26 An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: “Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is the desert road.) 27 So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem 28 and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud.
29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go and join that chariot.”
30 When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone guides me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the Scripture passage he was reading was this:
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb is silent before its shearer,
so He does not open His mouth.
33 In His humiliation justice was denied Him.
Who will describe His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.
34 The eunuch replied to Philip, “I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about—himself or another person?” 35 So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture.
36 As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water! What would keep me from being baptized?” [37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any longer. But he went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip appeared in Azotus, and he was traveling and evangelizing all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture.
When you think of all the stories in the book of Acts, which two men are most prominent in your mind? I think of Peter and Paul, not Philip, who has moved from the recesses of a supporting role to center stage in our text today. So before we get to the text, we need some background on him.
Flipping back two chapters to Acts 6:1-7, we find Philip listed as one of the seven men chosen to overlook the daily distribution of food to widows. These men were chosen based on two requirements: full of the Spirit and full of wisdom.
Once Saul (Paul) began persecuting the church (Acts 8:1-3), the disciples fled to the regions of Judea and Samaria. Undeterred, Philip is one of those who headed down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ. Crowds showed up to listen to him, and great joy blanketed the city after seeing the signs he performed.
Now skip over to Acts 8:26-40, the text for today, where we read that an angel of the Lord appears to Philip and commands him to go south to Gaza. Philips obeys. Then the Spirit says, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip runs up to the chariot and hears an Ethiopian eunuch reading from Isaiah.
He doesn’t stop to consider this man’s station in life, religious affiliation, socio/economic divide, or racial differences. Instead Philip listens to the eunuch and explains Isaiah 53 to him—a stunningly accurate description of the sufferings of Jesus. Upon hearing this good news, the eunuch is baptized and Philip is whisked away by the Spirit of the Lord while the eunuch heads home rejoicing.
If we dig further, we find that after the flood (Genesis 7), the world was populated by the three sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The Ethiopian in our story was a descendant of Ham (see Genesis 10:6 where “Cush” refers to Ethiopia). In Acts 9, Paul, a Jew, is a descendant of Shem (Genesis 10:21-32). In Acts 10, the Gentiles find Christ, and they are the descendants of Japheth (Genesis 10:2–5).1
I don’t know if Philip realized it, but because of his obedience the good news of Jesus had spread from Jerusalem, to Samaria, then Ethiopia—the first reaches of the ends of the earth—in an amazingly short span of time, just as Jesus commanded in Acts 1:8.
When my family lived in Houston, I worked part-time at the church and attended Bible study there. My children played on all the church’s sports leagues and they sang in their children’s choirs. In addition, we worshiped, attended Sunday school, ate several meals there, and belonged to Wednesday night life groups.
Then God plucked us away to Tennessee. Why? God told me to go and reach out beyond the walls of the church and into the world. I admit I liked the safe confines of the church and still do, but if the gospel is to spread to the ends of the earth (and Middle Tennessee is a section of this according to Acts 1:8), then you and I need to start witnessing to our families, neighbors, schoolmates, and co-workers.
Philip did it. Even though he started in the background ministry of serving widows, God thrust him forward onto the stage where he witnessed in the fullness of the Spirit and wisdom to crowds and individuals. We can do it, too, because we have (or can have) this same filling of His Spirit and wisdom.
1Bruce B. Barton and Grant R. Osborne, Acts, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1999), 144–150.
- What are some reasons we do not share the good news of Jesus Christ more frequently? What can we do to overcome these obstacles?
- What progress have you made with your Oikos list? Have you written down 11 people you know who are far from God?
- How would your life look differently if you were filled with the Spirit and wisdom on a daily basis?