Last week I concluded my message about Stephen with a quote from Henry Blackaby in his study, The Man God Uses.
“God is known for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Throughout Scripture God used ordinary men to affect His kingdom in extraordinary ways.”
Were the people of the Bible extraordinary people? Were they super-saints, far removed from normal everyday living? No, they were common, ordinary people. Some of them were farmers and others were fishermen. Only a handful had a religious education and it seems that for those who did, God had to break them so that He could make them.
The book of James tells us that Elijah, one of the great prophets and heroes of the Bible, was a man ‘just like us.’ The heroes of the Bible weren’t perfect people. Abraham had a way of stretching the truth. Moses got angry and lost his temper. David committed adultery and murder. Elijah fell into a time of deep depression. Jonah tried to run from the will of God. Simon Peter denied that he knew the Lord.
I don’t point out those things to say that sin doesn’t matter. It does and if you don’t believe me, just examine the lives of any of these men. Each of them paid a high price for their disobedience. But I do want us to understand that God can and will use common, ordinary people like you and me, if we will give our lives to Him and seek His help.
One day a group of Christian friends were together praying and discussing the things of God. One of them said this statement and it has been repeated over and over again. “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” The word consecrated simply means dedicated. The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who will give his life to God and dedicate himself for God’s glory. That challenge from Henry Varley hit Dwight L. Moody like a bolt of lightening. Moody later told that at that moment, he said deep in his heart – “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” Moody gave his life to the Lord and went on to be a great evangelist. Even today, after having been dead for over 100 years, God is still using his life and testimony.
God has a special plan for how He wants to use each of our lives for His own glory. It may or may not be to become a world renown evangelists like D.L. Moody or Billy Graham. It may be right where you are at. For God to use us there are two things that are needed:
- We must take our relationship with God very serious.
- We must allow His Spirit to change us and guide us so that He might use us.
I. Philip, A Man Full of the Holy Ghost
Acts 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip …
Scripture doesn’t give us any details about Philip’s background. There was an apostle named Philip but this can’t be the same man for the fact that he was chosen to serve as a deacon separate from the ministry of the apostles. We do know something about his spiritual character and work in the early church. He was a man of great integrity, full of the Holy Spirit and who possessed godly wisdom. He was a man well respected not only by the apostles but also by the church body.
It’s important that we note that Philip was a man ‘full of the Holy Ghost’. Ephesians 5:18 tells us, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” To be filled with the Spirit means to be under His control and influence. Just as we would say that a man drunk with wine was under the influence of alcohol, so we would say that a believer filled with the Spirit is under the Spirit’s influence and control. For a Christian to be filled with the Spirit, they must let go of their self-will in every area of their life. They must also be sensitive to the inner convictions and guidance of the Spirit as He uses the Word of God in their life. They must also respond accordingly.
Philip wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a man who sought to live his life under the Holy Spirit’s guidance and control. That’s very important. It’s why God was able to use Philip is such a dynamic way in the early days of the church. It is still the central condition and requirement for God to use someone’s life today.
II. Philip, A Man Led By the Holy Ghost
Philip is first introduced as a man ready to serve as a deacon. Deacons are to be men ready to respond to the Holy Spirit. Philip no doubt faithfully fulfilled that duty. But Philip was also a man who was ready to quickly respond to whatever the Holy Spirit wanted him to do. And as we will see, the Holy Spirit used Philip to do some pretty amazing things.
We find Philip again just after the stoning of Stephen.
Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. (Stephen’s death) And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Saul, who later is called Paul, is not yet a Christian. Saul consented to Stephen’s death and it seems as though the stoning of Stephen only stirred the enemies of Christ to persecute the church even more. Saul began to enter into believer’s homes, perhaps house churches, and literally drug the people out and had them thrown into prison.
Verse 4 says that this caused the believers to be ‘scattered abroad.’ The word used here means to scatter or sow seeds. The early Christians were being heavily persecuted for their faith and so they began to migrate out into other areas outside of Jerusalem and Judea. But notice what happened as they went – “4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” As they moved into new regions, they took the gospel with them and thus new churches were planted everywhere. That’s why you and I are here today. Christians left Europe in search of religious freedom and brought with them the gospel.
