St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

How God Saved The Ethiopian Eunuch

Sermon on Acts 8:26-40

Text: 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?” 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.

The book of Acts records for the history and growth of the early Christian church. At times, the growth was phenomenal. On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people were baptized and became members of the church. More often, however, it was one person at a time. For example, we think of the apostle Paul. He was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus to search for and arrest any Christians that might be there and drag them back to Jerusalem to be put on trial. The Lord called out to him and the great persecutor became one of the greatest advocates of Jesus Christ. This morning, we have before us the account of another man who was on the road. God used this occasion in this man’s life to bring him into the Church. We focus our attention on HOW GOD SAVED THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH. It was 1. By A Sacred Text, 2. By A Faithful Teacher, and 3. By The Working Of The Holy Spirit.

We begin with the man to whom God showed his grace that day. We do not know what his name was. We do know that he was from Ethiopia, a country that was south of Egypt. He was an important man, because he was in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia. We can also say that he was, at the very least, acquainted with the Jewish faith. He was on his way back to Ethiopia after he had been worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem. While on the trip, he was using his time wisely and reading a scroll that he had either bought at Jerusalem or had brought with him. This man obviously had questions about God, about himself, and about his salvation. He was looking in the right place, in the only place for answers to these questions. He had chosen for himself an excellent portion of the Scriptures. He was reading from the book of Isaiah.

We are told specifically what portion of Isaiah he 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.” (Verses 32-33, Isaiah 53:7-8) You and I, through insight that faith gives us, know whom this passage is speaking about. It is Jesus. Though the book of Isaiah was written 700 years before Jesus walked this earth, he gives us such clear pictures about what the Messiah would accomplish. In these verses, we have highlighted the suffering that the Savior would endure for the sins of the world. There are a number of things to take note of. First of all, it talks about the suffering that he would face. It talks about him being a lamb led to the slaughter. This would have brought the countless sheep that were slaughtered on Jewish altars over the centuries. Secondly, these verses show us his willingness to go through all of this. It mentions the fact that he did not open his mouth. He didn’t protest the injustice that was being carried out. He didn’t use his power as the almighty Son of God to get out of the situation. Isaiah leaves no doubt as to what would ultimately happen to this Suffering Servant. “His life was taken from the earth.” He would die.

By God’s grace, we know what the writer was prophesying. We know that Jesus came to the earth to pay for its sins. We know that our sins were also placed on Jesus when he suffered and died for the sins of all. We know that the punishment that he endured was what we deserved. Each and every one of the times that we have disobeyed God through our thoughts, words, or actions was enough to send us to an eternal separation from God. However, Jesus came and took our place. He was punished so that we would be forgiven and eternal life would be ours. By God’s grace, we have come to know this.

However, this passage from Isaiah was confusing for this Ethiopian man. When Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Verse 30), the man replied, “How can I . . . unless someone explains it to me?” With that, he invited Philip to come up into his chariot. After they read that section of the book of Isaiah, the eunuch asked his second important question of the day, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” (Verse 34) “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Verse 35) Philip didn’t tell the man what he thought it meant. He didn’t try to reason with the man. He simply began with where this man was at this time in his life and shared with him the gospel message. Philip told him about Jesus and how he came to this world to be its Savior. Philip told him about the fact that there is no way that these blessings that Jesus won can be ours by what we do. As is evidenced later in the text, he taught him about Baptism, because the man asked to be baptized. Philip came to this Ethiopian eunuch and faithfully taught this man who was searching for answers.

God provides a model for us when we want to tell others about what Jesus has done for them. We come to people where they are at in their lives. It would be a rare thing if some were to ask you to tell them about Jesus, out of the blue. It is more likely that they will be facing some unanswered question in their lives. They may look at a tragedy, whether personal or on the news, and wonder why it happened. They may be facing a decision in their lives and no know which way to turn. They may be feeling guilty about something that they have done and nothing seems to help get rid of that guilt. The list goes on and on of questions that people have about this life and the life to come.

