Acts 8:26-40

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 30, 1997

Introduction

When the first major persecution hit the church in Jerusalem, Philip, one of the churchís busboys, headed up north to Samaria, where a revival began to break out under his ministry.

Peter and John were sent north to check things out, and under their ministry, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Samaritans. They head back to Jerusalem, and we pick up the story by seeing the continuing ministry of that busboy named Philip.

8:26-40 Philip and the Eunuch

:26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip

Literally, "an angel of the Lord Ö"

:26 Arise, and go toward the south

Lesson:

God says "go", and that requires effort.

At the end of this passage, we will see this incredible thing happen where Philip seems to be literally transported from one place to another place.

But for this particular ministry to start, he has to walk to get there.

Sometimes we can fall into the idea that ministry will just suddenly appear in front of our eyes, as if weíre going to be transported right to it. Yet often it requires that we get up and go to where weíre supposed to be.

Isaiah had an incredible encounter with God, actually getting a vision of heaven:

Isa 6:1-8 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. {2} Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. {3} And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. {4} And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. {5} Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. {6} Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: {7} And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. {8} Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Thereís a beautiful pattern here, of God revealing Himself to us, of our response in humility and worship, of God cleansing us, then of God sending us.

Worship doesnít end with the last praise song, it ends with God saying "GO", and us saying, "Here am I, send me".

:26 unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

(see map) The angel tells him to head for the road that leads from Jerusalem down to Gaza. Not actually to go to Gaza, but to get on the road to Gaza. Gaza is a couple of miles inland off the coast of the Mediterranean. It is considered the last inhabitable city before the desert that leads into Egypt.

:27 And he arose and went

Lesson #1:

Getting Godís direction starts with the first step.

We are often looking for Godís will in our lives. We talk about wanting all that God has for us.

But it usually starts with a single step.

We might say to ourselves, "Well fine, Iíll get around to that, but I want to know whatís up ahead!" Yet often God wonít show you the next step until you take the first one.

Example: You may be saying to God, "When are you going to fix all the problems in my marriage?" And God responds, "When are you going to start loving your spouse like you should?" You respond with, "Well I know that itís important, and I plan to do that, but I want the problems fixed first!" Yet often God is waiting to fix the problems until you take the first step.

Lesson #2:

Submission to Godís will has no prerequisites.

Sometimes we want to know what the next few steps are because we want to think about whether or not weíre going to do the whole thing, not just the first step.

But Godís desire is that we be willing to do whatever He asks, with no conditions.

Illustration

This is from J. Oswald Sandersí book, Spiritual Discipleship (pg.27):

At a conference in Ben Lippen, South Carolina, a young woman was giving testimony to her call to service. In the course of her message she held up a blank sheet of paper, saying that it contained Godís plan for her life. The only writing on it was her signature at the bottom. Then she said, "I have accepted Godís will without knowing what it is, and I am leaving it to Him to fill in the details." She was a true disciple, and she was on safe ground. With such a yielded will, the Holy Spirit would be able to guide her mental processes as she moved along the path of life.

:27 an eunuch

Often in the east, the male servants of a queen would be eunuchs, after all, these were men who could be trusted not to take advantage of the queen.

:27 under Candace queen of the Ethiopians

Candace Ė this is not her real name, but the title for the queen of Ethiopia, like "Pharaoh" was the title of the Egyptian kings.

The Ethiopian monarchy claimed to have been a direct descendant from Solomon. Their claim was that when the Queen of Sheba came home from her visit with Solomon, she was pregnant, and her offspring was the Ethiopian royal line.

Ethiopia remained a monarchy until 1974, and was ruled for most of the 20th century by Emperor Haile Selassie. His name meant "Might of the Trinity." One of his numerous titles was "Lion of Judah". He was overthrown in 1974 by a Marxist coup.

:27 who had the charge of all her treasure

The eunuch was the treasurer of Ethiopia.

:27 and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

This is a man who was interested in spiritual things, and had come to worship in God in the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem.

:28 sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

Heís on his way back to Ethiopia, and reading while the chariot is rolling along. Apparently he didnít get chariot sick while readingÖheís reading from Isaiah.

:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

Up to this point, all Philip has been told is to go south toward Gaza. Now itís time for the next step, to go up and talk to the guy in the chariot.

:30 And Philip ran thither to him

I love Philipís enthusiasm. He doesnít want to miss one opportunity that God has for him. So he runs to obey the Lord.

:30 and heard him read the prophet Esaias

I find it interesting that this great court official is reading out loud.

Perhaps itís just the custom of the day, or heís reading it to his servants (heís got to have servants, after all, heís reading, and riding in a chariot Ö whoís driving?).

Perhaps he has found out that he understands what he reads a little easier if he reads out loud.

:30 Understandest thou what thou readest?

The Greek here is kind of interesting. The way Luke has written this, Philip is talking as if he is pretty sure this guy doesnít have a clue what heís reading, and thereís also a hint of Philip being kind of anxious in talking to an important guy like this.

We might express it this way, "Y-y-y-you probably donít understand what youíre r-r-r-r-reading do you?"

:31 he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

I wonder if the man sees that Philip is kind of nervous, and he puts him at ease by asking him to come up and sit with him in the chariot.

:32-33 ÖHe was led as a sheep to the slaughter

The eunuch is reading from what is known as the "Septuagint", a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. In addition, the eunuch just happens to be reading from Isaiah 53:7-8 (letís read a little before it to get the context!)

Isa 53:3-8 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. {4} Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. {5} But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. {6} All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. {7} He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. {8} He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

:34 of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

The eunuch canít figure out who Isaiah has written about. Have you figured it out yet?

:35 Then Philip opened his mouth

Lesson:

Open your mouth.

This might sound a little too obvious, but witnessing usually involves opening your mouth.

Often our witness also involves the kind of life we live, what kind of a testimony our actions are.

More often than not, God is going to ask us to open our mouth and speak.

This is one of those "cold turkey" opportunities, where Philip has never met this man before, and God gives him a chance to tell this man the good news of Jesus Christ.

:35 and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Lesson #1:

Start where theyíre at.

This requires the often unknown skill of listening.

If you donít bother listening to people, but just preach at them, how are you going to show them that the gospel is relevant to them, and to their life?

This is one of the problems with having a "canned" little speech you give to people. God often wants you to find out "where theyíre at", and start from there.

Perhaps theyíve just had their wife leave them, and are struggling with intense rejection. Well you have a Savior to tell them about who knows what rejection is all about.

Perhaps theyíve just been to the funeral of a loved one, and are struggling with what death is all about. Well you have a Savior who is not only acquainted with death, but who came back as the victor over death, and promises eternal life!

Lesson #2:

Know the Scriptures.

Again, as weíve seen before, the person God uses is a person of the Word.

If somebody was in the lunch room at work, reading this passage, would you know how to respond?

Sometimes we donít know the answers, and we can simply respond, "I donít know, but Iíll sure find out!"

But donít let that be an excuse to not know the Scriptures.

Weíre about to finish up the Old Testament in our daily reading, and perhaps youíve never read through some of the books like Habbakuk or Obadiah. Why not try to get into a daily reading pattern now? If you can get yourself disciplined now, then at the first of the year, weíll start in Matthew, and in a yearís time, youíll have read the entire Bible!

Lesson #3:

Preach Jesus.

Thereís plenty of other things to talk about, and plenty of other things that can be mildly helpful to people. But we need to be talking about Jesus.

Only He has the answers to life that people need.

:36 See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Itís apparent that we donít have the full conversation between these two men. Apparently Philip had been telling him about believing in Jesus and in being baptized.

When they suddenly come up on some water, the eunuch decides he too wants to be baptized.

Lesson:

Give people a chance to respond.

The eunuchís question is almost a mirror of what we need to learn to ask people, which is, "Is there a reason why you wouldnít like to pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart?"

The eunuch wants to respond to the gospel.

Itís just like Peterís first sermon, where the people responded with, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37)

When you find yourself sharing the gospel with someone, Satan would like to have you think that just talking about Jesus is enough. That way, when you leave, he can steal the seed that youíve planted. But if you give the person a chance to respond to the gospel, then you have a chance for the seed to go a little deeper and perhaps take root.

:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.

The only thing that Philip felt was necessary for baptism was faith.

Baptism isnít something for babies, but for someone who is old enough to understand what the gospel is all about, and who believes in it.

Notice also that the eunuch didnít have to wait until he finished twenty weeks of classes. He was baptized right away.

:37 And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

In the Greek, the word order is like this, "I believe that the Son of God is Jesus Christ."

(This verse isnít found in some of the ancient Greek manuscripts, but is found in others. This is why some of your Bibles may either exclude it completely, or have some kind of a footnote by it. Whether this verse was in Lukeís original writing doesnít change the clear principles found in other Scriptures that itís belief in Jesus that is required for baptism.)

:38 they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch and he baptized him

Baptism in the New Testament involves total immersion. The word "baptize" (Greek baptizo) itself means to "immerse"

If Philip is just "sprinkling" the eunuch, why are they both going down into the water? In fact, why did they need a body of water at all? Couldnít Philip just have taken some of the water in one of the skins and sprinkled?

:39 And when they were come up out of the water,

Again, hinting that the eunuch was fully immersed under the water.

:39 the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip

caught away Ė harpazo Ė to seize, carry off by force; to snatch out or away

This is the word that is used to describe what we call the "rapture" of the church:

(1 Th 4:17 KJV) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

We might say that Philip is "raptured" here, but heís not taken to heaven, heís just moved to another place.

:39 that the eunuch saw him no more:

One moment Philip was there, the next he was gone.

:39 and he went on his way rejoicing

This man has been saved.

It was from this man that the Christianity came to Ethiopia, and Ethiopia would be known for almost two thousand years as a "Christian Nation", that is until the Marxists overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.

Lesson:

Obey, even if you donít see great results from your efforts.

Philip might have questioned God for leading him away from the great revival going on in Samaria.

And then to find out that it was just to talk with one man! Even if this man was important, itís only one man!

Yet this man would affect an entire nation, for thousands of years.

Illustration

John Egglen had never preached a sermon in his life. Never. Wasn't that he didn't want to, just never needed to. But then one morning he did. The snow left his town of Colchester, England, buried in white. When he awoke on that January Sunday in 1850, he thought of staying home. Who would go to church in such weather? But he reconsidered. He was, after all, a deacon. And if the deacons didn't go, who would? So he put on his boots, hat, and coat and walked the six miles to the Methodist Church. He wasn't the only member who considered staying home. In fact, he was one of the few who came. Only thirteen people were present. Twelve members and one visitor. Even the minister was snowed in. Someone suggested they go home. Egglen would hear none of that. They'd come this far; they would have a service. Besides, they had a visitor. A thirteen-year-old boy.

But who would preach? Egglen was the only deacon. It fell to him. And so he did. His sermon lasted only ten minutes. It drifted and wandered and made no point in an effort to make several. But at the end, an uncharacteristic courage settled upon the man. He lifted his eyes and looked straight at the boy and challenged: "Young man, look to Jesus. Look! Look! Look!" Did the challenge make a difference? Let the boy, now a man, answer. "I did look, and then and there the cloud on my heart lifted, the darkness rolled away, and at that moment I saw the sun." The boy's name? Charles Haddon Spurgeon. England's prince of preachers.

--Max Lucado in When God Whispers Your Name, (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994).

:40 But Philip was found at Azotus

Azotus was the city known as Ashdod, found in the Gaza area, originally one of the five chief cities of the Philistines.

You almost get the idea that Philip kind of just opened his eyes, and found himself in a new place, in Ashdod.

:40 and passing through he preached in all the cities

(See map) In Acts 9, weíre going to see Peter going to the cities of Lydda and Joppa, and there are already churches established in those cities. Could it be possible that those churches were started through the ministry of Philip as he moved north through these cities from Azotus to Caesarea?

:40 till he came to Caesarea.

Caesarea is a beautiful seaport town where Philip will eventually settle down and raise a family. (Acts 21:8-9)