By Joseph Ametepe
It’s important in life to often refresh our minds on what we already know. Doing so, not only reinvigorates our understanding of the truths and teachings we are familiar with, but it also freshly challenges us to a new level of commitment in applying them in our lives. In Scripture, the biblical authors often sought to remind believers of the truths they already know; to reinvigorate them and to arouse in them a new level of commitment in practicing them. Writing to believers who were spiritual pilgrims in provinces located in modern-day Turkey (see 1 Peter 1:1), apostle Peter writes:
“This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by the apostles” (2 Peter 3:1-2).
What we learn here is that, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Peter earnestly and eagerly sought to deeply impress on these true believers, whom he affectionately called “beloved,” the truths they already knew so that their sanctified reason and spiritual discernment would recognize and refute the perpetrators of false teaching. In other words, through the work of the Spirit, Apostle Peter sought to refresh their minds of God’s truths and strengthen their convictions regarding putting them into practice consistently.
In his one chapter epistle, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (Jude 1:1a), also sought to remind believers for the same reasons stated above. He writes: “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). Jude would proceed to provide three well known acts of apostasy from the Old Testament as brief reminders to believers to show the condemnation of the ungodly and false teachers. After the Lord marvelously and miraculously delivered the sons of Israel out of Egyptian bondage (see Exodus 12:51; Deuteronomy 4:34), one would expect them to respond to Him with unshakable faith, but they responded in unbelief. Instead of adoring and appreciating God all the more in their lives, the people abandoned Him and adopted other gods; even to the point of serving idols of their own making. These defectors tragically, Jude solemnly stated, died in the wilderness wanderings (Jude 1:5). A second well-known example of God’s judgment on apostates given by Jude is about the angels who abandoned their proper abode (Jude 1:6). The third well-known example is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, cities at the southeast corner of the Dead Sea (Jude 1:7). In fact, the devastation of these cities is used over 20 times as an illustration of God’s righteous judgment during the days of Abraham and Lot. Jude brought up these three well-known examples as brief reminders to illustrate the damnation of the unbelieving and ungodly apostates.
Paul also knew of the importance of reminding believers of God’s truths. As such, he charged his young protégés, Timothy and Titus, to remind believers of the truths he had previously taught them to help them recall them, refresh their minds and reinforce their need to put them into practice.
To Timothy, he charges: “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charged them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14). Young Timothy was given the responsibility of reminding the Ephesian church of the truths and teachings Paul had earlier taught them during his three year ministry in Ephesus. Arising from Timothy’s ministry of reminding the believers at Ephesus was the urgent plea to avoid arguing with false teachers who employ human reasoning to undermine God’s word. Paul concludes, to argue with them is not only foolish but also futile and fatal.
To Titus, he commands: “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1). Here, Paul, the seasoned apostle, earnestly urged Titus to remind believers under his care of their attitude toward unbelieving and unsaved ruling authorities. The reminder centered on their being submissive to governing authorities, life of obedience and their readiness for the practice of every good deed as part of their Christian testimony.
All these is to stress that the purpose of this article is to refresh our minds on what the Bible teaches about the ministry of evangelism and be freshly challenged to devote ourselves to it through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It would interest you to know that the word “evangelist” appears only three times in the New Testament. It is used first of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8). The title may have served to distinguish this Philip, one of the seven deacons chosen in Acts 6 from the Apostle Philip. Its second use is found in 2 Timothy 4:5. There, Timothy was exhorted to do the work of an evangelist. Its third and final use appears in Ephesians 4:11. There, evangelists were also listed among the leaders (apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers) whom Christ has given as a gift to His Church.
In the original language, the verb from which we get the word “evangelist,” is “euangelizo.” It means to “announce or bring good news.” Secular writers of the time used it for a marriage announcement or news of military victory. But Christians quickly adopted this and other related words for their own activity of spreading and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
All this leads me to a simple but significant question for us to answer. Who is an evangelist? If an inquirer were to come to you with this question, what would you say to him or her to his or her question?
