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Acts #28 (chapter 8:25-40)
The Book of Acts
The Faith that Saves
Acts 8:25–40
Tonight we are going to study from Acts 8, verses 25-40.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind as we study this passage.  First, through these early chapters in Acts, we have the privilege of watching the fulfillment of the Great Commission in its earliest days.  Jesus said the gospel would be preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.
So the gospel has to get beyond the original disciples and those who respond in Jerusalem and begin to spread to the farthest reaches of the earth.  It does that initially, because of persecution against the Christians in Jerusalem.  And already, we've seen the gospel begin to be received in Samaria through the preaching of Philip.
The next step is the world and beginning in verse 25, we have the account of the first Gentile conversion who is an individual from Ethiopia.  He is representative of the uttermost parts of the earth.
So, as we study tonight, keep in mind, this is the fulfillment of the Gospel and the commission Jesus gave. 
The other thing I want you to keep in mind is that the conversion of this Ethiopian is intentional set in scripture in contrast to the experience of the man named Simon that we met last week.  He serves as an example of a false profession of faith whereas the Ethiopian gives us the real deal.
verse 25
This verse is referencing Peter and John, who had come down to Samaria to see what was going on with Philip.  So after the experience with Simon, they  make their way back to Jerusalem, preaching as they went in the Samaritan villages, which was, by the way, good evidence, that they believed what was happening was of God. 
God was, in fact, building His church out of people of all varieties and colors and ethnicities and nationalities.  And so, they preach the gospel to the Samaritans.  So they leave, but Philip stays in Samaria to continue the what he has begun there.  And his ministry there must have taken on a new energy and purpose because now the Holy Spirit has come on all those believers.
And with the arrival now of the Holy Spirit, things really begin to happen.  Philip, under the direction of an angel, is about to encounter an Ethiopian eunuch.  And this a great day for the church of Jesus Christ as it takes the first step in fulfilling the command to go into the uttermost part of the earth. 
But also, keep in mind, we are given through the testimony of the Ethiopian, the characteristics of genuine, saving faith. Everything that is necessary for a person to be saved, we find in this account.  In fact, everything he experienced, you and I experienced also when we got saved. 
There are three primary components of saving faith. 
First, let's look at  
1.  The Preparation
 verses 26 - 29
Already we've read enough to know that this is a very well-designed and prepared encounter, and the one who is preparing this encounter is none other than the Holy Spirit.  And that's a good place to start when talking about genuine salvation.  There are four things that all come together in a miraculous way that contribute to this man's salvation. 
But as with anyone's salvation, it always begins with
- the Spirit of God
Salvation, if it is real, always begins with God. It is not man’s work, it is God’s work.  It is initiated by God.  It is an expression of God's love and mercy.  In fact, were God to never initiate salvation, no one would ever be saved.  The lost heart of man does not seek God apart from God's initiation. 
Jesus Himself said He came to seek and to save that which was lost.  And long before anybody ever went looking for God, God was already seeking him out. 
Salvation always begins as a sovereign work of God.  He is the One Who calls and activates the human heart to respond.  He is the One Who give s the faith so the heart can respond. That's why Jesus said in John 6:44, Jesus said, “No man comes unto Me unless the Father draws him.” 
And we see that illustrated here as an angel of the Lord speaks to Philip and tells him to go directly to this individual who’s a court official of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, for the sake of the gospel.   And Philip, verse 27 tells us, "arose and went.” 
Now at this point, all he knows is he’s to go.  But God was putting together the details down there on the road to Gaza so that at just the right time, this Ethiopian eunuch, who would be reading a certain passage of Scripture, would encounter a faithful disciple of God who would lead him to the Lord.
This is the divine encounter that is prepared by the Holy Spirit.  Philip didn’t know that.  He only knew to be obedient, he only knew to get on the road, and God would determine his purpose.  We act, but the Spirit initiates.  What a wonderfully, encouraging reality that is.
It is evident that God already had chosen this individual, this man.  God had ordained him.  God had written his name down in the Lamb’s Book of Life, if you will, from before the foundation of the world, that the conversion of this eunuch was in the purpose and plan of God from eternity past, as is true of everyone who is saved. 
The salvation of this single sinner was the very clear purpose of God for Philip’s trip reminding us that the salvation of a single sinner is worthy of the attention of God, and the dispatching of angels, and the action of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever a sinner is converted, we conclude that God chose that sinner, God formed a plan and a purpose, and brought about that sinner’s salvation.  So the faith that save begins with the right preparation and that preparation always begins with the work of the Holy Spirit.
The second thing involved in the preparation is
- a servant
The Spirit of God is not only preparing the heart of the person who will be saved, He is at work in the heart and life of a willing servant who will be used by the Spirit to bring the gospel to that person. 
