The abundant supernatural work God does through humans is attested to in the early church’s ministry. The Book of Acts is full of all kinds of crazy stories and we have to be incredibly ignorant to miss them. It’s there we find Christians that speak in foreign tongues (2:4, 10:46, 19:6), perform signs and wonders (2:43, 6:8, 8:6, 13:11, 14:3, 19:11), heal the sick (3:6-8, 5:16, 8:7, 9:34, 14:8-10), raise the dead (9:36-41, 20:9-10), cast out demons (5:16, 8:7, 16:18), receive visions (7:55, 9:10-12, 10:3, 16:9), and give prophetic words (8:29, 10:19, 11:28, 13:2, 19:6, 20:23, 21:9-10).
And just to make sure we’re truly impressed by the Spirit’s power, Acts talks nonchalantly about the Spirit’s ability to physically teleport Philip the evangelist from one area to another, so that he can continue doing ministry. This story takes place right after Philip has baptized an Ethiopian eunuch.
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Ac 8:39-40)
“To deny…. the miraculous nature of Philip’s disappearance, is vain,” says one commentary. “It stands out on the face of the words, as just a repetition of what we read of the ancient prophets, in 1 Ki 18:12; 2 Ki 2:16.” (Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Vol. 2. Oak Harbor, Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1871, Acts 8:39-40.)
And so we must learn to live with the words put in front of us, which are presented to us almost hilariously. It’s as though the Bible is winking at us with its matter-of-fact tone. “What? You didn’t know the Holy Spirit could do that?”
This story is even more hilarious when it’s forced to be seen as a natural occurrence. It’s difficult not to laugh at the idea of Philip shoving the eunuch underwater, then turning around and loudly trudging through the water as fast as he can to hide behind a tree on the shore as though he were a ninja.
When we believe this moment happened just as Acts communicates it, we suddenly find ourselves adamantly wanting to pray for the gift of teleportation or flight or whatever it is that God did to Philip here in this passage. We’ve seen it elsewhere in the Bible. Ezekiel seems to be transported by God, though it’s a bit confusing as to if God gave flight to his spirit or his body (Ezek 37:1). Or perhaps Ezekiel didn’t add more clarification to the story because he wasn’t even sure how it was that he was moved. After all, that was Paul’s experience.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2 Cor 12:2-4)