Now let’s return to the topic of Phillip in Gaza with the Ethiopian [16 verses]
After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News. As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?”
So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”[“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8:25-40
How did Philip get his guidance?
What actually happened to Philip that made him go to the new place? Ben
What is meant by “the Holy Spirit said to Philip”? It seems those words mean that the Holy Spirit spoke like a human being to Philip. Is that right? (David)
In the previous Gem I skirted this issue by answering as follows:
How did Philip know to go to Gaza? Quite simply Philip was told by angel to go south by way of the desert road to Gaza. – “As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” We are not told exactly how the angel spoke to Philip but it seems he heard or perceived words including the clear information within. But those words could have been delivered inwardly, perceived by Philip within his head or heart or they could have been via an audible voice as one normally hears speech. We are not told which. If the statement given to Philip tells him to go via the desert road then it is important to God’s plans.
I was answering the question “How did Philip know to go to Gaza?” in brief, by way of summary. Now I have noticed the questions from Ben and David. I didn’t combine those together in the first instance. I draw attention to that here simply to make it clear I feel I have answered these questions in passing but have not dealt specifically with the matter of Hearing God’s Voice. Is it audibly as one person speaks to another or does the communication take place in our minds and it seems as though God talks to us but no one else standing nearby would have heard anything? At this stage I have not entered into a discussion of the difference between these two ways God could speak. I could do, I have had experience of both but in the first phase I have answered in the way I did above. If Ben or David or anyone else want to know then simply ask. If you don’t ask I will assume that what I have written thus far is sufficient. It is clear that there are times when God speaks in an audible voice and other times He speaks to us in our inner being. Outside of that there are many other ways that God speaks to us. As the writer records in Hebrews 1:1, “In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets. He spoke to them .” (ERV) God does speak to us in many different ways. I am not intending to say more than that at this point unless you ask. Some things I elaborate on and others I leave unsaid. However it is worth noting that in this passage Luke records for us two occasions on which the Holy Spirit spoke to Philip. I have emboldened them in the passage above – verses 27 and 29. We should ponder on this matter a little longer as the Holy Spirit has caused Luke to note it twice. Notice in these statements at one time it was “the angel of the Lord” who spoke and on the other it was “the Holy Spirit” who spoke. Is there any difference between these two forms? Which of course leads to a host of other questions like:
- How can we tell if we are talking with the Holy Spirit or the angel of the Lord?
- Is one more important than the other?
- Should I pay more attention to the Holy Spirit than I should to the angel of the Lord?
- Does it even matter? (to use David’s expression again).
I await your response before taking this further.
Now “What about the matter of Teletransportation?”
- Where is Azotus Ian? I looked for it in the atlas but I couldn’t find it. I want to see how far Philip went when he disappeared.
- How far was it between the two places? Ben
- Does Acts 8:39-40 mean Phillip literally gets teleported via the Holy Spirit? (Andre)
- Does God snatch other people away like he did to Philip? What does that mean? I don’t understand it. (Ron)
As Andre asked, is this really something like teletransportation? And if that is the case isn’t this like . . . in the realm of science fiction? Should we believe this to be something that literally happened? It all seems a little wacky doesn’t it? It requires some investigation. People who know me know I like to dig into the factuality behind the Bible text, as I did with many issues in God’s Awesome Book. Ben asks some interesting questions related to this. Where is this place called Azotus and how far was it from the place where Philip met with the Ethiopian treasurer? Notice what Luke wrote for us
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8:39-40
As in the section above relating to God speaking, we are told here that it was the Spirit of the Lord who snatched Philip away. It was clearly a sudden event. The question is, was it miraculous or was there no miracle involved and the suddenness was due to Philip withdrawing immediately because he was under a strong compulsion (as some commentators suggest)? There are these two interpretations in the literature about this. I could give you a run down of what each writer, ancient and modern, has said about this. I don’t intend to do so. Suffice to say the reactions fall on the side of
- It was a miracle
- It was not miraculous but some natural decision by which Philip departed quickly.
