In Acts 8 we have discussed faith that does not save and the faith that does save. We looked at Simon the magician whose faith did not save him. This week, we look at the faith that does save, as illustrated by the Ethiopian eunuch. In both cases, Philip is the key instrument of God. He was chosen in Acts 6, a Jew who was a non-Palestinian Jew from the Hellenistic world.
Significant, if not massive, barriers are being knocked down as the church grew. One of which was Samaria. That barrier meant nothing as Philip and the Christians who scattered out of Jerusalem by the persecution of Paul. They began to spill over into Judea, and even across the border to the north into Samaria. And everywhere they went, they were doing essentially one thing, preaching.
So the barrier is down in Samaria. Not because the gospel was so popular. They went there under terrible persecution. That was really the second major step in the promised development of the church under the power of the Holy Spirit. We’ve got to get beyond the Jews in Jerusalem to get into the rest of the world. So starting in verse 25, we have the first Gentile conversion.
This Ethiopian represents the Gentiles. Verse 25, “So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord (to Simon), they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” The Holy Spirit didn’t come until Peter and John arrived so the Jews would know that the same Holy Spirit fell upon the Samaritans that had fallen upon them.
And there was the same phenomena of foreign languages that was there at Pentecost to make sure everybody knew the Jews and Samaritans were in one church. Peter and John have come having heard about this amazing response by the Samaritans to the gospel. They come up to authenticate it, to lay hands on it and validate it, and then go back and say it’s really happened as it has been told.
Now the Holy Spirit comes at the moment you believe. And Philip is about to meet an Ethiopian eunuch. This is the first time the church expands into the uttermost parts of the earth. Israel had always been ordained to tell the world about the true and living God. But they sort of vacillated between attitudes of isolation and animosity toward the nations around them which were full of idolatry.
And the one thing they wouldn’t do was evangelize the nations, which was what they had been called to do. So the goal of God to reach the world through Israel hit a stalemate. And God, in the church, starts a fresh channel, a new people, and sets Israel aside; and they’re still set aside. And they’re not going to take the gospel to the world until you get to the time of tribulation.
God saves 12,000 people out of all the 12 tribes of Israel. You have 144,000 Jewish missionaries pouring out the gospel to the world, finally fulfilling what they were originally called to do. But it now begins to unfold on a desert road initially with just one person. The kingdom of God advances one soul at a time. Now as we look at this, we could just read the story.
This story in and of itself presents to us a picture of the elements and the components in a saving faith. Everything you need to know is here by illustration. There are three categories that help us. There’s the preparation which is already in place, and then there is the presentation, and then there is the personal response as we look at those three components of a faith that saves.
First, look at the preparation, verses 26 – 29, “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, had come to Jerusalem to worship.”
28 He was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” Now that’s enough to let us know that this is a very well-designed and prepared encounter, and the one who is preparing this than none other than the Holy Spirit. The proper preparation for true salvation, begins with the sovereign work of the Spirit.
It starts with God’s Spirit preparing the heart of a person, God’s providential working. Salvation is God’s work, not man’s work. It is initiated by God. It is a reflection of His will; no man seeks after God. The natural man is dead in trespasses and sin, ignorant, hopeless, helpless, and not interested. But what happens is by the purpose of God and it shatters the natural and satanic blindness.
This is the blindness that the god of this world imposes on sinners. This is the most important fact regarding salvation, it has to be initiated by God. We saw that demonstrated in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. You must be born of the Spirit. You must be born from above.” How? Jesus answers, “The Spirit does what He wants, when He wants and to whom He wants.”
Salvation is a sovereign work of God. God is the one who chooses, God is the one who calls, God is the one who activates the human heart. We can’t aid the Holy Spirit in this. People who are blind in the darkness of sin and Satan can’t see the truth, that’s why in John 6:44, Jesus said, “No man comes unto Me unless the Father draws him.” The sinner cannot believe by himself.
And we know this is happening here because an angel of the Lord speaks to Philip and tells him to go to this individual who’s a court official of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, for the sake of the gospel. Here we have an illustration. But in this case, it is recorded for us that this was all the preparation of the Holy Spirit. Now on this occasion, the Holy Spirit used an angelic messenger to order Philip.
Go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza. Gaza is a city of the Philistines that was given by Joshua to Judah. In 96 BC it was totally destroyed; and the road to Egypt ran through an old fortress in ruins. It was much traveled, because there was a constant flow of people going from Jerusalem to Egypt and the other way around. So Philip is instructed and as he goes, he is obedient.
Verse 27, “He got up and went.” And there was, providentially, 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. This is the divine encounter that is prepared by the Holy Spirit. He only knew to be obedient, he only knew that God would determine His purpose, as is true of everyone who is saved.
