Go with God's Guidance

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ME: Intro

In preparing this morning’s sermon I came across this account of a guy named Skylar.
Skylar was sitting in a crowded coffee shop working one day,
When a guy asked if he could share Skylar’s table.
Skylar made room for the man to sit and work alongside one another.
Naturally, as the two were working, they were talking.
The man began opening up about some stress he was presently experiencing.
Instead of just offering sympathy,
Skylar shared about a time God provided for him when he was experiencing stress in his life.
Then he simply asked the man,
“What do you think about Jesus?”
The man responded,
“I am not against Jesus, I just don’t know much about Him.”
“Even though I grew up Catholic, I have never really read the Bible.”
Skylar followed up by asking,
“Based on what you do know, what do you think?”
The man responded by saying,
“Well the last time I remember opening a Bible,
It just opened up to Psalm 18.”
Skylar said, “Let’s check out what that psalm says.”
He opened his Bible and scanned through the themes of judgment and salvation in the psalm.
Then, he asked the man if he knew the story of the Bible.
The man said no,
So, Skylar went on to explain how Jesus was judged in place of sinful humanity to give us salvation.
A few minutes after Skylar shared the gospel message with this man.
The man simply said,
“Wow…I believe it.”
He followed up with Skylar trusting in Jesus as His Lord and Savior.
The two eventually went their separate ways that day.
The man said, he would go home and read the whole Bible.
So, Skylar arranged to meet with the man for the next several months to read the Gospel of Mark together.
I share this story because Skylar did not go to the coffee shop that day to evangelize.
The man did not go to the coffee shop that day to be taught the gospel.
God providentially guided this meeting.
Skylar summarized this meeting as “the easiest gospel conversation he ever had with anyone!”
Because God arranged for this divine appointment,
And led Skylar to guide this man to the gospel.
Divine appointments like this may be waiting for each one of us as we go throughout our days.
So, we should be on the lookout for them.
When we are at the coffee shop or the grocery store,
We should be prepared for evangelistic opportunities.
God offers salvation to the world through ordinary conversations that display the glory of His grace.
That is how we became Christians.
Because someone guided us to the gospel.
So, we must live with a sensitivity to Go with God’s guidance.
In Acts 8:26-40, we see an example of this.
God’s saving grace is at work among the nations,
As God guides Philip to guide an Ethiopian man using God’s Word into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Slide (Stott)
John Stott introduces the goodness of this passage this way:
“God has given us two gifts, first the Scriptures and secondly teachers to open up, explain, expound and apply the Scriptures. It is wonderful to note God’s providence in the Ethiopian’s life, first enabling him to obtain a copy of the Isaiah scroll and then sending Philip to teach him out of it.”
God’s grace leads us to repentance.
In His grace, He provides His Word and guides for His Word.
In this passage, we also begin to see an increased involvement of the Spirit,
As God’s offer of salvation continues to spread globally.
The church has already begun advancing across ethnic and social borders when Philip evangelized the Samaritans.
In this passage, the gospel reaches even farther by saving an Ethiopian.
God does this by guiding Philip to this man.
Philip embodies God’s mission.
After scattering in response to persecution,
And teaching the gospel to Samaritans,
Philip continues to obey God’s guidance where he is led to an important meeting in the desert,
Teaches the gospel, and gets the privilege of baptizing a new believer.
Slide (outline)
That is the outline we see in our text this morning:
Providential Guidance (vs. 26-31)
Privilege for Guides (vs. 32-38)
Powerfully Going (vs. 39-40)
Obey the Spirit’s guidance to go make disciples.
Once again, Philip is the central person in this passage.
Remember, last week we ended right after the Samaritans received the gospel in response to Philip’s teaching.
So, Philip was still in Samaria.
The fact that he taught the gospel to the Samaritans shows that his heart is open wide to all people.
His heart reflects God’s heart.
He loves with a Christlike love.
In our passage this morning he continues to prove this love by caring for an Ethiopian man.
Philip loved Jews, Samaritans, and Ethiopians.
He loved sorcerers, officials, and everyone in between.
His love for all people is what makes him an effective evangelist,
Especially loving people across human barriers.
So, as we prepare to look at his example,
Let us consider if a similar spirit of love is present in us.
Do we love Muslims?
Do we love people who are a different ethnicity?
Do we love people from different social classes or political parties?
Let us determine to follow Philip’s model of loving people across all barriers.
By meditating on the cross and being led by the Spirit.
Remember God demonstrates His love toward us by dying for us while we were still sinners.
He loved us at our most unlovable.
We did not deserve to be saved by Jesus.
And the more we remember who Christ is and what He has done for us,
The more we will love others in a similar way.
We will be empowered by the Spirit to love the unlovable,
And even love our enemies.
Because ultimately, love is a fruit of the Spirit.
Remember back in Acts 6, Philip is described as being full of the Spirit.
Being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led results in Christlike love for people.
Therefore, let us meditate on the cross and ask God to fill us with His Spirit,
And to be led by His Spirit.
So, that we may have a heart like God’s heart,
And we may love all people with Christlike love.

