Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go
Sermon Text: Acts 8:26-40
Sermon Theme: God is orchestrating the spread of His Church through humble and obedient followers who will share His Gospel.
Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes God opens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikely places. We should study to do good to those we come into company with by traveling. We should not be so shy of all strangers as some affect to be. As to those of whom we know nothing else, we know this, that they have souls. It is wisdom for men of business to redeem time for holy duties; to fill up every minute with something which will turn to a good account. In reading the word of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and of what the sacred writers spoke; but especially our thoughts should be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian was convinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exact fulfillment of the Scripture, was made to understand the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom and salvation, and desired to be numbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek the truth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, will be sure to reap advantages. The avowal of the Ethiopian must be understood as expressing simple reliance on Christ for salvation, and unreserved devotion to Him. Let us not be satisfied till we get faith, as the Ethiopian did, by diligent study of the Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Spirit of God; let us not be satisfied till we get it fixed as a principle in our hearts. As soon as he was baptized, the Spirit of God took Philip from him, so that he saw him no more; but this tended to confirm his faith. When the inquirer after salvation becomes acquainted with Jesus and his gospel, he will go on his way rejoicing, and will fill up his station in society, and discharge his duties, from other motives, and in another manner than heretofore. Though baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with water, it is not enough without the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Lord, grant this to every one of us; then shall we go on our way rejoicing.
[From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary]
- Is there not one gospel for all people no matter what their culture or background? As all the Scriptures proclaim, it is God who sovereignly works to save His elect. Foreign missions was not something that the church decided to do — it is God’s program. God wants to reach all people, even those whom we may not naturally like. We have to drop any prejudice that might cling to us and see every person from every race and culture as a candidate for the gospel. People you may not like need Christ. Homosexuals need Christ, and He is powerful to save them. Militant atheists need Christ, and He can save them, too. People of other races need Christ, and He will have some from every people group there before His throne. While we may need to be sensitive to certain cultural differences, we don’t change the message to fit different cultures. It’s the same gospel for all people. All have sinned; all need a Savior. Jesus Christ is the only Savior for all who call upon Him. Remember that the world is God’s target and observe that in Acts 8 we see the conversion of a son of Ham (gentile from Ethiopia); in Acts 9, a son of Shem (Paul); and, in Acts 10, a son of Japheth (the Roman centurion). These represent the three divisions of humanity after the flood.
- Do we see coincidences called fortuitous events as chance happenings or is this the intervention of God in the providential direction in an individual’s life? Frequently we speak of accidents determining man’s destiny, forgetting that in the vocabulary of God there is no such word as chance. Did it seem like a mere chance that Moses was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter? Is it just an incident that a dusty pilgrim overtakes the chamberlain of a pagan queen on a desert road? See in this chance meeting there is the hidden fire of a Divine purpose. Behind all of life’s varying scenes — its joys, its sorrows, its social positions and its political ambitions, its individual cares, its national crises — there is the guiding hand of God. What a comfort to burden-bearing pilgrims, to think that God’s angels are ministering spirits marshaled under King Jesus to guard and defend us against the assaults of our great adversary, the devil, who is continually striving for our destruction. God always furnishes revelations of duty in installments according to the necessities of the hour and the measure of our faith. The way at first may seem dark and human reason may stagger and fall and refuse to go farther. But to the eye of faith He will reveal place and method when the hour of opportunity strikes. Each soul that is really brought to God becomes in its turn a little center of light and life. We must never count any time wasted that is spent upon one human being. And let no man count his own soul’s culture a thing of trifling moment. He, too, may be the evangelist, if not of a nation, yet of a family or of some one precious soul.
- Are you underestimate the power of God’s Word to bring people to salvation? As 1 Peter 1:23 explains, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” James 1:18 states, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth.” Paul tells Timothy that from childhood he has “known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). God’s Word is powerful to save sinners. God uses His Word to penetrate the minds and hearts of sinners. For people can discern the existence of God and some of His attributes from creation (Romans 1:20). But they can only learn how to be saved through the revelation of God’s Word, which tells us the good news about Jesus Christ.
- Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? However it comes, it is an experience of divine reality. It is not just an idea about our spiritual condition that we infer from a decision we have made — it is supernatural. You can use it to answer the question, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” Are you confident enough to say: “I have seen the Spirit of obedience at work in my life subduing sin and inclining me to acts of love?” “I have seen the Spirit of praise in my life filling my heart and mouth with worship to Jesus and God the Father?” “I have seen the Spirit of courage at work in my life overcoming fear and giving me a will to risk things for the cause of Christ?” But if you can’t answer the question, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” then it may be that you have not believed and need to. Or it may be that for some reason there has been a delay or a blockage in the manifestation of God’s power in your life, and you need to seek his fullness in prayer. Or it may be that he is doing more in your life than you realize because you have never been taught how to recognize what is the work of God.
- Are we in danger of making the mistake of thinking that we can do all God wants done by simply evangelizing according to our own planning? So God includes in his inspired Word stories and teachings that equip us for another kind of good work—not just wise and prayerful planning on the basis of circumstances we can see, but also listening responsively to the Spirit when he may want to tell us to do something that we might never think of doing through our own planning. So the Scriptures are wonderfully sufficient—they protect us from the error of thinking that the only way God guides us in good work is by reasoning and planning from circumstances and principles and they show us that there are works God may lead us to do by means of extraordinary guidance. There is no teaching anywhere in the New Testament that says this work of the Lord is limited, we should assume that one of God’s ways today of building his church is to give direction to his people in extraordinary ways as well as more ordinary ones. If you read the history of the saints, God’s people throughout the centuries and especially the history of revivals, you will find that this is something which is perfectly clear and definite—men have been told by the Holy Spirit to do something; they knew it was the Holy Spirit speaking to them, and it transpired that it obviously was his leading. It seems clear that if we deny such a possibility we are guilty of quenching the Spirit.
- Are you praying to the Holy Spirit to overcoming the barriers keeping an unbeliever from grasping God’s salvation by his own efforts? First, men are spiritually dead and therefore unable to respond to God. Ephesians 2:1 says simply and directly, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” To be physically dead means to be unable to respond to physical stimuli, and to be spiritually dead means to be unable to respond to spiritual stimuli. As the saying goes, “Dead men don’t believe!” Our Lord was equally blunt in John 6:44: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” Paul explains that “a natural man [rebellious, sinful man apart from God] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Consequently, the preaching of the gospel, apart from the quickening work of the Spirit, is perceived as nothing but a “stumbling block,” and “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). But, God’s sovereignty in salvation does not obviate man’s responsibility. That God rewards the seeking heart is the clear teaching of Scripture. In Jeremiah 29:13 God said, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart,” while in John 7:17 the Lord Jesus Christ said, “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.” The eunuch is a classic example of one who lived up to the light he had. God then gave him the full revelation of Jesus Christ through Philip’s ministry.
- What hopelessness is there in evangelizing the lost, especially those of other cultures and nationalities, if it is up to our abilities? But, thankfully, evangelism depends on our sovereign God working through our obedience. According to the Bible, lost people are both sightless and lifeless, blind and dead. Then we must ask, “How can we reach the loss?” Are we so foolish as to imagine that we can somehow, by our own argument or rhetoric, induce within the loss either spiritual understanding or life? No, it is not given to us to give sight to the blind or life to the dead. God alone is the author of light and life. Charles Spurgeon, who used to say over and over to himself as he climbed the stairs into his high pulpit, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, I believe in the Holy Ghost.” Consider what Spurgeon wrote: “The gospel is preached in the ears of all; it only comes with power to some. The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher; otherwise men would be converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preachers’ learning; otherwise it would consist of the wisdom of men. We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were mysterious power going with it—the Holy Ghost changing the will of man. O Sirs! We might as well preach to stone walls as to preach to humanity, unless the Holy Ghost be with the Word to give it power to convert the soul.”
- Are you having an effective presentation of the gospel based solidly on Scripture? The use of personal testimony, stories, tracts, and other tools is no substitute. For Scripture alone is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The power is in the Word. Any gospel presentation, to be effective, must clearly and comprehensively present the person and work of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the reason some reject Jesus is that He has not been presented well enough for them to understand who He is and what He has accomplished. To proclaim to others what Christ has done in our lives is important, but the biblical truth about Jesus Christ is the essential message the sinner must hear. As Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Every believer should strive to be proficient in the Scriptures so that we, too, can meet people at the point of their perplexity and lead them to the Savior. In the words of Peter, we are to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15).
