The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Acts 8:29-31, 35 (NIV)
Read: Acts 8:26-40
Consider: On reading Acts 8:26-40 I was struck by the fact that on three occasions the words ‘then Philip’ occur. This reminded me of a command in computer programming – the ‘If … Then’ statement (some of you may be familiar with this). The essence of this command is that if something happens, then something else has to take place.
The occasions where we are told ‘then Philip’ are as follows:
‘Then Philip ran up to the chariot …’ (v30);
‘Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture …’ (v35);
‘Then both Philip and the eunuch …’ (v38).
This got me thinking about the what preceded these events – the ‘If’ part of the actions. Thinking about it they are:
If the Holy Spirit hadn’t promoted Philip, or if he had been unwilling to obey, then Philip would not have run up to the chariot;
If the Ethiopian eunuch hadn’t been reading from Scripture, then Philip would not have been able to explain about Jesus to him;
If they hadn’t passed some water, then the Ethiopian would not have been able to proclaim his conversion publicly in the act of baptism.
Notice that the Holy Spirit must have already been working in the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch, as he was sitting reading from the book of Isaiah. Notice also that Philip took time to explain the significance of the Isaiah passage and linked this directly to Jesus’ death on the cross. From this he was able to use other Scripture to build upon the passage from Isaiah. Of course Philip could not have done this if he had not understood the Scriptures himself.
From this passage we can learn that when the Holy Spirit prompts us, we should act upon it. It is too easy to ignore the promptings of the Spirit out of fear or lack of confidence. We also need to be prepared to start where a person is, to explain the significance of Jesus dying for our sins. While God can give us the opportunity to share the gospel with others, we need to take time to read and study the Bible so that we can explain it to others.
Pray: Father, help us to act upon the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Give us discernment to know when you want us to do something and give us boldness to explain about Jesus to a needy world. Amen