We may not all share Jesus with an Ethiopian eunuch. We can all learn a few things from Philip's ministry.
We will see Philip again in Acts 21:8. Here are five things we can learn about his effective witness in Acts 8.
1. Preparation. Philip's effective witness in Acts 8 began before. Philip was recognized earlier by the congregation in Jerusalem. He is described as a man of good reputation and full of the Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3-5).
But Philip's preparation began even before Acts 6. Philip devoted himself to the apostolic teaching and to the fellowship when he was converted. His dedication was evident. He was one of the first leaders appointed by the early church. He didn't demonstrate himself as a leader. He demonstrated himself before becoming a leader.
Philip's effective witness began before he opened his mouth to preach. It began with dedicating himself to the apostles' teaching and serving the body. This dedication to preparation made him ready when each opportunity came.
2. The Holy Spirit. Philip was a man recognized as being "full of the Spirit and of wisdom" (Acts 6:3-5). In Acts 8:29 the Spirit told Philip to join a specific chariot. When he obeyed he found a person who was prepared to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
The leading of the Spirit is critical. Some think it is unnecessary. They may argue that the power of God for salvation is in the gospel message. That's true. They may also argue that we have been commanded to proclaim the gospel to every creature. That's also true.
But no individual can share the gospel with everyone. The whole church working together will accomplish this task. Our individual part should be led by the Spirit.
To make effective use of the gospel's power we must first know the gospel. Additionally the Spirit can lead to individuals who are prepared to hear. This was the case with the Ethiopian eunuch.
Philip had nothing to do with the Ethiopian reading the scroll of Isaiah. Philip had nothing to do with the questions the Ethiopian was wrestling with. The Spirit brought someone prepared to preach to someone prepared to hear. The result was an effective witness and sound salvation.
The Holy Spirit is able and willing to lead today. Are we willing to listen and obey? When we are led to prepared people we understand what Jesus said: "For in this instance the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have labored and you have entered into their labor" (John 4:37-38 NET).
3. Preaching Where Present. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit doesn't mean don't witness until the Holy Spirit speaks to you. The Holy Spirit inspired the Word of God which commands Christians to proclaim Christ. This general instruction applies at all times. When specific instruction is given we should obey. Specific obedience is in keeping with the general instruction to evangelize every creature.
Philip preached Christ where he was. When he scattered he found himself in Samaria. He preached Christ to the people there (Acts 8:5). When he continued on his way to Caesarea he preached the gospel to all the cities along the way (Acts 8:40). When we see him again in Caesarea (about twenty years later in Acts 21:8) he is known as the evangelist. He is still preaching where he is.
When Philip heard specific instruction on who to preach Christ to he obeyed. When specific direction was lacking he preached Christ where he was to everyone he could.
4. Person Focused. There are many one-size-fits-all methods of evangelism. They are easy to memorize. They make dedication to preparation much easier. When the method doesn't fit the context some try and force the situation and have an ineffective witness. Or they don't witness because they didn't have an "open door."
Some methods are better than others at fitting into different contexts. No method can ever account for every situation. Every witnessing situation will contain at least one person. If we focus on method we will miss opportunities. If we focus on people we don't have to miss any opportunity.
Philip was fully prepared to meet the Ethiopian where he was. He used the situation to create a natural opportunity to proclaim Christ. Philip didn't begin where his "method" told him to begin. He began where the Ethiopian was. Not everyone will be reading messianic prophesies when we meet them. However, every person is worth taking the time to diagnose their present situation and then effectively, faithfully, and lovingly share the gospel with them.
The ambassador for Christ must always remember that we are not simply preaching Christ. We are preaching Christ to people. Effective witness is person focused.
5. Crosses Barriers. The modern reader may not immediately see the barriers that were crossed with the Ethiopian eunuch. Suffice to say they were many. These two men were about as unalike as could be. Philip crossed this barrier after crossing another by preaching to Samaritans. Philip was willing to do what only few were (e.g., Acts 11:19-20).
There is great opportunity for effective witness to be done among your peers. We miss opportunity when we think the Spirit is restrained by our own barriers. Jesus is Lord of all. The gospel is for everyone. Don't quench the Spirit by disqualifying yourself from witnessing across barriers.