Summary: Even though the believers were scattered through persecution, Philip went about doing good and preaching the good news and leading many to Christ.
Summer Survival: lessons from Philip in Acts 8
Who was he?
Not Philip the apostle, but one of the deacons, "seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" who were appointed to distribute food fairly amongst the Jewish and Gentile widows of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-7).
Lessons we can learn from him in Acts 8
1. Scattered to sow (vv. 1-4)
The Christians, like students in the summer vacation, were scattered throughout the regions. The apostles (St Paul Simpson, St Joseph Chiodo, St Mark Allen?) stayed behind! They had had great blessing in Jerusalem before the persecution- the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and 3000 converted through the preaching of the gospel (Acts 2); people were getting saved every day (Acts 2:47); healings were happening (Acts 3); even despite arrests, numbers grew to 5000 (Acts 4:4); prayers for boldness were being answered and everybody was provided for physically (Acts 4:23-37); more were healed and prisoners released (Acts 5). But after Stephen, the first martyr, and the rise of Saul, the persecutor, everything looked much bleaker. There was a "great lamentation” and people were dragged into prison. But…
"Therefore", that marvellous word in Scripture, "those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word." As in every evil occasion, God used the persecution and separation of Christians to bring about an even greater good than their continued good fellowship and harmony. "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless an ear of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (John 12:23). The death of Stephen and the ensuing persecution were not a waste. Because of his great sacrifice, much fruit was produced as the gospel began to be preached in a far great remit than had things remained as they were.
Application: you, Brunel students, have been fed and encouraged by your sweet fellowship together this year! But now you must be scattered so you can sow the seeds of the Gospel far and wide, back in your home towns and everywhere on holiday that you go.
2. Used for universal utterance to unbelievers (5-8)
Philip went (to where the people were) and he spoke (Christ). He didn’t just hang out with non-Christians, and he didn’t just shout out verses in the high street either. He got to know Samaritans (traditionally loathed by the Jews) and told them about his Saviour. He spoke to everybody, not just his peer group ("the multitudes") and healed many, causing them joy.
Application: are we prepared to live and speak the truth of Christ , in strong friendships with unbelievers, including those with whom we normally don’t associate? Can we help them to be healed in some way, so as to help them to hear the Gospel more readily?
3. Modifying our mindsets and motives (9-25)
Simon the Sorcerer was obviously impressed with the power at work in Christians. He wanted some of the action (v14, 19) and was prepared to pay for it (18). Peter was not afraid to rebuke this man, who’d got the wrong end of the stick about the Holy Spirit- "your heart is not right in the sight of God." He also offers him a solution (repentance) for his bad attitude, his "bitterness" and "iniquity" (23).
Application: what do we think about signs, wonders and other phenomena? Do we have the discernment from God to tell what is of Him and what isn’t? How can we best guide our Christian and non-Christian friends into the truth of these matters? Do we have an unbiblical view about the power of the Holy Spirit- that, for example, we won’t have status or credibility if we don’t lay hands on someone and heal them? Do we have the humility to repent when we’ve thought that "godliness is a means of gain" (1 Timothy 6:5)- if not financial benefit, then social kudos?
4. Meekness when moved (26-30)
If God wants you to go to the desert, you go to the desert. You’ll be in excellent company- not just Philip, but Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus as well! Do we have the faith and humility to just say yes when God says go? "So he arose and went" (27). For Philip, God’s command was simply to be obeyed. He let God be concerned with the consequences. As William Booth said, "Do not ask whether something is possible; ask whether it is right, and God will enable you to do it."
Application: do you have a choice this summer between going on a really cool surfer dude holiday with your mates, or a children’s camp in Romania? Tricky, isn’t it? God might be calling you to do either, but be suspicious of your heart (Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 28:26) and be prepared to go against your preference given guidance from Scripture, friends, circumstances and your conscience. Will you run, too, as Philip did (30), not just dawdling towards your calling?