So far we have read of large numbers of people coming to repentance and faith in Jesus (see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:7). Now we meet just one man, who highlights God’s interest in each and every person.
Philip is directed by the angel to the Jerusalem to Gaza road. He meets an Ethiopian on his way home from Jerusalem, reading the scrolls of Isaiah. The Spirit directs Philip to the chariot (v. 29) and Philip asks the Ethiopian if he understands what he is reading. The man invites Philip into the chariot and asks him to explain Isaiah 53:7–8 (vv. 31–33). Philip explains that Isaiah is referring to Jesus, and no doubt tells the man that he must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38) as a public display of his repentance. The eunuch is baptized and Philip is taken away by the Spirit of the Lord (v. 39).
The great evangelist of Acts is God Himself. His angel gives Philip his direction. He prepares the Ethiopian, who just happens to be reading the great messianic passage of Isaiah 53. He appoints him to hear the message. He ordains his response (see Acts 11:18).
What might Philip’s message have been? Look at Isaiah 53:5–12:
our sin was laid to Christ’s account—verse 5;
we are all sinful people—verse 6;
He voluntarily gave Himself for the sin of His people—verses 7 and 8;
He will be vindicated and see the fruit of His work—verses 10 to 12.
The Ethiopian’s response (v. 36) would indicate that Philip had called upon him to repent and be baptized. We ought not to be paralyzed by God’s sovereignty in salvation. God directs, prepares and ordains, but He chooses to bring people to faith through human messengers—”faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom. 10:17).
God is ever reaching out to people. He makes us “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). He urges us to pray for labourers for the harvest field. He sends His Son to be Saviour and His Spirit to be co-witness. And He mandates us to explain the truth (v. 31).
What caused such rejoicing to the Ethiopian (v. 39)? Reflect on the ministry of Philip in chapter 8. What ups and downs did he experience?