Philip and the Eunuch

Philip and the Eunuch

August 21st, 1977 @ 10:50 AM

Acts 8:26-36

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
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PHILIP AND THE EUNUCH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:26-40

8-21-77    10:50 a.m.

 

This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Philip and the Eunuch.  It is one of the most beautiful stories, one of the sweetest, one of the most meaningful to be found in the Bible.

In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to the last part of chapter 8.  Usually I read the text.  But this morning all of us are going to read it together.  All of us turn in our Bibles to the Book of Acts; Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, the fifth book, the eighth chapter.  And on television and radio we invite you also to read it out loud with us.  You will see in a moment why it is that I want us to read it out loud together.  Chapter 8, in the Book of Acts, beginning at verse 26, reading to the end of the chapter; Acts chapter 8 beginning at verse 26, now all of us out loud together:

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

And he arose and went:  and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Isaiah the prophet.

Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?  And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

The place of the Scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth:

In His humiliation His judgment was taken away:  and who shall declare His generation?  For His life is taken from the earth.

And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this?  of himself, or of some other man?

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water:  and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.  And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more:  and he went on his way rejoicing.

But Philip was found at Azotus:  and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

[Acts 8:26-40]  

First: the strange ways of God.   In our preaching through the Book of Acts in the eighth chapter, you are introduced to the tremendous revival that Philip was leading in a city in Samaria [Acts 8:5-25].  And in the midst of that outpouring of the Spirit of God and the joy, the book says, in verse 8 [Acts 8:8], in that city, a tremendous revival that swept into the kingdom of God apparently everybody in that part of the earth; in the midst of that tremendous revival an angel of the Lord speaks to Philip and takes him away.  Not only takes him away from the city, takes him away from the revival, but sends him out into the loneliness and stillness and solitude of the desert; there with nothing but the shifting, endless sands, sent by the Spirit of God out into this solitude and stillness of the desert [Acts 8:26].

Isn’t it a remarkable thing that a man could be on speaking terms with angels?  And isn’t it a wonderful thing that he obeys the voice of the messenger of God?  Goes not knowing why [Acts 8:27], like Abraham who went out not knowing whither he went but obeying the voice of God [Genesis 22:1-3; Hebrews 11:8], so the servant of the Lord always walks by faith and not by sight [2 Corinthians 5:7].

Philip leaves the city, leaves the revival, leaves the Samaritan believers, and is now standing alone in the midst of a desert, waiting for the purpose of God to unfold.  But God always has a reason.  He has a purpose and a plan.  Out there in the center of that desert, there was coming a statesman of Ethiopia—a eunuch driving by in his chariot with his cortege.  And God had sent this man Philip to stand by the side of the road that he might bring a message of salvation to that one man [Acts 8:27-28].  And isn’t that God?  He not only cares for the masses and for the throngs, but He cares for the one somebody you.  Out of all of the millions in this earth, He knows you.  He knows your name [John 10:3].  He knows all about you.  And in compassion, God wishes for you the finest and the best that only heaven could afford.  So the Lord sends this evangelist, this deacon layman Philip, out into the midst of the desert there to meet this lone man [Acts 8:26].

 Then is described the meeting, the rendezvous in the desert [Acts 8:27-39].  He begins the story with, “Behold,” and I can just see the meaning of that exclamation.  “Behold,” that is, standing there in the desert; he suddenly sees the appearing sight of a chariot and these who are seated therein [Acts 8:27].  Just suddenly it appears on the horizon.  And drawing closer, it evidently is a man of great stature and great authority.  Who is he?  What is his name?  What is he?  And what does he do?  Then follows immediately our introduction to that great statesman; he is a eunuch, “a eunuch” [Acts 8:27].  One of the attendant evils of the Oriental harem was that ever-present eunuch.  And this Ethiopian was a victim of that terrible institution.  He was an emasculated man.  He was a dried branch, a withered limb.  He had no hope of posterity or family.  He was a eunuch.  But as such he was a gifted man.  He is described as one of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all of her treasure [Acts 8:27].  We would call him the Secretary of the Treasury or the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  He was the most trusted man in that ancient Ethiopian kingdom.  He was like Daniel.  Daniel was a eunuch in the court of the king of Babylon [Daniel 1:1, 3-7].  And this man is a eunuch in the court of the queen of Ethiopia [Acts 8:27].