This reminds me of what I used to tell people in the God’s Awesome Book seminars – critics of the Bible have a hard time accepting miracles. As the geologist Lyell said when developing the Principles of Geology, “the present is the key to the past”. In other words the natural processes of mountain building and erosion are what we observe in terms of rates of flow and quantity of rainfall etc. Therefore we take what we observe and extrapolate the likely scenario on the basis of the observable, measurable processes. But on the other hand when it comes to things related to Creator God you have to be prepared to accept the miraculous. God stands outside of the normal, natural processes. In my example above, Lyell was accounting for the past in terms of the processes and the rates we observe in the present. But that is not possible because we are told in Genesis that the earth was not watered by rain initially, it was by way of a mist which rose and watered the earth. After the Fall we are told of a huge flood the likes of which would never be seen again. To take present day stream flows, even in flood time, and work out what the past was like is ridiculous. We are told that there was nothing like the volumes of water involved now as compared with the time of the Flood. They are incomparable.
Many people cannot accept miracles because miracles exist in the realm of fairy tales. Men don’t rise from the dead, neither do they raise other men from the dead, when you are dead you are dead – that’s it. Divine healing can’t be true, it’s not in the realm of medical science. Axe heads don’t float, men don’t walk through walls and people are not tele-transported. That exists in the realm of fantasy. It’s for that reason that naturalistic critics of the Bible challenge the supernatural. But just stop and think for a moment. If God is really God and spoke the universe into being, is anything impossible to Him? Of course not. The God I believe in is supernatural. Some will say that is because I am gullible and willing to accept anything in my fantasy world. You don’t know me if you say that. I have always wanted to check the facts and suss things out. But with God it is inescapable that you will at some stage encounter the supernatural. How you deal with it is predetermined by your predisposition – your world view. My worldview has room for God. We have experienced many and various sorts of miracles through the years since we became Christians. My God is supernatural – He transcends or supersedes the natural. I am simply telling you where I stand. So it is easier for me to accept that this account is one which describes a supernatural event – Philip being transported from one place to another in the Spirit.
I remember when I was first a Christian, within a few years I had come across the term Philip’s transport. I asked my mentor what that meant. Reg took me to this passage and explained this in terms of a supernatural event not a normal process of human decision making. Notice some things about this text which lifts it out of the realm of the normal and into the realm of something weird and miraculous. There were two phases to this event. I will call them the leaving and the landing.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.Acts 8:39
Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8:40
The Leaving: The spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away and the eunuch never saw him again.
The Landing: Philip found himself farther north in Azotus.
We have to account for the text that is before us. The verb [harpazo] has the sense of “to snatch” or “to take away suddenly”. It is often associated with action instigated by the Spirit of God. The sense is to be carried off suddenly. The end result of which is that the eunuch does not see Philip again. The combination of those two verbs indicates something out of the ordinary happened. Then the following verse adds the information that Philip “found himself”, “was found” assumedly by others or “appeared” at Azotus. The verb is [heurisko] which in essence has the idea “to come upon something or someone accidentally” or “finding” them. It can also have in some contexts the idea of “to appear”. Ben asked where was Azotus and how far was it from where Philip and the Treasurer were near Gaza? Our problem is we can’t work it out specifically. We have been told that Philip was walking and at one point climbed into the chariot when it was moving. We don’t know exactly where he was on the road to Gaza at the time. But we do know in general that Azotus was the Old Testament town of Ashdod which was 32 km north of Gaza and 56 km west of Jerusalem. From there Luke tells us that Philip went down by way of the coastal road I talked about in Gem 1500 and he preached there. It seems Philip was taken from the inner desert area to the coastal area over a considerable distance. We don’t know when he was snatched, taken from the Treasurer, neither do we know the time frame he “appeared” or “was seen” in Azotus but the sense of the text is sudden. Yes Ben, that to me indicates an instant journey from one place to another 32 km away. I would say it was something like tele-transportation or “travelling in the Spirit”. Or as Reg called it “Philip’s transport”. My only wish is that I could travel that way. As I have said above I have experienced many miracles but nothing like that. So I can’t speak authoritatively from experience but all indications in the text Luke wrote for us was that of a miraculous event. I have no problem accepting it as a miracle. What about you? Your answer will reveal your view of God. Can your God do things like that? Mine can.
Jesus won’t turn water to wine in your life, until you run out of your own. He doesn’t do miracles for the self-sufficient.Ian ail
You can move through life seeing nothing as a miracle, or seeing everything as a miracle.Albert Einstein
Nothing is ordinary. Life is an endless series of little miracles. The difference between living and existing is noticing.Louie Giglio
An elephant, tho larger, is no greater miracle than a mite. To God, it’s no more difficult to make one than the other.Theo Paine
This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle.AW Tozer
Expectation is the atmosphere for miracles.Edwin Louis Cole
There’s one problem with the comfort zone. Miracles don’t happen there!Rick Godwin