Among those who went out from the early church was Philip. “5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” Philip took a huge step of faith here. He took a risk. As many of you know, the Jews hated the Samaritans. Samaria was a region just north of Jerusalem. At one time this region was a part of Israel and inhabited by Jews. About 900 years before Jesus was born, the nation Israel had a political riff and divided. Ten of the twelve tribes joined together and formed what is often called ‘The Ten Northern Tribes.’ They lived in this area called Samaria. The remaining two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, joined together and lived in the southern part of the kingdom. The ten northern tribes were very wicked and disobedient to God and as a result, God used the Assyrians to capture and punish them. When the Assyrians came to capture them, they took away many of the healthy young and middle aged men and replaced them with men of other nationalities who had been captured else where. Their purpose was to weaken the nation Israel and keep them from rebuilding through the intermarrying of these nations. Thus the land of Samaria became known as a land of half-breeds. That’s not a kind term but it explains exactly how the Jews of Jerusalem, (the southern kingdom), felt about the Samaritans. They hated them with a passion.
During His earthly ministry Jesus did something amazing. He went directly into Samaria. North of Jerusalem was Samaria and north of Samaria was Galilee, the land where Jesus and His 12 disciples had been raised. Normally when a Jew traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee, he would not take the shortest route by going directly through Samaria; instead he would first go east to cross over the Jordan River. He would then travel up the east side of the Jordan River in the land of and then cross back over into Galilee north of Samaria. Thus he would avoid Samaria all together. It would be like us going west and crossing the Mississippi River in order to go north into Canada. It would had many miles to their journey but it was worth it to them in order to avoid Samaria. That’s how much the Jews hated them. But Jesus was not filled with these prejudices and hates. The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons and He loved the Samaritans just as much as He loved the Jews. I’m sure you remember the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. When Jesus asked her for a drink, she responded by saying – (John 4:9 How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.) We know that the water that Jesus was willing to give her was living water, or salvation by grace through faith in Him. The result of Jesus’ journey into Samaria was that woman’s salvation and many in village. The disciples were there that day and saw it all. We don’t know how they responded to all of that. I’m sure there was a mixture of feelings. On the one hand they were glad that the woman believed in Jesus, yet on the other hand – “These were Samaritans!”
We might also guess the reaction of many in the church when Philip revealed that he was going to Samaria. “Are you crazy? If God wants the Samaritans’ to be saved, He can do it with out our help.” No He can’t. That’s not how He has chosen to work. Jesus told His disciples – (Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.)
III. Philip, A Man Used By the Holy Ghost
The word ‘spirit’ means wind or breath. Jesus said of the Spirit – “the wind blows where it desires.” The Holy Spirit moves where He desires and our duty is to be ready to respond. The disciples believed that God wanted to use them to reach the world. Jesus had commanded it to them and they had witnessed some phenomenal things in just a very short period of time. Therefore they lived with a sense of urgency and expectancy, always ready to respond.
Acts 8:26 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. 27 And he arose and went…
What’s significant about that? There’s a major revival going on in Samaria! People are being saved! Lives are being changed! This is what we’re all looking for! Yet the Spirit told His servant to leave Samaria and go into a deserted region called Gaza. The miracle is – Philip went!
Acts 8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
John MacArthur said in a message about Philip, ““If we’d attack the will of God with that kind of vigor we’d see something happen in this world.” Brethren, if those of us who call ourselves Christians were that eager to do the will of God; if we were that focused and sensitive and responsive; if we were that in love with the Lord and seeking for opportunities to serve Him – that we would run to do His will, God would use our lives in an unbelievable way!
The other day I was talking with someone outside of our church about this message and they shared a story with me. It seems that many years ago a missionary went to Africa. When he got there, he was amazed to discover that the people already had some knowledge of who Jesus was. The missionary asked a man in the village, “Who was the missionary who came and told you these truths?” “Who?” the man responded. “Haven’t you read your Bible? We heard of Jesus through the ministry of a man named Philip.”
Henry Varley said to his friends, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” One friend, by the name of D.L. Moody responded in his heart, “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” I aim to be that man. Do you?