#ChurchOnMission Series
  • At His ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach his gospel. That same mission continues today, unbroken and unhindered for almost 2,000 years since. The book of Acts is an encouragement for the church today as Christians contend for the gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. How did the disciples begin executing the biggest mission in the history of the world? The Bible says that while waiting for the Holy Spirit, they devoted themselves to prayer—they talked to God. The apostles led by following Scripture—through it, God responded. Consequently, the early church experienced success—but not without undergoing failure first. What can we learn from what they did? Join us Sunday ACTS #churchonmission.
7. The Marginalized Grasp the Mission - Philip and the Eunuch Acts 8
  • The Holy Spirit had been at work in the Ethiopian and arranged an encounter between him and Philip. Understand how the Holy Spirit worked in the life of Philip and expect God to arrange encounters with people who need ministry.
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • What did the stoning of Stephen in Jerusalem accomplish in terms of Jesus' command found in Acts 1:8? 
    • Why do you think the Apostles remained in Jerusalem? 
    • Why was Philip “successful” in his preaching the gospel in Samaria? What led the Samaritans to believe in Jesus? 
    • Describe Philip. What was his background? What was his spiritual level of maturity? (hint: read Acts 6:3, 5) Why might Philip have more “success” preaching in Samaria than one of the Apostles? 
    • Who was in control of the situation involving Philip going south on the road to Gaza? Why did the angel of the Lord tell Philip to take the desert road?
      How did Philip respond to the Holy Spirit? What part did the Holy Spirit play in the events involving the Ethiopian official and what part did Philip play? 
    • Describe the Ethiopian official in terms of his openness to spiritual things? 
    • Describe the outreach approach of Philip. In other words, how did he approach being a witness in the situation with the Ethiopian official?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • What do we learn from the story of Philip and the Ethiopian official? 
    • What principles of outreach from this story can we apply today? 
    • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our outreach, and what should we expect the Holy Spirit to do?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
By Acts chapter 8, the church was established and growing, and persecution had begun. Stephen, one of the Seven chosen to head up the ministry to the widows, had been martyred (Acts 7). Acts 8:1-3 speak of the aftermath of Stephen's death – a great persecution began and believers scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, while Saul (later to become Paul) began to go after individual believers in Jerusalem to put them in prison for their faith in Jesus. The outcome of this “scattering” was that the gospel message spread beyond Jerusalem (Acts 8:4). In particular, Philip, who was one of the Seven referred to above, preached the gospel in Samaria, and performed miraculous signs and healings.

The result was that many Samaritans believed in Jesus and were baptized (Acts 8:6-8, 12). The gospel was spreading as Jesus' followers became His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 1:8) But God clearly intended that the gospel message continue to spread no only to Jews and Samaritans (basically half-breed Jews whose religion was syncretistic, but who believed in Moses and also believed in the coming of a future deliverer), but to Gentiles as well. To that end, God orchestrated a meeting between Philip (who was later called “Philip the evangelist” in Acts 21:8) and an Ethiopian eunuch who was a high-ranking official ( something like “chancellor of the exchequer”) in the court of Candace the queen.

Philip was instructed to “go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26) Interestingly, the phrase “go south” could also be translated “at noon” such that some commentators suggest that by sending Philip off on this road at noon, when there would be few travelers due to the heat, underscored the divine direction involved. In any case, there was a road that led due south from Jerusalem then headed west-southwest towards Lachish and then west to Gaza, a city near the coast which was located on the so-called “Great Trunk Highway” which was a major trade route that extended into Egypt and south from there into Ethiopia (present day Sudan). Old Gaza was a deserted town located near the Greek city of new Gaza.

Philip obeyed, though he might have wondered who he might encounter on the road at the time of day and leading to a deserted city. Nevertheless, God knew who would be present and Philip came upon the Ethiopian eunuch on the road. The individual was in his chariot (commentators suggest this was likely not a chariot of war, but rather an expensive carriage) moving along slowly with the entourage that was likely accompanying the man. This high ranking official was a Gentile, and most likely a “God-fearer” meaning one who believed in God and followed the Jewish religion but who was not circumcised. He was on his way home from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship, likely at a festival time. While sitting in his chariot (carriage), he was reading from the prophet Isaiah. Reading in his day and age meant reading aloud, as reading silently was not a practice of the time.

The Holy Spirit directed Philip to go to the chariot, as going up to a stranger on the road, especially one of obvious high rank, would not have been a normal occurrence. Again, Philip obeyed immediately, heard what the man was reading, and recognized it was from Isaiah. The man invited Philip to explain the passage which Philip did, showing the man that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophetic word and then explaining the gospel message about Jesus. The man obviously believed, and requested baptism as they came upon a stream. Philip indeed baptized the man and the Spirit took Philip away, leaving the man filled with the Spirit and praising God. Philip ended up, whether by walking or by being directly transported by the Spirit, in Azotus, a town on the coast road about 20 miles north of Gaza.

In these verses, then, we see the Holy Spirit continuing His work of spreading the gospel through the believers in the church. In this instance, the Holy Spirit directed the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian official, having prepared the official for the encounter, and then bringing about the encounter itself in a seemingly miraculous way. The lesson in all this is that it is the same Holy Spirit who is active in the church and believers today, preparing people for encounters with those who can witness to the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus. So the question is whether or not Jesus' disciples today still follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and believe that He is preparing people for “holy encounters” in which they can hear and respond to the gospel message.