How you look at life really can determine whether you act on life or life acts on you. Is life a series of unrelated coincidences? Is it the cosmos is conspiring to bring about the most pain and suffering possible? Is it something you command like an army to bend to your will? None of these are true. As a Christian we need to understand that nothing that happens to us is outside of God’s control or His love. I think Philip had that attitude and it kept him from turning into a bitter nomad. Instead he became a trainee in the “blessed are the flexible” school of discipleship.
Think of how your life has gone, and then overlay what God had done through your life. I remember that when I was just out of college and needed a job to support my family. I had a good job lined up and then a hiring freeze cut me out. I had to move somewhere I had never been. I could have turned bitter against God but instead he used that to launch me into ministry and teach me hard lessons that have helped me incredibly today.
I can look back and point to several “kicking out of the nest” experiences where I was comfortable where I was but God wanted to move me on and use me in different ways.
1 – 3
God let Stephen die. What does that say about bad things happening to us? I’m sure Philip was among the “devout” men that buried him. What could he have thought about a God who would allow this to happen? Instead of blaming or becoming bitter, Philip moved on and waited for God to move.
Saul’s “ravaging” in the Greek is the same word used in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament to signify a wild boar destroying a vineyard as in Psalm 80:13).
Dispersed comes from the Greek word for “seed” like explode-a-weeds
4 – 8
This was exactly what Jesus said would happen, from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria. Sometimes it takes a kick to get us out of our comfortable nest.
Philip was a good person to send to Samaria as a Greek speaking Jew. Israelite Jews considered Samaritans half-breeds.
One thing to note here is the presence of an active enemy in Satan and his demons. Demons are real but they are not all powerful and here we see, like in Jesus’ ministry, demons submitting to the power of God.
A predilection for the occult and magic may have contributed to the activity level. The Samaritan religion was demon based (in that it was not true Yahweh worship). Whenever you abandon the Word of God you open yourself up to influence from the enemy.
9 – 13
Simon was a sorcerer. He was really just in it for fame and fortune but he did utilize demonic spirits in order to perform “miracles.” Satan can do some tricks so relying on the supernatural for the confirmation of divinity is dangerous.
Samaria had been a source of pagan worship for some time. In addition to the cult of Jeroboam, which included calf worship, Antiochus Epiphanies had set up a temple to Zeus on Mt. Gerazim.
Simon may have been the historic figure Simon Magus, who according to Justin Martyr, lived in Samaria, moved to Rome, and later founded a sect of Gnostic Christians (not true Christian faith).
14 – 17
The Apostles were simply not sure if half-Jews or non-Jews could receive the Holy Spirit. It is ironic that John had asked Jesus if he should call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village in Luke 9:51.
Does the filling of the Holy Spirit mean they Samaritans didn’t haven enough faith? No, it may be God’s sign, A Samaritan Pentecost (like the Gentile Pentecost in chapter 10).
18 – 25
Simon was more interested in miracles than in Jesus. Simon was not a believer. This could be the first example of a make-believer. This is someone who follows along, says the right words, does the right things, but does not repent and believe in their heart.
We should never even think about using the power of the Spirit to shine a light on us or profit us.
26 – 29
Don’t you love how God told Philip to go and Philip just went, not knowing at all what was in store?
Ethiopia is in North Africa, south of Egypt. This man may have been a Gentile convert to Judaism. It is the final step, taking the gospel to the entire world as Jesus said.
He was probably a high official (not a real eunuch). Having a copy of the Scriptures would have been very expensive.
Philip would have had plenty of excuses not to join the chariot. He also waited to find out where the man was at in his understanding and then used his power of observation to take him from where he was to the gospel.
30 – 38
Verse 37: 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." Is not in the earliest texts.
39 – 40
Azotus is Ashdod, the capital of Philistia, 20 miles north of Gaza. Nothing phases Philip now, nor does anything surprise him. That’s the mark of a mature believer.
Blessed are the flexible
1. Life circumstances forced Philip to change locations but not missions (vs 5)
2. God said “go” but not “do” (vs 26)
3. The Spirit said “do” but not “how” (vs 29)
4. The Spirit said neither “go” “do” or “how” but Philip did not change his mission (vs 40)
He was learning that circumstances and location have little to do with our purpose in life. All that matters is that we give ourselves to the Spirit’s work. Maybe sometimes life deals a bad blow and we think “well, there goes my ministry.” Are you ready to go even if you don’t know exactly the battle plan? Are you ready to start on a mission even if all the details aren’t spelled out?
How to share Jesus 101
There were many barriers to Philip talking to this man about anything, alone the gospel. Socio-economic, class, race, religious, political position. It didn’t stop Philip. He represented the ultimate authority in the universe, but he was not arrogant about it, but very deferential and patient.
1. There are no barriers to the gospel
2. Use observation to look for open hearts (vs 30)
3. Conversations usually work better than speeches (vs 30)
4. Listen for an opening (vs 31-34 “how can I” “invited” “about whom?”)
5. Start from where they are at, not where you have planned (vs 32)
6. Don’t demand conversion (vs 37) but don’t be afraid to ask
Not everyone is a true believer
Simon made a confession with his mouth, but his life was not changed. Coming to Christ doesn’t mean you go through an instant complete change of character, but it begins. You can talk the talk without walking the walk and for all outside observers be a Christian but not be at all.
Are they going along with the crowd or personally moved?
Do they have a hunger to learn about God?
Do they take actions that show a conversion?
As far as learning from the Amazing Incredible Flexible Philip, I think that the more we listen and submit to the Spirit’s voice the fewer times the Lord will have to push us out of the nest, and the more often we’ll go jumping out headlong, knowing he will either guide us or catch us!
For more Bible studies, visit our website at: www.CalvaryChapelNewberg.org