Friday, August 04, 2023

The Vision (8.4.23): Philip: The Lord's Instrument


Image: Blackberries, North Garden, Virginia, August 2023

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Acts 8:26-40 (Audio not yet posted).

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert (Acts 8:26).

Acts 8 describes how the Ethiopian Eunuch was converted and baptized. The first thing we see, however, is that God was at work through his angel to direct these circumstances.

Who was Philip? This was the man who would be the instrument of bringing the gospel the Ethiopian He was the human means.

Philip was an apostolic associate. He was one of the seven men who had been set apart in Jerusalem to minister to the Greek-speaking widows in the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 6:1-7). Notice that Philip was listed second among the seven after Stephen, who would be the first martyr (6:5). This tells us of his standing and esteem among the apostles.

After the death of Stephen, the church at Jerusalem was persecuted and “scattered abroad” under the direction of Saul (8:1, 3). To persecute the church, however, was like throwing water on a grease fire. It only spread the gospel further (8:4). As one early Christian write would later put it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the church.”

In God’s good providence, it was Philip who took the gospel first to Samaria in fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy in 1:8 (see 8:5-6, 12). After the Ethiopian’s conversion he would eventually come to Caesarea (8:40). Later in Acts 21, we read of his ministry in that city and that he was known as Philip “the evangelist” (vv. 8-9). He also had four virgin daughter who prophesied, thus fulfilling Peter’s Pentecost prophesy in Acts 2:17, “and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.”

Philip was the divinely directed tool in God’s hands for the Ethiopian’s conversion. If you want to get a job done you have the have the right tools, whether a surgeon, a mechanic, a seamstress, a cook, or a contractor. The Lord always chooses the proper instruments he desires to achieve his purposes.

Philip was directed by the angel to go to the way (road) that led from Jerusalem to Gaza, a place that was a desert (v. 26). I wonder if Philip might have questioned the Lord’s wisdom here. Why not send him to the populous cities? Why send him to the desert?

Nevertheless, in v. 27a we have a report of Philip’s obedience: “And he arose and went.” The Lord was indeed also sending the Ethiopian to that same place for Philip to encounter him.

Have you ever questioned God’s direction of your life? Does it seem he has sent you to the desert rather than where you “ought”—in your mind—to be? Recall Jeremiah’s word of the LORD to his servant Baruch, “And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5).

Let us obey the Lord’s commands and directions so that we might be an instrument in his hands.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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