WE: Providential Guidance (vs. 26-31)

Slide (vs. 26)
Being led by the Spirit and the Word is how God gives Providential Guidance,
As we see Him do with Philip in vs. 26-34.
Remember, Jesus gave His disciples the commission in Acts 1:8 to be His witnesses in Jerusalem,
Then in Judea and Samaria,
Then to the ends of the earth.
Outside of that,
God did not give His disciples a detailed map or plan of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Yet, Acts has repeated examples of God sovereignly and supernaturally orchestrating His mission,
By providing the church with providential guidance.
We saw it with Philip taking the gospel to Samaria.
Now, after his mission in Samaria,
God’s providential guidance is even more unquestionable,
With an angel visiting Philip in vs. 26 to deliver a command.
“Get up,” the angel says,
“And take the desert road that heads south from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
The angel told Philip to leave this revival happening in Samaria to head for Gaza.
Gaza is a strong city on the Mediterranean shore about 6 miles southwest of Jerusalem,
Near the border with Egypt.
It dates back as one of the oldest cities in the world according to the OT.
It had been possessed by Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans throughout it’s history.
Because it was a chief center of commercial traffic with Egypt.
This constant change of possession plagued the city.
Even still today, the amount of archaeological studies have been limited in this ancient city,
Because of how much unrest exists in this region.
So, it would make sense for Philip to go to Gaza.
But God had this angel specifically tell Philip to take the road that is a desert place.
In other words, the angel is commanding Philip to take a back road from Jerusalem to Gaza that runs through the wilderness.
It would kinda be like taking Rt. 11 from Binghamton to Scranton instead of I81.
Except Rt. 11 has way more civilization than this road would.
The only reason you would do something like that is if there was somewhere along Rt. 11 you needed to stop.
Meaning that perhaps the trip is more important than the destination.
Slide (27)
Which becomes clear as early as the next verse.
God arranged for Philip to end up in a place that would bring him into contact with an important person who would listen to and believe the gospel.
Philip did not know why the angel told him to take this back road to Gaza.
But in vs. 27, he gets up and goes in faith anyway.
It does not tell us how far down the road Philip travels,
But along the way, there is an Ethiopian eunuch who was essentially a personal accountant for Candace,
The queen of the Ethiopians,
Sitting in a chariot.
So, this guys is a pretty important guy.
The word eunuch refers to an emasculated official in a royal court or in government.
This eunuch happens to be devoted to the Jewish religion,
He believed in the God of Israel,
Because he went to Jerusalem to worship.
But the fact that he was emasculated also meant he could not be fully welcomed into the Jewish community according to Deut. 23:1.
So, he could visit the temple in Jerusalem,
But He could not enter the temple.
He was essentially shut out from the kingdom of God.
Slide (28)
Vs. 28 says he was on his way back to Ethiopia,
Which, at that time in history,
Referred to the Upper Nile region,
A remote area south of Egypt,
Called Cush in the OT.
In the most general sense, his home is Africa.
Meaning Philip has been providentially guided to this African man,
Who was riding along in his chariot through the desert,
Reading the prophet Isaiah out loud, which was common.
Perhaps he was reading Isaiah because it was especially precious to him,
Because it expresses mercy and promises to foreigners and eunuchs.
Slide (Is. 56)
For example, look at Isaiah 56:3-5,
Isaiah 56:3–5 ESV
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
Slide (Is. context)
The context of Isaiah 56 stretches back to Isaiah 52-53,
Which focuses on the suffering servant.
Then Isaiah 54 promises a future time of unmatched blessing,
Pointing to a new covenant of peace that shall not be removed.
Then, Isaiah 55 is a call to take part in the great work of God,
In connection with the promised word of God that accomplishes everything He intends,
Including a future perfect paradise.
So, the context is summarized this way:
There is a servant who will suffer to atone for his people (Isaiah 52-53).
He will establish a new covenant (Isaiah 54) and a new creation (Isaiah 55).
Then foreigners and eunuchs will be fully accepted (Isaiah 56).
So, the context of Isaiah adds a richness to the interaction that is about to take place between Philip and this eunuch.
Because little did this eunuch know that he was soon going to personally experience the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promises.
Slide (29-30)
God had already providentially guided Philip to this place.
