I. "AND WHEN THEY WERE COME UP OUT OF THE WATER, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAUGHT AWAY PHILIP."
A. The Greek word for caught away (harpadzo) is used by Paul in writing of his experience of being caught up into the third heaven in 2Co. 12
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
B. It was also used in 1Thess. 4
, when he speaks of the rapture of the church. "Then we who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the air to be forever with our Lord."
1. In the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, the Latin word for harpadzo is raptus.
2. The word means to be taken by force.
3. In fact, that is how it is translated in Matthew 12
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and [to] his throne.
D. I believe that the scripture leaves no doubt that this was a supernatural event. The sudden disappeance of Philip as he was miraculously translated to Azotus.
1. Today Azotus is known as Ashdod; it is between Ashkelon and Joppa.
2. What do you suppose that Ethiopian eunuch must have thought?
a. As he is reading the scriptures and is puzzled over them suddenly this man comes running up to his chariot and volunteers to explain to him the passage that he is reading.
b. They come to water and he requests to be baptized, and as soon as they come out of the water the man disappears.
c. We read, "The eunuch saw him no more."
3. The eunuch continued his journey homeward rejoicing in his new found faith in Jesus.
E. In the meantime, Philip is found preaching in Azotus, and leaving there he journeyed to Caesarea preaching in all the cities along the way.
1. In a couple of chapters we will find Peter coming to Lydda to the body of believers that were there, and over to the church in Joppa.
2. It is quite possible that these churches were started by Philip on his way to Caesarea.
3. It appears that Philip then stayed in Caesarea and established a home and family there.
a. Philip was known as the evangelist.
b. He had four daughters who had the gift of prophecy.
c. Paul stopped to visit him on his last journey to Jerusalem.
4. Later Paul spent two years under house arrest in Caesarea and no doubt had close fellowship with Philip.
II. IN THIS PART OF THE STORY, WE NOW TURN TO THIS MAN, SAUL OF TARSUS.
A. He described himself as having been:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
B. He is described here as breathing out threatenings and slaughter (or murder) against the church.
1. The Greek suggests heavy breathing produced by great anger and emotion.
2. He is determined to destroy the church by murdering them.
C. In his zeal to destroy, he went to the high priest to receive from him the authority to go to the synagogues in Damascus to bind any who believed in Jesus as the Messiah whether they were men or women and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial.
1. This gives you an idea, how rapidly the gospel is spreading, already there are reports of believers in Damascus.
2. When Paul was testifying to the Jews in Jerusalem after he was rescued from the mob he told them:
I am verily a man [which am] a Jew, born in Tarsus, [a city] in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, [and] taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
3. Later as Paul is testifying to king Agrippa, he said:
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled [them] to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted [them] even unto strange cities.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
III. WHAT THIS STORY TEACHES US.
A. No one is beyond the reach of God.
1. If you were living in those days and were a member of the church, and someone asked you who the most unlikely person to ever be saved, you would surely have answered Saul.
2. When the Lord told Ananias to go the house on Straight street and inquire at the house of Judas for Saul, Ananias objected saying: Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, of how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem: And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on your name.
3. When Paul returned to Jerusalem three years later, the church in Jerusalem was still leery about his conversion.
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a true disciple.
But Barnabas took him, and brought [him] to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
B. You cannot always tell from outward appearances what is going on in a person's heart.
1. He was responding negatively to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in his heart.
2. Stephen's arguments and subsequent death no doubt had made a profound impression on him.
3. When Jesus apprehended him, He said to him, "It has been hard for you to kick against the goads."
4. Outwardly, he is breathing our threats of how he is going to murder the Christians.
5. Inwardly, he has a great turmoil going on as he wonders about the testimony of Stephen concerning Jesus.
6. Don't stop praying for them because it seems that they have gotten worse.
C. In just one moment God can bring the self-confessed, chiefest of sinners to his knees.
D. No wonder that Paul taught divine election.
1. The Lord had told Ananias that he was a chosen vessel by the Lord.
2. Paul declared to the Ephesians that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of [this] life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
To whom coming, [as unto] a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, [and] precious,
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called [me] by his grace,
3. Some people have a problem with the doctrine of divine election. They seem to resent God choosing those whom He will save.
4. You that are married, do you resent the fact that you had the choice of the one you married knowing that for better or for worse, you would be spending the rest of your life with them?
5. If you feel it is right to choose who you will be spending the rest of your life with, don't you think it is right for God to decide who He will spend all eternity with?
6. You women, when he asked you to marry him, you had the right to say yes or no did you not?
7. When God asks people if they would be willing to spend eternity with Him, they also have the right to say yes or no.
8. Looking back on his life, Paul could see the hand of God upon him from birth.
E. This story teaches us never to give up on a person.