Philip the Evangelist
July 31st, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
PHILIP THE EVANGELIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-31-77 7:30 p.m.
It is with infinite gladness that we welcome a throng of you, a host of you, unnumbered, who are listening on the great radio station of the Southwest, KRLD, and listening on our Bible Institute stereo radio station, KCBI. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Philip the Soulwinner, Philip the Evangelist. And we are going to read together in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts these few verses as an introduction, Acts chapter 8, verses 5 through 8. Acts chapter 8, verses 5 through 8. This morning we left off preaching at verse 4; now tonight we begin at verse 5, and I am going to preach through the chapter; but we are going to read together verses 5 through 8. And on the radio, we invite you to open your Bible and read it out loud with us. Now all of us together, Acts 8, verses 5 through 8:
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.
There was a reason why Philip went down to Samaria. As we have been preaching in these Sundays heretofore, there arose in Jerusalem a tremendous and tragic persecution against the church in Jerusalem. And those Hellenistic Christians, those Greek speaking Jews, were scattered abroad. Saul led that persecution, bringing havoc to the church [Acts 8:1-4]. So Philip went down from Jerusalem to Samaria [Acts 8:5]; there were two reasons why the great ministry of Philip in Samaria. Number one was the Samaritans looked with contempt and hatred on the Jew. So the high priest in Jerusalem had no jurisdiction in Samaria, and when Philip went down to Samaria he had full and open opportunity to preach Christ unto them. A second thing that contributed to that tremendous revival, led by this deacon in Samaria, was because of the previous ministry of our Lord there. You remember? "He must needs go through Samaria" [John 4:4], and there did He speak to the Samaritan woman, and the whole city of Sychar came out to see Him, and believed in Him [John 4:5-42]. So he had a wonderful open door to proclaim the message of Christ in Samaria [Acts 8:5].
Now, this man Philip, I want you to notice first of all the message that he preached. "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" [Acts 8:5]. And then again in the twenty0sixth verse of this same chapter, when the Holy Spirit, the angel of the Lord, sent him down into the desert [Acts 8:26], standing by the way, and the chariot of the treasurer of Ethiopia passed by, and God said, "Join yourself to that chariot" [Acts 8:29]. And that man, that treasurer, was reading out loud the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah; and then the eunuch said to Philip:
I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Is he talking about himself or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Isn’t that a wonderful description of a man’s assignments, who stands in a pulpit, or who witnesses by the wayside, or who speaks to a friend? "Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" [Acts 8:5]. "And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35]. What is the content of a man’s message who is sent from God?
Now there are many things of passing interest: book reviews, world without end; a discussion of current events, things are always happening; political situations, cultural situations, economic situations, civic situations, national, international situations, world without end is there opportunity for a minister to preach in the pulpit concerning these contemporary events. All he needs to do is to subscribe to Reader’s Digest, to The United States News and World Report, and there he has got his sermon Sunday, by Sunday, by Sunday. But who wants to go to church to hear a rehashing of all of the things that are discussed by the commentators on radio, by the commentators on television, rehashed by all of the current magazines and we read them on the editorial pages and the headlines of the newspapers everyday? What we long for and seek is, is there a word from God? Does the Lord have anything to say? Is there a message from heaven? And this was the substance of the preaching of these men in the New Testament: "And he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35], and, "he preached Christ unto them" [Acts 8:5]; Jesus, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:21-25]; Jesus in His ministry in Galilee, Judea [Matthew 4:23, 9:35]; Jesus dying for our sins on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50; 1 Corinthians 15:3]; Jesus buried [Matthew 27:59-60; 1 Corinthians 15:4] and raised the third day from among the dead [Matthew 28:5-7; 1 Corinthians 15:4]; Jesus ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], Jesus in His intercession at the throne of grace [Romans 8:34], Jesus someday coming again to judge the quick and the dead [2 Timothy 4:1]; the message always is Jesus.
