- Sermon Notes
How to Be a Witness
This morning we return to our study through the book of Acts and will pick up in middle of Acts chapter 8 which largely centers on the ministry of a young man named Philip. In these verses, Phillip displays some powerful principles and ways to be a witness for Jesus Christ in this life. What we are shown in a “how to” of sorts that centers on being a witness in the world.
Philip is first mentioned in Acts chapter 6 when a need came up for some young men who could serve in the church by serving tables and making sure nobody was overlooked in the daily serving of food. He was identified in Acts 6:3 along with the others as having a good reputation, full the Spirit and wisdom.
The next time we here of Phillip is in Acts 8, when severe persecution comes upon the church and the people are spread throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria; and Philip takes center stage as he began to preach the good news of Jesus Christ in Samaria. In verse 26, we will see another shift in scenery for Philip’s ministry…He will be called out of Samaria and told by the Lord to go to what was known in those days as “remotest part of the earth.”
The plan and steps defined for Philip would move in line with the outline of the book of Acts given by Jesus in Acts 1:8 where he told His disciples that they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit and where they would go as His witnesses and in that order.
Acts 1:8, “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 as far as the remotest part of the earth.”
The term “witness,” means to see, hear, or know by personal presence or perception. A witness gives testimony based on what they know. The key phrase in the verse is “be My witnesses.” Jesus says that is what His disciples, you, me, and all throughout history who are followers of Jesus are to be. Jesus didn’t say, and you shall go out and witness, you shall think about being a witness, rather, He said, you will “be my witnesses. Witnessing therefore, is not simply something we do, it is who we are.
In Acts 21, we see that Philip ends up with a nickname, “Phillip the Evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Evangelist is a term that means “preacher of the Gospel.” So, I thought who better to get insights on “how to be a witness” for Jesus in our world than from one who was recognized in the book of Acts as having done it so well.
So, we will look to a list of five lessons we learn from Philip on being a witness that is “on mission” and going according to the greatest commission of making Jesus known to all.
Acts 8:26-27(a), But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get ready and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) So he got ready and went…
- Get Ready and Go When the Lord Says So
- From verses 26 and 27, we understand that Philip was on the move again. In the beginning of chapter 8, we see that Philip had already been moved from Jerusalem, which at that time was the happening place. It was exciting, the church was growing, there were healings taking place, many signs and wonders, things were multiplying, thousands and thousands of people joining the church. They were comfortable.
- But as the church was scattered, Philip went to Samaria which was a town that many chose to avoid in that day.
- After Philip begins preaching there, a powerful move of God takes place in Samaria.
- From verse 8 we learn that there was much rejoicing in the city, many were giving their lives to Jesus Christ and choosing to be baptized. The ministry in Samaria was thriving, the crowds were turning to Christ, the Apostles came from Jerusalem to see it all, they were laying hands on the people, and the people were receiving the Holy Spirit.
- After we see all of this amazing ministry is happening, an angel of the Lord comes to Philip and tells him to “get ready and go.”
- We don’t know exactly how the angel spoke, but we know what the angel said, “Get ready and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza, to the desert road.”
- Gaza was one of the five primary cities of the Philistines. Old Gaza had been destroyed in the first century B.C. and a new city was built nearer to the coast.
- There were two roads from Jerusalem to Egypt, and the call for Philip is to go to the worst one, the one that was not often used. It ran right through the ruins of old Gaza and is noted in verse 26 as “a desert road.”
- This journey would have taken Philip a couple of days. He did not know why exactly he was to go, what he did know was that he was to get ready and go to an undesirable desert road where few traveled or desired to go.
- Those were the instructions he had… “get ready and go to the desert road.” In verse 27, we read that Philip “got up and went.”
- Philip could have argued, he could have questioned the direction, he could have said I won’t go until I know the itinerary that will be there for me.
- Philip got up and went, because the Lord said so.
- If we are going to be effective witnesses for Jesus, we have to be willing to let the Lord take the lead in our lives and throughout our days.
Galatians 5:25, If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit as well.
- How often does the Lord desire us to go to a certain place, person, or walk a particular path and our answer is “no.”
- “Lord, things are really going well here in Samaria,” Philip could have said, “I am comfortable, there is a great response here, a thriving ministry, why would I leave the droves of people, for the desert?”
- But that isn’t what he said, he heard the word and was willing to go beyond the borders of Samaria because he knew the Lord had a new person to minister to, in a new area.
- Put No Borders on the “Who” You Share the Good News To
Acts 8:27-29, So he got ready 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 Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”
- As Philip journeys on the road to Gaza, he encountered a man from Ethiopia. Ethiopia was a large kingdom south of Egypt and in those days was considered by the Greeks and Romans as the outer limits of the known world.
- The man he saw was an Ethiopian eunuch, noted here as a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, and in other translations he is noted as “a man of great authority.”
- Verse 27 He had come all the way from Ethiopia to worship in Jerusalem. So, we understand that he was a Jewish convert.
Acts 8:28, He was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading Isaiah the prophet.
- There are signs here that indication the eunuch’s power and prestige: 1. He was in a chariot. 2. He was reading while going along in the chariot (which indicates a driver). 3. He had a scroll of the Scriptures, which would have been difficult and costly for a Gentile to acquire.
- This man of power and prestige is pouring over the Scriptures and as we will see, he is trying to understand what it all means.
- What will be made clear as the story goes on is that something was missing for this man who seems to have it all in terms of worldly wealth and prestige. Something missing for this man who on the surface would have seemed to have no needs.
- In our world, when it seems someone has no need, or we think they don’t, or won’t want to hear, we will often avoid drawing near to them, or telling them about Jesus.