But there was something else about him.  And this is the most glorious of all.  He had a heart-hunger for God.  Meroë, the capital of ancient Ethiopia in the upper part of the Nile, was miles and miles away from Jerusalem.  But somehow, somewhere, in some way this man had been won to the true faith of Jehovah God and had come to Jerusalem as the old English says it, “for to worship” [Acts 8:27].  He was a proselyte of the temple, not of the gate like Cornelius of Caesarea who was still a Gentile [Acts 10:1-2].  A proselyte of the gate is someone who had embraced the moral code of Moses, had renounced his heathen gods, and had accepted the moral legislation of Moses, but remained a Gentile, a heathen, a pagan.  Not so this man.   He had become a proselyte of the temple.  He had renounced his heathen gods.  He had embraced the true God Jehovah and had gone to Jerusalem to call upon His name.  Maybe this is one instance of many when he had made that pilgrimage to the holy and heavenly city there to worship the Lord God [Acts 8:27].

 But however he had given his heart to the Lord, there was still a searching in his soul, a hunger in his heart.  He still was seeking the grace of God in his life.  Isn’t that an unusual thing?  And, to me, as I look at it in our world, an astonishing thing!  Religion, in its manifestations, is in so many instances beautiful, it is expressive, it is inspirational, but it leaves the life desolate, and empty, and powerless.  The whole world is filled with religion.

There was a man who wrote a book, This Believing World.  For all of our generations, and our present time, we are confronted with religion.  And this man had found it so in Jerusalem [Acts 8:27].  Out of all the places in the world, could he have ever gone where there was more of it there than in Jerusalem.  There was the beautiful temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world.  There were the priests and the sacrifices.  There was the ritual and the ceremonial.  There was the pomp and the pageantry and the processions.  There was the paraphernalia of worship.  Religion, it was everywhere in Jerusalem, just as you can see it today.

We were the guests of a very wealthy family in old Mexico City.  They belonged to the state church, but, but, they had found it so empty that they were seeking some other avenue to serve God and used the church only for funerals and for weddings.

I stood a long time ago, many years ago, in 1950; I stood, the first time I was in Paris, there looking at Notre Dame.  And I was trying to think through the long history of that marvelous cathedral and house of God.  I could think no thoughts at all because I was pressed, wherever I walked, I was pressed by a throng of people; men who were selling pornographic pictures and pornographic literature.  And however I tried to escape, they followed me around.

I stood before one of the most impressive temples that mind could imagine or architecture can see, the great Kali temple in Calcutta, India.  And there above the main entrance into the temple was a large sign.  Did it say, “This is the house of God?”  No.  Did it say, “This is the gate to heaven?”  No.  Did it say, “Enter His courts with holiness?”  No.  Did it say “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden?” [Matthew 11:28].  No.  You know what that sign was above the main entrance into that gorgeous temple?  It was this, “Beware of pickpockets,” a den of thieves.  So this world and all of its manifestations of religion, and thus this eunuch, this statesman, in the city of Jerusalem with all of its paraphernalia and accouterments of worship, turning back home with his heart still hungry, seeking and searching after God [Acts 8:27-28].

Now in the city of Jerusalem, he had found a scroll of the prophet Isaiah [Acts 8:28].  Have you ever been to Jerusalem?  There you will find on the campus of the Hebrew University, the Shrine of the Book.  And when you go inside of the shrine, there will you find a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, written at the same time that this man is reading his scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  And as he reads it, he reads it aloud [Acts 8:30].  The old rabbis taught their pupils to read the Bible aloud.  Every syllable in this sacred Book is written to be read out loud.  There is no part of it to be read silently to yourself.  Wonderful to read that way, to have a private devotion is a benefaction, it’s a help, but the Bible was written to be read aloud [Acts 8:30].  And this eunuch seated in his chariot was reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah out loud.  And as he read, his heart was filled with bewilderment and perplexity.  The place that he read was this:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearer is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.

[Isaiah 53:6, 7; Acts 8:32]

For He was cut off from this generation, His life was taken from the earth [Acts 8:33]. And as he read that fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, his heart was filled with anxious bewilderment.  Who could this be?  And of what does this man speak?  Is he talking of himself or of some other? [Acts 8:34].

Now this man had a virtuous gift from heaven.  He was teachable.  He was seeking light in order that he might follow it.  There are people world without end, and they are everywhere, who magnify their doubts.  They exalt in their agnosticism.

I talked with Joe, to a man last night like that.  “I have no commitment.  I have no faith, and I’m not proposing to.”  Magnifying their bewilderment, they look with self-proclaimed judicial superiority on others who, with sorrier and cheaper and weaker intellects, are satisfied with solutions and answers, but not they.  They remain in solution unconvinced, agnostic, unbelieving.

