Acts 8:26-40 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.
29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
37 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
The man in this story, Philip, was an evangelist. He was a preacher of the Gospel. We read in Acts 8:4-8 how he went to Samaria to tell people about Jesus. His willingness to go to Samaria is evidence that Christ’s love had come into his heart as the Jews had always avoided Samaria since the Samaritans and Jews were enemies. To want to see your enemy come to Christ is evidence that you have had a radical transformation. The Samaritan Preaching Crusade was attended by crowds of people.
I like the way our story starts out with the angel of the Lord speaking to Philip. In the Old Testament and up to through the birth of Jesus there are many stories where God spoke to people through the “angel of the Lord.” That is verse 26. Just as a point of interest, I found four instances of angels in the book of Acts, so God was still using angels as messengers as I believe He still does today. However, when we get to verse 29 we see a different form of communication as the Holy Spirit takes over. So here in the book of Acts, after the Holy Spirit was poured out on God’s people, we see the old way of communication and the new way of communication coming together as Philip is directed by both the angel of the Lord and by the Holy Spirit. Up to this time in the book of Acts when people were saved it was in large groups, huge groups, in crowds and in thousands of people, and here we read about this one-on-one encounter which is a precious reminder to me that God is interested about even just one coming to faith in Christ.
Let’s first take a look at the Holy Spirit and Opportunities for the Sharing of the Gospel.
Because Philip was obedient to the angel and the Holy Spirit he had an opportunity to have a spiritual conversation with this Ethiopian Eunuch, this high-ranking official in the court of Queen Candace. This guy was the Queen’s treasurer. He wasn’t from the place we now know today as Ethiopia, but his home was in ancient Nubia which was located south of Egypt. The text tells us he had traveled to Jerusalem to worship. That means he traveled over 1000 miles on a spiritual pilgrimage. And get this, according to Deuteronomy 23:1, Eunuchs weren’t even allowed in the Temple. He probably only made it as far as the Court of the Gentiles in his spiritual journey. In that way, he represented the outcast, the spiritual “have nots.” And even though he never made it inside the temple, his heart was stirred. He wanted more. He was reading the Scriptures that were available at the time to try to make sense of it all. God had stirred his heart and had brought him close and then directed Philip to interact with him.
I want share something I found extremely interesting in my research. Scholars say this Ethiopian Eunuch who was converted here in Acts 8 was a son of Ham. Scholars then say in chapter 9 that Saul who became Paul was a son of Shem. Scholars then say in chapter 10 that Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was converted was a son of Japheth.
Does anyone know who these three men are? They are the sons of Noah. They were part of the family that God spared on the ark during the world-wide flood. The entire human family comes from these three men. After the flood there was an ethnic and geographical division made and the families of these men went their separate ways. Here, during the season of Pentecost, just after the Holy Spirit was poured out on God’s people, God is reaching out to representatives of the entire human race with the Good News of the Gospel. I find that thrilling!
Ok, so the guy wasn’t traveling alone. He was riding in a chariot and servants and others were chauffeuring him. And as he is traveling he is reading the Word of God, out loud. What an opportunity Philip had! The man was already interested in spiritual things. He had gone to Jerusalem to draw closer to God. He was already reading the Bible. He was ripe for the picking.
It is interesting that he wasn’t converted in the Temple in Jerusalem. I’ll just make this point: Many people aren’t saved during a church service in a church building. Many come to Christ as you and I are led by the Spirit of God to a Divine opportunity somewhere in the highways and byways of life. I have prayed with people in their homes when they have accepted Christ as Savior. I have prayed with someone at Bob Evans to accept Christ as Savior! It might be on the ball field or at the ballet recital that God wants to prompt you to get close to someone who is thinking about Him.
The question isn’t, “Does God still want to save souls,” it is, “Are we sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in the everyday moments of life that if someone is seeking God we will be open to helping them find Him?”
And this wasn’t just an opportunity for Philip and the Ethiopian Official. Those with him would have witnessed the exchange between the two men. The Queen herself and others at the Palace would have heard about the encounter whether from the guy himself or from those with him.
