Acts

Acts 8:26-40 The Message Spreads.

An angelic word to Philip certainly enabled him to find direction in his life. Most of us would surely like to have such direct revelation. However, though this instruction was direct and specific, there can be no doubt that Philip had been called and gifted for the work of an evangelist, and what the angel was telling him to do was to carry on with the great commission which Christ had given, which was to begin at Jerusalem but then to spread throughout the earth (Lk. 24:47; Mk. 16:15). However, one does wonder whether Philip thought he would have an audience as he travelled through the desert that was immediately ahead of him (v. 26). It is easy to imagine, at least for some of us, that we are in a desert where we couldn’t possibly have an audience for the gospel, but one never knows whom God may be moving, someone who may be traveling the same road in a desert.

Philip meets a high official in the Queen of Ethiopia’s government, and this eunuch was on his way home from worshipping in Jerusalem (v. 27). It seems that this man was already a seeker of the one true God, and he was puzzled as to the meaning of the servant passage in Isaiah (vv. 28, 32-33 Cf. 53:7-8). Philip was also told by the Spirit to go and overtake this man to speak with him (v. 29). When he asks the man if he understood the passage, he replied that he could not without a guide (vv. 30-31, 34). “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Christ to him” (v. 35). One wonders how many preachers could preach Christ from the Old Testament, but this is what Philip did. Of course, with the coming of Christ he was able to show the fulfillment. This was a preaching exercise which Jesus Himself had performed for his disciples (Lk. 24:27).

As two of those chosen as deacons, Stephen and Philip seem to show more signs of those who would succeed the apostles in the preaching ministry (Acts 6:5). A different Philip than one of the twelve, this Philip is later referred to as an evangelist (Acts 21:8). Both he and Stephen were empowered by the Spirit to preach the gospel, and how Christ was the fulfillment of the messianic hopes of the old covenant. Even the encounter with the Ethiopian was an example of prophetic fulfillment (Ps. 68:31; 87:4; Zeph. 3:10). He would have no doubt also reflected on the comforting word to eunuchs also found in Isaiah (56:3-5). However, the real focus is on the suffering servant. Jesus submitted willingly, refusing to give what would be a just defence of His innocence. This was a part of His humiliation that, “His justice was taken away” (v. 33).

Part of the message of Philip must have included being baptized, which Philip was agreeable to, provided one believes with the whole heart (vv. 36-37a). There should be no wavering at the core of one’s beliefs, and the core of Christian belief is that, “Jesus Christ is the son of God” (v. 37b Cf. Rom. 10:9-10). It should be noted that just because they stood in the water and then came out of it, does not mean that Philip necessarily immersed the man. However, there is no doubt that Philip had a unique relationship with the Spirit, for the Spirit lifted him away, so the Eunuch saw him no more, but ‘went on his way rejoicing” (v. 39). Philip would go on to minister the word from Azotus to Caesarea (v. 40). However, the reaction of the Ethiopian eunuch was and is the same as any who know that they are forgiven and have been given a new life. We go on our way rejoicing.

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