- We often put borders around certain relationships, people or people groups, but my encouragement is to allow the Lord to lead you beyond the borders you may have put in place.
Illus. J. Warner Wallace.
Romans 10:13-15, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
- There are many who need to hear the good news, my question for you is have you put borders or “off-limits” signs on who it is in your life that needs to hear the good news?
- Campbell Morgan: If Christ is hindered, it is because some Philip is not willing to go!
- The Ethiopian eunuch had a need and the need this man had would be made known to Philip, but first he would need to be willing to go.
- Don’t Let Tact Keep You from Contact
Acts 8:29-30, 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?”
- I love that upon getting guidance from the Holy Spirit, Philip immediately ran to the man!
- He did not turn to tact or get lost in trying to come up with the perfect plan, rather, he ran!
- Philip ran and made contact for the cause of Christ!
- As Philip gets close, he hears the man reading aloud from Isaiah. Reading aloud was a common custom in the ancient world.
- Philip heard him reading and asks an appropriate question, “do you understand what you are reading?”
- To approach a man of prestige and power this way, was bold!
Illus. Do you understand what you are wearing?
- There are people who are seeking, people who are searching, people with questions, and there is a Savior they need to know. I encourage you to being willing to pursue kingdom contact.
- Philip gets close, asks questions, and ultimately is ready, willing, and able to answer according to what and who he knows.
Acts 8:31, And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
- What is revealed here is that the Ethiopian eunuch knew he needed someone to guide him, and through Philip’s willingness to ask questions and make contact with this man, he became that someone as he was invited in.
- Be Ready to Be the “Someone” God Sends to Guide
- Philip was willing to be that someone, to make contact, ask questions, and he then goes to sit with him, and will ultimately share answers.
Acts 8:32-34, Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to slaughter; And like a lamb that is silent before its shearer, So He does not open His mouth. In humiliation His justice was taken away; Who will describe His generation? For His life is taken away 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?”
- The passage the man was trying to process was from Isaiah 53:7-8. He was puzzled by that section of Scripture.
- His confusion was likely based on the various interpretations of the passage in that day.
- Jewish thought was divided on what that text meant. Some in that day thought that it represented the nation of Israel, others thought Isaiah was speaking of himself, and other thought it was referring to the Messiah.
- Though Jewish thought was divided, Philip had no doubt regarding who the Scripture was about and rightly divided the Word.
Acts 8:35, Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
- Philip was willing to be the “someone” God had sent to guide. He knew enough about the Scriptures to guide the man, to meet him where he was at, and point Him to the fact that the answer the man was seeking and needed was Jesus Christ.
- We live in a day that is puzzled and perplexed in many ways. A world that has largely been turned upside down the wrong way and we have the opportunity to point people to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
1 Peter 3:15, In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (NIV)
- Part of being ready is knowing the reason for your hope, why you have come to faith in Jesus personally. This will involve the verses you know, your testimony, Bible stories, and a pursuit of people or resources who can help make you ready personally.
- But I encourage you to take every opportunity to be the “someone” God sends.
- Philip was willing to open his mouth and tell of who the Scriptures point to!
Illus. Have some Scriptures to point to: John 3:16, John 14:6, Romans 6:23, Acts 4:12, John 8:12, Romans 10:13.
- And after guiding according to the Scriptures, after telling of who the Scriptures point to and the Salvation that is available for all who would choose Christ, be willing to ask them for their answer.
- Seek a Response
Acts 8:36-40, As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he ordered that the chariot stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through, he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.
- Some of your translations after the man asks Philip “what prevents me from being baptized?” have a response in verse 37 which reads, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And the man answering, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.”
- The reason it is in some translations and not others is because the oldest and most reliable manuscripts do not have this verse included, so others have omitted it, or placed brackets around it. The reason is that Bible translators are seeking to present the Bible in it most accurate and true form.
- That said, a confession and acknowledgement of faith in Jesus Christ in the life of the man Philip ministered to would certainly have occurred.
- When it comes to sharing Jesus with other, it is important to know that each and every person must respond personally.
Matthew 16:13-16, When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
- The eunuch responds personally to Philip guidance with a desire to be baptized.
- He received Christ, saw water, asked what would prevent him from baptism and went down with Philip to the water to be baptized!
- Water baptism was in the New Testament and is today an outward, visible sign of a person’s identification and faith in Jesus Christ. It was given as an ordinance in Matthew 28:19 and it gives evidence to the inner change that has already occurred when a person is “born again.”
- It signifies the believer’s death to the old life and resurrection as a new creation in Christ. (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:1-8)
- After coming up out of the Lord snatched Philip away to another city, to his next assignment, the Lord wanted Philip to be somewhere else that day and the Spirit transported him! In the next town he would continue to preach the Gospel and would ultimately remain in Caesarea.
- We don’t know what would come of the Ethiopian eunuch from Scripture, however, from church history, specifically Irenaeus, we are told that this man became a missionary to the Ethiopians.
- What we know from Scripture is that after his encounter with Philip, he encountered Jesus Christ, welcomed him into his life, and he went away rejoicing.
- That word rejoicing (means to be glad, to rejoice exceedingly, to be well, to thrive.
- After Philip went to Samaria and preached to the masses, verse 8 tells us there was much rejoicing in that city. And after Phillip went down the desert road and preached to one man, the man went on his way rejoicing.
- This is the description I would love to be true of the people and places I minister to… That there was rejoicing!
- This was true of Philip, so let’s learn from what he did in his day and apply it to ours. He shows a powerful example for me and you of how to be a witness for Christ:
- Get ready and go when the Lord says so.
- Put no borders on who you share the good news to.
III. Don’t let tact keep you from contact
- Be ready to be the “someone God sends.
- Seek a Response.
Psalm 107:2, Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.