Let me give us a basic definition of an evangelist. An evangelist is first of all a born again believer who has a deep passion for the person of the Lord Jesus Himself and a driven passion for bringing lost souls to Christ. In brief, an evangelist is a true Christian who announces the good news of Jesus Christ. Now, it is important to understand here that there are believers who are specially gifted by God to communicate the gospel, such as “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8). But the ministry of evangelism, which is, sharing Christ with others, is the privilege of all believers everywhere in every generation.
I would like to present four spiritual truths from Acts 8:4-5, 26-35 about personal evangelism in order to refresh our minds as well as help us to be newly motivated to devote ourselves to it. By way of an overview, first, we will examine the chief concern of the communicators of the good news in Acts 8:4. Second, we will explore what the Bible reveals about the commitment of those who are involved in the ministry of evangelism in Acts 8:5. Third, we will emphasize that complete obedience must characterize the sharers of the good news in Acts 8:26-28. Fourth and finally, we will expound on the spiritual truth that close communion with the Holy Spirit is key to effective personal evangelism in Acts 8:29-35.
Having given you a concise overview of our refresher course on personal evangelism, let’s now elaborate on each of the four spiritual truths.
- The chief concern of those who are involved in personal evangelism is bringing the good news of Jesus to others no matter their circumstances in life.
This spiritual truth is vividly captured in Luke’s account in Acts 8:4.
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
After the violent death of Stephen at the hands of the religious leaders and their henchmen and his burial, a great persecution occurred against the church in Jerusalem. As a result, believers were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). The apostles stayed put in Jerusalem, as if to hold the fort (Acts 8:1) during this time of great persecution. They chose to remain in Jerusalem primarily because of their devotion to Christ as well as for the purpose of caring for the rest of the flock in Jerusalem. To make matters worse for the church, Saul began his systematic campaign of ravaging the already afflicted church. He entered house after house, and dragged off men and women, and committed them to prison (Acts 8:3). As you can see, Saul was intent on destroying the church. The situation was therefore dire for the church. But the Bible tells us “those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). The Greek for “went about” is used frequently in Acts for missionary endeavors (see 8:40; 9:32; 13:6; 14:24; 15:3, 41; 16:6; 18:23; 19:1, 21; 20:2). It is variously rendered “gone through” (Acts 13:6; 15:3; 20:2); “passed through” (Acts 14:24; 19:1, 21); “went through” (Acts 15:41; 16:6); “went from one place to the next” (Acts 18:23). The point here is that these unnamed believers began the missionary movement of the church. Notice the Bible clearly and concisely states what they were doing while on the run. They went about preaching the word. The Greek verb from which “preaching” derives is “euangelizo.” Our English word “evangelize” comes from this Greek verb. You see, evangelizing or bringing the good tidings was their chief concern.
Please, let’s understand that the circumstances for these believers were not the best. They were bad. They were on the run. Saul, the persecutor of the church was on their heels. If there was ever a time for these persecuted believers to hide themselves in caves and caverns to save their lives, it was now. But they didn’t. Why? It’s because announcing the good news of Jesus to others was their chief concern in life. You see, it didn’t matter whether their circumstances were difficult and dire. They had one supreme aim – spreading and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
When the lockdown came in our countries of residence because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still ongoing, it meant that there was also a “lockdown” on sharing the good news for many believers. After all, if we were not permitted to gather together for church services, then it automatically meant no pressing concern for sharing the good news. But that was not the case for the unnamed believers we meet in Acts 8. Their all consuming passion or concern was spreading the good news of Jesus even in the worst of times.
Is spreading the good news your all consuming passion in life? Is sharing the gospel your chief concern in life? If so, it doesn’t matter the circumstances you encounter in life. You will be sharing Christ not only in the best of times but also in the worst of times.
Transition: The second spiritual truth the Bible teaches us from the example of the first sharers of the good news has to do with their commitment in life.
- The commitment of the sharers of the good news must be to Jesus Christ and Him alone.
This spiritual truth is powerfully illustrated in the life of Philip, one of the seven deacons in the Jerusalem Church (Acts 6:5).
“Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them” (Acts 8:5).
