#19 (Acts 8:25-40) Philip Goes After One Man - The Eunuch

The door of salvation has been opened for the Samaritans. When Peter and John arrive on the scene, the Spirit of the covenant is provided for the Samaritan believers. Now it is time for Philip to move on. He heads out into the desert to locate one man. You can be sure this leading is of the Lord. In this study we want to see what this 'one man' business is all about.

This is Acts Study #19 (Acts 8:25-40) Philip Goes After One Man - The Eunuch.

First a parting word on the apostles. It says....

Vs25: "So, when they [the apostles] had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans."

Peter and John confirm the testimony of the gospel to the Samaritan believers. Where it says they 'solemnly testified,' the Greek is 'diamarturomai.' This word carries the idea of severity, or, a charge to the people. They are to continue on with their confession of faith.

So as the apostles journey back for Jerusalem, they preach the gospel to a number of the Samaritan villages. The moment has been seized. The Word of the Lord is spreading throughout the region.

Now let's pick up with Philip. It says ....

Vs26: "But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, 'Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.' (This is a desert road.)"

... "An angel of the Lord." This angel is not to be confused with 'the angel of the Lord' of the Old Testament. The Old Testament term 'Angel of the Lord' was a theophanic expression concerning divine appearances of God. It was used before the coming of Jesus. Once Jesus enters the world, this expression is no longer used as a 'theophany.'

This angel is sent by the Lord to guide Philip to the next stage of his ministry.

Note: A theophany refers to an appearance of God in human or angelic form. ['Theo' is God. 'Phan' is to show, or to see.] These appearances in the former testament are sometimes spoken of as a Christophanies.

.... "Spoke to Philip." Angels are messengers of the throne. They bring messages, and also carry out missions that are according to God's purposes. Do they speak to believers? Probably much more than we realize. But an angel of God will never offer himself as a distraction from Jesus.

This is why the idea of 'spirit guides' found in new age teachings, or the idea that we 'command' angels, as is found in some charismatic teachings, sets dangerous tones for those unaware of how deceptions work. Angels of God do not carry out our orders. They are servants of the throne. While they render service to God's people, they only receive their directives from God Himself.

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Vss27,28: "So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah."

.... The eunuch was either a Jew by birth or a proselyte to the Jewish faith. In any event the new covenant belonged to him by virtue of his being Jewish. This presents an interesting picture with regard to the ancient Jews. Since the new covenant was theirs by right of birth, they only needed to receive Jesus as Messiah. They already believed in the One true God of Israel.

But for Gentiles, the story differs. Gentiles were often idolaters, that is, they believed in many Gods. So in order to be partakers of the new covenant, the Gentiles had to turn from their idolatry to the living God, and in doing this, they were to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

... There are plenty of myths, legends, and facts about Ethiopians. If you recall, Miriam was struck with leprosy for her challenge to Moses' marriage of a Cushite woman. (Cf. Num12:1-15)

You may also find it interesting that some years ago Israel ransomed thousands of Ethiopian Jews (Falasha Jews), and brought them to Israel. They soon discovered that many of the Falasha Jews were Christian Jews. (It is the same with many of the Jews brought to Israel from Russia.) Was God in this? The underpinnings of religious practices of the Ethiopian Church is still very much Jewish.

The Testimony of Isaiah 53

Vss28,29: "..and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go up and join this chariot.'"

.... Philip heard him reading. The eunuch was reading from the Greek text. (LXX.), which was likely the Torah of the Ethiopian Jews, just as it was for the Jews in Egypt.

.... It seems unlikely that the eunuch would not have heard about Jesus, while in Jerusalem. But the times of salvation are in the Lord's hands. This eunuch's appointment was near at hand. It had to be the Lord's doing that the eunuch was reading from Isaiah. More Jews have come to Jesus through the testimony of Isaiah 53, than from any other Scripture portion in the Bible.

Vss30,31: "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' And he said, 'Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?' And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him."