But not this man!  With that scroll with the prophet Isaiah, the Old Testament in his hand, he was seeking and searching for an answer from heaven [Acts 8:28].  And there is no such thing as a man who searches for God but that God has an answer for that man.  If you want to know, God will teach you.  “He that willeth to do His will shall know of the teaching, the doctrine, the way thereof” [John 7:17].  Anywhere that a man opens his heart to heaven, God will answer that man with words from above.  And He did so here.  As that eunuch read that scroll and his heart searched for an answer from God, the whispered word from the Spirit of God to Philip, “Join thyself to this chariot” [Acts 8:29].

Isn’t that God?  At the exact time, in the exact spot, in the exact place, right there when that man is searching for an answer from heaven, God has His messenger standing there at his side [Acts 8:30].  And somehow the statesman sensed the authority of the stranger and invited him to sit with him in the chariot [Acts 8:31].  And as they ride through the desert together, the eunuch turns to the stranger and says, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this?  Is he talking about himself or some other man?  Who is this One upon whom all of our sins and iniquities are laid? [Isaiah 53:6].  Who is this One by whose stripes we are healed? [Isaiah 53:5]. Who is this Lamb who suffers without a word? [Isaiah 53:7]. Who is this prophet speaking of?” [Acts 8:34].

Then the message; and Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him the terribleness of the institution of emasculation.  Oh!  And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at the same Scripture, preached unto him the devastating effect of slavery.  Three out of every five who lived in the Greco-Roman Empire were chattel property.  They were slaves.  And beginning at the same Scripture, he opened his mouth and preached unto him poverty with all of its drag and all of its potentiality for evil and crime.  Well, that’s what they do today.  The average church is doing that.  And the average preacher is doing that.  And the average denomination has given itself to that.  They are marching in civil rights movements.  They are taking the van and all of these ferments of welfare and social programs and a thousand other things.  You might as well belong to a reformed society; might as well belong to a civic organization; might as well belong to any other thing that purports to change the character of society by mandate, by coercion, by law, leaving the hearts of men vile and unregenerated, and trying to change by the outward passing of legislation and judicial judgments.  And it will never work.  It never has.  It will not in our society.  When men are not changed, society is not changed.  When men are black in their hearts, society is dark in its prospects.

What does the Book say?  “Then Philip began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].  If you had godly, consecrated men in the legislature; if you had godly, consecrated men on the bench; if you had godly, consecrated men in the governor’s chair; if you had godly, consecrated men in the cabinet and all the offices of the American society, you would have a new day and a new people.  “And he preached unto him Jesus.”

What did he preach?  “And he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].  Why, I can just listen to Philip as he speaks to that Ethiopian statesman.  First, he’d speak about sin, that black drop in the human heart.  “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of the expectation of God” [Romans 3:23].  All of us are fallen alike, sin.  And then, the judgment of God upon sin, which is death.  And God Himself has linked that chain together, and no man can ever break it.  “For the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]; and “the soul that sins shall die [Ezekiel 18:20]; sin and death.

Then I can hear Philip as he tells the good news of the story of Jesus, the atoning blood of the Lamb of God [Romans 5:11], and “He died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and He was buried” [1 Corinthians 15:3, 4].  Then I can listen to Philip as he speaks of the glorious resurrection of our Savior [Matthew 28:5-7], and “He was raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25].   And to those that look for Him shall He come back someday apart from sin in order to take us without blemish forgiven, washed, to heaven [Hebrews 9:28].  And then I can listen to Philip as he summarizes that whole gospel message.  And it is portrayed in that holy initial ordinance of baptism.  We are sinners.  And we are buried with our Lord in the likeness of His death.  And we have been saved and washed.  And now we are raised in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5].  And while Philip is describing what baptism means—putting on Christ, casting off the old man, raised to a new life in the blessed Jesus [Romans 6:6-13]—while Philip is talking to him, they come to a certain water, a stream, an oasis, a pool [Acts 8:36].

 And the eunuch breaks into the message of Philip and says “Look.  Look, here is water; what doeth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36].  I want to be baptized too.”  And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.”  And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world” [Acts 8:37].  “They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” [Acts 8:38].

