Lesson 19: The Conversion of a Man of Ethiopia
Welcome to Acts lesson # 19. Our last lesson, ended in Act 8:25. Philip found the hearts of the Samaritans to be good soil. They believed and were baptized. We don't know how many. The number may have been modest, but some received the Holy Spirit to confirm their faith. A solid nucleus of disciples were henceforth part of the population of Samaria. Let's read Acts 8:26,
And the angel of the Lord spoke unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south, unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert
You will note, Philip at Samaria was given a divine message. The messenger was:
The angel of the Lord.
That's the same way the angel in Chapter 5 was referred to, the one that opened the prison doors. The message was: leave Samaria and go toward the south. No reason is given, just go! The word "Arise" could mean Philip was sleeping, that is not clear. The word "way" has reference to a roadway. If you look on your map, Gaza is city #3. You'll find it on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the direction of Egypt Find it Write it on your map. Now, put an imaginary line between Jerusalem and Gaza. That line should be somewhere near the roadway the angel described. The words,
which is desert (Verse 26)
tells the section of that road. The word "desert" here does NOT mean sand as far as you can see. There were NO barren lands of that kind in that territory. It means where tew people live, i.e. sparsely populated. Now, let's read Verses 27 - 29.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read the Isaiah the prophet Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to mis chariot
Philip obeyed the angel. When he arrived at that section of roadway, he observed a foreign dignitary, traveling southward (take note) in a horse drawn vehicle. That man was the treasurer of Ethiopia, a government official. He was a eunuch. A eunuch was a castrated man. This was a glandular state, it was NOT he name. We do not know his name. I understand it was common in those days to put such men in charge of money and the harem in some governments. Ethiopia was and STILL IS a country south of Egypt in eastern Africa (not shown on your map). This man had traveled well over 1,000 miles one way,
and had come to Jerusalem for to worship.
This tells us he was worshiping according to the Law of Moses. The man was either a Jew or a Proselyte. We have no way of telling which. It is interesting to note in Deuteronomy 23:1, a eunuch could not go into the temple, except in that portion where Gentiles were permitted of course. Candace was NOT some particular queen. The word is a title, like the Pharaohs in Egypt or the Caesars of Rome. Jews have always had a knack for handling finances. Daniel and Nehemiah both rose to a high-position in a foreign land. This tells us the eunuch was an industrious man. He was reading one of the books of the Old Testament. He used his travel time for study. And he must have been a devout worshiper, to travel over 2,000 miles to attend a feast in Jerusalem. If he traveled 5 MPH for 12 hours a day, it would have taken over two weeks to go to Jerusalem, just one way. In verse 29, Philip is instructed by the Spirit to,
Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
The Spirit and the angel worked with the preacher. They did not work with the prospect. Remember! Everyone must hear the message. God is no respecter of persons. Not one single convert in the book of Acts (and that's all of them in the New Testament) was ever converted or got the message through any agency other than a preacher. Now, let's think about the timing just a minute. Look at your map, Philip would have had to have left Samaria before the eunuch left Jerusalem to cause them to meet at this intersection. Jerusalem is about SO miles from Gaza but Samaria is 85 miles from Gaza. So, there was a lot that went on behind the scenes here that the eunuch never knew anything about. He was not aware of the angel or the message of the Spirit. Did you ever wonder what is going on behind the scenes for you? Have you thought about why the Holy Spirit and the angel selected Philip to teach this eunuch? He just came from Jerusalem, and the apostles were in Jerusalem. Why Philip? Just as I said, we don't understand all that goes on behind the scenes. There must have been a good reason. Possibly it had to do with personality or talent or maybe we'11 never guess. It's not exactly our business. Philip was told,
Go near and join thyself to this chariot. Let's read verses 30 and 31.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some
men should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
Philip ran! That could mean the chariot had already passed the intersection where Philip came on. Philip was eager. Can you visualize this picture? Here goes the chariot..squeek, squeek, squeek. There's the horse or horses, tramp-tramp, tramp-tramp. Here comes Philip uh-ha, uh-ha, uh-ha The eunuch must have been reading aloud for Philip to hear what he was reading. Philip now, on the trot, asked in essence, "do you understand that?" Now why would Philip ask that? Well, it showed interest in what the man was doing. He showed himself to be friendly. It beats talking about the weather. If the man said "yes", it told Philip one thing; if he said "no", ittold Philip something else about the man's condition. At that point, Philip knew nothing about the man. He didn't know whether he was a baptized believer, and un believer or what. Philip must have recognized what he was reading. The man invited Philip to hop in. Verses 32 and 33 is the passage the eunuch was reading, this is Isaiah 53: 6 - 8. He was reading from the Septugent version, a Greek translation made in Egypt about 250 B.C. Naturally it doesn't read quite the same as the King James Version. Let's read it,
The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away; and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
OK, here they go plodding along that road, both of them trying to focus on that scroll. They had re-read two or three verses. The eunuch must have looked Philip square in the eye and asked the question in verse 34.
