The book of Acts traces the spread of the best news in the world. It’s the news that the promised Messiah King has arrived; he has died; he has risen; he will come again. This news needed to be spread, and that’s exactly what we see happening here in Acts 8.
This need doesn’t go away in Acts 8 though or even in Acts 28. The need for this news to be spread continues today with us. For this task, we find at least five lessons in this text for our evangelism:
First, we learn that God uses persecution to advance the gospel. In the opening verses of chapter 8 a great persecution arises. Saul is breathing out threats and dragging people off to prison. The church flees, scattered throughout the surrounding regions. Verse 4 reveals that this scattering was strategically used by God. The people who had been scattered (one of whom was Philip) went about preaching the word. Instead of stopping evangelism, Saul’s persecution only redirected and multiplied evangelism.
Second, we learn here that evangelism isn’t just for leaders. In fact, in Acts 8 the apostles are clearly not involved in the evangelism that takes place. Verse 3 tells us that everyone was scattered, except the apostles. This means that everyone who was scattered and who was preaching the word in verse 4, were not apostles. Instead, they were common Christians, church members, and deacons telling people about Jesus. In the coming decades and centuries, this would be a significant factor in the spread of the gospel and the exponential growth of the church. Evangelism is for everyone.
Third, we learn that evangelism yields mixed results. There are some who respond to it with open hostility and hate (see Saul). There are others who seem to receive with openness and faith but who later turn out to be in it for the potential perks (see Simon). There are still others who believe the gospel and whose hearts and lives and transformed in powerful ways (see many of the Samaritans and the Ethiopian Eunuch). As we share the good news of Christ, it’s important to know that there will be mixed results.
Fourth, we learn that evangelism is meant to be global. One of the key verses in Acts is chapter 1 verse 8 where Jesus tells the apostles that they will be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Here in Acts 8, we see this purpose take a leap forward first to Samaria and then to Ethiopia. This was huge. The gospel was not limited to Jerusalem or to the Jews. It was to go to the half-breed Samaritans and to the north Africans. Wherever we are and whoever we happen to encounter we’re called to declare the good news of the gospel.
Fifth, we learn here that God gives opportunities for evangelism. Most of us won’t have angels telling us where to go evangelize like Philip, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t providentially give us opportunities. He will direct us to certain places and certain people who are ready to hear the gospel. Our calling is to pray for and be on the lookout for these “divine appointments” trusting God to use them as he wills.
What a privilege to be a part of what God is doing and to get to tell people the best news in the world!