“So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. 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.) “So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.” Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 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.” The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 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. 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. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.”
When they had solemnly testified. The testifying was synonymous with presenting the Gospel to the Samaritans by Philip, Peter and John and perhaps others. Peter and John were present at Pentecost; now they are present once again at Samaria, and by laying on of hands they demonstrated that what they had experienced on the day of Pentecost would also be given to Gentiles. On their return they continued to evangelize in the villages of Samaria to show that when it came to the Gospel there were no racial distinctions – all are welcomed into the body of Christ through faith in Christ.
Philip’s unusual guidance was from an angel – “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 the type of guidance you can’t miss and it is quite obvious that it was God’s will for Philip. The word “saying” in Greek indicates that the angel had to repeat this quite a few times before Philip caught on. It is very hard to think in terms of leaving a place where there has been a wonderful ministry and go to a place where there are not even people, i.e. the desert.
So Philip was commanded to go down to the desert which lies between Egypt and Palestine. Notice that he was not to go with the apostles. There are several reasons why Philip gets directed elsewhere. First of all, God had an important job for Philip and through the conversion of one African that he met in the desert the Gospel will go to a great country in Africa. As a result that country within a hundred years will become a center of Christianity. He was removed from the scene of a revival in Samaria and was instead going to be used to contact one person, and this would be the basis of an even greater revival than the one in Samaria; the great continent of Africa.
“So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.” The treasurer of Ethiopia was the number three man in the empire which existed at that time in Africa. The word “eunuch” means that he was dedicated to his office not in the physical sense. “Candace” is not the name of a person, it was a title for a queen. She was the queen of the Ethiopians whose "eunuch" or chamberlain was converted to Christianity by Philip. The country which she ruled was called by the Greeks, Meroe, in Upper Nubia. It had long been the center of commerce between Africa and the south of Asia, and therefore became famous for its wealth according to Isaiah 45:14 (Cush being a reference to Ethiopia. The name Candace can be compared "Pharaoh," "Ptolemy," or "Caesar") as being a title common to several successive queens. It seems likely that Judaism had taken root in Ethiopia at this time and hence the visit of the queen's treasurer to Jerusalem to keep the feast. There is a tradition that Candace was herself converted to Christianity by her treasurer on his return, and that he became the apostle of Christianity in that whole region, carrying it also into Abyssinia. It is said that he also preached the gospel in Arabia and in Ceylon, where he suffered martyrdom.
The eunuch was returning to his own land and he was reading Isaiah which would be usual for a non-Jew. But he was not a believer in Christ. This was no accident because this was where Philip began to explain to him the Gospel. The fact that he was reading Isaiah is an indication he must have known the Hebrew language. Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Actually this is not what he said. The Greek word for “understand” means “Do you understand these things because you’ve studied them?” In other words, “Have you studied this?” Philip was going to use this as a basis for getting some information and making a meaningful contact.
And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” No person in this life can understand Bible doctrine unless he gets it from someone who knows Bible doctrine. In other words, you cannot sit down and understand the Bible by reading it, so God has taken up the slack by giving the gift pastor-teacher to certain men. Every believer after salvation starts out as a baby, and babies have to be taught, and there is no believer in the world who can get it on his own without someone starting him right. Philip had enough Bible doctrine to give this man a basic training course in a short time. Someone guides me indicates that up to this point no one has been able to explain the passage he is reading. The word “guide” doesn’t mean to guide in the sense that someone shows you the way, it means to guide in the sense of understanding and teaching. It means to communicate. Philip communicated doctrine.
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.” This was a quotation from Isaiah 53:7-8. Jesus Christ is depicted as the Lamb through the Levitical sacrifices, and here Jesus is being led as a sheep to the slaughter, i.e. the Cross where He died for our sins. His life is removed by death. The life of Christ on the Cross was carried by death. The sins of the world were poured out upon Him, the wages of sin is death; and so as the wages of sin was poured out upon Him. Our sins were poured out upon Him, the penalty of those sins was death, and so Christ carried our death upon the cross. Christ lifted up our sins and carried them and His life, then, carried our death away.