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of who speaketh the prophet this? Ofhimself, or of some other man?
We learn some interesting side-lights here. This man was doing an in-depth study of the Bible, something similar to what you are doing right now in the book of Acts. Some of the basic laws of interpretation are: WHO said it? WHEN did he say it? WHY did he say it? WHO did he say it to? WHAT WERE THE CIRCUMSTANCES under which he said that? What did the prophet mean? That's what the eunuch wanted to know. There's nothing wrong with you getting a little help with your study. The eunuchdid. So, the eunuch wanted to know; who did this apply to? Isaiah himself or somebody else? Now, it's interesting to note, that passage under consideration here, Isaiah 53, is probably one of the clearest prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus' crucifiction. So, the eunuch's question must have told Philip several things. First, the man was very sincere, a devout man. Second, the man was very studious, he was not just reading, he was studying. Third, he apparently was NOT a Christian because this verse would have been easy, if he had applied it to Jesus. Fourth, this man was willing to listen and learn. He wanted to know God's word. Fifth, Philip saw here an excellent starting place to teach him about Jesus. Now, let's read v. 35,
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Philip was a good teacher. He started right there is Isaiah 53 and, preached unto him Jesus.
Analyze that! Do you get the full import of that statement? That must have taken maybe two hours or more. That would have put them 10 or more miles further down the road. It amazes me that he taught it that quickly, as the old cart rolled along. That man knew about Moses of course. He knew that Moses, Isaiah, and the other prophets and predicted a messiah, and a new covenant Malachi, in Chapter 4:5, had predicted that a prophet, which he refers to as Elijah would come before the Messiah, to restore Israel. Philip must have explained to him how this prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist. We have that information recorded for us in Luke 1:16-17 and Matthew 11:12-14. But you see, Matthew and Luke had not been written then. So, Philip had to teach this another way. He may have usedlsaiah Chapter 40. He must have taught him the gospel, the good news of how Jesus died for our sins, how he was buried, how he arose again the third day. He must have taught him about him about Jesus' Law, and the steps of salvation as we have called them: Believe, Repent Confess and be Baptized, to have our sins pardoned and to be added to the church and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. There's a tot of teaching included in that phrase,
and preached unto him Jesus. You see, Luke skips over all that Now, let's read verse 36.
And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?
As they went on their way, actually, it was the eunuch's way, to Philip is was out of the way. But anyway, as they clip-clopped along, they came to a certain pool of water. You can see the discussion and the curriculum had advanced to the subject of baptism. Thus baptism is a part of teaching and preaching Jesus, as verse 35 puts it. And again, some object to that idea: that there's any connection between being bom again and baptism. They
try to weaken it down to some kind of spiritual exercise that takes place when you believe. Philip taught this man about Jesus and that included baptism. It's obvious in verse 36 the eunuch asked this question to determine if he himself was afit subject for baptism. Philip! What hinders me? OK, analyze Philip's answer, in verse 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.
Notice how Philip answered. He says in essence, SURE, if your faith has
advanced to the point that you are willing to speak out and take the actions
necessary to become a child of God. The eunuch was a man of action, he
didn't hesitate, he said: ,'
He was willing to speak out. Some scholars believe Philips statement, the first sentence in verst 37 was not in the original manuscript That is, some of the older hand-written manuscripts did not have his sentence. Some did! Some didn't! So, I don't know. I simply point out, some think this sentence has been added to the original. It's of no great consequence either way. You can read this whole section and leave that sentence out and it doesn't change a single concept. So, if someone wants to argue the point, let them have it their way, it doesn't change anything anyway. Notice the statement of the eunuch in verse 37! There is no question about this part of the verse. The scholars do not question this part. Notice how the eunuch states what he believes.
