THE THIRD DAY OF MAY, IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN
Evangelism that is Spirit-powered and Spirit-led testifies to what Jesus did and what he suffered–the perfect doing and dying that set us right with God–instead of what we do in response to that work. We see more evidence today in Acts chapters 8-20. The gospel message goes beyond the Jews through Philip, whom Luke says “went down to a city of Samar′ia, and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:5). The Spirit then sent Philip hitchhiking down the Jerusalem-Gaza Highway on which a pious government official from Ethiopia happened to be traveling just then, and happened to be reading Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s suffering Servant. He happened to pick up Philip, who happened to begin a conversation.
The official asked questions, and Philip, who happened to know the answers, “told him the good news of Jesus” (Acts 8:35). They happened upon some water, the official requested baptism, Philip accommodated his request and –POOF–suddenly disappeared (Acts 8:26-39). Again the mesage is Jesus. The response is baptism (a natural part of the Q/A), which the convert asks for. (The only command reported in this story is the official’s command to the driver to stop his chariot at the water!)
And so it goes throughout the book of Acts. In homes (ch. 10) and synagogues (ch. 13) and public forums (ch. 17) the gospelizers tell the story of the mighty deeds of God, always culminating in Jesus, whom men rejected, condemned and murdered but whom God raised from the dead. God’s saving deeds demand a response of genuine repentance (2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21), which God gives to Jews (5:31) and Gentiles alike (11:18), along with forgiveness of sins (2:38; 3:19) and the faith that precedes it (20:21). Though a gift from God (14:27), faith is also a commanded response, appropriately expressed by gospel baptism in water (8:12; 16:31-34; 18:8) and it carries the promise of sins forgiven (10:43; 16:31).