The theme of this chapter is the spread of the church. The first believers in Jesus had remained in Jerusalem after the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost, for Jesus’ instruction to them had been, not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father (Act 1:4). But the purpose of the Promise of the Father, we saw, was to receive power to be witnesses to Jesus, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and then in the ends of the earth (Act 1:8).
So the persecution which rose against the church at Jerusalem, which Saul was part of, served to scatter those first 10,000- 20,000 believers throughout Judea and Samaria, the apostles remaining in Jerusalem (Act 8:1, 4). And so we see the Lord Himself begin to implement His plan, of His disciples being witnesses, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria. This would mean that the persecution itself was in the Lord’s plan. Well, the persecution was the instrument the Lord used to get people out of their comfort zone and get to where He wanted them to be. 🙂
After the Flood, the Lord first asked the descendants of Noah to fill the earth (Gen 9:1). But people tend to stay where they are comfortable, where they have homes established and family and friends. So when the people declined to leave the plain of Shinar and fill the earth (Gen 11:4), the Lord used an opportunity created by man’s rebellion to drive the people away from Shinar so that they spread out from there (Gen 11:9).
And I think something similar may have happened here. People, having established homes and family and businesses in Jerusalem, did not have the heart or means to leave the city and go elsewhere. But God used an opportunity created by Saul’s rebellion – the persecution – to get people out of their comfort zone and go elsewhere. And where they went, they witnessed. We are lights shining on a hill, just by existing in this earth, the witness to Jesus Christ is going forward where we are.
About bad things happening: it would be bad to be stoned to death, or to be dragged from your house and put into prison, or, because of the fear of prison, have to leave everything behind and start over. But, rather than rail against these things, we ought to praise God in all things that happen, because God is able to accomplish His plan and His purpose even when bad things happen and we aren’t living in our comfort zone. 🙂
So then, one of the deacons, Stephen, had just been killed, after witnessing to Jesus with power and wisdom and eloquence. Now another deacon, Philip, began witnessing with power and wisdom. The deacons did not back down, thinking that they might need to protect their lives now that the first believer had been killed for his faith. The result of Philip’s boldness was that the entire city of Samaria received the gospel.
Up to this point, only Jews had been saved. The gospel was still being preached only within the borders of the Promised Land.
Now the Spirit led Philip to an Ethiopian traveling in the desert. The Ethiopian, a Jewish convert, had been in Jerusalem – perhaps for one of the feast days, when all Jewish males are commanded to present themselves before the Lord in Jerusalem – and was returning to Ethiopia, just south of Egypt. So he was traveling south through the desert to the Egyptian border.
Notice how Philip got to the Ethiopian. The Spirit told him, “Go to the desert.” The desert was without water or civilization. There were no 7-11’s there where Philip could go buy a bottle of water if he got thirsty. In order to obey, Philip had to first trust. For the Spirit did NOT tell him, “Go to the desert where you will meet an Ethiopian I want you to bear witness to.” But Philip did trust, and went, and once Philip was in the desert, then the Spirit told him, “Overtake this chariot.”
Our life as believers is a true faith walk. The Lord gives us the next instruction for the next footstep, but does not illuminate the path in front of us more than that. We have to first take that step, before the Lord will give us the next instruction for the next footstep.
Now then, Philip obeyed, the Ethiopian got saved – the faith had not gone beyond the Jews, but with the Ethiopian it left the borders of the Promised Land, on the first step of its journey to the ends of the earth – and then because Philip had done what the Spirit asked, the Spirit now took care of Philip’s need for food, water and shelter in the desert – He miraculously transported him to the closest town which was about 20 miles away on the coast. Then Philip had to walk again, LOL. But he was at least in an area he knew with villages where he could get the things for the body that he needed. 🙂
Our lives in the Lord could be a grand adventure, if we would let it. It begins with taking the first step of faith, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, out of our comfort zone, trusting in Him that when we set our foot down, the Lord will be there with a plan, ready to show us the next step. 🙂