The text for this lesson is Acts 8:26–39
- The Holy Spirit led Philip to extend God’s Church by helping the Ethiopian understand God’s Word and then by baptizing him. The Holy Spirit extends God’s Church through pastors and other church workers and also through me.
- Law: Apart from faith in Christ, my sinful mind is clouded and cannot understand the Word of God.
- Gospel: The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word, proclaimed by pastors and shared by other believers, including me, to bring people to faith in Jesus as Savior.
- Philip’s visit with the Ethiopian eunuch takes place in the context of the appointing of the seven deacons in Acts 6:1−7. He is one of those seven, not the disciple spoken of in the Gospels and in Acts 1:13. After the seven are appointed, Acts relates the activities of several of them, beginning with Stephen. Stephen does great wonders and signs, and as a result, he becomes the first Christian martyr, being stoned for blasphemy. After Stephen’s death, Saul begins his persecution of the Church and Philip brings the Gospel to the people of Samaria. After Philip’s successful mission in Samaria, the Holy Spirit sends him to the Ethiopian eunuch. Next, Philip works his way to Caesarea, and the account moves into the conversion of Saul in Damascus.
- Philip is one of the seven deacons appointed in Acts 6. Philip has already completed a successful mission in Samaria when the Holy Spirit sends him to converse with the Ethiopian eunuch. The details of this story tell us a great deal about how the Gospel was shared in the days of the apostolic Church.
The Ethiopian was an official in the court of Queen Candace. As Candace’s chief treasurer, he probably lived a life of power and comfort. He was riding in a chariot, and he was reading the scroll of Isaiah. All of these details indicate wealth. Treasurers were both trusted and well rewarded for their services. Chariots were expensive and showy. Finally, books were an extreme luxury. In order to acquire a scroll of Isaiah, the eunuch would have had to hire a scribe to copy the book by hand.
When Philip arrives at the chariot, the Ethiopian is reading Isaiah 53, but he does not understand it. We know from Acts 8:27 that the Ethiopian had gone to Jerusalem to worship. This means that he was probably a God-fearing Gentile who believed in the God of the Scriptures but had not been fully incorporated into God’s people. Philip explains the Old Testament passage to the Ethiopian, and he responds in faith, asking for Holy Baptism. Isaiah 53 does not mention Baptism; therefore, it is likely that Philip included a proclamation of the gifts that God the Holy Spirit gives through Baptism in his conversation with the Ethiopian. The Ethiopian responds with joy at this proclamation and asks to be baptized. Now that he knows he can be fully incorporated into the Church through Baptism, he asks for it.
We do not know exactly what happened when the Ethiopian got home. But it seems likely that he in turn shared the message of the Gospel with those he met. To this day, the Ethiopian Church is strong and vibrant, and they claim that it was through this man that the Gospel first came to them.