While the unnamed believers went about preaching the word in their missionary endeavors, the Bible throws its searchlight on Philip and his evangelistic efforts. One could say that Philip is the first missionary named in Scripture. He would also be the first to be given the title “evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Notice very carefully that the Bible mentions where exactly Philip went. In the previous verse, we are not told where the unnamed believers went to preach the word, except that they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. But the Bible now specifically identifies for us where Philip shared the good news after fleeing persecution in Jerusalem. He went to the city of Samaria. The city of Samaria is the ancient capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Because Solomon’s heart turned away from following the Lord fully, the prophet Ahijah prophesied that God would tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, giving Jeroboam ten tribes (see 1 Kings 11:7-9, 26-39), which is called the northern kingdom of Israel. God tore the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon in the days of his son Rehoboam (see 1 Kings 12:1-24). The city and all of the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 B. C. after over 200 years of gross idolatry and insubordination against the God of Israel. After relocating many of the Israelites in other countries, the Assyrians brought Gentiles from other lands and settled them in city of Samaria and other cities of the northern kingdom. This would result in a mix of Israelites and Gentiles who became known as Samaritans.
Now, why is it important to take note of the Bible’s mention of the city of Samaria? It’s important for two reasons. First, it’s notable because according to John 4:9: “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” You see, the Samaritans of the New Testament were despised by the Jews. In fact, that was why the Samaritan woman expressed great surprise that Jesus would even ask her for a drink (John 4:9). Mutual hostility is also reflected in Luke 9:52-54. The Lord Jesus and His disciples were not welcome in a Samaritan village simply because He was heading for Jerusalem. This refusal by the Samaritans would provoke James and John, the sons of thunder, to ask their Lord and Master, to permit them to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:53-54). Talk about prejudice, contempt, hatred and hostility between two people groups! You have it all here. But Philip, whose name means, “lover of horses,” set aside such racial prejudice to bring the good news to the Samaritans – even as the Lord Jesus Himself did in revealing Himself to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (see John 4:7-26).
Similarly, even though believers are living in a racially divisive society today, we must aside all such racial prejudice against others and contempt at them and bring the good news to them. We must not allow racial discrimination and divisive spirit to prevent us from reaching all people with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Second, the Bible’s reference to the “city of the Samaritan” is important because the Risen Lord specifically included Samaria in the places where He wanted His disciples to be His witnesses. Giving His final instructions to His disciples before His ascension into heaven, the Lord Jesus clearly outlined the world-wide scope of the outreach to be carried out by His witnesses.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Having been empowered by the Holy Spirit, Philip was exactly where the Lord wanted him to be, Samaria. He was at the right place at the right time. In other words, Philip and the believers we meet in Acts 8 were walking in the will of God. As such, God was so desirous and delighted in blessing their ministry. Similarly, if we are walking in the will of God, we can expect God’s blessings to overflow into our lives and ministries and overtake us (see Deuteronomy 28:2).
Now, I would like you to see that the commitment of Philip the evangelist is to the Person of Jesus Christ and to Him alone. Notice the Bible says in Acts 8:5: “Philip began proclaiming Christ to them.” His proclamation was Christ-centered. It was focused on the person of Jesus. In other words, Christ, all He is, all He did for the salvation of sinners, was His message. You see, we often think and talk about the things we are committed to in life. If you are committed to making money in life, you’ll be thinking and talking about money. If you are dedicated to becoming a politician, you’ll think and talk all day and all night about politics and political strategies for success.
Because Philip was wholly devoted to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, He was what he proclaimed all day and all night to the Samaritans. He preached Christ, that is, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Son of God – who died on the cross for sinners, who was buried to put away our sins, who rose again from the dead on the third day, who appeared to chosen witnesses, who ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Philip’s ministry of proclaiming Christ to the Samaritan was accompanied by supernatural manifestation of the power of God as recorded in Acts 8:6-7.
“The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them and shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.”
The result of Philip’s proclamation of Christ and performance of miraculous signs through the power of the Holy Spirit was that “there was much rejoicing in that city” (Acts 8:8). The question is: Is this happening in our day? If not, why not? Are we so committed to Christ that He is our message? Is our proclamation centered on Jesus Christ? Are we so devoted to Jesus that He is the focus of our witness?
Transition: The third spiritual truth we learn about effective personal evangelism focuses on the complete obedience of the believer.
- Complete obedience to God marks the life of an effective evangelist.
