Saul approved of the killing of the first Christian martyr called Stephen. It is in these first 3 verses that we see the perverseness of the one who would become the greatest evangelist of all time. He not only approved the killing of Stephen, but he began a witch hunt against those who would call themselves followers of Jesus. In vs. 4 we see the result of this persecution which is that the Gospel of Jesus began to spread from region to region. Because Paul persecuted the Christians they had to spread out and go into the region to flee this persecution. This spreading out allowed, as vs. 4 states, the Gospel to spread from region to region. Then we are introduced to Philip.
The account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch is probably my absolute favorite in regards to a strategy to evangelism. Wait, I can’t skip over the gift of the Holy Spirit. Sorry, back up, and let’s look at these very controversial verses that talk about a second gifting of the Holy Spirit, or at least what some would call a second gifting. Philip is a powerful evangelist and so much so that he is able to singlehandedly convert Samaria. Remember Samaria, it was there that Jesus and the woman at the well had an extensive conversation and brought the men of the town into it and allowed the town to be introduced and exposed to Jesus first hand. You can find that in John 4. They were ready for someone like Philip to come and reap what had been sowed a few decades earlier. As a result of his success the heads of this fledgling Christian Church, Peter and John, had to come over and check out his work and make sure that everything was working out the way that it was supposed to work out. They had to make sure that things were done decently and in order. Vs. 16 is a puzzling verse for those of us who call ourselves Protestant. How in the world can people who come to give their lives to Jesus not receive the Holy Spirit?
The assumption that we make is that the Holy Spirit is given to the Christian Church, and so all believers, on the day of Pentecost which took place back in Acts 2, received the Holy Spirit. We read this curious Scripture that says that they were only baptized in the name of Jesus and so had not, as of yet, received the Holy Spirit. How do we baptize people? We do not baptize them in the name of Jesus. Look at Matthew 28:19 where we read that we are to go and make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That is how we baptize, that is how every church that is part of this bride that we call the Church baptizes. If a Roman Catholic comes to join our church they do not need to be rebaptized because they have been baptized as an infant in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The same is true if a Presbyterian were to go and join a Roman Catholic church, they would not need to be rebaptized. This is such a crucial understanding to our faith. So when we read that these believers were only baptized in the name of Jesus, I might be going out on a limb here, I’m guessing they are making up for a shortcoming that was in Philip’s practice as a pastor. They began baptizing people in the trinitarian formula, because Philip was not, and so they had to teach him how to do it.
Please be aware that this is me expostulating from what I believe is true. I can be persuaded differently, but I do not see any need for a second baptism in the Holy Spirit that some denominations believe must take place. There is no need for a second baptism because one in the name of the Trinitarian formula is enough and imbues every person with the Holy Spirit that was given to the church in Acts 2. This is a really important concept because we would never want people to think that their baptism as an infant, or as an adult, is not good enough and we have to have another go at it.
Do we have time to talk about Philip? As I said before, I love Philip and he embodies the perfect evangelistic approach. Oh, I just updated yesterday’s post if you want to see, it has another Rembrandt on it. But notice what happens in this sequence. The Holy Spirit leads Philip to an Ethiopian who is returning from the temple. He is a Eunuch, which means he was castrated and in charge of the treasury of the Queen. He was very much of a VIP. So Philip asks if he understands what he is reading. He happens to be reading from Isaiah, and no, he does not understand. He happens to be reading one of the Suffering Servant scriptures in Isaiah. There are certain Scriptures in Isaiah that point to Jesus as being a suffering servant. He foretells the coming of Jesus who is going to be someone so gentle that he will not break a bruised reed. If you wanted to read all of the suffering servant passages then you can find them below: Isaiah 42, 49, 50, 52, 53.
Once the eunuch hears from Philip who this suffering servant is then he turns his life over to Jesus and spontaneously says upon seeing water: What is to prevent me from being baptized? Oh, how I wish it were that easy for me. I have had so many times when people tell me that they want to be baptized but I can’t until I confab with session and make sure that everything is the way that it is supposed to be. Nothing should prevent people from being baptized, even if it is not decently in order. I love Philip. I love how God uses him. The evangelistic approach which Philip teaches us is to wait until those who need to hear Jesus ask us about Jesus. It is that simple. We will see it again later in Acts.