Study 3 SERVING THE LORD BEFORE THE RAPTURE
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 8 -11)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 8:26-40
The key to this study is verse 39, where we notice the words ”the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away”. Was this a literal, physical transportation? Was he caught away like Enoch (Genesis 5:22-24), or like Elijah (2 Kings 2:11)? It may have been so, but not necessarily, and probably not! Luke is telling us here in a graphic way that Philip’s job was done and that now the Holy Spirit wanted to move him on and thrust him out to other service. But notice that ”the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away”; this is very suggestive, that we who belong to the Lord are going to be taken away suddenly - to be caught up, raptured literally into the air and into His presence (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). It would, however, be quite wrong to teach the doctrine of the Second Coming and the rapture of the saints from Acts 8:39; but this verse, within the context of verses 26-40, shows us how the Lord’s servant should be living and what he should be doing, if he is waiting and watching for the Lord’s return. How does this affect our behaviour if we believe Jesus will come at any moment for us? Look at Philip and see the answer to this question.
1. He was living in close fellowship with the Lord
We see this in verses 26 and 29, where we read that God spoke to Philip, and Philip heard Him. He must have been living in close touch with the Lord because God does not shout His orders. Sometimes he speaks very quietly (1 Kings 19:11-12). Are you living in such close touch with Him that you can hear His voice and be ready to obey Him? If the One we love is coming soon, and if we are to be raptured suddenly into His presence, surely we shall want to keep very near to His side (1 John 2:28). If a loved one is coming to visit us, all the time we are waiting and expectant for the knock on the door which announces his or her arrival.
2. He was available to the Lord
It is quite clear from the narrative that Philip was ready to be moved around in accordance with God’s will and wish - compare verses 5-8 and verse 26. Although a revival was taking place in Samaria he could have had many reasons for doubting God’s call to leave that fruitful work and to go off to some unknown destination, yet we are told that he was so completely at the Lord’s disposal; his main concern was just to find out and to do His will. How different it was in Jonah’s case (Jonah 1:1-3)! He was not available to the Lord - in fact he was disobedient. How sad to be out of God’s will when Jesus comes, to be in Tarshish instead of Nineveh, to be in Samaria instead of Gaza!
3. Philip was ready to obey God
It is very beautiful to notice, when we compare verses 26-27 and verses 29-30, that as soon as God spoke to His servant he obeyed. Notice in verses 26-27, “Go …so he started out”; and notice in verses 29-30, ”Go to that chariot …then Philip ran.” ‘Why are you running, Philip?’ ‘I am running to do what God wants me to do!’ ‘What does He want you to do, Philip?’ ‘I don’t know yet, but my only concern at this point is to obey Him.’ This is how we should live and work in the light of the Lord’s coming.
4. He was living to win others
His concern was to bring others to know the Lord as their Saviour, as we see in verses 4-8, and now in verses 26-39. Look at Philip’s activity in verse 40!
- 1. He was on the look-out for souls (verse 27).
- 2. He was no respecter of persons (verse 27). When Philip saw the man he learned he was an Ethiopian and a high-ranking official. Did he hesitate about speaking to him of the Lord? Certainly not! - look up Romans 10:11-13.
- 3. He was tactful and respectful (verses 28-30). See how gracious and wise Philip was in his approach.
- 4. He was armed with God’s word (Ephesians 6:17); and verses 30-35 tell us that Philip believed the scriptures, was conversant with Isaiah’s prophecy relating to the Messiah, and he knew how to use the scriptures to lead someone to Christ.
- 5. He pointed the needy soul to Jesus, not to himself. Philip did not speak about denominationalism or joining a movement. When he was speaking to the crowd he “proclaimed the Christ” (verse 5); and when he was speaking to this man he “told him the good news about Jesus” (verse 35).
- 6. He wanted the new convert to be established. Evidently he had spoken about baptism and open confession of Christ, and verses 36-38 tell us about this; so we learn that Philip not only evangelised but he catechised and gave instruction to the new convert.
- 7. Philip got out of the picture. Having done his job and having been faithful to the Lord he had fulfilled his work (John 3:30).
5. He was a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled man
We learn this from verses 29 and 39. How important it is for those of us who are living in anticipation of the imminent return of the Lord and the rapture of the Church that we should know what it is, day by day, to be filled with the Holy Spirit! Look up Acts 13:52.
This is the way to live and work before Jesus comes. If it is His will that we die before that great event, this is still the way to live and work for Him before we die; and then when He comes – read it for yourself in 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18!