And continued to providentially guide him to meet in vs. 29.
This time, instead of an angel communicating to Philip,
The Spirit commands Philip to go and join the chariot.
We know for sure the eunuch was reading out loud,
Because vs. 30 says that when Philip ran up to the chariot he heard the eunuch reading.
So, Philip asks the eunuch if he understood what he was reading.
Slide (31)
The eunuch’s response in vs. 31 is a famous question,
“How can I, unless someone guides me?”
He needed to be taught how to interpret the prophecy.
So, he invited Philip to come up and sit with him in the chariot.
That way Philip could teach him what God had done in Jesus.
Slide (evangelism training)
Did any of you just pick up a Bible and start reading it for the first time,
And knowing exactly how to interpret it all?
Because I didn’t.
I needed help.
And that is the case for pretty much everyone.
It is common to hear someone who is not a Christian to admit something like,
“I don’t know the first thing about the Bible.”
And Philip teaches that we do not necessarily need a memorized evangelistic presentation to respond.
Rather, we can have a conversation when we know the Bible ourselves.
Because Philip knew the story of the Bible,
He was ready to explain it.
So, evangelism training is not a specialized class just for evangelists.
Evangelism training is the overflow of our personal study of God’s Word.
It prepares us to meet people where they are,
And guide them to the gospel in ways that resonate.
Slide (God providentially guides you)
The narrative thus far is bursting with providential guidance.
An angel of the Lord leads Philip to a specific place,
Where an important and influential man who believes in God but is unable to fully be a part of God’s chosen people is reading Scripture.
And this man needs help understanding perhaps the clearest OT text that points to Jesus.
This is practically begging Philip to teach this man the gospel.
It would be like someone coming up to you and saying,
“Hey, I was just reading John 3 in the Bible and I do not understand it. Do you know anything about the Bible?”
God had providentially guided this meeting,
And He even providentially guided the conversation.
Likewise, God continues to providentially guide His people by His Word and His Spirit today.
So, be ready to go with God’s guidance.
Think about some potential opportunities God may be providentially guiding you toward.
Do you have a neighbor you feel like you have been meaning to visit?
Or maybe you have a coworker you feel this sense that you ought to talk to them about more than sports, news, work, or the weather.
Or perhaps you have been thinking about giving a gift to a family you know has been struggling.
Maybe you have a classmate who keeps coming to your mind for some reason.
If any of these scenarios resonate with you,
Consider that God may be providentially guiding you by His Word and His Spirit.
Like Philip, God may have someone waiting for you to teach the gospel.
Slide (oughtness)
Going and making disciples is part of our mission.
Doing this requires the Spirit’s leading.
God providentially guides,
And we must be willing to obey that guidance.
Philip could have said “not now!” to the angel or to the Spirit.
Think about it, Samaritans were trusting in Jesus!
Why would he want to leave that to head down a back road through the wilderness to Gaza?
From a strictly human perspective,
He was doing what he was supposed to.
However, when the angel commanded him to go,
He went.
Because he knew God’s ways are not our ways.
This story makes no sense from a strictly human perspective.
But Philip’s encounter with this Ethiopian eunuch did not happen by human planning.
It happened through God’s providential guidance.
You may think this idea of providential guidance or the Spirit leading sounds superstitious.
And that is understandable.
Many people have abused this idea that God spoke directly to them,
As a way to justify their actions or claims.
But we cannot let human sin obstruct our trust in God’s providential guidance.
God guides us by His Spirit.
So, trusting in God’s guidance is a sense of “holy oughtness” from the Spirit in our everyday lives.
As in, you can sense the Spirit guiding you in such an inexplicable way that the only way you can describe is that you simply know you ought to do this thing that is affirmed by Scripture.
So, welcome this holy oughtness with joy!
Because rejecting God’s providential guidance is quenching the Spirit.
At the same time, do not use the excuse that you do not “feel led” by the Spirit as a reason to not guide others to the gospel.
Because we are also led by God’s Word which clearly commissions us to go and make disciples.
So, God providentially guides us by His Word and His Spirit.
Therefore, study His Word,
And remain sensitive to the Spirit’s sense of oughtness in your life,
So, you are ready to go with God’s guidance.