And there is something marvelous, to me miraculous, about the man who preaches the Lord Jesus. Look around you. Think of this great throng here on Sunday night in a hot day, the last Lord’s Day in July. If I were to stand in this pulpit and preach about economics, or about politics, or about cultural revolutions, or about book reviews, or any other thing of passing and current events, the people would come one time, a few of them might come a second time, but in a few times there would be no one present. This place would be empty. But preaching Jesus, "And he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35], and, "He went down to Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" [Acts 8:5], preaching Jesus, the people come back, and they return, and they come back again. It is manna for our hungry souls; it is water of life for our thirsting spirits. "And he preached unto him Jesus." And the marvel of that miraculous Spirit of God that works in the preached message of the Lord Jesus is a phenomenon to behold.
For example, and the reason that I wanted to keep this book here, I looked through our book for the songs of John Newton. There are five of them. There are five of John Newton’s hymns in that book. He lived, he was born in 1725. He and William Cowper – the great English poet who wrote many hymns such as "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood" – were friends together in a little English town called Olney. The last of the hymns of John Newton that are published in this book is entitled "Amazing Grace: how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." John Newton, born in 1725, was an orphan lad; his mother died when he was a very little boy; his father was a sea captain; and he went out to sea and he fell into the most prodigal and profligate of all lives. He was finally impressed into the British navy, was a deserter, and flogged. He eventually sold himself to a slave trader in Africa, and went down the lowest of any man that I have ever read about. There was nothing more debauched, nothing more iniquitous, nothing more vile and wicked than the life into which John Newton fell. Then he found the incomparable grace of God in Christ Jesus, in the Lord Jesus. And here is a poem that he wrote of his marvelous conversion:
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood;
He fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood
Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did,
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I my Lord have slain.
A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die that thou may’st live."
Oh, can it be, upon a tree,
The Savior died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me?
[from "He Died for Me"; John Newton]
What sweeter testimony: just looking at the Lord Jesus.
I dug out of my library the inscription on his grave in that little town of Olney in England. And these are the words: "John Newton, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned, and finally appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy." Isn’t that like heaven? No wonder a man like that could write "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me," and that beautiful poem I just read of his testimony of his salvation. "And he preached unto him Jesus," there is power in the gospel. There is converting ableness of God in the name of Jesus our Lord; that is the message that Philip preached, this deacon layman [Acts 8:35].
All right, number two: let us look for a moment at the ordinance that he called his people to obey. It says here, and I read it, "And when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God . . . they were baptized, both men and women" [Acts 8:12]. And now, the last part:
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
The ordinance that Philip called his converts to obey, "See, here is water; I want to be baptized" [Acts 8:36]. I think after fifty years of being a pastor, I think that is true in every real converted spirit. "I have found the Lord. I want to be baptized." John said he has received the ordinance from heaven; it is God that invented it [John 1:33]. First time any man ever saw a man take another man and wash him, immerse him, baptize him, was when Iōannēs ho Baptistēs, John the one who baptizes, did it. There was many Johns in that day as there are Johns today; but this is the John who did something the world had never seen before: he baptizes men [Matthew 3:5-6]. The Jews had many ablutions; they washed their feet, they washed their hands, they washed their heads, they washed their bodies, they washed their pots and pans; but always they did it themselves. The first time the world ever saw a man take another man and wash him – baptize him – was when John did it; Iōannēs he Baptistēs, "John the one who baptizes." He said he got it from heaven [John 1:33]; Jesus said his baptism was from heaven [Matthew 3:15]; and the Lord incorporated it into the Great Commission, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples, believers, of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the triune God" [Matthew 28:19-20]. And the apostles faithfully carried that commission out.
There is no instance in the Bible but that those who accepted the Lord were baptized. "Men and brethren," cried those Jewish people at Pentecost, "What shall we do?" [Acts 2:37]. And Peter said, "Repent, repent and receive the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized every one of you eis – because of – the remission of your sins in Him. And ye shall receive this like gift of the Holy Spirit" [Acts 2:38]. And that was the first response of this Ethiopian treasurer, "See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" [Acts 8:36]. I have accepted the Lord as my Savior; I want to be baptized just as God has commanded in the Book.
