Acts 8:26-40 is a classic example of God’s role in evangelism. Earlier in the chapter, we have seen something of people’s role: ‘Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.’ (Acts 8:4) God wants us all to be messengers of this good news of the gospel; it is not something reserved for an educated few, but should be the passion of every one of Jesus’s disciples. God also calls some people to the work of an evangelist (see Eph 4:11) and undoubtedly those with the gift of evangelism are a great blessing to the church. Nonetheless, this passage shows us something that is often overlooked in our understanding of evangelism, namely the role of God Himself in this work.
Divine intervention is the name of the game in this chapter. God sends an angel of the Lord to Philip with specific directions (Acts 8:26); the Holy Spirit gives further instructions (telling Stephen which particular chariot to go to and what to do when there, Acts 8:29) and then moves him on when the job is done. (Acts 8:39) There can be no doubt that God is at work, directing, leading and inspiring Philip and connecting him with a specific person for a specific purpose. When evangelism is inspired by God in this way, the outcomes will truly be miraculous.
This kind of divine intervention, as well as ‘making the most of every opportunity’, feature throughout the book of Acts. Peter is divinely inspired to go to Cornelius; Jesus appears directly to Saul and then Ananias is divinely inspired to go to Saul. There is also the less spectacular job of preaching, debating and gossipping the gospel, which nonetheless remains under the power of the Holy Spirit. In this passage, we also see the role of Scripture in bringing someone to faith. All of these factors are hugely important in evangelism, but none more so than God’s role in bringing the messenger and one in desperate need of the message together by divine appointment.