The Ethiopian Eunuch

Act. 8:26-39

 

1.  The Samaritan Woman – the one who knew little and had little interest (at first)

2.  The Rich Young Ruler – the one who knew a little and had a wrong understanding

3.  Nicodemus – the one who had the facts but not the understanding

4.  The Ethiopian Eunuch – the one who knew some but had a desire for more

 

A.   The Dialogue

1.  God started the conversation  v.26, 29

a.  Get up and go – general direction

i.  given the rest of the passage it is likely the Holy Spirit who was the messenger of the Lord; see v. 29, 39

b.  Go over there – specific instruction

2.  Philip’s response was immediate obedience  v.27a, 30a

a.  he got up and went

b.  he ran to the chariot

3.  The eunuch was reading aloud  v.28, 30a

a.  something in his reading (almost certainly from the Septuagint) invited a question from Philip

b.  perhaps tone of voice, perhaps inflection, perhaps repetition of the text that would be consistent with the eunuch’s response in v. 31

4.  Philip asks if he understands  v.30b

a.  took the risk of offending by speaking at all – culturally

the eunuch – a black man from Ethiopia

Philip – a (probably) Hellenized or Greek-speaking Jew; the only obvious thing they had in common was an understanding of Greek

b.  took the risk of offending by interrupting an important official – socially

All we know of Philip comes from Acts; all that is stated regarding his character is found in Acts 6:3 – a man “of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” called to be a deacon; Acts 21:8 – where he is called “the evangelist” ( του ευαγγελιστου ); and where he is described as having a house (whether rented or owned is not specified).

All we know of the Eunuch is from this passage – a powerful, trusted court official serving the queen of Ethiopia, the highest ranking individual overseeing the economic affairs at least of the royal household if not the entire nation.

c.  took the risk of offending by asking a pointed question – intellectually

The eunuch was of necessity a man of substantial intellectual ability; it would have been a prerequisite for the job of CFO.  He probably had similar skills to those which made Joseph such an asset to Potiphar and then eventually to Pharaoh.

That Philip would ask this man who spoke and read two or more languages (Ethiopian, Greek, perhaps Egyptian) if he understood something could have been taken as a grave insult.

5.  The eunuch expresses frustration  v.31, 34

a.  I want to understand but I don’t get it!

b.  I can’t understand on my own; there’s not enough information in the text for me to tell who the Suffering Servant really is

c.  implied: I’m not sufficiently skilled in this area of knowledge to figure it out without guidance

d.  His level of frustration indicates that he believed the passage to be of great importance

e.  The passage in question has been a stumbling block to generations of Jews (among others)

6. Philip evangelizes him  v.35

a.  He began with the text in question

i.  He answered the eunuch’s textual question

ii.  He would have brought in other related texts to shed light on the primary text

b.  From the OT, of which the eunuch some knowledge, he shared the good news of Jesus

i. perhaps in the same way Jesus did on the road to Emmaus  Luke 24:25-27

7.  The eunuch’s response was immediate obedience  v.36-39

a.  He obeyed to the extent of his understanding

b.  His obedience resulted in rejoicing, indicative of a sincere heart

NOTE:  Philip had the legitimate right and authority to go beyond where the “average” Christian is allowed.  Philip was an ordained officer of the church, a deacon who was also an evangelist (Acts 21:8) who had the authority to baptize.

B.   The Strategy

1.  Listen to the Spirit’s promptings

i.  If God lays it on your heart to speak to someone, don’t fight it

ii.  If you start to speak evangelistically, don’t have second thoughts and change the subject

2.  Be observant

i.  Tone of voice or facial expression can convey a lot of information

ii.  Use the tone or look as a hook, a conversation starter – you sound/look puzzled/frustrated/excited

3.  Take risks

i.  Don’t allow stereotypes to hinder you from pursuing Gospel opportunities

ii.  Those who are truly seeking, that is ones in whom the Holy Spirit is moving, will receive truth (usually with joy) regardless of the source

4.  Develop a broad knowledge of Christ in the Scriptures

i.  Recognize Christ in Moses and the Prophets, not only the Gospels

ii.  The Gospels rely on knowledge of the OT to make sense; 10 times in Matthew alone – see, this is a fulfillment of prophecy

5.  Be flexible in your Gospel presentation

i.  There is more than one set of proof texts to lead a person to Christ

ii.  Remember Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus post-resurrection Luke 24:27

iii.  The early Christian church was built on the Old Testament

iv.  The idea is to take people from where they are and move them toward God and his answer to their issues

6.  Be ready to affirm a sincere desire to obey Christ

i.  The test is true repentance, not perfection

ii.  If there is true repentance, other things will be present as well: spiritual understanding, a conviction of sin, a need/compulsion for obedience, a hunger for the things of God, etc.

iii.  Be sure you are affirming and not coercing; the precise approach necessarily depends on the personality of the individual – suggestibility, desire to please (as with children).  In other words, it is a genuine desire to obey Christ you should be seeking to affirm.

7.  Be patient

i.  God has his own timetable

ii.  Our success is measured by faithfulness

 

“In theory, a successful relationship with God could be obtained through a man’s conformity to God’s fundamental standards of justice (Romans 2:14-15; Leviticus 18:5; cf. Galatians 3:12; Romans 10:5).  But Adam failed and was condemned to death (Genesis 3:19), and all men since Adam have likewise sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Furthermore, Adam’s rebellion left the whole human race depraved and guilty by nature (Ephesians 2:3), destroying even the theoretical possibility of salvation.  Man lay doomed to physical death and eternal damnation (Romans 5:15, Romans 5:18).  By the works of the Law no flesh could be justified (Romans 3:20).  Thus for a man to stand at the last before God’s throne on the basis of his own works means his automatic rejection (Revelation 20:15).  But under such conditions, God’s unmerited love sent His Son with the gracious testament.  Jesus Christ was the one man who did live a perfect life (Hebrews 4:15), and then died as the Lamb of God to take away sin (John 1:29).  Those who are “in Christ” by faith have the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).  Those whose names are written in the Book of the Lamb, and only those, are in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12; Revelation 13:8).”  J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament, p.93.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s