When Jesus gave the church its marching orders, He outlined His plan for its expansion: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In today’s passage, we begin to see the fulfillment of this promise. But God’s instrument for initiating this worldwide expansion of the gospel might surprise you. Instead of conferences, summit meetings, or strategic planning sessions, the Lord used persecution!
Stephen’s death sparked “a great persecution” that scattered the church, but as the people spread, so did the message of Christ (v. 1). Philip, another of the seven chosen in Acts 6, went down to Samaria where he baptized a sorcerer named Simon. Ultimately, Simon’s conversion proved to be superficial. He seemed to have been more attracted to power than to Christ. When Simon offered to pay Peter and John for the ability to impart the power of the Holy Spirit, he revealed his true character (vv. 20–23).
This chapter describes an encounter between Philip and an Ethiopian court official. The two met on one of the main roads which ran south from Jerusalem. The Ethiopian kingdom was located in the region that now corresponds with Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. We can be sure that this encounter was not an accident. An angel directed Philip to the road “that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Philip obeyed, and when he heard the Ethiopian reading Isaiah’s prediction of Jesus’ suffering from Isaiah 53, Philip posed a simple question that led to the subject of the gospel. The ending was probably not what either of them expected; the Ethiopian official asked Philip to baptize him.
>> Have you ever tried asking a question in order to begin a spiritual conversation? Sincere questions can lead to opportunities to share the gospel. You might ask someone, “Are you interested in spiritual things?” Or even, “Do you think you will go to heaven when you die?”
Lord, thank you for the wisdom and discernment demonstrated by the disciples in today’s Scripture reading. We have a lot to learn from them today. Give us a teachable heart and a humble spirit.