Today we conclude our message series “Faith Heroes.” Why are we studying the stories of people of faith who lived thousands of years ago? Because we want to learn what God did in the past through their lives, so that we can follow in their footsteps today. Paul wrote in …
1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV) Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Paul’s goal in life was to be an imitator or follower of Jesus Christ. He wrote to the Corinthians that they should be imitators of him. Paul was confident that as they imitated him, they would also be imitating Christ. So, we want to be imitators of these faith heroes that we are learning about in this series. We want to be imitators of their faith, so that our faith can grow to believe God for big things today.
Our message topic today is “Reaching Others.” I believe that the primary purpose of the church, which is made up of every believer, is to reach others for Jesus Christ. It has been said that God has five purposes for the church and our lives. These five purposes are worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and outreach. All five are important, but four of them, we will continue to engage in in heaven. In heaven, we will continue to worship God, to fellowship with other believers, to keep on learning about God and most likely minister to one another in some fashion. The one purpose that we absolutely will not engage in is outreach or evangelism. Why? Because only believers will be in heaven. The purpose of outreach is summarized in the Great Commission in
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The first and primary purpose of every follower of Jesus and every church is to make disciples of Jesus. That is not the end of our task, as these new disciples must in turn be trained to make more disciples themselves. Jesus made sure that we have all the power we need to be His witnesses to reach the lost.
Acts 1:8 (ESV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Most of us are not going to be speaking to large crowds as evangelists. God calls us to be witnesses to reach others largely in one on one relationships. God has put you into a unique circle of relationships. Relationships with family, relatives, work-mates, neighbors, friends and church family. Those relationships are your primary mission field. God has a plan for you to reach those in your circle of influence first and foremost. How are you going to reach them? Today, we’re going to learn some lessons on reaching out from a disciple named Philip. So, let’s get started with talking about …
Let’s learn about what Philip was like before we read about the miraculous things he accomplished. If we just focus on the supernatural, we miss the character preparation that God accomplished in his life. It all began with a church problem.
Acts 6:1-2 (ESV) Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.
The was a dispute between two types of people in the church, those who spoke Greek, the Hellenists and those who spoke Hebrew. These two groups would be basically, the Gentiles and the Jews. The Gentiles were complaining because their widows were not receiving the same amount of support as the Jewish widows. In those days, there was no government support, so if a widow had no family to help, she was in dire need of food to survive. The twelve disciples were Jewish and believed their main task was the preach God’s Word, rather than directly serve the widows. What would the solution to the problem be? It would be an opportunity for Philip to …
Acts 6:3 (ESV) Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
Seven men of Greek background were to selected to oversee and help with the serving of the widows. The requirements mentioned in this verse is that they should have a good reputation, be Spirit-filled and wise as well. These requirements had to do with godly character, built up over a period of time. Of the seven chosen, the two we know most about were Steven and Philip. The point here is that Philip had been saved, water and Spirit-baptized and following God for some time. He had developed a good reputation in the church. He could have thought that serving widows was not his calling in life, but he gladly accepted the opportunity to serve the Lord in this way. Not only was Philip exemplary in the church, he also was …
Acts 21:8-9 (ESV) On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.
In these two verses, later in Acts, we learn that Paul and Luke visited Philip in his home. Despite being used in miraculous ways, as we’ll see, Philip was married and had four daughters, so he obviously also had a believing wife. These four daughters prophesied, which indicates that they were prophetesses in the early church. They were unmarried, which either means they were quite young or that they had put off marriage for the sake of prophetic ministry. Philip was committed to discipling his own children, who were being used by God in supernatural ways as well. Philip was allowed God to work in his life and family to prepare him to reach others as an evangelist.
God has put in the heart of every true believer, the desire to reach others for Jesus. Yet, often we get frustrated as it seems difficult to do. Reaching others for Jesus begins with growing in your relationship with God, as Philip had. This doesn’t mean that you must wait a long time after being saved to be a witness, but it does mean that you will grow in effectiveness as your character and relationship with God grows. In order to be an effective witness, your actions must match what your words say. If your actions and character are not Christ-like, then no one will pay attention to your words, even though they may be correct.
The laboratory that God puts us into to grow our character is our families. We go through different stages in families, first as children, then as adults, finally as parents. There are different character challenges at each stage. But as we grow more like Jesus, we are able to be more effective witnesses. The next principle we can learn from the life of Philip is to …
Philip and the apostles had been living in Jerusalem until Steven was martyred. Then a great persecution arose against the Christians in Jerusalem and many left the city.
Acts 8:4-5 (ESV) Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.
All those who were displaced because of the persecution were witnesses wherever they went. This included Philip who went to Samaria and told them about Jesus. When you’ve been forced to live your home and hometown, it is difficult. Yet, Philip embraced this change as an opportunity to tell others about Jesus in different places. In fact, the persecution and scattering of the believers was part of God’s plan to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Philip went …
Acts 8:6-7 (ESV) And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.