that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
This is the most formal statement of step four, i.e. confession; that we have seen exemplified in any conversation this far. Now, without doubt, all converts took the same steps. All either made this statement or communicated that meaning, in some way before they were baptized. It might interest you that Jesus asked Peter, one time, who He was, i.e. who Jesus was. Peter said,
Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)
Jesus praised Peter's answer. Thus, if you are looking for a formal statement to confess Jesus, scripturally, then you couldn't go wrong to either imitate the eunuch's statement or Peter's statement. If you really believe that, and you willing to repent and speak out that the world may know your position, then you are a candidate for baptism. That's what the eunuch wanted to know in verse 36,
what doth hinder me to be baptized? The eunuch was a man of action. Let's read verse 38.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they . went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
The eunuch took action to have the chariot stopped, as conveniently close to the pool as possible, I assume. Some have objected to a pool of water being in the desert. I recall hearing an objection several years ago: trying to justify sprinkling. It was said Philip couldn't have found more than a camel's track full of water in the whole desert. Therefore they said the eunuch could NOT have been immersed; he had to be sprinkled. That person's concept of the Philistine plain was quite erroneous. Get out your encyclopedia, look up Gaza! You can see from the map in your hand, it's only a few miles from the ocean. There are a number of streams that empty into that ocean from this territory. The fact that he gave the command to get the chariot stopped, probably means there Was a driver with him. You would probably expect a man of his status to employ a driver. Maybe he gave the command to the horse: I don't know. Anyway Philip did not object to stopping! So, this would suggest: Philip agreed the eunuch was a suitable candidate for baptism. If you have any questions and qualms about how the early disciples baptized, study this example in verse 3 8 closely. Both went down into the water. And the word "both" is used twice in this same sentence. After they were down INTO the water, THEN...
he baptized him.
That sure must have been one LARGE camel's foot track. Now, if baptize means to sprinkle, as some argue, then Philip and this eunuch sure were dumb to go down INTO the water. Honestly now, if you were teaching a person that had never heard the word baptize before (I'm talking about the mechanics involved), could there be any doubt in their mind, after they read this? Could there be? Now, add that knowledge of "how-to" to the knowledge of purpose, and I don't see how anyone could miss. Concerning purpose may I read Romans 6 :3 - 7;
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized
into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into ;
death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, and henceforth we should not serve in sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Did you notice the figures that baptism is compared to in that reading? A burial, a planting, being put into a tomb, being raised from the dead, being freed from sin. Now, let me toss in here one more thought for the benefit of those who believe in sprinkling IS baptism. Sprinkling isNOT baptism! We learned in Acts 2 the word means "to cover completely with a fluid." It's evident that's what Philip did to the eunuch. But for the sake of argument; let's give our "sprinkling" friends the benefit of any doubt just amoment. Let's substitute the word "sprinkled" into verse38 fortheword "baptized." OK let's read, "they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he SPRINKLED him." Now, how does that sound to you? Think about it What would that mean? Can you see what that would be saying, Philip broke up the eunuch into little pieces and scattered him around? i.e. "he sprinkled HIM." Do you get it? It wouldn't say, "he sprinkled WATER on him." It would say "he sprinkled HIM." SO, the substitution just won't work. I'm sorry but it won't work. Baptizing is NOT sprinkling. OK, verse 39,
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch say him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
They came up our of the water after Philip had baptized this Ethiopian nobleman. They must have departed company about as suddenly as they met. When it says,
the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip
that does NOT mean some magic disappearing act It simply means the Spirit told Philip the mission was finished. He could now go about his own business. This was the last time these two men ever met, on this old planet The Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing. He was happy! His sins were remitted. The Holy Spirit dwelt in him; he was a child of God. Verse 39 gives the impression they departed quickly. That was the only practical thing when you consider the circumstances. The eunuch was on his way home, a thousand miles away. If Philip went any farther south he was getting farther and farther from home. Philip's job was completed. This must have been about the third day Philip had worked on this assignment In conclusion, let's observe a few generalizations that can be made from this case of conversion.
(1) It doesn't take long to learn enough to become a Christian
(2) When a person hears, believes, repents, confesses and is baptized,
they are a child of God and they can rejoice.
(3) The steps of becoming a child of God terminates with baptism. They
are then born again believers and are ready to add to their faith and
mature in that faith.
(4) More teaching after one is baptized is highly desirable, but a
knowledgeable person can do it on his own, if necessary.
(5) Becoming a Christian can be done in private with only two or three
(6) Further, we may conclude that Spirits and angels do not intercede
directly to make a person a child of God.
(7) If a person is an honest, sincere, and seeking person, then divine
providence, behind the scenes, will make sufficient information and
circumstances available to that person so they may obey and become
a child of God.
(8) No divine experience or encounter are required or even to be expected
on the part of the person, seeking to obey God.
(9) Thus, all persons render obedience to God in exactly the same way.
we have this treasure in earthen vessels. (II Corinthians 4:7) Let's read verse 40.
But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, til he came to Caesarea.
The Ethiopian had departed to be a light and to carry the gospel to a distant land. Philip went to Caesarea. Azotus is city #4 and Caesarea is city #5 on your map. Please atld them now. Just like Peter and John, Philip took advantage of his travels to preach and teach Jesus. Is there a hint or suggestions here for us?