Joy and Amazement: What Gospel Ministry Brings to People and Cities

A message from
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

Acts 8:1-40 (NIV)


Acts 8:1-40 (NIV)

1 And Saul approved of their killing him.

The Church Persecuted and Scattered

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Philip in Samaria

4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

Simon the Sorcerer

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
   and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
   Who can speak of his descendants?
   For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 37 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Worship Focus

Digging Deeper

THIS WEEK'S Bible study


Empowered: Joy and Amazement: What Gospel Ministry Brings to People and Cities

Key Bible Verses

  • Acts 8:1-40

Sermon Quotes

From Pastor Josh Laxton

“We have one message: Jesus Christ crucified, dead, buried, and raised from the dead.”

“When you find Jesus, you’ve found EVERYTHING!”

“One of the reasons why Jesus is the Hope of the World — and the church is the embodiment of that hope — is that only Jesus can reconcile and unify all ethnicities of the world to form one people.”


At different times of our lives, we realize that we need to prepare for the next task or event that is ahead. Maybe it is a vacation, a job interview, a test at school, a career, marriage, or retirement. We study, read up, talk with experts , and use Google to find out what we think we need to know to be prepared. In Acts 8:4-40, we learn about Philip, an Apostle who was prepared to share the Gospel, and who brought joy and amazement to people and cities where God sent him.  

When persecution occurred in the early church, Philip went to Samaria to preach the Good News about Jesus. Philip performed miracles, many became believers and there was great joy and amazement in the city.  

Simon, who was a sorcerer, became a believer through Philip’s witness. Simon followed Philip everywhere and was amazed at the miracles and signs that Philip did. Simon believed and was baptized. 

Then, when Peter came to Damascus, Simon watched Peter as he laid hands on the believers and they received the Holy Spirit.   

At that point, Simon flashed back to his old life as an acclaimed sorcerer and magician. He wanted to pay Peter to give him the ability to lay hands on people to give them the Holy Spirit. Peter quickly rebuked Simon. He told Simon his heart was not right before God, and advised Simon to turn from his wickedness. 

This situation illustrates how quickly a believer can backtrack and revert to pre-believer lifestyles, habits and illusions of what makes a person valuable or esteemed in others’ eyes. Along the way, Simon got sidetracked. He was accustomed to being an attraction and having people seek him out for the miraculous. He wrongly coveted the power that Peter had.    

Peter sternly and firmly admonished Simon that his heart was filled with bitterness, and that he was a captive to sin. To Simon’s credit, his response to Peter was, “Pray to the Lord for me….that these terrible things won’t happen to me!” 

Philip’s story then continues in Acts 8:26-40 when an angel appeared to Philip and told him to go on an unplanned journey south on the desert road that went down from Jerusalem to Gaza. Philip hadn’t planned for this life detour, but he was prepared to share the Good News of the Gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized and who went away rejoicing.  

Just like Philip, we must continually update our spiritual life. At all times, we must be spiritually growing through godly teaching, prayer and reading the Bible, remaining open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, so we are sensitive when He tells us what we need to do next. This passage in Acts illustrates how we are to not only be prepared to meet Jesus one day face to face, but we are to be ready to share Jesus with those whom God places in our pathway each day. In this way, we, too, can bring joy and amazement to people and cities where we are called to share the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit.  


Main point: When God’s people engage in gospel ministry, people and cities experience joy and amazement.

1-What are some behaviors apparent in those whose Gospel ministry brought joy and amazement to people and cities of the scattered church? (For mature Christians.)

  • Persisted in life and ministry in the face of persecution and pain. (Acts 8:4)
  • Pursued the nations without prejudice. (Acts 8:40)
  • Preached the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Acts 8:5; 12; 25; 35; 40)
  • Performed signs and deeds that reflected the Kingdom of God. (Acts 8:7; 13)
  • Paid attention to the Spirit’s leading. (Acts 8:26;29)

Definition of Gospel ministry from these characteristics:

  • Gospel is the church’s participation in God’s mission of engaging neighbors and nations–both in word and deed as well as in every kind of environment–with the Good News of King Jesus through the power of the Spirit.