You know, sometimes the Holy Spirit will lead you to do some unusual things, that when you look at it theologically, it would be very, very hard to defend. But in the exigency, in the empirical circumstance, it is very blessed of God. In one of my village churches, there was a man who had the store, the general store; he was not a Christian. I visited with him, prayed with him, talked to him, read the Bible, made appeal to his heart. And upon a Sunday, down the aisle he came. And when he came, he stood there at the end of that first pew. And I went over, and he handed me his hand. He gave me his hand, and he said, "I receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I take Him as my Savior. I asked Him to forgive my sins, and I want to be a Christian." Well, I said, "Wonderful. Come and be seated here." And he said, "No." He said, "No. I have said all my life I will never sit on that front row as a penitent sinner, a confessed sinner. And I have said all my life, and I will not be baptized." I said to him, "Then you cannot be saved." Now theologically, that is unthinkable. Is it sitting on that front row that saves you? Is it the water baptism that washes our sins away? No! It is Christ and He alone that saves us; it’s the blood that washes us from our sins [1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5]. And yet I said to him, "If you don’t come down here and sit down there on that front row, and if you don’t receive the ordinance of baptism, you can’t be saved. If you turn around and go back, you will go back a lost sinner." He was astonished at that word, especially when he was three or four times as old as I was. He was astonished at that word, and stood there at the end of that front pew. Now I could see in his face the war in his soul. I think had he gone back, he would have been a lost man. Somehow God has made it that if a fellow is right in his soul and he has given his heart really to Jesus, to come down before people, men and angels, anywhere in the world, and confess his faith is something he is glad to do. And to receive the ordinance of baptism is something that his heart longs to obey.
Well, that man fought that battle in his heart that day, and he won it. Praise God! He came all the way with me, and sat down, and we prayed together. And then I introduced him to the church as a new convert and as a candidate for baptism. I baptized him. And the last time I saw him, he was the superintendent of the Sunday school in the church, and he was the leader of the Brotherhood in that part of the state. Now that, I say, would be hard to defend theologically; but empirically, practically, it is God’s truth. When a man is really saved, to confess the name of the Lord Jesus anywhere in the world is a happy privilege, anywhere is a good where to name the name of Jesus. I have found Him dear and precious to my soul: and I want to be baptized, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" [Acts 8:36].
I must close. Third: I want you to look at the spirit of his converts. "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:39]. And then, the whole city:
And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord listened to the message that he brought, and they were saved . . . And there was great joy in that city.
That is universally true. There is no one that has the ableness to deceive us like Satan. And I marvel at his ableness in deception. Why, he will take a young fellow, he will even take a boy or a girl, and he will whisper in their ears, "Don’t you give your heart to Jesus. Think of all the good times you’re going to miss. Think of all of the wonderful things out here in the world that you will never enjoy if you give your heart to Jesus, and if you be a Christian. Don’t you do that, because there are a lot of things out here in the world that are fun things, and happy things, and experiential things, and wonderful things. Don’t you be a Christian; you’ll miss all that if you be a Christian." There never was a bolder lie, there never was a deeper deception than that.
Man! There is no gladness in the world like the life in Christ, none, none. There is no bitter aftertaste, there is no dark hangover, there is no remorse, there is no, "would to God I were dead." If I were looking for people who were candidates for suicide, you know where I would look? I would look in that world out there that is given to the glitter of the sin and the debauchery that the world could afford. I would not look down here in the church among God’s people; why, the happiest people in the world are God’s people. These are the people who have found life and found it abundantly. The good life is the happy life, it is the Christian life, "and he went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:39].
As you know, I came to our Vacation Bible School last week, and I love to do that. People say, "My, my, pastor! With all the other things you do, why in the world do you do that?" Why, the best time in the world; I get me a little chair, and I sit down with those boys and girls, and they sing for me, and they quote Scripture for me, and they give me a little gift of a kind, of a kind, they give me a little gift of a kind. And we just have the best time in the world together. And they sing that song that I used to teach juniors when I led the singing. Boy, did we have song services then, when I led the singing! We – and I would teach those kids the songs, and I just loved them – and one of those songs that I used to teach, these children in Vacation Bible School sang to me last week. Do you remember it?