The salvation of this single sinner was the very clear purpose of God for Philip’s trip reminding us that the salvation of a single sinner is worthy of the attention of God, and the dispatching of angels, and the action of the Holy Spirit. And salvation doesn’t happen to anyone unless they hear the truth about Christ, right? Somebody has to go and faith comes by hearing the Word concerning Christ.
Secondly, the submissive will of a servant. The Lord has chosen to do His work through human instruments. It was Peter on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, who preached the gospel and 3,000 people were saved. Again, the gospel is preached in Acts 4 and 5, 000 are saved. And then the gospel continues to be preached by Stephen. And the persecuted are scattered everywhere preaching the gospel.
But all God had to say was, “Go.” And verse 27 says, “Philip got up and went.” Even though it didn’t appear logical, he could have made an argument there were more important things to do where he was, he obeyed. And, he ran into an Ethiopian eunuch who was a court official of Candace, Queen to the Ethiopians, in charge of her treasure, coming to Jerusalem to worship.
Verse 30, “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And then there’s a third element. There’s the searching of the sinner. Notice in verse 28 this Ethiopian eunuch is reading the prophet Isaiah. According to history, the name Candace is not a proper name, it’s like Pharaoh. It’s a feminine name for a queen mother.
This man worked for her as she was doing the work of the king. He is a eunuch. He had been castrated to serve served the king in the harem. Now this man is the official treasury keeper. He is the Chief Financial Officer of Ethiopia, trusted, respected and honored. God has a dim view of castration in Deuteronomy 23:1, because it is abusing the image of God and it was associated with paganism.
Something’s going on in this man because he’s coming to Jerusalem to worship. He has heard about the God of Israel. Some Jews must have migrated into Egypt. The answers to his heart questions weren’t being answered in paganism. So he’s going to make a twelve-hundred-mile trip. He had come all the way to Jerusalem to worship the true God. But he was unfulfilled in his search.
Thirdly, another reason for true salvation: a genuine hunger for the truth. That’s the beatitude, isn’t it? “Blessed is the man who hungers after righteousness, who thirsts after righteousness, for he will be filled.” Psalm 119:2, “Blessed are they that seek Him with the whole heart.” Jeremiah 29:13, “And you shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.”
So what is the preparation for a true salvation? The sovereign work of the Spirit, the submissive will of the servant, and the searching of the sinner; and then it all culminates in a fourth, the scriptural Word of God. It all comes down to the truth; and he is reading the prophet Isaiah. And he’s not just reading somewhere in the 66 chapters. Verse 32 says, he happens to be reading Isaiah 53.
That is the most important chapter in the book of Isaiah, and it is the presentation of the gospel. Isaiah 53 is called the first gospel; and Matthew is the second. Maybe he picked up the scroll somewhere, and you only had a scroll if you were very wealthy. And this is a very wealthy individual and he’s reading the traditional way, out loud, and he’s reading Isaiah 53. Now the presentation.
Verse 31-33, “And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”
The passage he was reading, verses 32 - 33 is that great passage out of Isaiah 53, which describes the substitutionary atonement of Christ as He was led as the sacrificial Lamb of God to slaughter. It’s a prophecy of the death of the Messiah. If someone is in the process of being brought to the knowledge of the gospel, they will want to know about Jesus, the Scripture, and the atonement.
Verse 34-35, “So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” This man wanted the truth. We need to point people at Scripture. Because John 16:13 says, “The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.”
Philip sat under the apostles who had also taught him about Jesus from the law, the prophets, and the Holy Writings. A clear presentation of Christ is absolutely everything in a gospel presentation. So point at the Scripture, point at the Savior, point at salvation. Explain why He was a sheep led to slaughter, why He was the Lamb of God. It’s got to be the main purpose that is in the heart of the sinner.
Verse 36, “As they went along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” There had to be a pool of water. Why is that significant? Because baptism signifies union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. God allowed for this providential encounter in a place where there’s no water except there.
Go to verse 38 first, “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” First official baptism of somebody from the uttermost part of the earth. Now let us look at verse 37, “Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” He answered, “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
That verse does not appear in any of the ancient manuscripts, so it was added later. Verse 39, “Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” What is that? That’s a miracle. Phillip disappeared. What does it say? “But he went on his way rejoicing.” So this is time-travel.
Verse 40, “But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.” Certainly the eunuch is scratching his head and saying, “This is a validation that I have just had an encounter with God.” The Lord relocated him in a miraculous way. A miracle is a confirming sign, certainly to the eunuch, that God put him exactly where He wanted him to be.
Azotus was a title for the town of Ashdod, which was a Philistine city where they took the ark. Suddenly, he arrived there, and he preached in all the cities. Apparently, this was Philip’s new headquarters. Irenaeus, the early Church Father says that the eunuch became a missionary. And there are parts of Africa in which historically Christians have claimed him as their founder. Let’s pray.