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Acts 8 gives us insights into both the message and methods of evangelism. In this chapter, we see Philip (later given the title of evangelist, see Acts 21:8) reaching out with the good news of Jesus Christ to the Samaritans and to an Ethiopian official. At first glance, it looks like these two groups have little in common: the Samaritans were considered half-Jewish, half-Gentile and were generally hated by Jews, whereas the Ethiopian official seems to have been attracted to Judaism, but not necessarily a convert (the fact that he was a eunuch would have prevented this at that time.) What Philip is clear about is that everyone needs to hear this good news and therefore it doesn’t matter who the person is or what they already believe. Every encounter provides an opportunity for evangelism. The same is true for us today.
The message of the good news of Jesus Christ does not change (see Acts 8:12, 35) and we need to be clear to proclaim to people, as Philip did, this good news. Our methods may well have to adapt, however, depending on our audience. Paul said, ‘Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.’ (1 Cor 9:19-22) The key to Philip’s success as an evangelist was his ability to adapt; John Stott writes, “It is this combination of change (in relation to context and methods) and changelessness (in relation to the gospel itself), together with the ability to discern between them, which is one of Philip’s abiding legacies to the church.” (The Message of Acts, P 164) We too need this ability to discern between change and changelessness and live accordingly.