Summary: When Philip preaches Jesus, people look for water! What’s the connection? Look and see...
I visited Amazon.com and hit the search command with these words: “The joy of…” to see what books began with that title. There were 111,218 entries! Although not all actually had that title: these were among those listed:
The joy of cooking
The joy of signing
The joy of motherhood
The joy of Yiddish
The joy of not working
The joy of mathematics
The joy of discovery in Bible study
The joy of juicing
The joy of burnout
The joy of blueberries
The joy of freedom
The joy of music
The joy of first year piano
The joy of reflexology
The joy of cheese cake
The joy of success
As we study the ministry of Philip in Samaria and on the Gaza road we find that his ministry brought great joy to others.
Look at verses 8 and 39 in our text.
8 And there was much rejoicing in that city.
39 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.
Paul later wrote to the Corinthians and said this interesting thing about his ministry:
2 Cor. 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.
I love this! The ministry of Christ is a ministry of joy! It is a work that brings rejoicing! There is nothing as satisfying as a good dose of joy. One of the great benefits of being a member of the body of Christ is this: joy is one of the primary elements. When Jesus was born the angels announcing his birth said, “Behold I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all the people! Today in the city of David a Savior is born, he is Christ, the Lord!”
Now let’s think about Christian ministry in context of Philip’s life here in Acts 8. Where has Philip come from? Jerusalem. And what’s going on back in Jerusalem that made him come here? Persecution! Saul is leading a great persecution against the followers of Jesus Christ even as Philip is in Samaria making new ones. When Saul started ravaging the church, Philip was one of those that fled the city and was scattered. By the way, Philip used to have a good job there in Jerusalem working for the church! He was nominated by the church and installed by the apostles to a position that gave him a responsible, full time job working to bring joy to widows and needy people. We don’t know exactly how long he served at that post, but the persecution ended that job, one of his coworkers was killed by a powerful political mob and Philip found himself unemployed and in need of relocation. So he flees to Samaria, home of the hated half breeds. It would be like moving from Signal Mountain to Poss Homes project.
Just knowing that much about what is going on in Philip’s life, if we were in that position how would you and I handle things? Almost all we know about Philip’s ministry is found here in Acts 8. The last time we hear of Philip is in chapter 21:8-9 and guess who comes to his house to stay a while? Saul of Tarsus, one of the men responsible for killing Steven, Philip’s coworker, and causing Philip to have to flee from Jerusalem, now as Paul the apostle, this very man stays at Philip’s house! I would love to have heard their conversation, wouldn’t you?
Philip gives us a very good example, doesn’t he. He is stubbornly staying with it. And today we will look at two cases where Philip works for the joy of the Lord as he preaches Christ to those who are lost.
First, Acts 8:5-25. Many of the people of Samaria are under the influence of an amazing fellow named Simon the Sorcerer. He has them believing that God’s power is in him. They even refer to him as “the great power of God.” But Philip was a man appointed by the apostles and when they laid their hands on him and the other seven, they evidently passed onto them the miraculous gifts. When Philip comes to town and he begins not only preaching the word, but practicing healing for the needy, just like Stephen had done in Jerusalem. Philip proclaimed the Christ and proved what he proclaimed by performing the signs. It was a one, two punch that won the attention of the people and instilled the faith in those who heard and saw what Philip did. Look at verses 5-8.
The signs and wonders were how the Holy Spirit confirmed the word of God through Philip. His ministry was a sweeping success! By the way, the Holy Spirit didn’t just do signs and wonders according to man’s choice. Philip could only do these things as God gave him the power and as God made the choice. Notice that God didn’t empower the apostles to stop the persecution of the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. As far as we know, God didn’t miraculously heal the stripes of those beaten by the persecutors. There were times when God intervened and interrupted the persecutions of some, but often there was no interruption. The stones killed Stephen; the rods bruised and bloodied the backs of the apostles. The Christian’s homes where Saul and his gang broke in and dragged them out for persecution and death happened without a miraculous prevention. It seems that the miraculous powers were not for personal protection, but for proving the message of the gospel to be true. Someone might say that God should stop all the pain and suffering. Surely that would be incredible proof to convince the lost to be saved! Right? Just imagine a church were there was no suffering or pain, sicknesses are all healed and nobody dies or cries because God wipes away all tears. Actually, that scenario does take place for the church! But not yet.