The Lord has chosen to do His work through human instruments.  God uses human tools.  What happened on the Day of Pentecost?  Peter preached the gospel and 3,000 people were saved.  The same thing happens in chapter 4 and 5,000 are saved.  And then the gospel continues to be preached by Stephen
And it’s always been that way.  The apostles went everywhere preaching the gospel.  The persecuted are scattered everywhere preaching the gospel.  And not only has it always been that way, it still is that way. People can’t know the truth unless they hear the truth.  Faith comes by hearing the truth. 
And by the way, that's the way you got saved also.  Somebody loved the Lord enough to share the gospel with you.  So the work of the Spirit has to be married to the obedience of a servant.  Somebody has to be the tool.  That is a critical part of God’s plan to advance the gospel.
And I just want to insert while we are passing by, it didn't make any sense for Philip to leave Samaria.
There was plenty to do right where he was. People were responding.  The Spirit was at work. There was a brand new group of believers established there.  There was enthusiasm and excitement and response to the truth. 
And now God tells Philip to drop everything and head down a desert road with no knowledge of where he was going or for what purpose.  It must have sou8nded like the most ridiculous thing in the world to Philip. 
But Philip was a willing servant and all God had to say was, “Go”,  and verse 27 says, “Philip got up and went.”  That’s enough.  He could have made an argument about why he should stay or how things were more important where he was, but he obeyed. 
And wonder of wonders, when he got to where he was sent, he discovered God had an appointment waiting on him in this Ethiopian. 
By the way, if you want to know just how eager Philip was to do what he had been called to do, check out the command in
verse 29-30a
Philip did what?  He ran in obedience to the direction of the Spirit.  There’s no hesitancy, there’s no reluctance.  There is eagerness.  By the way, when was the last time you ran to church visitation?  When was the last time you couldn't wait to go tell someone about Jesus?  Or more to the point, when was the last time you were eager to be obedient to God? 
If there is one identifying mark of the evangelism of the early church, it is boldness.  It is evident all the way through the book of Acts.  You see that as early as chapter 2 where they’re boldly preaching the gospel to the hostile city of Jerusalem. 
You see it in chapter 4 where they preach the gospel.  They preach Christ risen from the dead with boldness, even though they’ve been threatened with prison and already have been literally taken captive by the powers that be. 
There is a boldness in the early church that God uses and Philip is a demonstration of that boldness.
So we have the Spirit who goes before us, we have a servant who is willing and eager to share the gospel.  What else is needed in this preparation process when God wants to save someone? 
Well, we need
- a sinner
And not just any sinner will do.  We need a searching sinner.  You do realize you can’t give the gospel to people who aren’t interested in it.  I'll say more about that later. 
But I want you to notice down in verses 27-28 that at the same time the Spirit is giving Philip his directions, this Ethiopian eunuch is reading the Scripture, in particular, the prophet Isaiah.
Now we discover this man was from Ethiopia.  In biblical terms, that referred the area in Africa south of Egypt.
The kingdom of Ethiopia was massive in those days.  And he serves in a position of authority under the queen mother.  The name "Candace" is not necessarily a proper name.  It's more of a title like Pharaoh.  It is a feminine name for the queen mother. 
The Ethiopians believed the king to be a divine being.  Therefore he was too holy to get involved in the day to day operations of the kingdom.  Those responsibilities were passed on to the queen mother. 
So much like today's culture, at least at our house, while her son, the king, did nothing, mom was responsible for everything.  So it is Candace, the queen mother, who’s basically running things in the Ethiopian kingdom.
And this man worked for her as she was doing the work of the king.  He is a eunuch.  He’d been castrated to serve in a harem.  And in particular, he is in charge of the department of the treasury.  he is the Chief Financial Officer of Ethiopia.  that means he was a trusted, respected, honored part of the administration.
Now we are told he had gone to Jerusalem to worship.  Now the best estimate is he's traveled about 1,000 miles to worship and now he's returning home and while he's returning, he's reading the work of Isaiah.
I think it safe to say something of a significant spiritual nature is going on in his life.  He's traveled a 1,000 miles to worship.  Something has stirred his heart.  He is searching the Scripture for answers.
There is within him a hunger for the truth, a desire, we could call it a longing for the truth.  He wants answers.  By the way, what did Jesus say in the Beatitudes?  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they shall be filled."  This man has a searching, hungry heart.  He is seeking God.  He is desiring salvation. 
And in the grace and mercy of God, God is about to meet that need.  He is putting all the pieces together as the Spirit of God works to bring together a willing servant and a searching sinner.  There is one additional piece in the preparation and that is
- Scripture
This man is reading the prophet Isaiah, and he’s not reading just anywhere in the 66 chapters of Isaiah.  He happens to be reading, according to verse 32, chapter 53.
verse 32
As far as the gospel is concerned, the most important chapter in the whole book of Isaiah is chapter 53.  We'll look at the details next week, but in preparation for this man to be saved, the Holy Spirit is bringing all the pieces together so the willingness of a servant of God and the searching heart of a sinner will meet in the pages of Holy Scripture that point to the atoning work of Jesus.
That's the preparation.  Next week, we'll look at the presentation and the response. 
Let's pray.
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