2-When does joy and amazement come to people and cities? (For non-Christian, seeker, or young or immature believer.)

  • Shift from being addicted to counterfeit gods to accepting Christ as God. (Acts 8:9)
  • Shift from anchoring one’s identity in what they are to who — and whose — they are. 
  • Jesus reached out to the Samaritans, who were considered second class by the Jews. When they heard the Good News, turned to Jesus and believed in Him, they experienced great joy. They belonged to Jesus.
  • Philip reached out to an Ethiopian eunuch, who was an official in the court of the queen of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian eunuch believed and was baptized, and went away rejoicing.
  • Shift from confusion to clarity about truth.
  • Philip takes the passage in Isaiah 53 and interprets that passage for the Ethiopian eunuch in light of the good news of Jesus.
  • Stephen took the history of Israel and showed how Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel's history and prophecies.
  • Peter began in Joel, went to Psalm 16, and ended in Psalm 110, and interpreted them all in light of Jesus Christ.

3-Who plays the central role in bringing joy and amazement to people and cities?

  • The Holy Spirit. 
  • Christ-centered ministry preaches the Gospel and prays for the Spirit of God to use believers for Christ’s glory, awaken people to faith in Christ and fill people and empower them to live for Christ.
  • The Spirit is needed to bring joy and amazement, to experience joy and amazement, and to sustain joy and amazement.

Life Application

Imagine yourself in this scenario, or one similar to it. 

You are waiting for an appointment. Someone sitting next to you has an app on their device open. You can’t help but notice that they are looking at a cross, or a picture of Jesus, and seem confused. The Holy Spirit prompts you to say something to them about what they are looking at. You ask, “Do you have any questions about what you are looking at?” When they share with you that they don’t understand the cross or who Jesus is, what would you say?   

Think about Philip, and how Philip interacted with the eunuch. Acts 8:25 says, “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the Good News about Jesus.”  

Plan ahead! Be prepared for what you would say in a current-day scenario if the Holy Spirit were to place you in a spot to share the Good News. How would paying attention to the Spirit’s leading bring joy, amazement, and rejoicing to the people and cities where God calls you?

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • What is your favorite city that you have visited, and why is it your favorite?
  • Why was there great joy and amazement in the city where Philip preached?
  • What does it mean to have a "right heart" before God?
  • How are we to respond when we determine our heart is not right with God?
  • What is your favorite interaction between Philip and the eunuch in this passage?
  • Why do you think that Philip disappeared right after he baptized the eunuch?

Daily Devotional Bible Passages

  • Monday- Proclaim the Gospel- Matthew 28:19; Matthew 24:14; Psalm 96:3;
  • Tuesday - Celebrate with Joy- Philippians 4:4; Psalm 16:11; Jeremiah 15:16
  • Wednesday- Prepared to Share-2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 3:15-16; Romans 10:13-14
  • Thursday -Receiving the Good News- Acts 2:41; Mark 4:20; James 1:21
  • Friday - Rejoicing in Faith-Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 1 Peter 1:8


Lord, we want to be open and willing to go as your faithful ambassadors when and wherever you tell us to go, bringing joy and amazement to people and cities. Let us be bold and strategic, as the disciples were in the early church, as we share our faith through the power of the Spirit. Like Philip, let us be prepared to answer the questions that people have about the Bible and to point them to King Jesus as we share the Gospel clearly and effectively. We desire to glorify you as we participate in your mission of redeeming a people from all peoples, as we engage neighbors and nations to be fully alive in King Jesus through the power of the Spirit.

Additional Resources

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Ten Tips for Sharing Your Story with Others

Sharing Your Testimony 

About This Sermon Series


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» March 25-26
EMPOWERED | Title To Come |
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

» April 1-2
EMPOWERED | Aeneas Healed; Dorcas Raised From The Dead |
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

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» March 25-26
EMPOWERED | Title To Come |
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

» April 1-2
EMPOWERED | Aeneas Healed; Dorcas Raised From The Dead |
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

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