you a water, that is so sweet that no other water can compare to its purity. It is so filling that you will never thirst again for the things of the world.
There is no doubt that God has called everyone that is listening to me to do something for Him. Sometimes we neglect that calling until we think we are too old or too busy or too something. We make up excuses like I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m too busy, I have other responsibilities, I’m not smart enough. The truth is the call of God upon our life never goes away. Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” “Without repentance” means that God will not change His mind about what He has called you to do. If God has called you, that calling is still there whether, or not you have obeyed. And if God gave you a gift—if He gifted you along a certain line—that gift is still there!
Think about this for a moment, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” If God has called you, if His calling is upon your life, it will not go away. No matter how much you may want to run from it, it will not go away, no matter what excuse you may use, it will not go away. No matter how much you may want to silence the call, He just keeps calling. Until you surrender to Him, you will never be satisfied.
Look what happened when Phillip heeded the call to go to Samaria. “and the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Phillip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed. And many who were paralyzed, and lame were healed. and there was great joy in that city”