Read: Acts 8:26-40
Philip doesn’t get a lot of attention in the Bible, but his character is one that epitomizes a man of faith that listened to the Spirit and played a huge part in spreading the gospel to Ethiopia. This passage includes some intriguing details that demonstrate his obedience to the Spirit’s direction with some supernatural flair.
The Philip in this chapter is one of the seven selected to “wait on tables” (Acts 6:4-6) but apparently is not limited to simply serving in the food distribution system. A man of great faith, he listened to the Spirit’s direction:
Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Acts 8:26-29
This captures my imagination. Is it possible to be so in tune with the Spirit that we can hear specific directions? This is a dream! How many times have I said (or heard others say), “Just tell me what to do!”
Filled with the Spirit, Philip approaches an otherwise unapproachable Ethiopian official.
Do you understand what you are reading? Acts 8:30
If we ever needed motivation for studying the Bible, here it is. Not only do we need to be prepared to express why we have hope in Jesus, it seems we need to understand God’s Word enough to help those who have questions. I’m not suggesting we all need to be scholars, but we need to devote time to study to be useful when the Spirit calls.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Acts 8:31
This is the evangelistic opportunity we all long for, an open invitation to share the gospel. It doesn’t get any better than this. There is no doubt that Philip’s sincere desire is to obey the Great Commission.
Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Acts 8:35
This inspires me to look at any passage in the Bible as a launching point to explain our need for forgiveness, and how Jesus’ sacrifice paid the price.
The eunuch got the message and understood the significance of baptism. He didn’t wait for the quarterly baptism service!
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. Acts 8:36,38
And Then A Strange Thing Happened
As soon as the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, Philip was taken away, never to be seen by the eunuch again. This wasn’t a bad thing. The eunuch went on his way rejoicing and we get the impression that many in Ethiopia will eventually hear the gospel as a result.
Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. Acts 8:40
Somehow Philip ends up 19 miles away (according to the NIV notes, not like I’ve been there!), still preaching the gospel. The next time we hear about Philip is in Acts 21:7-9, some 20 years later, still serving as a minister in Caesarea with his four daughters.
Always Be Prepared
The main lesson I get from this passage is to always be prepared. Study the Bible obediently just like a musician works through technical exercises to hone skills necessary to participate in the symphony. As we walk in obedience, I’m confident we will learn to hear the Spirit’s prompting. I hope it is as clear as it appears in this story, but even if it’s not, my prayer is our dedication will result in reaching the lost, the least, and the lonely.