We’ve been given a tough task to go out and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15), but it is a meaningful one that we can take pleasure in, and we should joyfully take any opportunities that present themselves.
Acts 8:29-35 provides an example for us, where Philip is invited up into a chariot with an Ethiopian who asks him to explain the words of Isaiah to him. This allows him to develop an understanding through further questioning which Philip can then use to teach him about Jesus. Here we are shown a few important points to acknowledge when wishing to speak to others about God.[perfectpullquote align=”right”]Philip, having answered the questions of the Ethiopian, goes on to tell him the good news about Jesus.[/perfectpullquote]
Listening to the Holy Spirit
Philip listens to the Spirit when he tells him to go up to the chariot in verse 29 which ultimately results in the conversation where the listener makes the decision of baptism. This is vital for us to remember. When the spirit is speaking to us, we should listen, enabling ourselves to be used by God in whichever way he intends for us, instead of resisting his work for us because we don’t want to act or wish to go in a different direction.
Listening to Your Audience
Philip is invited into the chariot so the Ethiopian can ask questions about what he is reading and how to understand it. Once Philip establishes that the Ethiopian wants him to explain the meaning behind what Isaiah has written, Philip can then proceed. While we might have great intentions to preach the gospel without hesitation, forcing conversations upon people can sometimes result in the opposite effect to that which we intended. That’s not to say we should avoid having conversations with people about the gospel, and ultimately the responsibility of how the listener responds lies with them, but the strength of this example is that instead of trying to force the Ethiopian to listen to what he wanted to say, Philip appropriately answered the question that was on the mind of the Ethiopian, leading to an opportunity for preaching and spiritual gain.
Developing from Common Ground[perfectpullquote size=”16″]When the spirit is speaking to us, we should listen, enabling ourselves to be used by God in whichever way he intends for us[/perfectpullquote]
Philip, having answered the questions of the Ethiopian, goes on to tell him the good news about Jesus. He does this in a way that uses the opportunity created when he answered the original question given to him, so he can further the Ethiopian’s knowledge using a foundation set up from the original questions. This allows Philip to not confuse his listener by overloading him with information. Now he’s sure they’re on the same page and he can deliver the gospel of Jesus in a way that can be immediately understood, because it’s developed from their common understanding of the issues that were bothering the Ethiopian. This gave his listener a grasp on the concept being introduced, so he can then come to acknowledge and accept Jesus.
Using this example of Philip, next time we are called to have a conversation or talk from the Bible we can do our best in maximising how much people are able to understand and take away from it in the hopes they would come closer to God.
Paul Harrison, The Church of God in Hayes