The Call: A Case Study on Philip
The Great Commission is the Great GO Mission, for God has called each of us to go! Go be witnesses for Jesus. This is our mandate, and remember, He will always be with us.
Much can be learned from the example of others. Hence, we focus briefly on the case study of Philip from Acts 8. Here, we follow his witness to the Ethiopian eunuch and here we see “evangelism by the book!”
Acts 8:26-40 let’s unpack three principles related God’s call to Philip, principles which also are very germane to our walk and witness today:
The Call to Go, The Call to Connect, and The Call to Proclaim.
The Call to Go (Acts 8:26-28)
“But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went”(v. 26-27).
Earlier in Acts 8 the Scripture reveals that Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them, and the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did (Acts 8:5-6). God then calls him to leave Samaria, a city of hundreds of thousands of people and go to a desert road, a road in the midst of the wilderness. No other instructions! God doesn’t tell Philip who he’s meeting or what’s going to happen. As children of God, we’re called to “walk by faith not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), and sometimes that means the Lord doesn’t spell things out for us. When God calls us to go, whatever that going looks like, we have a choice. What is our choice when God calls us to reach out to someone in our sphere of influence? In Philip’s case, he chooses to follow God and the result is a divine appointment, when he then meets an Ethiopian Eunuch.
The Call to Connect (Acts 8:29-34)
“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?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him” (v. 29-31).
In this narrative, the call to connect is a moment in time where Philip shows up, shares the gospel and then is literally whisked away. The difference in our daily lives is that the call to connect with people generally is in the context of personal relationships where we can develop trust and rapport, where there is time for many touch points, and where spiritual conversations can occur as God opens doors. This includes people with whom we work, play, go to school, and serve alongside in our respective communities, among others.
But personal evangelism is personal and that means we must have a willingness to connect with people. While the concept of developing relationships for the purpose of being salt and light to someone is simple, the practical application is challenging. Why? Because relationships are messy and hard work, and sometimes, we just don’t want to deal with it. Additionally, we can get very distracted with life, sometimes so much so that redemptive relationships aren’t on our radar. Lest you and I think we’re too busy to get involved in other’s lives, we learn from Acts 21 that Philip had 4 daughters. He was a busy man! But his business didn’t crowd out his willingness to be about the Father’s business.
Additionally we may shun the call to connect for other reasons like: “They will reject me.” “I won’t know what to do or say.” “It’s too ____ or too ____?” Interestingly, the call connect, like the call to go, simply requires a “will to”, not a “how to”! We first must be intentional and willing to get our hands messy. Once we demonstrate a “will to” go, God will reveal the “how to” in His time. With whom in your sphere is God calling you to? We see Philip’s obedience in connecting with the eunuch. Lastly, we see Philip proclaim the gospel.
The Call to Proclaim (Acts 8:35-40)
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him” (v. 35-38).
Philip’s willingness to go allowed God to position him to share the gospel. Now Philip certainly would have shared that Jesus is the Messiah and that He died for our sins and rose again from the dead. But notice in verse 35 the Word says, “beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” – this Scripture being Isaiah 53, the very chapter the Eunuch had open.
We need to affirm that that a powerful witness in personal relationships includes both show and tell. In our witness we can and should both demonstrate and proclaim God’s love found in Jesus, when possible. Yet the call to proclaim is imperative to obey because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). No one ever gets saved through demonstration only, but people can and do get saved through proclamation only. Here God opens up the door for Philip to proclaim the gospel message and the result – the Ethiopian eunuch is saved!
To be sure, this is certainly a “best-case” witnessing scenario. But regardless of the response to our witness, the principle of obeying God’s call is applicable for you and me. We never know how someone will react to the gospel message, as that is between them and God. Remember, their response to the gospel message is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to share it.
As you think about your sphere of influence, ask the Lord to show you where and to whom He is calling you. Then trust the Lord, follow the Lord, and leave the results to the Lord as you obey the call!