One of the most important character qualities required of the believer in Christ to be successful in personal evangelism is complete obedience to God’s leading in whatever way or form it is manifested. Philip the evangelist is a shining example of this biblical teaching. He lived a life of total; wholehearted, full, unquestioned obedience to God’s leading in his life. This is vividly captured by Dr. Luke in Acts 8:26-28.
“But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went; and 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” (Acts 8:26-28).
Please remember that Philip was having a fruitful, fulfilling, and flourishing ministry in the city of Samaria. He led many Samaritans to faith in Christ, and was faithfully discipling these baby Christians in the Lord. The Bible does not tell us how long Philip ministered in the city of Samaria. But it seemed he was not there for long. So, it’s reasonable to assume that many of the Samaritan converts to Christ were yet to mature in their faith. But then, an angel of the Lord clearly and concisely communicated to him to leave all that behind and go where he would no longer have a crowd of people around him to minister to. Instead of staying in the city of Samaria and continuing in a vibrant and flourishing ministry there, Philip is specifically and succinctly directed to pack bag and baggage and head south on the Jerusalem-Gaza road, a less traveled desert road.
Please notice very carefully that Philip didn’t argue. He arose and went. He didn’t complain. He complied. He didn’t delay. He departed immediately after receiving the angelic communication. You see, although Philip might not understand why God was telling him to leave such a significant and successful ministry behind, perhaps he knew that there was a divine appointment awaiting him. God had providentially arranged a meeting between him and the treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia – much like the minister of finance or the secretary of the treasury. The Ethiopian eunuch held a position of authority in Queen Candace’s court. During this time in human history, Ethiopia was a large and lustrous kingdom situated south of Egypt.
According to the law, the Ethiopian eunuch would have been denied access to the temple. For the law stipulates: “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 23:1). Because of this law, the visiting Ethiopian eunuch would have been refused entry into the temple. Not only that, he would have also missed the opportunity to become a full-fledged proselyte to Judaism. But God still loves him and wants something far better for him – that is, a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the Savior and Seeker of lost sinners. You see, entering into a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ is far more superior to entering the assembly of the Lord in the Jerusalem temple. Becoming a true believer in Jesus Christ is of greater spiritual significance than becoming a full-fledged proselyte to Judaism. This is why the Lord directed Philip to have a once-in-a lifetime meeting with the eunuch. Although not having yet entered into a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian eunuch knew the importance of seeking God through the Scripture. He was reading the prophet Isaiah.
Suppose God is using you greatly in a ministry in which you are imparting and influencing many lives. Many lives are being touched and transformed through your ministry. You are feeling so fulfilled and so fruitful in your ministry. In fact, you are the man or woman of the hour in that ministry. But then comes the still small voice of the Spirit, whispering in your ears – saying clearly and concisely to you: “Leave all that success behind and head on to the road leading to a remote village.” Would you be excited to leave behind all that success? Would you completely obey the still small voice? Or would you argue with God why you shouldn’t leave? Would you be complaining? Would you be dilly-dallying? Philip was involved in a fruitful and fulfilling ministry. He was the man of the hour in the city of Samaria. Many lives were touched and transformed through his ministry. But then, an angel of the Lord clearly directed him to leave all that success behind. He did, without arguing with God or complaining. In complete obedience to God, he arose and went – leaving an example for us to follow to be effective in personal evangelism. Philip’s complete obedience to God was crucial to being an effective personal evangelist. Similarly, our complete obedience to God will open the door for us to be effective in personal evangelism.
Transition: The fourth and final spiritual truth we learn about effective personal evangelism centers on close communion with the Holy Spirit.
- Close communion with the Holy Spirit is essential to effective personal evangelism.
In other words, a successful communicator of the good news of Jesus Christ is sensitive and submissive the voice of the Spirit of God. Philip didn’t attend the school of evangelism in Jerusalem to become an effective evangelist. In fact, there was none. But he knew that close communion with the person of the Holy Spirit, who came in power on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2), is so necessary for a successful personal evangelism. Please take careful note of this! The believer, who makes an eternal difference in the lives of those who are not yet saved, has intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit. He or she is sensitive to the still small voice of the Spirit and readily responds to His leading. This is what we see in Philip’s life.
“Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and 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 SHARERS IS SILENT, SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH. IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH.” The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:29-35).
