ATLANTA (BP) – The story of Philip and the Ethiopian is the story of a man with a hole in his soul.
The Ethiopian had an emptiness that would not leave him, no matter what he tried to pack in his life. The brief narrative in Acts 8 unfolds his story around three themes.
A reading man
The Ethiopian had traveled from his home to Jerusalem to participate in celebratory worship. On his return home, he was reading from Isaiah’s prophecy, seeking to understand its underlying message.
This was a man of great power and prestige. He had charge of the Queen’s treasury. He was likely dressed in finery and traveling in the “Rolls Royce” chariot of his time. From outward appearances, this man seemed to have everything.
But the Lord, who has placed eternity in the heart of every person, was at work in his life.
A running man
The Lord prompted Philip to leave the revival taking place in Samaria and go on a wilderness journey.
When Philip saw the chariot, the Lord instructed him to “overtake” the chariot. As Philip ran toward the chariot, he had no idea what he would find. He was not intimidated by the obvious finery of the chariot, the adornment of the horses, the attire of the attendants. He did not know what the Ethiopian was thinking about until he got near enough to hear him reading from Isaiah’s prophecy. He just ran, knowing that this would be his one and only opportunity ever to engage this man with the Gospel of Christ.
A rejoicing man
When the Ethiopian heard the Gospel, his life was changed. He asked Philip what hindered him from being baptized. Philip answered, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” Confessing his faith, he was baptized. When he came up out of the water, he became a rejoicing man.
The Gospel will make a man happy! It makes every true believer joyous. If a man or woman doesn’t get happy when he or she trusts in Christ, they didn’t get Jesus!
When the Lord finds you, His presence and joy follows you the rest of your life.
History gives us reason to believe that, upon returning to his country, this new follower of Jesus shared his story with the Queen and others in his native land, with the effect that others also trusted in Christ as their Lord.
This brief story from Scripture teaches several transferable ideas.
- We must continually make ourselves open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism cannot always be planned. When we are open to the Lord, He will direct us to people in whose hearts He has already been moving.
- We must look for opportunities to share the Gospel, even if the intended person seems far off, looks different from us, or seems otherwise unapproachable. The Lord did not bring the Ethiopian to Philip. Philip ran to adjoin himself to the chariot.
- We must become convinced that a missed opportunity is a lost opportunity. Philip did not know how the man in the chariot would respond; but he knew there would be no other chance to speak with this man from another country who was returning home.
- We must believe that we have a message to share. The power of the Gospel has not diminished. Where it is shared, people’s lives are changed.
Heaven will be populated with people of every economic class, every race, every tongue. Let each of us pray that the Lord will use us to tell the Gospel message to those we meet.
We must not be put off if they look different from us. God is no respecter of persons. The Spirit of God continues to move where He wishes (John 3:8). It is His job to save. It is our job to tell.