When Luke tells the story of Paul’s final trip to Jerusalem, he includes an interesting tidbit. “On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven…” (Acts 21:8)
There is only one man in the Bible who is given that descriptive title of “evangelist,” and that man is Philip. If we want to learn about sharing the Good News of Jesus, Philip has something to teach us. We first meet Philip in Jerusalem. He is one of the seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, and set apart to help the Apostles. When the persecution of the Jerusalem church scatters the brethren, Philip heads for Samaria.
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them…” (Acts 8:4-5).
Philip was a Good News sharer—an evangelist. He shared the Good News obediently, persuasively, accurately, openly and consistently. In fact, Philip takes away our three most common objections to personal evangelism: Not Them, Not Now, Not Me.
I want to address these common objections one by one. For this week, Not Them. We seldom actually articulate this objection, but it limits us nonetheless. “I know I need to share the Gospel with others, but not those people, not them.”
We tend to exclude people from our Gospel vision. We let cultural, social and racial boundaries limit our witness. Philip the evangelist was always building bridges and tearing down walls; he crossed boundaries with the Gospel. In Acts, he travels from Jerusalem to Samaria to the Gaza Road to Caesarea. More significantly, he shared the Gospel with Jews, Samaritans and the Ethiopian. People the church leaders wrote off, he pursued.
When you open your eyes to see the people around you, people who are lost and broken, in desperate need of the Good News, do you see some as being outside your boundaries? Have you allowed racial boundaries to limit your field? Do you exclude the rich or poor; older or younger? Do you only offer the Gospel to those you know, or to people you do not know? Have you travelled across the globe on a mission trip but excluded your cranky neighbor?
When the disciples passed through Samaria they ignored the Samaritans. They dismissed them as dirty, mean enemies. When Philip found himself in Samaria, he saw them as people who needed to hear the Good News. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. Yes, even them.