Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch Part 1 of 3

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

February 16, 2014


Acts of the Apostles


Lesson III.A.2: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (8:26-39)

Introduction

The first mentioned of Philip is found in the account of the dispute between the Hebrew and Hellenistic disciples in Acts 6. He is one of the deacons appointed to administer the daily distribution of food and alms, and to remove all suspicion of partiality. The persecution of which Saul was the leader must have stopped the "daily ministrations" of the Church. The teachers who had been most prominent were compelled to take flight, and Philip was among them. Philip flees to the city of Samaria, where he preaches the gospel effectively. He is the precursor of St. Paul in his missionary work, as Stephen had been in his teaching. The scene which brings Philip and Simon the sorcerer into contact with each other (Acts 8:9-13), and the magician has to acknowledge a power over nature greater than his own, is interesting. This step is followed by another. On the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he meets the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26). The History that follows, which makes up this lesson, is interesting since it is one of the few records in the New Testament of the process of individual conversion. A brief sentence (Acts 8:40), tells us that Philip continued his work as a preacher at Azotus (Ashdod) and among the other cities that had formerly belonged to the Philistines, and, following the coast-line, came to Caesarea. Then for a long period—around eighteen or nineteen years—we lose sight of him. The last glimpse of him in the New Testament is in the account of St. Paul's journey to Jerusalem. It is to his house that St. Paul and his companions turn for shelter. He has four daughters, who possess the gift of prophetic utterance and who apparently give themselves to the work of teaching instead of entering on the life of a wife and mother (Acts 21:8, 9). One tradition places the scene of his death at Hierapolis in Phrygia. According to another, he died bishop of Tralles.

Scripture
26 But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert road.
27 And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Can'dace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship
28 and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet, Isaiah.
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
31 And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: "As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth."
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?"
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus.
36 And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?"
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.


Lesson

26 But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert road.

We have seen the first movements, indicated in the commission of Jesus (Acts 1:8): “In Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria.” Now we have the first movement beyond, toward “the uttermost part of the earth.” Philip the deacon was given the work of first expanding the commission of Jesus to win one for Him from among the number of those whom the Jews considered outside the covenant of promise. Though Luke gives no indication of God commanding Philip to preach to the Samaritans, or where he was when he received the command to go to Gaza; but God did sovereignly direct him toward Gaza.

Samaria is an area that lies north of Jerusalem. Now Philip is told to go way down south. What we know as the Gaza strip is south, over along the Mediterranean. This was the trade route down into Egypt and Ethiopia. He would probably travel through Jerusalem to get there.

Philip had been speaking to multitudes in Samaria, and now he is sent down to a desert. He is leaving a place where there has been a great movement of the Spirit of God, to go into a place, a desert, where there is nobody. However, when he gets there, he finds that God does have someone to whom he is to witness.

“This is a desert road” perhaps maybe better stated: “This place that is, Gaza is deserted.” Old Gaza, formerly one of the five chief cities of the Philistines, was situated about two miles from the sea, had been destroyed by Alexander and was at this time “deserted.” New Gaza, on the coast, was not destroyed until A.D. 66. The highway is referred to as “the desert road,” but the expression may refer to either a desert road or a desert city. Old Gaza was called Desert Gaza.

You and I are not likely to have angels instruct us, but we can know the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our witnessing, if we are walking in the Spirit and praying for God’s direction.


27 And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Can'dace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship

We have come to the very wonderful account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, a son of Ham. You will notice from this account, as well as the accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and Cornelius (which is coming up), that three factors must be brought into focus before there can be a conversion. All three of these are evident in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch.
1. The work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had taken this man Philip to Samaria where there had been a great moving of the Spirit of God. Then the Holy Spirit moved him down to Gaza, and again we see His working in the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit of God had gone ahead to prepare the heart of the Ethiopian and also to prepare the messenger.
2. The Word of God. “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Word of God is the second essential component. The Holy Spirit will take the things of Christ and will reveal them to an individual. It is the Spirit of God using the Word of God. But, wait a minute, there must be a human instrument.
3. The man of God. The Spirit of God uses the man of God who delivers the Word of God to produce a son of God, one who is born again. We will see this in the record of the conversion of this Ethiopian eunuch.

The Ethiopians were the Nubian race dwelling in the Nile region south of Egypt proper. The country included all the land from Aswan in southern Egypt to Khartoum, Sedan. The Bible calls this area Ethiopia, but it is not the country we know as Ethiopia. It is only in modern times that they have been confused with the Abyssinians, who ethnologically and linguistically are Semitic. He is a eunuch, and therefore would be excluded by the Law from the “assembly of the Lord.” I believe he was the first of the African race to become a Christian. It is now established that at least three centuries before Christ, Greek literature and thought had permeated that Central African district, and that a most remarkable civilization was realized under Candace. Probably this word Candace is not the name of a woman, but rather a title, like Pharaoh. Governmental power rested in the hands of Candace, since the royal son was worshipped as an offspring of the sun, and was therefore above such mundane activities as ruling over a nation. Rulership was therefore vested with the queen-mother.

We read here that this man of Ethiopia had charge of all the treasure of the queen. Today we would call him the Secretary of the Treasury. He was an official, and a high official of that day, a man of property and prominence. This man was not traveling alone. He had a great retinue of servants and minor officials with him. He wasn’t sitting in a chariot with reins in one hand and a book in the other hand, as we have seen him pictured. This man was sitting back in a chariot drawn by oxen and protected from the sun by a canopy. He had a private Chauffeur and was riding in style. He was a citizen of Ethiopia, but he had come to Jerusalem to worship. This indicates that he was a proselyte to Judaism. Jews had penetrated into all lands that offered opportunities for commerce, so the official could have heard of Jehovah, the God of Israel, from them. This story offers a great principle: “He that seeketh findeth.”

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to John Lowe Sermons.

The Preaching Ezine

Click Here!

Subscribe to my free newsletter for monthly sermons and get a free book right now. Just follow the link above and get the details!


Ministry Leads

Click Here!

Anybody else want more leads and prospects for your Church, Ministry, or School, as well as, a means to follow up and communicate automatically?
Just follow the link above and get the details!


YOUR PAGES:


Your Web Page:
Want your own sermon web page? You can have one!
Your Outlines:
Share YOUR skeleton outlines.
Your Illustrations:
Share YOUR Illustrations.
YOUR SERMONS:
Encourage other ministers
by sharing
YOUR great sermons!
YOUR POEMS:
Encourage us all
by sharing
YOUR great poems!