Philips’s ministry in the church at Jerusalem was making sure that all of the widows in the church family were provided for. He faithfully was involved in serving them food and caring for them. But God was preparing him for something different. Philip was preaching the Gospel to crowds in Samaria, but that was not all that was happening. The Spirit of God was moving powerfully. Demons were being cast out of people and those who were paralyzed and lame were being healed. Those who were in the crowds, not only heard the words of Philip, they saw the signs that he was doing through the Holy Spirit. This is the most powerful witness, the word of truth confirmed with supernatural signs and wonders. Philip was following in the example of Jesus’ ministry, as did the apostles. He also continued to be engaged in …
Acts 8:9 (ESV) But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great.
As Philip preached, there was a man named Simon who had practiced demonic magic in the same city. He had a large following that were amazed by his counterfeit miracles.
Acts 8:12-13 (ESV) But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
As the people in the crowds believed the Gospel of the kingdom that Philip was preaching, they were then water baptized. Amazingly, an enemy of the cross, Simon, also believed and was baptized. He also saw the signs and miracles and was amazed at the greater power of God compared to the demonic power he had been operating in. The trials and difficulties of persecution had opened great opportunities for Philip.
There are many ways that God may bring disruption and/or change into our lives. God breaks us out of the routine of our daily lives for many reasons. First of all, it may draw us closer to God, as we need him when things change. Secondly, it often will bring us into contact with new people that need Jesus. In the same way, God often uses difficulties to prepare people to seek Him. Those who are going through issues with marriage, addictions, grief, illness, job loss, financial difficulties and so on, are often more open to being prayed for and hearing the Gospel. Be looking for opportunities if you’re going through trials to share the Gospel. Be aware of the situations that others are in. If they’re going through problems, don’t hesitate to offer to pray for them and to speak to them about God’s love. Nothing happens by accident in the life of a believer or those the Spirit is drawing to Himself. Finally …
Be ready at all times to be a witness for Jesus.
Acts 8:26 (ESV) Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.
Philip had gone back to Jerusalem from Samaria. But while there, an angel spoke to Philip. The angel didn’t tell Philip why he was to go to that road, but Philip simply obeyed and went. He was ready to be used by God at all times.
Acts 8:29 (ESV) And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”
A divine appointment is where God directs two people separately so that they meet together for his purpose, in this case so that someone was saved. As Philip had been walking on the road the angel had directed him to, he met a chariot. In the chariot was an Ethiopian eunuch, a high official in the government there. The eunuch had been in Jerusalem to worship, apparently seeking God through the Jewish religion. But God had plans for him to hear about Jesus. Philip took the initiative at the Spirit’s prompting and went over to the chariot and began a conversation. The eunuch was reading the book of Isaiah, but didn’t understand it.
Acts 8:35 (ESV) Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
Philip had studied the Scripture enough that he was able to take an Old Testament prophecy in the book of Isaiah and tell the eunuch about Jesus. Where could this have failed? The divine appointment would have failed if Philip had followed the angel’s direction to go walk on a hot and dusty desert road for no apparent reason. The divine appointment would have failed if Philip hadn’t followed the Spirit’s prompting to go up to a regal chariot and engage a foreigner in a spiritual conversation. The divine appointment would have failed if Philip had no idea how to explain the prophet Isaiah in light of Jesus. Yet, Philip was determined to fulfill his calling as an evangelistic witness.
Acts 8:39-40 (ESV) And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Not only was the eunuch saved, Philip also baptized him in water alongside of the road. Apparently the Spirit transported Philip to another town some distance away. Philip didn’t question God or skip a beat, he simply preached the gospel in all the towns he went through until he came to Caesarea. Caesarea was the place that Luke found him later in Acts. So, it seemed to be his new hometown where he and his family lived. Everywhere that Philip went, no matter how he got there, he saw as an opportunity to reach others for Jesus. He had developed an outreach lifestyle.
Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the outreach lifestyle that Philip had developed so that we can follow his example in our own lives. Although every believer is not called to be an evangelist, each one of us is called to be a witness for Jesus. The first thing that we notice about Philip is the importance of hearing from God, whether through the Spirit or an angel or circumstances.
Next, Philip was not disturbed by changes in his life, but saw them as opportunities to reach people he had never met before. Philip saw the needs in people’s lives as opportunities to pray for them and share the truth of God’s Word. Philip expected God to use him in supernatural ways to meet people’s needs.
At the beginning of this message, I suggested that the most important mission field for most of us is our circle of relationships. Develop a prayer list of people in that circle who either are not saved or you don’t know whether they are saved. Pray regularly for them. If everyone you know is saved, pray that God would lead you to some unsaved people in your life. For some of you, your calling may to equip people who are already saved to be witnesses for Jesus. In order to do that, you also need to be growing as a witness. If you’re shy, start with passing out invite cards or other literature we have on our Ministry Table in the foyer. Pray that God would use it to change lives. Be ready at all times.
We learn from the story of Philip of the importance of developing a godly lifestyle. Trusting God in the change that He brings into our lives. Seeing change as affording new opportunities to reach others for Jesus. God wants us to learn to be ready at all times to be a witness for Jesus. To be sensitive to hearing from the Spirit and following His direction to grow in reaching others.