The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
PHILIP & THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH
- There are many practical lessons to be learned from the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
- For example, we see the providence of God at work. Philip was enjoying an exciting and fruitful ministry up in Samaria (Acts 8:5-8). But the Lord moved him down to a quiet spot in the desert (Acts 8:26).
- Are you willing to go where God sends you?
- Another important lesson is this: you can find the Lord Jesus Christ anywhere in the Bible (Acts 8:32-35).
- Spurgeon used to say that he would always take a text and then make a beeline for Calvary. And this is what I hope to do today.
- We also have here a great lesson on believer's baptism (Acts 8:36-39).
- Furthermore, we have here an opportunity to warn about the new inaccurate Bible translations. Acts 8:37 is missing from many of the newer versions, like the NIV.
- HE WAS A DISSATISFIED MAN (8:27).
- HE WAS AN INQUIRING MAN (8:28-35).
- HE WAS A SAVED MAN (8:36-39).
THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH WAS A DISSATISFIED MAN (8:27).
- Psalm 68:31 says, "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." Many see here in Acts 8, the fulfillment of that prophecy.
- This eunuch traveled all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem but still could find no peace for his soul (8:26, 27).
- Someone has said: "One of life’s greatest tragedies is to be lost and not realize it. The next greatest tragedy is to be lost and know it, but not admit it or do anything about it." This eunuch apparently realized he was lost and was determined to do something about it.
- Your best resolution must wholly be waived,
Your highest ambitions be crossed;
You never need think that you’ll ever be saved,
Till first you have learned that you’re lost.
- So the eunuch traveled all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship. On the other hand, Philip had just left arrived from Samaria (8:5-8, 26). He was probably still stirred up from the great meetings there (8:8-12).
- God moved Philip to the desert so that this Ethiopian could get saved. It is interesting to note that after the flood God divided the human race into three branches.
- Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japeth; "and of them was the whole earth overspread" (Gen. 9:18, 19).
- Here in Acts 8, God is going to save a descendent of Ham, this "man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians" (8:27). He "had the charge of all her treasure" (8:27). In other words, he was the Secretary of the Treasury.
- In the next chapter, Acts 9, God saves Saul of Tarsus, a descendent of Shem, a Jew.
- And then in Acts 10, God saves Cornelius, a descendent of Japeth, a Roman centurion.
- God is no respecter of persons. Has it ever occurred to you that whereas Hinduism is primarily a religion for Indians, and Islam is primarily for Arabs, and Judaism is mostly for the Jews, and Buddhism is for the Chinese, and so on – Jesus Christ is for everyone.
- The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for everyone – salvation is for "whosoever."
- And I am so glad that we have the privilege of getting the Gospel out to everyone – not just white people, not just black people; not just Gentiles, not just Jews; not just Spanish or Jamaican or Haitian or African or Filipino or Italian – but praise God everyone.
- This eunuch had come all the way from Ethiopia "and had come to Jerusalem for to worship" (Acts 8:27). But he still could find no peace for his soul.
- He was searching for the truth but had not found it yet. Therefore, he was a disappointed, disillusioned, and dissatisfied man. But his search was not yet over.
HE WAS AN INQUIRING MAN (8:28-35).
- He was a dissatisfied man but thank God he was also an inquiring man (8:28-31). Many people are dissatisfied with life but for various reasons they do not bother to look for the truth.
- This Ethiopian was obviously on the right track. He was reading the Bible (8:28). Someone asked this question: "Who should read the Bible?"
The young – to learn how to
The old – to know how to die
The ignorant – for wisdom
The learned – for humility
The rich – for compassion
The poor – for comfort
The weak – for strength
The strong – for direction
The haughty – for warning
The humble – for exaltation
The troubled – for peace
The weary – for rest
The lost – for salvation
- The Ethiopian was lost and seeking salvation. And he had the an excellent scroll in his hand – Isaiah 53! (8:28).
- A little boy was sitting on the curb reading a Bible that someone had given him when a Roman Catholic priest walked by and saw him. "What are you reading?" the priest asked. "The Bible," the little boy replied.
- "Oh, a little boy like you should not read the Bible. It will only confuse you and put strange ideas in your head," the priest said.
- "I have a search warrant to read it," the boy said to the priest. "A search warrant? What do you mean" the priest asked. "It says here in John 5:39, ‘Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.’ Jesus told me to search the Scriptures and I’m doing what I’m told."
- Beloved, a little boy who knows his Bible can put any Roman Catholic priest to flight.
- Apparently the Ethiopian eunuch was reading aloud because Philip "heard him read the prophet Esaias" (8:30).
- But like many people, he could not understand the words he was reading (8:30, 31). Beloved, this is where you and I come in. It is our job to open up the Word of God to lost souls and point them to Christ.
- And this is exactly what Philip did (8:31-35; cf. Isaiah 53:1-7).
- This is the message a lost and dying world needs to hear – not a political discourse, not a book report, not a little sermonette about positive thinking, etc.
- People need to hear about how our Lord hung and died on a cross for our sins (Isa. 53:3-7; cf. Acts 8:32-35).
- The apostle Paul said, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (I Cor. 2:2).
- So the Ethiopian eunuch was an inquiring man, and he got the right answers from God’s Word.
HE WAS A SAVED MAN (8:36-40).
- The right ingredients were here for a genuine conversion – the man of God (Philip) was led by the Spirit of God (8:29) to open up the Word of God and point the Ethiopian to Christ.
- In the Bible, new converts get baptized right after they are saved (8:36). When Charles Haddon Spurgeon was saved at the age of 15, he told his mother he was going to be baptized by immersion.
- Spurgeon’s parents were Congregationalists and Congregationalists do not baptize by immersion. Mrs. Spurgeon said, "For years I prayed that God would save you but not that you would become a Baptist."
- Spurgeon said to his mother, "That shows, dear Mother, that God is able to do abundantly above all that you ask or think."
- We should put aside all of the traditions of men (whether they be Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, or whatever) and stick to the Bible. And the Bible clearly teaches that first a person gets saved, and then he should be baptized by immersion (8:36-39).
- Even the great expositor Matthew Henry allowed his denominational bias to get in the way when he wrote these ridiculous words: "They went perhaps up to the ankles or mid-leg into the water, and Philip sprinkled water upon him."
- We do not preach and teach believer's baptism by immersion because of denominational bias but because this is what the Bible clearly teaches.
- John 3:23 says, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized." That is immersion!
- Matthew 3:16 says, "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water." That is immersion!
- And Acts 8:38 says, "And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." And that is immersion!
- Praise God, the Ethiopian "went on his way rejoicing" (8:39). What a thrill it is to lead someone to Christ and see them get baptized and then rejoice with them.
- There are many "Ethiopian eunuchs" out there. But where are the Philips? Philip was preaching in Samaria and God was blessing (Acts 8:5-8).
- Most preachers I know would hate to leave a meeting like that. But God moved Philip out of there, and sent him down to a lonely spot in the desert.
- And there he led one man to Christ, and then baptized him. And then that Ethiopian eunuch brought the Gospel back with him to Africa.
- Let me ask you something today: Are you willing to go where God sends you?