So far we have read of large numbers of people coming to repentance and faith in Jesus (see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:7). Now we meet just one man, who highlights God’s interest in each and every person.
Philip is directed by the angel to the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. He meets an Ethiopian on his way home from Jerusalem, reading the scrolls of Isaiah. The Spirit directs Philip to the chariot (v. 29) and Philip asks the Ethiopian if he understands what he is reading. The man invites Philip into the chariot and asks him to explain Isaiah 53:7–8 (vv. 31–34). Philip explains that Isaiah is referring to Jesus (v. 35). The eunuch is baptised and Philip is taken away by the Spirit of the Lord (vv. 36–39).
The great evangelist of Acts is God himself. His angel gives Philip His direction. He prepares the Ethiopian, who happens to be reading the messianic passage of Isaiah 53. He appoints him to hear the message. He ordains his response (see Acts 11:18).
What might Philip’s message have been? Look at Isaiah 53:5–12:
- Our sin was laid to Christ’s account (v. 5).
- We are all sinful people (v. 6).
- He voluntarily gave himself for the sin of His people (vv. 7–9).
- He will be vindicated and see the fruit of His work (vv. 10–12).
The Ethiopian’s response (v. 36) would indicate that Philip had called upon him to repent and be baptised. We ought not to be paralysed by God’s sovereignty in salvation. God directs, prepares, and ordains (2 Thessalonians 2:13), but He chooses to bring people to faith through human messengers. “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them . . . Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message . . .” (Romans 10:13–14, 17).
God is ever reaching out to people. He sends us out “to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). He urges us to pray for labourers for the harvest field Luke 10:2). He sends His Son to be Saviour and His Spirit to be co-witness. And He mandates us to explain the truth (v. 35; Matthew 28:20).
What caused such rejoicing in the Ethiopian (v. 39)?
Reflect on the ministry of Philip in Acts 8. How will knowing that God is the one who “directs, prepares, and ordains” help you in your outreach efforts?