Philip demonstrated complete obedience to the angelic messenger who spoke to him to leave his flourishing and fruitful ministry in the city of Samaria and head on south to the Jerusalem-Gaza road. God had a special divine appointment awaiting Philip on that desert road. By wholeheartedly heeding the orders of the angel of the Lord, Philip would again receive another divine directive. This time, it would be from the Holy Spirit. What a blessed and special day it was in Philip’s life! Think of it! An angel of the Lord spoke to him. And now the Spirit of the Lord is giving him personal instructions regarding making an eternal difference in the life of the Ethiopian eunuch. It was a day of experiencing divine communication for Philip - which most of us wished we could have in our lives.
Notice verse 29 begins with a word of time: “Then the Spirit said Philip.” Now the question is: “when was then?” It was when Philip fully committed himself to walking in obedience to the message he had received from the angel of the Lord. You see, if Philip had not been walking in obedience to the message given to him earlier, the Holy Spirit would not have spoken to him – giving him a new directive. Please take note of this! The Holy Spirit guides and directs believers who are following God’s leading to them.
Now someone asks: how did the Holy Spirit speak to Philip? Was it in an audible voice? Was it an impression in his heart? Was it in a still small voice? The answer: the Bible does not tell us how the Spirit communicated with Philip. But what it does clearly and convincingly tell us is that Philip had a close communion with the Spirit. He was sensitive to the voice of the Spirit. He had an amazing intimate relationship with the Spirit of God such that even while walking on a desert road, he could correctly and clearly hear Him. Oh believer in Jesus, do you have such close communion with the Holy Spirit? Are you sensitive to His leading? Do you know and recognize His voice?
During the early years of my life in the States, I experienced a little bit of Philip's close communion with the Holy Spirit. On one Lord’s Day, after closing from our Sunday Service, I came to a restaurant with three or four believing friends to fellowship over a meal, in an Indian Restaurant. It was a buffet style lunch. Let me tell you a little secret about myself; when I am not fasting, I do enjoy my feast. Just as I got my food and settled in my seat to enjoy the feast, the Holy Spirit suddenly turned my eyes onto a couple, of Mexican descent, who had just entered the restaurant. Immediately the Spirit clearly and convincingly said to me: “Go and tell them that Jesus paid for our sin debt by His once for all perfect sacrifice." Since the message was clear to me, I could not hold back. To be honest with you, I took a long look at my food. Then I left it without telling my believing friends at the table what I was going to do. I walked to the couple and greeted them. Looking at them, I just knew they had also attended a church service and had come to have lunch. After greeting them, I said what the Holy Spirit directed me to say to them. As soon as I finished, the husband vigorously responded: "No, our priest just told us that He is still sacrificing." It became clear to me that they were Roman Catholics. I grew up in Roman Catholicism so I understood where he was coming from. But I calmly pointed them to the Book of Hebrews, where the Bible clearly and convincingly stated that unlike the Aaronic priests, Jesus, the Great High Priest "offered one sacrifice for sins for all time" (Hebrews 10:12). I asked if he had his own Bible. He said: "Our priest reads the Bible to us at Mass." As a little boy, being educated at a Roman Catholic Mission School, I didn't read the Bible. I only listened to the priests reading the Bible. So I identified with him. But I was so delighted that the Holy Spirit knew exactly what the couple needed to hear about Jesus' once for all perfect sacrifice and clearly and concisely communicated that message through me to them. I never saw the couple again. But I was greatly encouraged that the Holy Spirit was communicating to me as I learned to walk closely with Him.
You see, having a close fellowship or communion with the Holy Spirit made all the difference in Philip’s ministry of personal evangelism. He was familiar with the ways of the Spirit. He was sensitive to His voice. He was in tune with the Spirit. He kept in step with the Spirit in any and all circumstances. As such, he was quick to recognize his voice and reverently submit to Him.
Please take careful note of this: the Holy Spirit partners with those who are in close fellowship with Him to make an eternal difference in the lives of lost souls and seekers. You see, the Holy Spirit had already been working in the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch to receive the truth of the gospel. He had made the eunuch’s heart like “the good soil – who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). By being in close fellowship with Him, Philip had the awesome privilege of partnering with the Spirit to win a soul for Christ – the minister of finance or the secretary of treasury in Queen Candace’s government. It’s probable that the conversion of such a high government official would have served to advance the cause of Christianity in Ethiopia in the days of the born again eunuch and beyond.
