Having invaded the land of Samaria with His grace, Christ now sends an advance unit to Africa. And in so doing, Christ teaches us that the tip of the spear is the Word of God by which He comes to us and directs us where we should go and fills us with rejoicing.
The Text: “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia…” (Acts 8:26-40)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The Lord sends Philip to speak to a prominent eunuch of Ethiopia, a servant of the queen, studying the prophecy of Isaiah in his chariot (Acts 8:26-29). When Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, the eunuch replied that he needed someone to guide him, and invited Philip to come into the chariot where he was reading and asked if the suffering servant in the passage was Isaiah or someone else (Acts 8:30-34). To which Philip answered by preaching Jesus, the lamb who was crucified for sinners (Acts 8:35). And seeing some water, the eunuch asked to be baptized, and when he professed faith in Christ, they went down into the water and Philip baptized him before the Spirit took Philip away to preach in the cities of Caesarea and the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:36-40).
ANGELS & THE WORD OF GOD
Many Christians wish angels would tell them where to go, like Philip, but that is exactly what the Bible is: God’s authoritative message for all time. The same Spirit that instructed Philip (Acts 8:29) and then took him away (Acts 8:39) inspired the Scriptures so that we would know what to do (2 Pet. 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:16). And it’s striking that the angel and the Spirit led Philip to help the eunuch, instead of a direct revelation. God’s ordinary means of direction is through the Word and His people in the church. The word “angel” is messenger, and God’s message has been written down in the Bible and faithful ministers help us understand it. The word “gospel” is the “good message,” and the death and resurrection of Jesus is the central message, the key to understanding all of it.
Some commentators point out that Gaza had been destroyed and this road was probably literally a desert (Acts 8:26). From a fruitful ministry in Samaria, it may have seemed strange to go to a desert, but obedience to the Word put Philip in the strategic position of being ready to be used by God. So too, we must obey our Lord: confess your sins, forgive quickly, love your wife, respect your husband, obey your parents, tell the truth, read the Word, worship Your King.
THHE SUFFERING SERVANT
Philip runs up to the entourage and hears the Ethiopian reading Isaiah out loud, and the passage he is reading is from Isaiah 53:7-8. Perhaps what particularly caught the eunuch’s attention was the fact that this servant of the Lord was wounded, crushed, and cut off from the living and his generation. But the promise is astonishing: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when though shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Is. 53:10). In Dt. 23:1, eunuchs are forbidden from entering the congregation of Israel, which means that this Ethiopian could not have been a full Jew, even if he wanted to be. And yet, here was a prophecy of someone else who had experienced the shame and pain of being crushed, bruised, and cut off from life and descendants, who then came under the blessing of the Lord and had children and long life.
Philip explained that this is talking about Jesus: a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, who bore our grief and carried our sorrows, who was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, a faithful lamb for all the sheep who have gone astray (Is. 53:3-7). And this good news is for all men, all nations. In the midst of the false and idolatrous promises of superficial multiculturalism through the secular-liberal state, it must not be forgotten that all men share the sin-infected blood of Adam, and there is no other salvation except by the blood of a Jewish man named Jesus Christ.
CONCLUSION: WALKING IN THE JOY OF SALVATION
We are not told exactly which texts Philip used in his message, but in Isaiah 56 there is a glorious promise specifically for eunuchs: “For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (Is. 56:4-5).
This is the Christian hope of all people. Everyone is called to deny themselves, take up a cross and follow Jesus. Jesus said that all who give up houses, families, and lands for His sake and the sake of the gospel will receive it back with persecutions plus eternal life (Mk. 10:29-30). This means surrendering everything in principle to God, and then receiving back an everlasting name, everlasting life, and therefore an everlasting joy that can never be taken away, and then everything else is extra. The Spirit took Philip away, but the Ethiopian eunuch had by that time something far greater: Christ.