I never cease to be amazed at the manifestations of the continuous presence of God’s power and majesty in the book of Acts. Some commentators even call this book the Acts of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:26-40 I notice several obvious manifestations of God. Let’s open the Word and read it together.
Verse 26: It is an angel who speaks to Philip to direct him to the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza, a journey from Samaria of about 100 kms. As Philip has already been used of God to bring many signs and wonders (v. 4-13) he is keenly aware of the Lord’s guidance and is probably not surprised by the appearance of an angel so he immediately leaves (v. 27).
Verse 29: Again, prompted by the Holy Spirit Philip approaches the chariot of an Ethiopian court official who just happens to be in Philip’s path, and is returning from Jerusalem and just happens to be reading a scroll containing at least parts of Isaiah 53. There are no coincidences in God’s Kingdom! Philip is ‘set up’ for this opportunity to share the Good News with a very strategically placed official and this encounter will have far- reaching consequences.
Verse 30: The Holy Spirit has prompted the Ethiopian to ask Philip to explain the Scriptures to him: “How can I [understand], unless someone guides me?” Here we witness uncommon humility in his willingness to learn from a total stranger who has suddenly appeared out of the blue.
Verse 36: What are the chances of finding a body of water, suitable for baptism, alongside the desert road? Again, God has made the journey of the Ethiopian entourage to coincide with the location of a conveniently placed baptism site.
Verse 39: The Spirit “snatched Philip away” (NRSV), sounds rather dramatic. But think about the transport of other men in the Scriptures such as Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus himself. “We should never be surprised when the Holy Spirit seems to let things get a bit out of hand” once said a strong Calvinist bishop at a clergy retreat. It is our imaginations that are limited which cause us to be amazed at the miraculous. Because these things are beyond our own experience we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss them. I have implicit faith in the veracity of Scripture. As I mentioned before, the ‘problem’ of Ananias and Saphira, and Simon the magician, show us the author, Luke takes great pains to record everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, that he knew from eye witness accounts. If it was a work of fiction the scandalous and unbelievable would have been excluded.
Next thing Philip knows he is about 20-30 kms away at Azotus! He then proceeds on the 100km journey to Caesarea, happily proclaiming the Good News in all the villages on the way. So the progress of the message continues its inexorable journey, all the way to the ends of the earth, even Indonesia.
Do not underestimate the power of God to cause the Gospel to reach the most unusual places in the most remarkable ways, through the most unlikely people. The Lord is looking for those who are willing to yield to the Holy Spirit to be equipped and empowered to share the Good News. Every one of us as followers of Jesus, like Philip, is included.