God is a sending God. Nearly all the encounters God initiates with people in the Bible, He is sending them. His sendings come through visions, dreams, angelic visitations, the voice of His Spirit, the church. However they may come, sendings have the same purpose: to reconcile people to God.
Acts 8 describes a unique sending that is instructive. Philip, who began as a disciple, was ordained as a deacon and became the prototypical NT evangelist, came to the city of Samaria and preached Christ. What followed was a city-wide “revival” followed by an outpouring of God’s Spirit when the Apostles Peter and John were sent to consolidate the harvest.
Immediately succeeding these amazing results, the angel of the Lord speaks to Philip and sends him again. I love the interplay of this encounter : [Angel] “get up and go;” “so [Philip] got up and went.” Here is instant, unquestioning, unqualified OBEDIENCE. He has no more instruction then to go out to a road in the desert. Philip the evangelist, who has ministered to the masses, witnessing many miracles and deliverances, is now sent to one soul. Humiliating? Not for this bond-slave (doulos) of Jesus Christ.
Behind every sending from God there is preparation. Philip is sent to a man of prominence and influence. We are not told his name, only his rank – a court official of Ethiopia, in-charge of the queen’s treasury. We also know he is a God-fearer, returning from a spiritual pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he worshiped the God of Israel. God is already working in his heart just as He sends us to people who are already prepared and ready to receive. Sent ones enter into His work in progress.
Only when Philip crosses the eunuch’s path does he receive further instruction. “GO JOIN THIS CHARIOT.” Think about it… God did not choose the temple in Jerusalem to reveal Himself to the eunuch, He chose a dangerous and desert road in a moving chariot. We do not chose the time and place God has arranged for divine appointments. We simply make ourselves available and ready. Joining the eunuch’s chariot was entering in his world; his personal domain, just as we are sent to meet people in their world. It’s also interesting to me this meeting took place in a chariot, probably moving, which explains why Philip had to run to catch it. We live in a very mobile culture. Opportunities and connections often happen on the move. And history is moving faster than ever towards the culmination of mankind’s redemption (Rev.5:13).
The door of opportunity is opened to Philip by first observing and listening to what engages the eunuch (Is.53). Next, Philip pushes the door open further with a question, “Do you understand what you are reading.” The eunuch’s response throws the door wide open by giving Philip permission to share the Gospel: “How can I unless someone guides me.” Another question follows and the connection is made. Questions and genuine curiosity are great tools to connect with others. Interrogatives suggest humility and receptiveness. Too many times we rush in with declaratives before the Holy Spirit is finished opening the door.
Phillips part or partnership with Holy Spirit in this conversion is simply to open his mouth and let God fill it. This is what Holy Spirit does best – inspire and empower us to witness. Philip testifies to what he knows, first-hand, about Jesus. Leading the eunuch to Christ was easy. God prepared his heart, the eunuch gave permission, Philip partnered/participated with what Holy Spirit was already doing leading him to the Lord.
Chapter eight concludes the same way it began: God’s people on the move, bringing the gospel to the world.
“those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (4)
“[Philip] kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea” (40)
The entire book of Acts is a chronicle of the Gospel moving from Jerusalem to the world through God’s sendings. It is still being written today.
Here are some takeaways from this anatomy of a sending.
- God prepares the heart of those He sends us to.
- We should look and listen for permission people give us to enter their world.
- When we partner with Holy Spirit as sent ones, we will see God’s results.