To the End of the Earth
Topic: Individual Sermon Passage: Acts 8:26–8:40
The Ascension of Jesus which happened 40 days after His resurrection marks not only Jesus’ physical departure from the Earth, more significantly it marks the pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit which is none other than Jesus’ spiritual presence. Jesus said when this happens that those on whom the Spirit falls will be empowered to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria and finally to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
For (7) chapters everything that is happening is happening in Jerusalem. But that is just the starting point. The call of Philip (one of the seven chosen to provide mercy ministry in Acts 6) in Acts 8 marks the first recorded missionary endeavor bringing the gospel outside of its Jerusalem context, first in Samaria then with the Ethiopian Eunuch. The call, in some ways similar to Abraham’s, involves God (through the Angel of the Lord) calling Philip from a fruitful ministry in the Samaria to go to a barren desolate place without further explanation.
Philip’s unquestioning obedience brings him into contact with an Ethiopian Eunuch. The combination of ethnicity (Gentile) and physical condition (Eunuch) highlight that this royal official was completely barred and excluded from entering the temple courts and thus the presence of God. To create even more dramatic tension Philip goes from preaching to Samaritans (8:4-8) despised half-breeds (partly Jewish) in the eyes of the Jews to a no-breed (complete foreigners to the covenants of promise).
Yet, the passage that the Eunuch reads should have anticipated this day. Isn’t it Isaiah who’s just said that when the Lord’s servant comes, “All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (52:10) The same Isaiah who says, “You will summon nations you know not” (55:5) a few chapters later? In fact, this is the prophet who is about to say: Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” (Isa 56:3)
By the Spirit’s leading Philip begins to understand that the gospel is more about grace and not race. It also shows us that God is not simply one God among many (the God of Israel) but ultimately the God of the entire world. Thus begins the great missionary movement to the ends of the earth which has also brought us who live in Calgary, Canada in and continues to move forward throughout the world.