- What are we to do when God instructs us as an available layperson to minister? Is it not so that God is using you as an obedient Christian to explain the gospel from His Word to seeking souls? Although God sovereignly works to bring people to salvation, He does not usually do it apart from His obedient people. So whatever starting point occurs in a discussion, we must always ask the more important question of, “Who do you think Jesus Christ is?” Whether the person brings up the problem of suffering or the question about the heathen who have never heard or whatever, after a brief answer, steer the conversation back to Jesus Christ. The person needs to know who Jesus is, what He came to do, his own desperate condition apart from Christ, and how to receive Christ by faith. Everything else is peripheral. If Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be, Christianity is true. If He is not who He claimed to be, then Christianity is a fraud. It all centers on Him. We have seen that God sovereignly takes the initiative in evangelizing the world. He uses His Word to penetrate the minds and hearts of sinners. He also uses obedient and faithful Christians to explain the gospel to seeking souls.
- What can be done to obtain a desirable understanding of Scripture? When you read a passage which you do not understand, read it until you do. Here is a little boy whose father is an artisan, and uses a great many technical terms. The boy is apprenticed, and wants to know all about it, and therefore he listens to his father, and when the day is over he says to himself, “I heard my father say a great deal, but I do not understand much of it.” “But you did understand a little of it?” “Oh, yes.” To that little he is faithful, and day by day he adds to his store of information, learning more by the help of that which he already knows, and at length he can talk like his father, using the same words with understanding. So when I do not comprehend a chapter, I say, I will hear my great Father speak, even if I do not understand at first what He may say to me, and I will keep on hearing Him until at last I grasp His meaning. Do as the photographer does, when he allows an object to be long before the camera until he obtains a well-defined picture. Let your mind dwell on a passage, till at last it has photographed itself upon your soul by the light of God. And, always read with a desire to understand. Have the crackers with you to crack the nuts, that you may feed upon their kernels. Then, pray for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. When I cannot understand a book, I write and ask the author what he means. Can we do that with the Bible? You may consult learned commentators, but that is not half so satisfactory as to go to the Author of the Book. Remember that you can also go to the Maker of your mind, and He can open it to receive the truth. [C. H. Spurgeon]
- How prepared are you to hear the Word of God? Many times have we heard the casual remarks dropped from the lips of the careless hearer as he retired from church: “The preacher did not strike me today.” “He did not reach my need.” “I don’t think he prepared that sermon with his usual care.” Dear cherished believer in our Lord God, what about your preparation as a hearer by an hour’s thought on the Word of God, or a few moments’ earnest meditation on the interests of your soul before you heard that sermon? You come from the wild clamor of the business week; you come from the cares of life in general, and expect the man in the pulpit to banish all this influence in the short hour of service, and feed you with the “bread of life,” without one moment’s preparation by earnest prayer or devout reading.
- What should be the response of an obedient, faithful person upon hearing the message? Can it be true that there are some gloomy Christians? Is it because they have not learned to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Friend. They believe in Him as someone else’s Savior perhaps, but have not realized Him as their own. This is not because they have too much religion, as the scoffers say, but because they have not enough. Be sure of this, that if your religion does not make you go on your way rejoicing, you have not learned it aright. But why are not all who come to church equally happy? The same seed is sown in all our hearts, but our hearts are not all the same. Let us be sure that we are on the right way; if our way be not a rejoicing way, it is not the right way; we must quit it, and start again. Is it not our high privilege of God’s command of “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Do not trifle with this Word of God. It may be one of the holiest precepts if the Holy Spirit should lay this upon your soul. And if it leads us into a serious inquiry wherefore it is not so, it shall be one of the most sanctifying inquiries both as it regards the causes that lead to it and the effects that follow from it. Do we not look at God in the greatness of His perfections? All His perfections are the favor of God: the light of God’s countenance, the strength of God’s arm, the love of God’s heart, the hearing of God’s ear, and the omniscience of God’s mind (to say nothing of His justice, His holiness, His faithfulness), all surround His child day by day, night by night, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Do we look at the covenant? All that I can want is there: the pardon of my sin, the acceptance of my person, the sanctification of my soul, the help to strengthen me in my hours of need.
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