Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch

The concept of “The Paphos Paradigm” (intentional, targeted ministry of the gospel to governmental leaders) is taken from Paul’s encounter with the governor of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, in Acts 13:1-12, but the pattern is seen all through the Bible.  Five chapters earlier, an African treasury official gives us another encouraging example of the life-changing power of the gospel.  Acts 8:26-39 has important lessons for today’s church.  Let’s look at ten of them (not necessarily in order of importance):

1.  There was a political official God wanted to reach.  “. . . there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. . .” (v. 27b)  If you know even a few stories from the Bible, you’ve seen this before.  God repeatedly sends messengers into the lives of political leaders to speak His truth into their lives with the goal of heart-change.

2.  God called a messenger to go to the political leader.  “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.) . . . Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” (vv. 26, 29)  The call of God was made clear to the messenger, in this case the apostle Philip, but that call still necessitated action (we’ll get to that in the conclusion).  Philip immediately followed the Lord’s call and plan.

3.  Philip went to where the leader was.  So he got up and went . . . Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” . . . And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (vv. 27a, 30, 31b)  In that day there weren’t too many choices for communication, so Philip had to physically go to where the Ethiopian was.  This is, of course, the most effective place to be to talk with anyone, but the church today has so many technologically creative ways to share love and good news with leaders.  Face to face can’t be beat, though, and has a tremendous impact.

4.  The leader was outwardly religious.  he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.” (vv. 27c, 28)  How often do we see this?  Our leaders are often seen speaking in churches, attending prayer breakfasts and quoting Scripture during speeches on the floor.  But just because there is a profession of faith or an outward appearance of religiosity, a leader may have never repented of and been forgiven of sin.  We cannot assume that and the church should be on the front lines of exhorting leaders to “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

5.  The Word of God is powerful.  “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. 
    ‘IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY;
         WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION?
         FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH
.'”  (vv. 32, 33)  This is a point we could include in every top ten list.  But we must pause to acknowledge the powerful moving of God’s Spirit in this whole narrative was through the reading, meditating, asking about, and proclaiming Scripture.  Philip’s opinion doesn’t show up anywhere.

6.  The leader was seeking God and open to Him.  The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” (v. 34)  He had worshiped in Jerusalem, had the book of Isaiah open on his lap and was clearly wrestling with the meaning of the passage.  What a blessing when someone asks a question about the Lord.  When they do, we should have an answer ready!

7.  The message was clearly communicated, starting from where the leader was.   “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture . . .” (v. 35a)  When is the last time you opened your mouth, or email or letter, to share Christ with your representatives?  Ever?

8.  The content of the gospel message was centered on Jesus.  “. . . he preached Jesus to him.” (v. 35b)  If we believe Christ has the answers for all man’s problems, that has to be shared.  There is no other definition of the gospel than Jesus Christ crucified and risen.  Speaking up for godly, biblical laws to be enacted in our land is great, but lawmakers may still go to a Godless eternity if we stop there.

9.  A believing leader should be an obedient leader.  “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ 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.’ 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.” (vv. 36-38)  Just like any believer, visible fruit will accompany true faith.  The Ethiopian’s desire to obey and identify with Christ showed a heart that wanted to please the Lord.  This is the kind of change our leaders need.  We all do.

10.  God desires leaders to move from despair and confusion to joy.  “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.” (v. 39)  What a change of heart, emotion, action and purpose this eunuch went through in these few verses!  Many of your leaders are rudderless in life.  They are on the pointless treadmill of life without purpose or meaning.  The church has been left on earth to go to all nations with the direction-changing, hope-producing gospel that we can be forgiven and know God personally.

Conclusion:  When Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, this poor, confused, desperate Ethiopian treasurer responded with a most important question: “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”

We should be like our God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  (1 Timothy 2:4).  Pray for your leaders and consider how you can share your faith in Christ with them.