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PHILIP and the Ethiopian ACTS 8 4th Feb 2007

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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.

                                                                                        Acts 8 26-40

Explaining scripture – a good passage for Education Sunday.

This is a very significant time in the history of the Early Church.  The persecution of Christians is leading to the spread of the gospel into other places.  

Jesus had instructed His disciples to take the good news to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.  As opposition touches the church it begins to spread to the limits of the then known world.  In this story about Philip and the Ethiopian, this Good News reaches the Nile Valley – at that time regarded as the very edge of the world.

In this story we see two things of great importance:

·        The conversion of an influential African

·        The use of the Old Testament scriptures in the New Testament

Here we may discover – if we will pause for a moment to consider it – the heart of the Christian Gospel, and a lesson in how to share the message of Christ Jesus.

Philip, having been directed by God to the Gaza Road comes alongside the Ethiopian who is reading from the OT Isaiah chapter 53. Philip challenges the Ethiopian as to whether he understands what he is reading. The official invites him to come into the chariot and explain to him.

God is seen at work in the evangelist - Philip - and the Ethiopian preparing them for the work of the Spirit in redemption.

We need to know what it takes to expand the work of the gospel, and what we need to do to have a part in it.

There is no education to equal the education of the soul – the work of God’s Spirit changing lives.

I believe the challenge is at least threefold:-

a.      To be where God can move us

b.      To share God's Word so that Jesus is really known,


c.      To continue with God into joy and new ministries.

A.  To be where God can move us

God was at work preparing both Philip and the Ethiopian.

PHILIP at the disposal of God's directing angel goes down to the Gaza road

v    He is sensitive to the voice of God

v    He is ready to move in whatever direction God gives

v    He is prepared to challenge the enquirer

The work of Philip is marked by frequent changes in direction.

We often resist change.

God wants a servant who is willing to move and obey Him.

Philip was where God could move him - are you?

THE ETHIOPIAN was prepared as thoroughly - but in different ways appropriate to his part in the unfolding work of God

v27   this man had gone to Jerusalem to worship

v28   and on his way home was . . . reading the book of Isaiah the Prophet.

À    He too was where God could move him

-        prepared by worship       and

-        reading the Word

I like the way so much happened to the Ethiopian  on his way home.


Obviously a God-fearer he had taken his place in the outer court of the gentiles - and his condition as eunuch did not preclude him from the influences of that older system of sacrifices and reverence.

He had acquired his own copy of the LXX of Isaiah and was reading it aloud.

The applications of this part of the story lie easily upon the surface.  His attendance at worship was something he took seriously - enough to buy his own Bible portion and read it.

You and I have both place of worship and Scripture; you are in the place where God can move you - perhaps He has in the past. How about now?

B. To share God's Word so that Jesus is known

This part of the narrative brings us to the heart of the matter at the point where Philip is able to

v 34  tell the good news of Jesus

We see how that the understanding PHILIP had of the OT Scriptures and His Lord, enabled him to lead the enquirer on to the central message - he is instrumental in sharing .

First comes the move of God, then the sharing of His Word.

We can only guess at the way Philip's heart leapt as he heard the text read aloud

"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."

If you would share God's Word you must       :

·        know it

·        see how it relates to Jesus

·        recognise the great Gospel passages

·        listen to the enquirer's questions

Are you willing to have such a dynamic grasp of the Scriptures - above all be able to recognise Jesus in it?

For his part THE ETHIOPIAN was READY    - to share his own uncertainties

- to ask for help

- to listen to the news of Jesus

That is a truly receptive state brought about by the Spirit, the Word and the God-guided witness.

For PHILIP the focus was "the good news about Jesus"

For THE ETHIOPIAN it results in a request for baptism 

36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptised?" 37  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him.


The REAL sharing of the Word leads :

to the uplifting of Jesus

and the application of repentance, faith and baptism.

Have you been this way?


C.  To continue with God into Joy and new    ministries

For some the pilgrimage stalls at this point.

·        Christ has been met

·        His sacrificial work embraced

·        His demands for repentance and faith and even baptism met -

·        But things may tail off.

This was not the case either for Philip or the Ethiopian.

PHILIP was instantly at the disposal of the Holy Spirit again –

-        a new field

-        new enquirers

-        a new setting for the same gospel

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 travelled about, preaching the gospel . . .

Once again Philip is ready to be moved by God!

Another change embraced willingly.

As for THE ETHIOPIAN we have a beautiful picture of him continuing

v 39   and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing


This is aptly rendered in The Message

"He didn't mind.

He had what he'd come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be." J

The subsequent evangelism of Candace's empire and the early emergence of the Coptic and Ethiopic Church bear witness to the Ethiopian sharing his continuing joy.

Don't you think he re-read Isaiah?   And with glorious new insight.

TO US the challenges of this story are :-

a.      Be in the place where God can MOVE you.

b.      Be able to SHARE the exploration and reality of Jesus in His Word.

c.       Be willing to CONTINUE where He will most certainly guide.

But of course there is a PERSONAL application of a different kind as well.

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