Being in close communion with the Spirit, is not reserved only for the first century believers like Peter, Philip, and Paul. In fact, God wants believers today to experience and enjoy the same close connection or communion with the Spirit. Because He knows that our effectiveness in personal evangelism depends on it. But the question is: do we desire such close association with the Spirit? Are we cultivating close communion with the Spirit in our daily walk?
Now please notice very carefully that the Spirit communicated clearly and concisely to Philip. He was specifically and succinctly commanded: “Go up and join this chariot” (Acts 8:29b). Philip obeyed promptly. “Philip ran up, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet” (Acts 8:30a). I love that. Philip was told to “go up” but he “ran up.” Philip, whose name means “a lover of horses”, was so excited about the opportunity the Spirit was presenting to him that he ran up alongside the carriage being pulled by the horses he loved. I am certain there was a big smile on Philip’s face as he came in close contact with the horses.
Philip however, quickly turned to the business at hand – the business of being used by the Spirit to save a soul. The hymn writer Charles Wesley writes: “A charge to keep I have, my God to glorify, a never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.” Knowing this is a divine appointment and that he was the instrument God has prepared to use to lead the Ethiopian eunuch to a personal saving relationship with Christ, Philip asked him a simple and short question, after he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30b). You see, evangelism is simple. You can begin personal evangelism by asking a simple and succinct question. That’s what Philip did and the door was opened wide for him to share Jesus Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch. Depending on the context in which God gives you the opportunity to share Christ with an unbeliever, you can ask: “So, how are you doing on your journey in life? My spiritual mentor, Revered Don Whipple, an Iwo Jima World War II marine, loves to ask people God brings his way: how are you doing on your journey? That question almost always gives him the opportunity to present the gospel or rejoice if he discovers that the person is also a believer in Christ. You can also ask: are you sure you will be going to heaven after your departure from this life? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Or, do you know Jesus? These simple questions and others, usually open the door for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
For Philip, he met an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the Hebrew Scriptures. And he simply asked: “Do you understand what you are reading?” “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 shearers is silent, so He does not open His mouth. In humiliation His judgment was taken away; who will relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth” (Acts 8:32-33). This passage of Scripture is found in Isaiah 53:7-8. This passage speaks of the silence and suffering and sacrifice of the Messiah.
I really appreciate the honesty and humility of the Ethiopian eunuch. Apparently no one in Jerusalem had explained this passage of Scripture to him. Oh yes, he went to Jerusalem to worship, and probably attended the worship services there. But he came out of Jerusalem spiritually empty. Much like folks today who assemble with others to worship at church services but come out empty. In his honesty and humility, “the eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” (Acts 8:34). The Ethiopian eunuch wasn’t only honest and humble in his interaction with Philip, but he was also very courteous. Notice, he politely says: “Please tell me.” Although he was a man who held a position of authority in the court of Queen Candace, he demonstrated humility, honesty, and courtesy during this divinely appointed meeting between him and Philip.
Philip wasted no time at all on pounding on the opportunity given to him by the Lord to share Jesus with the eunuch. Notice the Bible says: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). Philip knew one abiding truth about effective personal evangelism that makes an eternal difference in the lives of sincere seekers of truth. And that is that effective personal evangelism is all about Jesus. In other words, it centers on who Christ is and what He has done for the salvation of sinners. Notice the Bible says; “beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” Earlier, while in the city of Samaria, the Bible reports that Philip “began proclaiming Christ to them” (Acts 8:5b).
You see, as far as Philip was concerned, for evangelism to make an eternal difference in the lives of lost souls, sinners or seekers, it must be centered on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, He must be the message of the messenger. This was the principle Philip faithfully followed whether he was presenting the good news to masses or when he was doing so one-on-one. Christ is whom he proclaimed and Jesus is whom he preached.
It’s also important here to note the central role Scripture played in Philip’s one-on-one evangelism with the Ethiopian eunuch. The Scripture the Ethiopian eunuch was reading pointed to Jesus the Messiah, who suffered in our place and sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of repentant sinners. In fact, the Lord Jesus Himself spoke of how He Himself is the central figure of Scripture. Before the cross, He boldly affirmed that the Scriptures testify about Him.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39).