GOD: Privilege for Guides (vs. 32-38)

When we do, God uses us to guide others to His gospel.
Slide (32-33)
And vs. 32-38 shows a great privilege for guides.
Picture the scene.
Philip and this eunuch are riding the chariot along this back road in the wilderness,
With a scroll partially unrolled between them.
Then, in vs. 32-33, the eunuch quotes the OT text of the suffering servant from Isaiah 53:7-8.
This prophecy speaks about the unjust suffering of God’s servant.
For centuries, Jews have debated about this prophecy.
Slide (34)
Which likely prompted the eunuch to ask Philip who the prophet is talking about in vs. 34.
Was the prophet just talking about himself?
Or was he talking about someone else?
You wanna talk about a softball question when teaching the gospel.
This question allowed Philip to hit a home run by guiding the eunuch to Jesus from this prophecy.
750 years before this chariot ride,
The Spirit led Isaiah to prophesy about the suffering and exaltation of Jesus Christ.
So, Philip could teach how it was not Isaiah who suffered for the sins of humankind,
It was Christ.
God has sovereignly given us the prophecy of the suffering servant as an ideal starting place for teaching the gospel.
Because it prophesies about the heart of Jesus’ mission,
Which is Christ’s substitutionary work for sinners.
The eunuch is a great example of someone who believes in God,
Has read the Bible,
And would even be interested in Christianity,
But fails to see how it all comes together in Jesus.
People like him exist today.
Think of studying the Bible like a jigsaw puzzle.
Studying the Bible without considering Christ’s role through all of it,
Is like trying to put all the pieces of a puzzle together without looking at the picture on the box.
So, people may read the Bible,
May even come to church,
And they are looking at all the pieces of the puzzle,
But they cannot see how all the pieces fit together in the big picture.
So, Philip demonstrates how the whole Bible is a book about Jesus,
About salvation in Him.
Jesus is the big picture we need to put the pieces of the Bible together.
Slide (35)
This is how Philip guides the eager eunuch to the gospel in vs. 35,
Beginning in Isaiah 53.
Christ is the key to Isaiah 53.
But because it says Philip started there,
It is implied that he went on to teach how Christ is big picture needed to piece together all of the OT.
Teaching how Jesus is the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who takes away sins,
The One to whom the redeemed from all nations cry, “Worthy!”
This is the same way Jesus taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24.
Acts repeatedly shows Christ’s followers retelling the OT story with Jesus Christ at the center.
This tells us that very early on,
Slide (grand narrative)
Christians used what we call the grand narrative of Scripture to teach the gospel.
The grand narrative is the story of everything,
From God’s creation of the world and everything in it through Jesus,
The fall of God’s creation through humankind’s sin,
To God’s redemption of it all through Jesus’ death and resurrection,
And the promised restoration of it all through Jesus’ eventual return.
Teaching this grand narrative is what provides the richness of Philip guiding the eunuch to the gospel.
Because the grand narrative reveals how a foreign eunuch from Ethiopia receives an eternal inheritance and equal place in God’s Kingdom.
This man who had been excluded from the temple now knows he is loved and welcomed by His Savior who died for him!
But he needed a guide to help him understand the meaning of Isaiah,
Therefore, God sent him a wonderful guide in Philip.
So, as Christ’s witness, you need to understand this grand narrative.
You need to be prepared spiritually and theologically to be the guide God plans for you to be.
The eunuch needed more than a friend to keep him company in his chariot.
He needed someone who could teach the gospel to him with the Spirit’s help.
Likewise, to be a witness of Christ,
You need the Spirit and an understanding of God’s Word.
Going back to last week’s message,
Evangelism includes teaching the gospel.
People who do not believe the gospel often do not believe because they do not understand.
They may even have questions you must be prepared to answer.
This past Thursday, we had the privilege of hosting the Baccalaureate for Afton’s graduates.
So, we gave them a copy of this Bible from the Gospel Project which includes guides that point to Christ all throughout the Bible.
This is a great resource for understanding the grand narrative.
We do have an extra copy available for you to borrow if you’d like,
Or the Gospel Project has a free app that points to Christ all throughout the Bible.
Another easy resource for understanding the grand narrative are podcasts.
There are a bunch out there,
Some are better than others.
But one I would recommend is called Two Journeys.
Regardless of what resource you might use,
Pray that God will grow you in your understanding of the grand narrative of the Bible.
Slide (baptism)
So, that your own personal study will help you to guide others.
Philip was guiding the eunuch as they are riding down the road in the chariot.
Included in this seems to be a teaching about baptism,
Which makes sense because baptism symbolizes passing from death into life through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Jesus instituted baptism and commissioned His disciples to baptize disciples.
Meaning, baptism is meant to happen after a person trusts in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
It celebrates and recognizes a persons initiation into the body of Christ.
And Acts demonstrates that baptism is intended to take place immediately after conversion.
This is what happened in Acts 2:41 after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost.
It happens in Act 9:17-18 with Saul,
In Acts 10:1 with Cornelius,
In Acts 10:34-48 with those present for Peter’s sermons,
And with the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30-33.
Because baptism is an outward action that celebrates an inward transformation.
It unites all of the church with Christ’s death and resurrection.
Therefore, it is a great privilege getting to baptize someone you guide to the gospel.
Jesus Himself was baptized by John the Baptist,
When He was, it said He was anointed with the Spirit,
And declared by the Father as the pleasing Son of God.
Later, Jesus’ disciples were baptized.
Then, as they were teaching the gospel in Acts,
They had the privilege of baptizing those who trusted in Christ,
Including Philip.
Now, the stage is set for Philip to get this great privilege with the eunuch.
Slide (36-37)
The two men are riding along,
And Philip is guiding the eunuch to the good news about Jesus,
They pass by a body of water,
And vs. 36 says the eunuch sees the water and says,
Look! There is water!
Then he asks,
What would keep me from being baptized?
His question expresses his desire to obey God and identify with Jesus through baptism.
He demonstrates how he believes the gospel that Philip has guided him to.
So, before Philip even seems to answer,
The eunuch immediately orders the chariot to stop.
Him and Philip go down in the water,
And Philip gets the great privilege of baptizing a new brother he guided to Christ.

