SPIRIT-LED EVANGELISTIC DIVINE APPOINTMENTS CAPITALIZE ON PREPARED HEARTS
Our lives are heavily organized around our appointments. In the olden days of pen and pencil we used the Daily Planners; now we track our appointments on our blackberries and other mobile devices. We hate interruptions; we want to be in control and keep everything restricted to its appointed time. We get irritable when our schedule gets messed up; leaves no room for spontaneity or surprise engagements; we are too busy to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants us to do!
Now I am not advocating that we throw organization and discipline out the window. We must be practical about how to wisely live our lives. But we must balance our desire for order and organization with an open mind to whatever divine appointments the Holy Spirit might have in mind for us – totally outside of the sphere of our own agenda.
We have been studying the evangelism ministry of Philip.
Last week: Spirit-Led Evangelistic Divine Appointments Confront False Faith;
Today in the story of the Ethiopian eunuch we see Genuine Faith contrasted with false faith of Simon the Sorcerer; Sovereignty of God at work in a prepared heart
Jeff Hughes — Illustration:
In 1912, 39 year old, Rev. John Harper a Scottish preacher was making a transatlantic trip to preach at the Moody Church in Chicago. As fate would have it the vessel he chose was the Titanic. We all know the story about the disaster but do you know the story of John Harper? Harper like many others ended up in the water, and as people desperately tried to survive in the chilled waters, Harper swam to them.
The minister asked people in the water if they knew Jesus. Eventually, Harper approached a passenger clinging to a jagged piece of wood and he pleaded for the man to trust Christ. The minister was completely exhausted at this point. As he succumbed to the conditions and went under the water to his death, Harper said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”
A few years later at a meeting of survivors of the Titanic, the final man who encountered John Harper told the group that he had been saved twice that night. First, he had accepted Christ as his personal Savior because of Harper’s efforts. And, of course, he had been rescued from the deep Atlantic seas. He said “Alone in the night with two miles of water under me I believed, I am John Harpers’ last convert.”
John Harper’s goal, his focus was not on himself. Even in his dying moments, all he thought about was the people around him and their spiritual condition.
PROGRESSION OF SPIRIT-LED DIVINE APPOINTMENTS IN THE DAILY PLANNER OF AN EVANGELIST
I. TRANSITION: (:25) PUBLIC DIVINE APPOINTMENTS THROUGHOUT SAMARIA – CONSISTENT PATTERN OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL IN MISSIONARY OUTREACH
“And so, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.”
– Philip was gifted as an evangelist;
– he was available to be used by God;
– he was obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit;
– he was skilled in the use of God’s Word to preach the gospel and stay on target;
– he was effective by God’s sovereign power
Transition: Last engagement was with Simon the Sorcerer – involved solemnly testifying
What an awesome responsibility to proclaim the whole counsel of God; not to soften the message of warning and judgment; not to be a man-pleaser
Don’t forget the content of the gospel message – 1 Cor. 15 – we need this every day in our lives
Geography Lesson – working North of Jerusalem; now focus is going to switch to South of the city
Everybody can’t be a missionary going to faraway places
Everybody can’t be a street preacher or talk to large crowds
But every Christian needs to preach the gospel and witness to those around him
Impressive revival taking place in Samaria … but God had other plans for Philip
II. (:26-29) PRIVATE DIVINE APPOINTMENT WITH THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH ON DESERT ROAD FROM JERUSALEM TO GAZA – CONTROLLED BY THE SPIRIT TO PERFORM UNEXPECTED MISSIONS (UNUSUAL INSTRUCTIONS)
“But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a desert road.) And he arose and went; and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’”
Events in this section prove that this transitional historical period is not intended to be normative
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the true sons of God – Rom. 8
Most unlikely spot (desert road) for such a significant and strategic meeting – became founder of the church of Jesus Christ in Africa
MacArthur: There were two roads from Jerusalem to Gaza, and the Spirit commands Philip to take the one that was seldom used.
Boice: When Philip was given this call, he did not know what God was going to do with him. I am sure it did not make sense to him to leave what he was doing and go to the desert near Gaza. But that is what God had told him to do; so he did it. Whenever it comes to a choice between our way of thinking and what God says, you know as well as I do that there is no real choice. We must do what God says. If you read the Bible and what you read does not seem to make sense to you but you understand what it is telling you to do, well, you had better do it. That is the only way you or anybody else will find blessing.
