As we commemorate Philip today, we read a devotion from Commentary on Acts.
Perhaps the best known biblical account of Philip is his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. Today, we remember this interaction and give thanks to God for sending Philip to share the Gospel with the Ethiopian man. May this account be an example to us of how God continually works through His Word.
Luke loves stories in which men and women are received and transformed by God’s sheer grace, and this is one of his most vivid. An “angel of the Lord,” that is, God Himself in action on behalf of His people, here equivalent to the Spirit of the Lord, led Philip south to “the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” It was “a desert road,” where no one would expect to further the mission. Philip heard and obeyed, and he met an Ethiopian. Ethiopia was the name given to the Sudan or Upper Nile region beyond Aswan and not the modern Abyssinian kingdom to the south. The name was used vaguely of distant and exotic places far away to the south and east. . . .
Luke seems interested primarily in the fact that the Ethiopian was “a eunuch,” mutilated by castration, which fact excluded him from Israel by the terms of the Law. But it had been prophesied that in the last times even eunuchs would be accepted as the sons of God.
The eunuch was treasurer to Candace and was returning home from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Candace was a title (not a proper name) used by a dynasty of queens whose capital was Meroe. As the Ethiopian rode along in his carriage, he was reading the prophet Isaiah aloud. “The Spirit” guided Philip to the carriage. He asked about the passage of Scripture which the Ethiopian was reading.
The verses from Isaiah speak of an innocent and humble death, of “a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearers.” The quoted passage emphasizes: “humiliation,” “justice . . . denied Him,” and exaltation—“His life is taken up from the earth.” . . . Philip proceeded from Isaiah’s description of the Lamb’s innocent and uncomplaining death to “the good news of Jesus.”
All the obstacles preventing the eunuch’s full participation in Israel and the promises to Israel were set aside by the coming of Jesus. Nothing—not the color of his skin nor his nation nor his emasculation—any longer prevented his incorporation into God’s people. . . .
In accord with primitive usage it was probably running water in which Philip baptized the eunuch, and baptism was apparently by immersion, since “they came up out of the water.” The reader expects the Spirit to fall upon the eunuch (as one ancient text has it), but instead “the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip” and led him away. The “eunuch went on his way rejoicing,” in contrast to the rich young ruler who “went away sorrowful” (Mark 10:22; Luke 18:2). Or contrast his joy and forgiveness with Simon’s enduring bitterness and iniquity (8:23). The Ethiopian’s joy is the sure sign that he is a new man, renewed by God, brought by God into the new aeon.
Devotional reading is from Commentary on Acts, pages 144–46 © 1970 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You that You have called us into the fellowship of saints. Deepen our gratitude for the salvation You have granted us in Your Son, our Lord. Embolden us to be witnesses to His love to all men everywhere. Open the hearts of our fellowmen to the Gospel of Your grace that they may be incorporated with us in the body of Christ, for whose sake we pray it. Amen.
Prayer is from Open the Meeting with Prayer, page 49 © 1973 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.