“The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” Here was a man whose positive volition is so strong he is ready, but he doesn’t have anyone to explain the meaning of this passage. He needs information. In witnessing for Christ this is exactly what people need - information. To communicate Philip had to speak! So he opened his mouth and communicated the Gospel from the Old Testament by the way. Jesus Christ was revealed in the Old Testament. So the eunuch received his information.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
Philip baptized him because he understood the pertinent doctrine. Ritual without reality is meaningless, but not in this case. Once the baptism had occurred they separated: “the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip” – this Ethiopian was so ready for doctrine that on the very day that he was saved he learned enough doctrine to make himself spiritually self-sustaining as he goes back to his own land as the only convert in Ethiopia.
So Philip gave him enough information in that time to sustain him. The result of this eunuch’s conversion was a tremendous evangelistic push in Ethiopia, so that Ethiopia developed a brand of Christianity that held out against the Moslems when all other types of Christianity collapsed some 600 years later. Everything else in North Africa collapsed. This tells us that “Ethiopian Christianity” was founded on doctrine. It stressed two things: a) communicate doctrine in evangelism; b) take the new believer and give him basic doctrine. The eunuch was not dependent upon Philip for his happiness; he was dependent upon the doctrine he had learned. The joy came from the Bible doctrine. Joy is inner happiness and it depends on doctrine.
“But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.” Azotus was a Greek name for a Philistine town. When Alexander the Great conquered Ashdod, 30 miles north of Gaza, he changed the name to Azotus. This was an area where there were still Greeks living.
He came to Caesarea means he went on up the coast. Caesarea was where there were Romans. It was a Roman headquarters. So he went from the Greeks to the Romans both Gentiles. He is evangelizing Gentiles. He had learned the lesson of the Samaritan Pentecost: the breakthrough that Gentiles are just as much in the body of Christ as believing Jews. Azotus tells us that Philip understood something of positional truth.
The question of the need to witness for Christ should be obvious to any Christian. There are people without Christ that we can introduce to the Gospel. It is true that God is not limited by our lack of faithfulness to share the Gospel. However, in order for us to be obedient, we need to witness for Christ. It is always a great joy to see a person trust Christ as Savior as a result of our witness. (Luke 16:23-26; John 3:18; II Corinthians 5:11)
The most important reason to share the Gospel is that God has commanded us to do so. We have studied in the past the fact that we are ambassadors for Christ. As His representatives, we have been entrusted with the Gospel message, much like Israel was under the Law. I believe we can all agree that we do not want to fail as Israel did in our responsibility to the unsaved. (Mark 16:15; II Timothy 4:1-2; I Corinthians 9:16)
The final reason for witnessing is that it is our privilege as believers. God could have chosen angels to carry the message of salvation but He didn’t. God gave us that privilege. If God loved us so much to send Christ as our substitute, it only makes sense that we would want to share this information with others. (I Thessalonians 2:4,19; II Corinthians 5:19; Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16; John 15:8)
God’s plan of salvation was designed in eternity past. Jesus Christ always knew the plan and joyfully executed it. This plan, as you know, called for Jesus Christ to take on human flesh, become a man, live a sinless life and go to the cross as our substitute. He did exactly this and while still on the cross, having been judged by God the Father for the sins of the world, He said, “It is finished”. Because Christ did ALL the salvation work, salvation is a matter of God’s grace. This means that we cannot work for it and we do not deserve it. Salvation is appropriated by faith alone in Christ alone. Some churches call this “easy believism.” There was nothing easy about what Christ did for us, but the fact is that God did make the plan of salvation easy, so that anyone can be saved by a simple act of faith. There are over 150 verses in the New Testament alone that tell us that eternal life (salvation) is by faith and faith alone. (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)
One of the results of our faith in Christ for salvation is eternal life. Doctrinally speaking, the reason we receive eternal life is that we are sharing Christ’s life. (John 3:18, John 6:47, 10:28; I John 5:13)
It is important that we maintain a good testimony before the World. As we have studied before, the World will most likely judge Christianity by how we live. Therefore, if we desire to obey God’s command to witness, we must be credible when we speak of Christ. Remember the study on the “Law of Liberty, Love, Expediency and Supreme Sacrifice.” We never want to be a “stumbling block” to an unbeliever because we are exercising our liberty under grace. (Romans 14:13; I Peter 3:15-16)