On Monday I am happy, on Tuesday full of joy,
On Wednesday I have peace within that nothing can destroy
On Thursday and on Friday, I’m walking in the light
Oh! Saturday is a heavenly day, and Sunday’s always bright!
Oh, glory, glory, glory! Oh, glory to the Lamb!
Hallelujah, I am saved, and I’m so glad I am
Oh, glory, glory, glory! Oh, glory to the Lamb!
Hallelujah! I am saved, and I’m bound for the Promised Land.
[from "Glory to the Lamb"; Selected Hymns, the New Onward and Upward
(Logansport, Indiana; Home Music Co.) around 1900]
Oh, my! That’s true. Oh! as I look at those little boys and girls, and their singing that song, I think in my heart, "I would to God I could keep them all in the faith, and they would never know sin and the sewer, seamy side of life. But that all their days would be bright and happy and full of joy."
"And he went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:39]. And look again, "And there was great joy in that city" [Acts 8:8]. O, God! Before I am translated to heaven, I would to God I could see a great moving revival in this city. I see a city that is simply caught up in the fever of a great athletic contest, such as a football game. The whole city is moved by it. If the Cowboys were to win a place in the Super Bowl and the game was played out there at that Texas Stadium, the whole city would be a frenzy of interest, caught up in it. I have seen a city caught up in a political campaign, just simply ablaze with political interest. Lord, Lord! If the day could ever come when a great revival would sweep thousands and hundreds of thousands into the kingdom of God; when people were rejoicing down every street, speaking about it in every home, talking about it in every business transaction, Jesus dear to our souls, Jesus Savior of my life, Jesus my hope in this world and the world to come; "And there was great joy in that city" [Acts 8:8].
That is the joy and the gladness we share with you in this precious hour. To give your heart to the Lord is to receive life and that abundantly [John 10:10]. To follow Jesus in baptism [Matthew 3:13-16] is one of the highest privileges we can do for God. He doesn’t need us, and yet of the little that I can do for Him I can obey that command [Matthew 28:19-20]: I can be baptized. And dear friend, to walk with us in the Christian way is the glory road to heaven.
Two of my friends with whom I went to school have dropped dead over this weekend – two fine, young pastors – two fine pastors of great commitment. I think of their being young because I went to school with them. Isn’t it strange how the years do something to us? I think of them in the days when we were in college together, and the days when we were in the seminary together. And now they are at home with Jesus; but what a wonderful way, and what a glorious demise, and what a fine, triumphant ending of a life. A Christian man, a soul that has taken Jesus, even in youth, as Savior, and all the years since have walked with the Lord, and now walk with Him into eternity; it is the way to live. It is the way to die. God bless us as we open our hearts to the Lord; receive Him as our Savior, and pilgrimage with us in this journey to heaven.
We are going to stand and sing our invitation hymn in a moment. And thus to receive the Lord as your Savior, thus to follow Him in baptism, thus to be with us in the fellowship of our dear church, would you make it now? "Pastor, I have decided for God, and here I am. I’m coming this moment." Make that decision in your heart, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle, "I’m on the way, pastor, and here I am." God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
PHILIP THE EVANGELIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. After stoning of Stephen, persecution arose against Hellenistic Christians
B. Philip went to Samaria (Acts 8:5, 34-35)
1. Influence of high priest not tolerated there
2. There was a remembrance of the ministry of Jesus
II. The message he preached – Jesus (Acts 8:5, 12, 35)
A. Incarnation, ministry, cross, resurrection, ascension, commission
B. Suffering for our sins (Acts 35, Isaiah 53)
1. John Newton
III. The ordinance he called them to obey – baptism (Acts 8:12, 31-38)
A. Originated in the mind of God
B. In the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20)
C. Faithfully observed by the apostles (Acts 1:21-22, 2:38)
D. A true disciples will be eager to obey
IV. The spirit of his converts – rejoicing (Acts 8:8, 39)
A. Individually (Acts 8:39)
B. A whole city (Acts 8:8)