YOU: Powerfully Going (vs. 39-40)

Like the eunuch,
Some people will repent and believe when someone guides them to the gospel.
Slide (39)
That is why God empowers His guides so you will be Powerfully Going into the world,
Just as we see Him do with Philip in vs. 39-40.
The baptism of the eunuch indicates another crucial step of the gospel breaking through two barriers:
A physical barrier and a racial barrier.
An Ethiopian was received into full membership in the body of Christ.
He never was able to become a full Jew,
But he became a Christian!
The same is true for all who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The church is made up of some from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
After this scene, we don’t know much about what happened to this new believer.
But it is safe to assume he was powerfully going back to Ethiopia to guide his people toward the gospel.
Church history claims that this is the case.
But all we do know for certain based on vs. 39 is that he went on his way rejoicing.
He had formerly been shut out of the Kingdom of God.
Now, His baptism affirms his place in the Kingdom of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Vs. 39 also shows how the Spirit’s role elevates dramatically by removing Philip.
Philip was miraculously teleported by God!
How awesome!
But what is interesting here is that God sent an angel to tell Philip to take a back road to Gaza back in vs. 26.
He did not tell Philip why,
But He sent Philip on the back road because the journey was more important than the destination,
God had an appointment for Philip and this eunuch.
Once that’s done, God teleports Philip to his next appointment.
But He does not teleport Philip to Gaza, which is where Philip thought he was going.
God teleports Philip to Azotus,
The OT Philistine city of Ashdod about 20-30 miles north of Gaza,
And 60 miles south of Caesarea.
So, Gaza was never even the destination.
God had Philip take the back road to guide the eunuch to the gospel using Philip.
Then after he had the privilege of baptizing the eunuch,
God just shortcuts Philip right to Azotus,
Which still isn’t Philip’s final destination.
Slide (40)
Because vs. 40 says Philip preached the gospel in all the towns along the 60 mile stretch as he traveled to Caesarea.
Where Philip seemed to settle down.
Because, years later, Acts 21:8 says Philip is still there with four daughters.

WE: Conc.

Slide (application)
So, in closing, Philip is referred to as one of the seven,
Talking about his role as a founding deacon.
But he is also called the evangelist.
We can learn much from this evangelist about loving people,
Being providentially guided by the Spirit’s sense of oughtness,
And guiding others to the gospel by teaching the grand narrative.
May God grant us the grace to be like Philip,
To, as 2 Tim. 4:5 says, do the work of an evangelist.
To put it simply,
We do this by obeying the Spirit’s guidance to go make disciples.
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