.... "Unless someone guides me." This reveals the Jewishness of the eunuch. The Jews were taught that to understand the Scriptures properly they needed to listen to a master teacher. This was probably why the eunuch had no hesitation in inviting Philip to the chariot. The way Philip approached him, he likely thought the evangelist was a teacher of sorts.

The Centerpiece of the Bible

Vss32-34: "Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: ' He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open His mouth. In humiliation his judgment was taken away; who will relate his generation? For his life is removed from the earth.' The eunuch answered Philip and said, 'Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?'"

.... The eunuch's attention has been arrested at what can be called 'the centerpiece of the Bible.' Isaiah 53, is the clearest and most concise picture of the work of the cross and of Jesus to be found in the prophetic Scriptures.

The ancient Jews accorded this to Messiah. It was only after the New Testament Church came into existence, that Jewish writers later tried to make Isaiah 53, into a picture of the suffering Jews, and not to Messiah. But no matter how hard they attempted to do this, the text does not allow for such an interpretation. It is speaking of an individual. And it is so clear in its description of Jesus, that some Jewish Bibles even leave it out. (Along with other prophetic writings that too clearly refer to Jesus.)

Note: A great many Jewish rabbis have been brought to Jesus by this portion of Scriptures. But this was also true in the early Church. During the time of the apostles, the teachings about the coming Messiah dominated Jewish thinking. This is why Paul was able to convince both synagogue leaders, and a great many of the Jewish peoples that Jesus was Messiah. The Scriptures bore witness in themselves.

Here is an interesting passage from the Talmud (B. Sanh. 97b): "In the school of Elijah it was taught: 'For six thousand years the world will exist [there will be] two thousand years of Tohu [void], two thousand years of Tora, and two thousand years of the Messiah. But because of our sins, which are many, several of these [Messianic years] have already passed.'"

"He Preached Jesus to Him"

Vs35: "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him."

.... What makes this so wonderful is the double witness. We have the prophet setting forth the Messiah in unmistakable language, and we have the gospel evangelist declaring Jesus as Messiah. Keep in mind that the Bible of the early Jewish Church was the exact same Bible used by all the Jews. Here we have a new covenant Jew presenting the Messiah to another Jew. What better witness to a Jew is there?

Vss36,37: "As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?' And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'"

.... Here is a clear example of how salvation works in the new covenant. You have the anxious heart, seeking to know. You have the gospel presented. You have the believing heart taking to itself Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Out of this comes the overflowing confession of, "I believe!" And then you have this new believer instantly wanting to fulfill the command of baptism.

Vs38,39: "And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing."

.... This is the first example we have of a believer entering into the waters with a new believer, and baptizing the believer personally. They were probably at an oasis.

Final Thoughts

... Two wonderfully amazing things happen at this point:

(1) The Spirit of the Lord 'snatched' Philip away. The term here is 'harpazo'. This word speaks of a sudden removal, or, to be snatched away, seized up, caught up (into heaven), and such like. It is the word Paul uses for the removal of believers in the second coming of Jesus.

(2) The second thing is that the eunuch goes "on his way rejoicing." What makes this wonderful is that it demonstrates a person's completed faith. You can be sure when the eunuch arrives back home, he will have a message to share with the Jewish community in Ethiopia. People who are truly born again are unable to keep the message to themselves.

Vs40: "But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea."

.... Once again we are looking at the apostolic era where amazing things are taking place.

Philip the evangelist makes Caesarea his home. It is interesting to later hear how Philip had four virgin daughters who were themselves prophetesses. And the great tormenter of the Church, that is, Saul who becomes our beloved Paul, stays with Philip for awhile. (Cf. Acts 21:8,9)

Let's complete our study for now. Feel free to comment, ask questions, make observations, etc.

Previous: #18 (Acts 8:1-24) Persecution, Scattering, and Philip
#20 (Acts 9:1-9) Saul the Tormentor Meets the Glory

This study on Acts was originally part of a series on the book of Acts given to members of Hebraic Foundations from July 10, 2002 through January 19, 2003. They were written by Pastor Buddy Martin, Founder and Senior Pastor of Christian Challenge International.

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