And so, the Holy Spirit tells Philip to go stand by the man’s chariot. Awkward, right? Perhaps, but how will we know if someone is open to the things of God if we don’t get close enough to ask!? Listen, the Holy Spirit can even use stalking and eavesdropping to get the ball rolling, amen?
The Holy Spirit and Scripture.
So Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading in Scripture. We know that Philip was a person who was led by the Spirit, and it only stands to reason that he was interpreting Scripture in the power of the Spirit for this man. It is the Holy Spirit that makes the Word of God come alive in our hearts. It makes sense that the Holy Spirit would be the interpreter of Scripture, after all, He wrote it!
II Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” -II Timothy 3:16 Any time God is breathing on something or someone or breathing out something, it is the Holy Spirit, the Wind of God, that is at work. It makes sense that the Holy Spirit was speaking through Philip because the Scripture finally started to make sense to the Ethiopian Eunuch! Scripture won’t make spiritual sense without the help of the Holy Spirit. No one knows His own work and word better than the person who wrote it. So when the Holy Spirit is involved in your Scripture reading or teaching spiritual lightbulbs are going to go off. Do you know before I start a Sunday sermon or Wednesday night study, I say, “Holy Spirit, I need Your help! Lead me to the text. Give me understanding and insight, and help me know how to put Your message together.” He always comes through!
Notice what Philip did as he spoke to the man. He explained to him that the Isaiah passage that he was reading was a prophecy about Jesus. So he talked to him about the Word and His personal experience as a Christ-follower. How powerful! The Holy Spirit speaks not only through the Word of God, but through the followers of God as we talk about our own encounter with Christ.
Philip didn’t know when the angel of the Lord told him where to go and when the Holy Spirit told him to eavesdrop by the chariot that he would have to explain the Scriptures. The whole crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and Holy Spirit outpouring were all just starting to make sense of those who were trusting Jesus. I doubt they had, had any time to go back and look at how the Old Testament Scriptures applied to Jesus. Philip hadn’t been sitting in Sabbath School where someone was now putting two and two together. He hadn’t just come from a “How Jesus Fits the Messiah Profile as it was Told in the OT” convention. No! He was led by the Holy Spirit to answer the man’s question.
I know you may shy away from spiritual conversations because you might fear that you don’t know Scripture well enough or you don’t know how to explain the things of God, but if you will rely on the Holy Spirit, because it is His work and Word, and because He lives in you, He will help you know what to say whenever something needs to be said. Just open up your mouth in faith to believe He will be there to support you! We need to speak the word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit because as we do, faith will be inspired and born in people for “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” -Romans 10:17
The Holy Spirit and Jesus.
And so Philip tells the man all about Jesus verse 35. Listen, when the Holy Spirit is involved in the conversation, He is going to be a name dropper. J He is going to talk about Jesus. Somehow, when someone is seeking and when you are led of the Holy Spirit, the subject of Jesus will work itself into the conversation. One thing I love about the Trinity is that they are working together to point people to God’s truth. Jesus pointed people to the love of the Heavenly Father. The Spirit is at work pointing people to the sacrifice and victory of Jesus. It is a very cooperative relationship the Trinity has.
Jesus told the disciples in John 14:26 that the role of the Holy Spirit would be to teach them and remind them of everything He had said to them. In John 15:26 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would testify about Him. When you are around the things of God, and you sense a stirring in your soul, when you have a revelation about the Truth of God’s Word and the God-man Jesus Christ, it is the Holy Spirit at work in your life convicting and convincing you that it is all real. The Bethlehem baby, the miracle-working man, and the Messiah who was crucified, died, and rose again. It is all real. The Holy Spirit testifies to it and calls people’s attention to it.
It was the Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus for His earthly ministry, and it is the Holy Spirit who will empower us to be witnesses for Jesus. Acts 1:8, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you to be My witnesses . . .” You see, the role of the Holy Spirit is to empower us to talk about Jesus! That is what was happening with Philip and the Eunuch.
