26 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.)
27 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,
28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."
30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 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.
33 "IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH."
34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?"
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
37[ 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."]
38 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.
39 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.
40 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. NASU
When Philip spoke in Samaria, many people believed his preaching and were baptized. Then Peter and John came to Samaria and prayed for the people to receive the Holy Spirit. As a result, the people "were receiving" the Holy Spirit. When their ministry in Samaria was finished, Peter and John started back to Jerusalem. On the way they were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
An angel of the Lord directed Philip to travel south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Luke notes that this was a desert road. While he was traveling on this road, he came across an Ethiopian eunuch who had been to Jerusalem to worship. Fernando (p. 283) says, "This suggests that he may have been a God-fearer or a proselyte." He was returning to his home and had a long journey ahead of him.
The Ethiopian was sitting in his chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "'Go up and join this chariot.'" Philip then ran to the chariot. As he ran up, Philip heard the Ethiopian reading and asked him, "'Do you understand what you are reading?'" The Ethiopian answered, "'Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?'" Then, the Ethiopian invited Philip to sit with him.
As Luke approaches the subject, what does one have to do to become a Christian? The Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53:7-8 concerning the suffering servant. He wondered if the prophet was speaking of himself or someone else. This was Philip's opportunity to preach Jesus to him. The passage was a prophecy about Jesus.
When they came to some water, he asked, "What prevents me from being baptized?" Verse 37 is in some versions, but not others. In the NAU verse 37 says, "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.'" According to Bruce (p. 190), this verse "certainly reflects primitive Christian practice." The eunuch stopped the chariot and Philip baptized him in water.
When Philip and the Ethiopian came up out of the water, "the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away." The Ethiopian did not see him any more. Philip found himself at Azotus, which was 20 miles north of Gaza. From Azotus Philip traveled north to Caesarea. As he traveled, he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea. We find him in Caesarea twenty years later. He is known by Luke (Acts 21:8) as "Philip the evangelist." He is the father of four daughters who prophesied.
The Ethiopian went away from the experience "rejoicing." Luke does not say anything about receiving the Spirit, but joy is a part of the work that the Spirit performs. When disciples (Acts 13:52) see spiritual results, they often have an accompanying joy. It is Paul, however, who writes about joy as a fruit of the Spirit.
The ministry of Philip brought about the expansion of the church. Jesus said that empowered disciples would be witnesses in Samaria and to the uttermost part of the globe. Philip ministered in Samaria and to the Ethiopian who, in turn, no doubt witnessed at home in Ethiopia. According to Gangel (p. 128):
This double-barreled record of Philip's ministry is a potent part of Luke's gospel story. First, the gospel to the hated Samaritans, a half-breed race with distorted theology in the eyes of the good Palestinian Jews. Now, a Gentile secular official from a foreign land will take Jesus home with him. The church of Jesus Christ began sending missionaries to Africa almost two thousand years ago. The first was an African, a high government official, possibly a man with physical limitations.
The breakthrough of the gospel among the Gentiles, experienced at the house of Cornelius, was nearing. The gospel reached Samaria and then this Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit of God in all these cases was powerfully at work.
George M. Flattery
Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975.
Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.
Lampe, G. W. H. The Seal of the Spirit. London: SPCK, 1967. Lenski, R.C.H. The Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
© Copyright 2003. GMF.