When we are placed in those situations, may God help us to be faithful teachers. First of all, may he give us a heart that empathizes with the person that we are taking to. We want them to know that we genuinely care for them and about what is going on in their lives. We aren’t just talking to them to get something from them. Secondly, may God make us faithful teachers to his Word. Rather than saying, “I think . . .” or “I feel . . . ,” we can say “This is what God says.” This is that sure and solid foundation that people can rely on for answers for this life and the next. You and I might not always be right, but God’s Word always is. May God help us to be faithful teachers when giving the opportunity to share with others what we have learned.

As our account from Acts concludes, we find the chariot with the eunuch and Philip coming upon some water. The eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Verse 36) The two of them got out of the chariot and the man was baptized. Then we are told, “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.” (Verse 39) What brought about this change in the eunuch, who went from a man who was searching for answers to a man who could continue his journey, rejoicing in the fact that Jesus was his Savior? Was it because Philip was such a skillful teacher, who through his logical arguments had convinced this man, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was true? Yes, Philip was a faithful teacher to this man, but that was not the reason that he went on his way rejoicing, that he became a believer. Rather, it was through the work of the Holy Spirit. We see this at various spots in this account.

First of all, before Philip met the eunuch, he was in Samaria, which is north of Jerusalem. He was doing mission work in that area. The Church was enjoying such great success there that Peter and John had gone up there to help. It wasn’t that there was no work to do there, but the Holy Spirit, through the angel told Philip to go to this particular road. This road was fairly well-traveled. However, Philip was told by the Holy Spirit to go up to this particular chariot. The Holy Spirit worked the faith in this man’s heart that trusted that Jesus was his Savior. The apostle Paul reminds us, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) That is why this man could return home rejoicing. He knew by faith that he was saved. He knew that heaven was waiting for him. We, also, note that “The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away.” (Verse 39) Then, we read, “Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” (Verse 40) The Holy Spirit showed Philip that there was still more work to be done. Filled with the love of Jesus, Philip continued to tell others what Jesus had done for them.

May God help us to remember this, as well. It isn’t up to us to convert other people. We don’t convince people with airtight arguments that Jesus is their Savior. It isn’t because of our fine sounding words. The Holy Spirit is the one who does the converting. He is the one who creates the faith in the heart. He doesn’t ask us to do the converting. What he does want us to do is to be faithful teachers of what he has done for us and those around us. You might be thinking that it would be nice if the Holy Spirit spoke to us directly, like he did for Philip and told us, “This is the one I want you to go and talk to.” However, doesn’t he do so? Maybe it’s not with his voice in our ear. More than likely, it is the voice of a friend who is in need of our help, a co-worker who is going through a major change in their lives, a classmate who is concerned about where they go in life. It may even be someone that we would never have thought to talk to about Jesus. Just think about this, for a moment. The Ethiopian eunuch may not have looked like a prime candidate to Philip. He looked different from the people Philip had been talking to. Yet, the Holy Spirit told Philip that he was to go and talk to him. God placed him in Philip’s path. May God help us to keep our eyes open for the many opportunities that he will place in front of us to share what Jesus has done for us. We pray that the Holy Spirit would work through us so that the people we talk to may know what Jesus has done for them.

We began this morning by noting the fact that the book of Acts records the history and growth of the early Christian Church. We noted the overnight growth that took place on Pentecost. Can you just imagine if, all of a sudden, we grew by 3,000 members? Wouldn’t that be a magnificent sight! However, it is worth noting that the tremendous growth on Pentecost was a one-time thing. The rest of the book recounts how the apostles, especially the apostle Paul went from place to place telling others about Jesus. One by one, people were brought to believe in Jesus as their Savior. Generally speaking, we see the same pattern today. It is one by one that people are brought to faith. We thank God that he allows us to be part of the process. Just as God saved that Ethiopian eunuch some 2,000 years ago, he continues to save people today. He has given his sacred Word, where we learn what Jesus has done for us. May God help each of us to be faithful teachers of what we have learned to others. We, also, pray that the Holy Spirit would work through those words and create that saving faith in their hearts. We pray that these people might be brought to faith and go throughout the rest of their lives rejoicing in the good news that Jesus is their Savior. May God help us to this end. Amen.