Then after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus asserted twice that He indeed is the central figure of the Scripture. First, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Then, to the frightened disciples in Jerusalem, including the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).
The point of all these references is that for personal evangelism to be effective it must be centered on the Scriptures – which testify about Jesus Christ. Philip was very familiar with the Scriptures. He read and reflected on them regularly. He memorized and meditated on them. He studied them and saturated himself with their life-changing truths. He pondered and practiced them consistently. As such, when he heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading of the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering and sacrifice of the Messiah on behalf of sinners, he was glad and grateful for the wonderful opportunity presented to him to preach Jesus to him. And he made the most of it on that memorable day on the Jerusalem – Gaza desert road. God is willing to give us opportunities of this kind. But like Philip, we must be familiar with the Scriptures. We must be committed to reading and reflecting on them. Memorizing and meditating on them. Pondering and practicing them daily. Studying and saturating ourselves with their life-transforming truths.
We’ve taken a fresh look at four simple yet significant spiritual truths and teachings concerning effective personal evangelism. First, is that: the chief concern of those involved in personal evangelism is bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to others, no matter what their circumstances in life. First century believers fled from the persecution that arose after the martyrdom of Stephen. Saul, the persecutor of the church, was at their heels. Despite their dire and difficult circumstances, their supreme aim was to share and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. And that’s exactly what they did – leaving an example for us to follow.
Second, we were freshly instructed that the commitment of the sharers of the good news is to Jesus Christ and Him alone. Philip, the evangelist, demonstrated through his life that his commitment, devotion, or dedication, is to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did this by proclaiming Christ to the residents of the city of Samaria and by preaching Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch. Because Philip was wholly dedicated to Jesus and Him alone, He was his message. His proclamation was centered on Christ. Similarly, believers today can display their devotion to Jesus by making Him our message to a lost and dying world.
The third spiritual truth is that complete obedience marks the life of an effective evangelist. Do you desire to make an eternal difference in the lives of lost souls? If that’s your desire, then, it demands that you, the believer in Jesus Christ, fully commit yourself to walking in complete obedience to God. Philip was an effective evangelist in his time simply because he walked in total obedience to the voice of God. He wholeheartedly followed God’s directives whether it meant leaving behind a thriving and flourishing ministry to go somewhere else. Similarly, to be effective sharers of the good news of our generation, we must faithfully and fully obey God – doing what He tells us without dilly-dallying or delaying or dragging our feet.
Fourth and finally, we learned that close communion with the Holy Spirit is essential for effective personal evangelism. Philip was sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. He was also submissive to the Spirit’s voice. As such, he was given a glorious opportunity of leading the Ethiopian eunuch to a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit had already been working in the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch. By being in close fellowship with Him, Philip had the awesome privilege of partnering with the Spirit to win a soul for Christ – the minister of finance or the secretary of treasury in Queen Candace’s government.
Who knows what high-ranking government official, royal family member, aristocrat, academician, sports superstar, or a celebrity, God might be sending your way, with whom to share the good news of Jesus! Who knows how far reaching the conversion of such a person will be for generations to come! But God will do this through your close communion and partnership with the Holy Spirit. Let’s desire close communion with the Holy Spirit! Let’s develop intimacy with the Spirit of God! Let’s deepen our relationship with the Spirit! Let’s devote our lives to listening attentively to the still small voice of God’s Spirit and submissively responding to Him! Let’s delight in living in companionship with the Holy Spirit! The sky will be the limit with what God can do with us in sharing the good news with lost souls and seekers!
In the days of Paul and his co-workers and companions, the Roman-Greco world took notice of their ministry of sharing and spreading the good news of Jesus. It was so effective and extraordinary that the people living in the first century city of Thessalonica could only shout in great frustration and fury: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6b). It’s been nearly two thousand years since the world was shaken up by the effective sharing of the good news by Paul and his believing companions. May God be pleased to use us in spreading His gospel of love and hope to a lost and dying world in our day! May our witness be so effective and extensive that the world would once again take notice and say: “These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” And may all the glory be given to our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ, both now and to the day of eternity!