I treated myself to a new daily Bible reading study book. I am not one of these people who very faithfully work their way through them month in month out. I can get very “religious” about it all, and think in terms of earning my brownie points if I keep up. I know what I am like.
This one starts off in the Book of Acts. We had been working our way through Acts in our church meetings, but somehow came to a full stop at Acts 8. Acts 7 was good with Stephen, his stroll through Jewish history and his martyrdom. Acts 9 is good sermon material because you are into Saul/Paul and then Barnabas and missionary journeys. Acts 8 has a lot of things happening. It is the stepping stone from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth that Acts 1:8 promised.
What I like about Philip, and what I liked about Stephen, is that they were not defined by the roles assigned to them. They stepped in to make sure that no one was being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The apostles didn’t think they should neglect the ministry of the Word to wait on tables. Philip and Stephen were among the “waiters” but they did not allow a label to limit what they could do. Stephen preached an amazing sermon that showed such a depth of knowledge and understanding that was as good as anything that the apostles had preached. Waiting on tables did not bar them from ministering the Word too.
Joe and I are hosting the Sunday meeting. The church leaders are away on holiday and will not be back in time. We were talking this morning about what we were going to do. A blank sheet of paper, a bit of blue sky thinking, no ideas rejected outright. Joe is quite happy to wait on tables and let someone else minister the Word. I am quite happy to minister the Word if someone tells me the subject matter or the Bible passage. We both limit ourselves in some way.
Philip impresses me because not only did he not limit himself, but he pushed himself to go to places other people didn’t go to. With the persecution, people were scattered, but I bet you they still avoided going to Samaria. Samaritans and Jews had a history and neither side liked the other. Travelling from Galilee in the north, to Jerusalem in the south, the Jews would go around Samaria rather than through it.
Philip doesn’t go around it. Just as he doesn’t put limits on what he can do, he doesn’t put any limits on where he can go. Jesus has been to Samaria and talked to a woman at a well, and through his conversation with her affected a whole village. Since then, no missionary teams had gone there to consolidate what Jesus began. It was just a one off.
Philip picked up the mantle that Jesus dropped just the other side of the Samaritan border. To get to the ends of the world, perhaps you have to start with the next door neighbour! The nest door neighbour isn’t the easiest of person to talk to given the history – but Philip refused to allow history to limit who he spoke to.
He did not put any limit on what he did, where he went or who he spoke to. He was a man that God could use – and God used him. Nothing that happened in the first few chapters of Acts happened outside of Jesus’ named disciples and apostles. Then there was Stephen preaching and being stoned for his message…and then there was Philip widening the net of who God used to take His message one step closer to the ends of the earth!
And then there was me. No limits?