The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D
On the Road with Philip and the Ethiopian
Do you have a spiritual appetite?
Acts 8:26-40 Philip and the Ethiopian
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 the Kandake (which means “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 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its 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. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 37 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 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.
Philip Baptizes the Ethiopian by Maerten Jacobz van Heemskerck (16th Century)
The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Rembrandt (1626)
The Ethiopian eunuch might be considered as the personal assistant to the Queen of Ethiopia. Philip is one of the twelve apostles and was brought to faith by Jesus Christ (John 1:43). We do not know much about Philip but from the account of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and even less fish. Philip is described as reserved and practical and I find that I can identify with him. But God uses Philip in important ways by introducing people to him.
I recently went to a dinner party and when a couple learned my name, they asked me if I was the author of a blog on the Bible. I write but do not often talk to others about this blog. This is my understanding that God uses people like me to introduce faith to others.
The Book of Acts includes the story of many people came to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of talking with a Christian. The ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was viral in the first century and talked about everywhere in the Roman Empire and with this account we see that it had spread as far south as Ethiopia. We know that Paul and Cornelius accepted Jesus Christ through an encounter with a believer.
We do not know if the Ethiopian was traveling to Jerusalem on business (likely) or if he came to worship in the temple. We know that he is familiar with the Book of Isaiah and searching for answers about life or God or both. He does not hesitate to be baptized. The story is one Martin Luther never preached on even though the baptism of the Ethiopian marks the beginning of the Christian Church in Ethiopia.
Life on this planet comes down to one thing – it is only through faith in Jesus Christ, without law and works, that we experience grace and are justified.