Perhaps you have heard people say of someone … “There is no hope of salvation for that person.” As young teenagers I am certain that was said of us. You see, we belonged to small gangs. We did not really do bad things. No guns and knives. No peddling drugs or stealing. No rape or indecency. We were just a few guys and girls who gathered together and did things together … but the adults of those days had written us off … to them … “Even God could not save us. They are beyond hope and help.” Soon we are going to be confronted by a man that Christians would have written off saying there was no hope of salvation for him.
1) Before we get to him though we come to a Bible verse that seems to be a standalone verse:
Ac 8:40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
The word “however” indicates that Philip’s evangelistic ministry had not ended with the Eunuch. God had more work for him.
(1) It is difficult for us in the flesh to grasp the spiritual and the supernatural. God is Sovereign and Omnipotent. If He was able to create everything out of nothing by speaking He is able to do what we cannot imagine or comprehend. Look at parts of these two verses:
Ac 8:39 the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away
Ac 8:40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus.
“Suddenly took … away … and … appeared”. Depending on exactly where Philip was on the “desert road”, he was between 32 and 56 kilometers from Azotus. The Spirit of the Lord took him away and his appearing would have been by the same Holy Spirit. What happened here? How was he transported that distance? I do not know and cannot speculate. All I can say this was God at work! As mentioned before, there are many times when we can’t understand the workings of God. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not ours either.
Dt 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
(2) What we do know is that God needed his evangelist to preach the Gospel in the towns all the way from Azotus to Caesarea. We need to recognize this. The Gospel must be preached in all cities, towns and suburbs. The areas Philip had to go to were not Jewish! The people were a mix between half Jew and Gentile. Much friction existed. It was a volatile area, yet God placed Philip there and God protected him as he delivered the life giving Gospel. It might be that God wants us in the most dangerous areas to preach the Gospel. If He wants us there, that is the safest place for us to be.
(3) Philip put his roots down in Caesarea, married and had children.
Ac 21:8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
Luke tells us that later, during Paul’s ministry, they stayed over at Philip’s house in Caesarea. (His daughters prophesied … meaning they preached the Word of God.) Not all are called to be itinerant clergy or evangelists. Most set down roots and work that vineyard for the Lord. This is true with most laypeople. We remain in the same area once married. This is good and needed not just for the stability of the area but for the Church where you are a member. In many Churches the core group stays around for years but many members and adherents drift. Remaining gives the local Church stability.
2) Would anyone have thought that Saul, the young fanatical Pharisee who directed the stoning to death of Stephen, come to saving faith in Jesus whose Gospel and people he sought to destroy and eradicate from the face of the earth? The next section in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles deals with Saul.
Ac 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
To get a taste of Saul who became Paul, we need to hear from his own mouth who he was and what he was like. He says:
Phil 3:4 If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
He was speaking against those who were part of the group believing that salvation was through faith in Jesus and circumcision. This was a works religion. He says if anyone can boast about works religion he could!
(a) He was circumcised on the 8th day. That was according to the Law of Moses because the blood clotting was best on that day.
(b) He was a true Israelite. Not a proselyte who migrated because of the Roman Empire, but born a national of the country.
(c) He was of the tribe of Benjamin. Although the smallest tribe, she was the only one to remain true to Judah. The other ten split away and formed the Northern Kingdom.
(d) He was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Although living in Tarsus, outside of Israel (Tarsus was the capital city of the Roman Province Cilicia), both Paul’s parents came from Hebrew ancestry … hence the term “Hebrew of Hebrews”.
(e) He was a Pharisee according to the Law. The word “Pharisee means “separated ones”. His father was a Pharisee:
Ac 23:6 “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”
He studied under Rabban Gamaliel
Ac 22:3 “Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”
(f) He persecuted the Church.
Ac 22:3 was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
His zeal for fanatical legalism was such that he became obsessed with persecuting the Church into foreign countries!
(g) He was a legalist! He gave meticulous attention to keeping every little jot and tittle of the Law. In his own eyes before his salvation he saw himself as blameless and righteous (right with God), doing what he believed pleased God. Once saved by grace he could write:
Phil 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
God is able to save those people think have no hope. Do you know such people? Are you like this? Pray for grace, mercy and help.
Dear Lord, thank You that no one is beyond You saving them. We pray that You in love will stretch out Your saving hand bringing many thousands of harden hearts to faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.