A Story About Sharing the Faith
Young Philip grew up in a cosmopolitan world. While he was Jewish he was daily brought into contact with people of other races and other religions. By thirteen he had taken his place in the men’s section of the local synagogue, but the journeys to Jerusalem for Passover and other religious occasions were highlights in his life.
He happened to be in Jerusalem in the early months after Jesus’ resurrection, and there met with people like Cephas and John and his namesake, Philip—people who had accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry. He became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and the one who opened up God’s kingdom to Jewish people.
He was filled with the Holy Spirit, fully alive in his faith, and always ready to help others. So when trouble erupted in the little community he was one of those called upon to sort things out.
It came about this way. The followers of Jesus felt that none of their number should be left hungry or in need while others had more than enough to spare. It was a voluntary thing, but people who could afford it were invited to make contributions to a fund from which food was purchased for the unemployed and vulnerable among them. In those days, widows were particularly vulnerable.
But squabbles arose. Greek-speaking Jews thought that they were being discriminated against in the daily food distribution., so, at the suggestion of the Apostles, seven well-respected men, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, were appointed to supervise this task. Greek-speaking Philip was one of them.
But neither Philip nor his friend Stephen confined their activity to administration. Stephen was stoned to death for his preaching, but Philip went to Samaria and preached there the message that Jesus was the Messiah. As a result many people there came to put their faith in Jesus.
However he remained open to the leading of God, and when God told him to leave the place of his great evangelistic success and head off toward the coast, he did so.
It was on this wilderness road running down from Jerusalem to Gaza that he saw a man sitting in a chariot reading. The horse was drinking from a waterhole by the side of the dirt road, and as Philip drew closer he observed that the man was black. His expensive attire and the quality of the chariot indicated that he was a person of some rank. Enquiry of the servants told Philip that this was the Chancellor to the Candace or Queen of Ethiopia. He belonged to the community of black Jews that lived in that hilly country of North-East Africa, but he had been to Jerusalem to worship God.
The Spirit prompted Philip to go over and talk to the stranger, and as he did so he saw that the man was reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in its Greek translation. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man shook his head and said that he needed someone to explain it to him. Then he invited Philip to get up into the chariot and sit with him. Philip used Isaiah 53:7-8 as a starting point for telling him the good news about Jesus.The Ethiopian explained that all slaves, even those who held high and responsible positions, who worked for the Queen in his country had to be castrated. This meant that, while he worshipped God and tried to follow the Jewish Law, he could not be accepted fully into the practices of his religion. Since God accepted him and he professed faith in Jesus, Philip could see no reason for the Ethiopian not to be fully accepted into the Christian community, so he baptized him there and then before they parted company.Philip lived on in Caesarea where, in time, his four daughters also gave expression to the gift of prophecy.Something to Think and Talk About
- Philip shared his faith both as a mass evangelist and on a one-to-one basis. How do you share your faith?
- Philip knew that it was not enough to share his faith through the way he lived and the things he did. He had to tell people about Jesus. Why is it necessary to tell people about Jesus?
- In sharing his faith, Philip started off where the Ethiopian was in his faith and led him on further. In doing so he gave all later missionaries a good example to follow. Why is this a good example to follow?
- In the story of Philip and the Ethiopian the Bible plays an important part. What part should the Bible play in your own faith-sharing?
Read Matthew 22:34-46
- What insights do you get from this passage about faith sharing?
Holy and loving God,I thank you that Jesus bore faithful witness to your love and grace.
I admit before you
that I have not been
faithful in my witness
to Jesus Christ as Lord.
Thank you for those
who have been faithful
and so have helped
my wavering faith.
Help me to share
my faith with others
in a spirit of love,
humility and hope.
I will seek opportunitiesto share my faith with others.By your Holy Spirit, Lord, enable me to do this.