The book of Acts in the New Testament chronicles the actions of some of Christ's apostles, carried out through the power of the Holy Spirit, during a time immediately following Christ's ascension. This book essentially outlines the birth of the church, but in some places, it reads more like an adventure novel than historical reference.
God used the eighth chapter of this book to speak to me recently, and I’ve spent several days trying to understand exactly how to share and explain what I felt the Lord say to me through this passage.
First, let me outline some of the events that take place in Acts Chapter 8. We see Saul making “havock of the church" and believers fleeing from persecution. God used their persecution for good because the scattering of Christians meant the spread of the gospel. This by itself was a blessing to read, because I am awed by the courage of the early believers. They certainly experienced something real to make them flee one place for preaching, only to continue preaching somewhere else. They could have gone into hiding- kept quiet, kept safe. But the Holy Spirit urged them on and they obeyed.
One of those brave believers was a deacon named Philip. He traveled to Samaria and preached there (even a sorcerer was converted under his ministry!), until he received a new assignment directly from the Lord. Verse 27 says, “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.”
So, Philip obeyed, and when he reached the road to Gaza he saw a man from Ethiopia sitting in a chariot, and he heard the man reading aloud from the book of Isaiah. This man was a eunuch, and he was a man of great authority who served as treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia. Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading and then proceeded to reveal Christ to the man through the Old Testament scriptures. The man believed Philip's words and was saved.
One remarkable thing about this story is how much God loved this man from Ethiopia, that he sent the good news of Jesus directly to him. The man already knew of God, but he had not experienced the gift of redemption. And so it is with all believers, because the Holy Spirit has called to us specifically, personally.
It is also exciting to think how this one encounter helped to spread the gospel into other parts of the world, as the Ethiopian man most certainly went home and told everyone what had happened to him. God’s plan was not only to save the man that Philip met on the road to Gaza, but the generations of people after him that would choose to believe.
The Bible indicates that Philip was traveling in the man’s chariot with him when they came to a body of water. They stopped and Philip baptized the man. And this is the part that really jumped out at me. Verses 39 and 40 say, “And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.”
Azotus is the modern-day city of Ashdod, which is probably about an hour-long walk away from where Philip had been. The text describes that the Holy Spirit supernaturally transported Philip to another city! Philip teleported! That might not be the right terminology from a spiritual standpoint, but I think that’s the best word in our natural vocabulary to describe it.
The scripture doesn’t tell us the reason Philip was caught away, but it does tell me this: God can move me where He wants me to be, when He wants me to be there, by any means He chooses- when I seek to follow HIS will.
I’ve had a few dreams in my life; one of the biggest was to become a mother. Before I was married, I was concerned that the dream of a family wouldn’t happen “soon enough” and I would “run out of time”. As it turns out, my husband and I were married only six months after he proposed, and seven months after the wedding we found out our first child was on the way. In a relatively brief span of time I had gone from being single, to being married and expecting a child. Now I have three wonderful children! Some days I’m amazed by where I am on life’s journey.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the future and what new dreams may come to fruition. Reading the story of how Philip was “caught away” gave me these three ideas:
How exciting it is to serve a God that can do what many say is impossible! He loves us and will accomplish His will through those that allow themselves to be used.
You never know when you might find yourself saying, “How did I wind up here?”, and thanking the Lord for His help along the journey.
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