First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, June 27, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Philip the Evangelist!”
Jesus returned to heaven and the angels gathered in amazement. They gazed at His hands and feet and shuddered to recall His suffering. Finally, Gabriel spoke up, “Master, you have suffered terribly down there. Do they know and appreciate the extent of your sacrifice?” “No”, said Jesus, “not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know.” “How will everyone else know?” “I’ve asked Peter, James, John and a few others to spread the news. They will tell others, who will tell others until the message spreads to the ends of the earth.” But Gabriel, knowing the nature of human beings asked, “What is plan B?” “There is no plan B,” replied Jesus. “I’m counting on them.” Twenty centuries later and there is still no plan B. He is counting on you and me. He is counting on us to share the timeless message of salvation.
Once again as we continue to unfold the narrative that Luke provides for us of the spread of the church from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, we get to see in Acts 8 this morning that we cross a threshold. Up until now the focus in the first seven chapters has entirely been Jerusalem. But something new and fundamentally new is going to occur in the 8th chapter of Acts. In Acts 8, we see the beginning of the fulfillment of that mandate that Jesus gave — His final words before He ascended up into the clouds — that they were to be His disciples and His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and in the uttermost parts of
In our journey in the book of Acts, we get to meet another wonderful follower of Jesus named Philip. I want you to know that this is not Philip the apostle. He is not one of the twelve. This is Philip the evangelist as Luke calls him in Acts 21:8 “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.” Philip the evangelist was one of the Seven Deacons mentioned in Acts chapter 6. Everything we learn about the life of Philip the evangelist, we learn from the book of Acts. His name is mentioned 16 times in this book.
Philip was a dynamic believer; a man full of energy and zeal for the Lord. As we reflect on Philip’s life today, please allow me to underscore two things:
First: Ordinary People Accomplish Extraordinary Mission
It continues to amaze me how God can use ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Last week we had the chance to look at the life of Stephen and I made the comment that God does His greatest work through ordinary people. This theme comes up again and again and again in the book of Acts. It’s not the famous apostles who primarily spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. It’s the average, everyday Christians; people like Stephen, Philip and many others. Last week I gave an example of how Stephen’s death was a turning point for Saul of Tarsus, later to be the apostle Paul. Moreover, Stephen’s life was the catalyst that caused the church to take the Great Commission to the next level.
Philip, though not one of the twelve apostles, was one of the great evangelists we get to encounter in the book of Acts. It seems to me that the chief agents, the primary tools, in the expansion of Christianity in the book of Acts not the professionals, not the apostles, but men and women who carried on their livelihood in some secular manner and spoke their faith to those they met in this natural fashion. The expansion of the church at this point didn’t depend upon the apostles, but on the grass roots, men and women sharing the gospel as they went.
Second: Philip was absolutely at God’s Disposal
Luke tells us in Acts chapter 8 that after the death of Stephen, Philip took the message to Samaria and proclaimed Messiah there. This is the first time that the message of Christ reaches a non-Jewish territory. He led a thriving ministry down there. Yet we see in Acts 8:26-40 that God sent an angel to instruct Philip to go back toward Jerusalem. This would seem like a strange request. He started out in Jerusalem, persecution broke out, he flees to Samaria and now he was being told to head back that way. Wasn’t that dangerous? It didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense but the main thing was Philip obeyed. Philip travels south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza where he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake, the queen of the Ethiopians, and evangelized the Ethiopian eunuch and baptized him.
After his mission was completed with the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away. Acts 8:40 states, “Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” Philip trusted in God’s direction even if he didn’t understand the purpose behind it. We need to be like that too. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will make strange requests of us. If we are willing to be obedient we, like Philip, can see great things happen.
Friends, we, like Philip, have a wonderful opportunity as messengers of God’s divine grace. We are ministers of reconciliation, Christ’s ambassadors as Paul said in Second Corinthians 5. We may not be called to share the gospel in the jungles of South America, but we are called to share it in the concrete jungle of Gloucester Township. It’s worth the risks and personal sacrifices because the gospel is the power of God that saves and changes lives. May we always remember that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. May we always be at God’s disposal. May we always remember that we are God’s sent to the world. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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