In Acts 8, Philip is summoned by the angel of the Lord to reach out to the Ethiopian eunuch. Incidentally, the geographical context of the eunuch from Ethiopia corresponds with the advancement of the gospel as promised in Acts 1:8. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Moreover, in this narrative, we see different evidences of God’s power when the principles of witnessing are upheld.
First, we see Philip’s attitude of service. Whether he was directed by an angel in Acts 8:26 or transported elsewhere in verses 39 and 40, the apostle is ready to serve as a teacher, preacher, or baptizer (cf. Matt. 28:18–20). When we purpose in our hearts to witness and serve others, we receive commensurate strength from God to meet that service.
Second, once we are open to the moving of the Holy Spirit, directions and opportunities for service are very specific. Verse 26 reads like GPS coordinates, where the angel knows of the direction, the road, and geography. The knowledge is not limited to space but is also in social circles. The eunuch is a man of great authority, working in the royal house of the Ethiopian queen. Surely his conversion would lead to more gospel opportunities abroad. Not only space and social opportunity are notable, but the timing of the rendezvous was also supernatural. The eunuch just happened to be reading the Hebrew Scriptures, and of all texts, the very chapter about the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ, in Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:31–33).
Third, witnessing entails the usage of Scripture. While we are all called to be involved in service, whether it be humanitarian or community-oriented, we are also called to take service to the next step in our discipleship through the teaching of Scripture, should the opportunity avail itself. “The more one tries to explain the Word of God to others, with a love for souls, the plainer it becomes to himself. The more we use our knowledge and exercise our powers, the more knowledge and power we shall have” (Christ’s Object Lessons, 354).
Fourth, pointing people to Jesus is the ultimate goal of witnessing. Rather than focusing on theological and historical backgrounds or Bible trivia, Philip “preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). “If we can awaken an interest in men’s minds that will cause them to fix their eyes on Christ, we may step aside, and ask them only to continue to fix their eyes upon the Lamb of God” (Maranatha, 99).
Last, witnessing is the context where cooperation and discipleship with Christ is seen in real time. Christ says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:29). As a yoke helps two animals work together, disciples co-labor with Christ, and being empowered by His strength makes the burden light.
Human relationships, while important, are not sufficient to make disciples or retain them in the church. The power is in God and His Word. We must lead new converts to fix their eyes on Christ. For this reason, developing habits of prayer, Bible study, and witnessing forms the heart of a successful discipleship plan.