I had an experience just like that one time.  There was a man so worldly and so far away, that praying, witnessing, trying to win him to Jesus was just like talking to a stone.  But a great sorrow came into his heart and life that broke him.  And on a Sunday morning at an hour like this, he came in and sat there in the service.  After the service was done and everyone had left, I was there alone.  And he had remained.  He sat down by my side in one of those vacant pews and poured out his heart the tragedy that overwhelmed him.  And I said “Let us kneel down here and pray and tell God all about it.”  And he knelt by my side.  And I prayed for that man.

And while I was praying, while I was praying, he broke in.  And he took me by the knee.  And he shook me.  He said he said, “Preacher, preacher, wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.”  He said, “Something has happened in my heart.  I have been saved!  Jesus has come into my heart!”

I said, “Then let’s thank God and glorify His name.”  And I baptized him as soon as we filled the baptistry.  I baptized him that night.  What a heavenly thing, “I have found the Lord.  He has forgiven my sins, washed in the blood of the Lamb [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5].  I want to be baptized,” washed, raised, lifted up to walk in newness of life with Him” [Romans 6:4].

And when they were come up out of the water, the eunuch turned to thank the preacher for what he had done for him.  And when he turned to thank the preacher, the preacher had disappeared.  The Spirit of the Lord had taken him away [Acts 8:39].  And there remained just Jesus only.

I sometimes think of the story of the transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-8]; the marvel of the iridescence of the light and deity of Christ shining through the face of Jesus.  And that voice out of the heavens, “This is My Son; hear ye Him” [Matthew 17:5].  And when that voice from God the Father sounded, Peter, James, and John fell down as though they were dead [Matthew 17:6].  And the Lord put His hand upon them, spoke to them, and when they lifted up their faces they saw no one but Jesus only [Matthew 17:7-8].  Exactly as it was here.  The Spirit of God took away the preacher, and he saw him no more [Acts 8:39], and left Jesus only.  A few moments before he had an indispensable need; he had need for a guide [Acts 8:30-31].  Now no need at all.  As he goes down the way in his chariot, he has God’s Book in his hand and the Spirit of Jesus in his heart, and that is enough.  That is enough.

And as I watch him in his chariot down the way, wait.  I thought there were three in that chariot; the eunuch, the driver, and the attendant.  But as I look, I see four in that chariot, and the fashion of the fourth is like unto the Son of God [Daniel 3:25].  “And he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39].  I can see him coming into the gates of Meroë, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, singing and rejoicing in the Lord [Acts 8:39].  What could be sweeter?  “I have found the Lord.  I have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets did speak [John 1:45].  I have found the Savior of my soul [Acts 8:37].  I have found God.”  It’s the most wonderful thing in the world, “and he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39].

That is our appeal to your heart this solemn morning hour, to give your heart to Jesus, that your soul bow in His presence, that He be your friend and companion in the pilgrimage of this life; your partner in every business; the wisdom of God in every decision, that you give your life openly unto Him; that you join yourself with the people of Christ.  Would you do it now?  “Pastor, I have made that decision in my heart, and I am coming now.”  In a moment when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I come, preacher.  I am on the way.  I have given my heart to God.  I have accepted Christ as my Savior and I am coming now.”  “Pastor, I am bringing my family into the circle of the church, this is my wife and these are my children, we are all coming today.”  Or, just a couple, or just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down this aisle.  May angels attend you while you come, as we stand and as we sing.

PHILIP AND THE EUNUCH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:26-36

8-21-77

I.          The strange ways of God

A.  God takes Philip away from great Samaritan revival (Acts 8:8)

      1.  Out of the city into the desert

      2.  Philip on speaking terms with angels

B.  A heavenly purpose

      1.  A man was to pass that way

      2.  God’s care for the one, as well as the many

II.         The meeting in the desert

A. “Behold!” (Acts 8:27)

B.  He was a eunuch (Acts 8:27-28)

      1.  A man of great gifts; like Daniel

      2.  A man of deep heart-hunger to know God (Acts 8:27)

C.  Religion can’t bring peace to his heart

D.  The man and the messenger

      1.  He was reading aloud Isaiah 53

      2.  He was bewildered, puzzled

      3.  God in compassion upon him sent Philip (Acts 8:29, 34)

III.        The delivered message

A.  Addressed the man thing – Jesus (Acts 8:35, Romans 3:23, 6:23, Ezekiel 18:20, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Romans 4:25)

B.  The eunuch asks to be baptized (Acts 8:36-38)

C.  Happy, exultant

      1. The preacher withdrawn (Matthew 17:5, 8)

      2. We look down the road (Acts 8:39)