Philip and the Ethiopian

God places us in the right place at the right time. Just follow His lead.


Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 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, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.  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.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus  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?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 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. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea   Acts8:26-40

This road that led by Gaza would be a Road where the traffic of half the world went by; it was a road where Philip would be entirely likely to meet some adventure for Christ. Along the road in his chariot came the Ethiopian eunuch. He was the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Candace. Candace is not so much a proper name as the title which all the queens of Ethiopia bore. This man has been to Jerusalem to worship. He must have been one of two things. In those days the world was full of people who  were weary of the many gods and the loose morals of the Nations. They came to Judaism and there they found the one God and the austere moral standards which gave life meaning. If they accepted Judaism and the circumcised and took the law upon themselves they were called proselytes; if they did not go to that length but continue to attend the Jewish synagogues and to read the Jewish scriptures they were called God-fearers. So this Ethiopia must have been one of those searchers who came to rest in Judaism either as a proselyte or a God-fearer. He was reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah; and from it Phillip showed him who Jesus was.

When he became a Believer he was baptized. It was by baptism and circumcision that the gentile entered the Jewish Faith. In New Testament times baptism was largely adult baptism, not that there was anything against infant baptism, but in those days men and women were coming in from other faiths and the Christian family had hardly had time to develop. To these early Christians baptism was, whenever possible, by immersion and in running water.

It symbolized three things:

  1. It symbolized cleansing. As a man’s body was cleansed by the water so his soul was bathed in the grace of Christ.
  2. It marked a clean break in life.
  3. Baptism was a real union with Christ. As the waters close over a man’s head he seemed to die with Christ and as he emerged he rose with Christ a new man to a new life.

 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  Romans 6: 3-4

Tradition has it that this man went home and evangelized Ethiopia. We can at least be sure that he went on his way rejoicing and  would not be able to keep his newfound joy to himself.

William Barclay  Study Bible, Acts of the Apostles


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