Background for Jewish faith being introduced to land of Ethiopia = account of Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon
Bruce: The king of Ethiopia was venerated as the child of the sun and regarded as too sacred a personage to discharge the secular functions of royalty; these were performed on his behalf by the queen-mother, who regularly bore the dynastic title Candace.
Queen must have trusted this high level official completely – in charge of all her treasures; not sure how much her husband trusted her (if she had one) – made this man a eunuch
Hughes: If this man was a physical eunuch though, such people were not allowed into the temple, by Old Testament law. This man could not have been a full fledged Jewish proselyte; he could only have been what the Jews called “God-fearers”. People who could go to synagogues, pray, and read scriptures, but nothing else.
Had the precursor to the Nook and was reading his electronic document
Bumpy ride in a chariot – what kind of shocks did they have
III. (:30-35) PURPOSE OF DIVINE APPOINTMENTS: CALLING PEOPLE TO REPENTANCE AND FAITH BY PREACHING JESUS FROM THE WORD OF GOD
“And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth. In humiliation His judgment was taken away; Who shall relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth.’ And the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?’ And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.”
Chariots of Fire – movie – here you have a runner who is faster than Eric …
How can I show Christ to this person; How can I be a blessing
Won’t be coming as a lamb the second time
Essential to open our mouths
Content focused on the person of Jesus Christ
Cole: Don’t underestimate the power of God’s Word to bring people to salvation! As 1 Peter 1:23 explains, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” James 1:18 states, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth….” Paul tells Timothy that from childhood he has “known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). God’s Word is powerful to save sinners.
IV. (:36-38) PREDESTINED RESULTS OF DIVINE APPOINTMENTS: CONFIRMING FAITH IN JESUS BY BAPTIZING NEW CONVERT
“And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ [And 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.’ ] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
Textual problem with v. 37
Very surprising?? to find abundant water here in the desert – enough for a dunking session
Constable: The road on which this conversation took place crossed several stream beds that empty water from the higher elevations into the Mediterranean Sea during the wetter months. Even though the land generally was desert, water was not entirely absent at some times of the year.
No arm twisting here by Philip
No sprinkling or pouring – dunking took place
Don’t be bashful about closing the deal
Sovereign results not up to you — Might be savor of life unto life or death unto death
Deffinbaugh: Since signs and wonders were not the explanation for the conversion of the eunuch, to what do we attribute his conversion? I think the answer is: the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the testimony of this man of God. The eunuch’s heart was already prepared when Philip encountered him. He must have had a fair knowledge of the Jewish faith, enough to prompt him to travel a long distance to worship in Jerusalem. He must have paid a high price for his copy of Scripture. The Spirit of God not only prompted Philip to make the journey to meet the eunuch, He also opened the heart of the eunuch to receive Stephen’s exposition of the Word.
I think the point is clear. Signs and wonders were necessary to accredit the apostles as God’s authoritative spokesmen (2 Corinthians 12:11-13; Hebrews 2:1-4). But they are not necessary for the on-going work of evangelism.10 The conversion of Simon, based heavily on signs and wonders, is certainly not described as being superior to the conversion of the eunuch, which was not prompted by such miracles. Put differently, the conversion of the eunuch was every bit as miraculous as that of Simon and the Samaritans. Signs and wonders are thus portrayed as optional, and not as requirements, for evangelism.
V. (:39-40) TRANSITION: PERSEVERANCE IN CONTINUING ON TO THE NEXT DIVINE APPOINTMENTS IN VARIOUS CITIES
“And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus; and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.”
Expression: spirit someone away; “snatched” – used in 1 Thess 4:17 of church being snatched up in the Rapture
Talked about the great rejoicing associated with new birth
Urgency – much work to be done; they both had to move on to what God had for them next
Keep on preaching the gospel
Joy tied to relationship with the Lord
Not dependent on relationship to Philip
Significance of Caesarea
Illustration from Wiersbe: In October 1857, J. Hudson Taylor began to minister in Ningpo, China, and he led a Mr Nyi to Christ. The man was overjoyed and wanted to share his faith with others.
“How long have you had the good tidings in England?” Mr. Nyi asked Hudson Taylor one day. Taylor acknowledged that England had known the gospel for many centuries.
“My father died seeking the truth,” said Mr. Nyi, “Why didn’t you come sooner?” Taylor had no answer to that penetrating question.
How long have you known the gospel?
How far have you shared it personally?
Not for one single day
Can I discern my way,
But this I surely know—
He who gives the day
Will show the way,
So I securely go.
What divine appointments for evangelism will the Holy Spirit direct you to this coming week?