And here is the powerful part: As we see Jesus correctly we see ourselves correctly. As we see the sinless Savior in all of His glory and holiness and see how He perfectly obeyed the will of the Father even though it cost Him His life, we realize how much we fall short of the glory of God because of our sin. It is seeing Jesus for who He is that helps us recognize our need for salvation. Thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us see and talk about Jesus.
We need to talk about Jesus. Do you know that secular humanism and other anti-God movements are seeking to eliminate one word from our vocabulary, “JESUS!” Guess who is behind all of that? Do you know that Satan hates the name of Jesus? That is why it has become “politically incorrect” to bring up His name. That is why the law of separation of church and state has developed into the mess we have today. That is why prayer can no longer be offered in many public settings. I mean, how do you pray unless you end it in Jesus’ name? Hollywood celebrities have been warned not to speak the Name. Famous and competent athletes have been asked to downplay the Name. Famous musicians like Carrie Underwood are mocked and shunned for using the Name.
Let me tell you what I know about the name! There is power in the name of Jesus! Remember what Peter, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, said to the crippled beggar who was sitting at the temple gate in Acts 3: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” There is healing in the name of Jesus! We heard about it this morning!
Peter went on to say in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” There is salvation in the name of Jesus! For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved! Romans 10:13
And my friend there is coming a day when every Christian who has worshipped and witnessed using the Name as well as every unbeliever and demon of hell including Satan himself will speak the Name giving it the reverence it deserves for as Paul said in Philippians 2:10-11: “At the NAME of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Oh there is power in the name to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain! May God raise up Spirit-filled believers who will speak the name of Jesus with boldness.
The Holy Spirit and Discipleship.
Finally, I believe this conversion story speaks to the role of the Holy Spirit in our discipleship as we seek to be obedient to all of the commands of Scripture. Revisit verse 36: 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
The next verse may be in a footnote if you have the NIV like I am reading from. Here is the footnote: Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The Eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!”38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down (to the river, down to the river, down to the river to pray) into the water and Philip baptized him.
Did you notice in verse 36 that Philip climbed in the chariot to travel with the Eunuch? I love that. I don’t know how far he intended to go, but the Scripture says at this point they were traveling together. They were continuing their spiritual discussion. Once again the Holy Spirit is leading the way because their chariot happened to pass a body of water. Philip must have told the guy about all of the conversions on the Day of Pentecost and all of the baptisms that had taken place in the name of Jesus! The Spirit of God that entered the man when he believed was leading him to the next step of faith where he would declare his conversion through the expression of water baptism and God made it easy in that their chariot then happened to role by a body of water.
God has made discipleship as easy as possible. He didn’t just give us a road map and tell us to follow it, wishing us “good luck.” I would never make it if that was the case! Thank God He has placed His Spirit inside us and asked us simply to engage with Him and follow Him. Romans 8:14 says, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” God has a plan to transform you and help you grow spiritually so that you can lead others to Him, and it happens as you are willing to be led by the Spirit of God to do the things that please God step by step. And if you do that, you will be surprised how many times there just happens to be a body of water when you need one or how many times someone you meet says just the right thing you need to hear in order to have confirmation that what you are considering really is of God. Funny how that works!
Part of that transformation process will involve equipping you to serve Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us special abilities that will help us point others to Jesus. Knowing what those abilities or spiritual gifts are is a huge part of our discipleship process. Nothing will grow and mature us in the faith faster than serving God with our spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit:
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
Whether it is getting in baptismal waters in response to Jesus’ command to be baptized or plunging into Christian service through the use of our spiritual gifts, it is the Holy Spirit who will enable us to obey and serve.
The Holy Spirit isn’t just about making us content or happy in Christ or at ease and at peace with God, although those things do happen. However, the Holy Spirit has been poured out on us so that we can take advantage of Divine opportunities to share Christ with people as we explain the Scriptures, lift up the Name of Jesus and are transformed by Him in discipleship. Can you eavesdrop by someone’s chariot this week? Can you ask some questions that will lead to an opportunity to explain what you have experienced about God? Will you speak the Name of Jesus without apology? Will you ask God to help you be Spirit-led in order that you can attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:13? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to play His role in your life this morning?