We can all learn a great deal about evangelism by studying Philip the Evangelist.
- Was he a holy man with a halo around his head?
- Or was he a deeply committed believer earnestly trying to do God’s will?
Let us look to see what the Bible actually says!
“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.
So 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, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
The 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. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”
So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
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?” Then 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.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 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 8:26-40
We would like to make some comments on the above Bible reading:
Prompting of the Holy Spirit
Philip was obedient. He had no idea what God had planned. Philip knew nothing about the Ethiopian Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had a child – like faith. Philip had no idea what lay ahead, he only knew that he was to go South down the Gaza road.
The Holy Spirit does not reveal the next step until Philip had made the first step! This is perfectly normal, in our own limited experience. In other words, the Holy Spirit requires unquestioning obedience.
- It does not make a lot of sense to the natural mind walk into a desert! But Philip did!
- We must try to do the same! It does not make a lot of sense to your natural mind to speak to strangers about Heaven.
- However, if nobody speaks to them, they will not be born again, and end up in Hell.
- Often the Holy Spirit does give us, and other evangelists specific instructions, and He will do the same for you!
Preparing the hearts of new converts
The Holy Spirit had already prepared the heart of the Ethiopian, who was obviously seeking God, but needed help. You will find that many of the people you speak to have already had their hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit before you opened your mouth! This is what evangelists are for! They help people who are seeking God!
The Ethiopian was travelling in a desert. Then the Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” Evangelists need a little bit of courage!
Philip obeyed the Holy Spirit’s instructions to go and speak to the Ethiopian. Stop and think! Try to visualise the scene. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ethiopia, directly answerable to the Queen of Ethiopia, was passing by in a state limousine of the day!
Philip had enormous courage to speak to this government official in an expensive chariot! The chariot was almost certainly surrounded by guards!
What would they think of an apparently mad man running in a desert, of all places, trying to catch up a horse drawn chariot, and trying to speak to a very important Government official, who they were trying to protect against just such people!
Think about it! Philip had to run very fast to keep up with those horses! This was not a little chat that occurred as they strolled through the desert! Philip was probably sweating and exhausted by the time he caught up with the chariot!
- This is what we mean when we write “be bold”.
- Boldness is essential for all evangelists!
- Philip was invited to speak more, and you will be too, but you probably will have to speak first!
- Philip asked the question first – we need to do the same!
- Do not expect other people to ask you about the Lord, they very rarely do!
- Instead, when prompted by the Holy Spirit, speak to them first, just like Philip did.
The importance of the Bible
The Ethiopian was studying the book of Isaiah, Chapter 53, the very important part of the Old Testament prophesying the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Philip asked the obvious question, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
Only very rarely are people reading the Bible when we approach them, so we do not ask quite the same question! But the underlying question of all evangelists is always, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
Philip was able to explain to the Ethiopian that Isaiah was writing about Jesus Christ. The Old Testament was the only Bible available to Philip at the time, since the New Testament had not yet been written!
Here is a very important principle: Philip, and all evangelists, should always refer to the Scriptures, and explain them simply and clearly to the unsaved. We try to do just this, and bring in the Bible at the earliest opportunity. We suggest you do the same!
Another important point is that Philip had a very good working knowledge of the Scriptures. He did not know that his knowledge of Isaiah 53:7 was about to be tested!
Evangelists do need a good working knowledge of the entire Bible. Evangelists do not have to be Bible teachers, but definitely do need a good understanding of Bible principles.
Immediately following the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, no doubt all the believers in Jerusalem were spending many hours reading and discussing Isaiah 53. Philip was obviously no exception!
Working from a body of believers
Philip was a member of the church of Jerusalem – and all evangelists should work within a local body of believers. When we are travelling we always operate from a local group of believers.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God
After the explanation, the Holy Spirit providentially provided some water for baptism. Philip said that the Ethiopian could be baptised, “If you believe with all your heart”.
The Ethiopian answered with the statement that all evangelists long to hear, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Following the water baptism Philip was physically removed by the Holy Spirit, no doubt to the next appointment! Evangelists tend to travel a lot, or at least that is our experience!
It is interesting that the Holy Spirit considered that Philip’s work was now done.
An evangelist is not a pastor! Many evangelists have become exhausted trying to be pastors, and many pastors have become exhausted trying to be evangelists!
That is why there are the 5 ministries, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, as recorded in Ephesians 4:11.
The Holy Spirit was in charge of the whole event
- The Holy Spirit was in charge of the whole event from beginning to end!
- The Holy Spirit inspired the book of Isaiah, prophesying about the death of Jesus, the Messiah.
- The Holy Spirit was very much involved in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit caused the calling and conversion of Philip.
- The Holy Spirit spoke to Philip about travelling south along the Gaza road from Jerusalem.
- The Holy Spirit had called the Ethiopian, who was already reading the book of Isaiah about Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit arranged for Philip to be directly alongside his chariot.
- The Holy Spirit told Philip to speak to the Ethiopian about Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit revealed the truth about Jesus from the book of Isaiah.
- The Holy Spirit prompted Philip to ask the Ethiopian about his belief about Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit prompted the Ethiopian to say that he believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.
- The Holy Spirit in-dwelt the Ethiopian at his conversion.
- The Holy Spirit convicted the Ethiopian of his need for water baptism.
- The Holy Spirit took Philip away to his next appointment.
- We do not know, since it does not say, but we can be assured that the Holy Spirit continued to work in the Ethiopian’s life.
- We know this because there is a very strong Christian church in Ethiopia now!