Philip and the Ethiopian
Acts 8:26-40
And the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza…

This incident teaches us -

I. THAT MEN IN THE WAY OF DUTY MAY RECEIVE UNUSUAL GUIDANCE. The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, and gave him directions as to the course he should take in his missionary journey. How are we to understand the mode of this interference? We are told that rationalist expositors assume that the angel appeared to Philip in a dream; for the word "Rise!" is spoken. But then it is replied that there is no mention of the night-time nor of a couch. And in ver. 26 there is no mention of a vision. Avoid rationalism, which is the attempt to exercise clear intelligence upon things best left in a sacred obscurity, or chiaro-oscuro. The point is not so much to understand how the Divine intimation came, as to recognize the fact that it did come. Cases of sudden and irresistible impressions of the kind are not uncommon and are well attested. But there are a thousand coincidences in life which we do not notice, and which may nevertheless be equally real evidences of a higher intelligence directing the human will, and "a good man's steps are ordered of the Lord, and he delighteth in his way."

II. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CHANCE IN LIFE. Two men meet on the road, the railway, in a foreign city, "casually," as they say; and something flows from the meeting which influences the after-life of one or both. In the present meeting, notice:

1. The stranger's nationality. He is from Ethiopia, from the south of Egypt. Some say of Jewish extraction; for he was reading the great Jewish prophet; but perhaps it was not so.

2. His rank. He was a "potentate" in his land, the grand treasurer of the queen, Candace being the official title of the queens of Ethiopia, as Pharaoh was that of the kings of Egypt.

3. His religious belief. Whether he was a "proselyte of the gate" or no cannot be decided. But his errand was to Jerusalem, to pray. Therefore in his African home he had learned to know and to worship the God of Israel. It looks like a case of independent conviction, and therefore the more interesting; somewhat like that of the Roman centurion in the Gospel. He was reading in all probability in a copy of the Septuagint, or Greek translation of the Scriptures. This version had been diffused from Alexandria through Egypt, and was doubtless well known to all the educated class. Philip receives an intimation, not this time from "an angel," but from "the Spirit," to go and join himself to the chariot of the Ethiopian.

III. THE WORD OF GOD A COMMON BOND OF INTEREST AND SYMPATHY. The teacher is led by Providence to the disciple, who is found beforehand prepared to receive the teacher's instruction, and craving it. The teacher and the disciple have need of one another. The teacher has much to impart, the disciple much to receive; and each in a way changes his part with the other, for we learn as we teach and teach in learning. The passage the Ethiopian was reading is one of the most significant of the Old Testament. It contains the picture of the Servant of Jehovah, the Representative of Israel. It is the embodiment of Israel's spiritual ideal. Meekness under injuries; lowly estate in the world and exposure to persecution; obscurity in the eyes of men; such are the traits of Israel's Hero, in the passage the Ethiopian is reading. Well may he ask, "Who is this unique figure portrayed by the prophet's pen? - the prophet himself or another?" Then Philip proceeds to unfold from this text the whole evangel, which centers in the person of Jesus. He is the Divine Figure, the living Embodiment of the prophet's meaning, the Fulfiller of Israel's long history.


1. The preparation for change in personal reflection. The serious mind, the attentive gaze fixed on the records of religion, the desire to learn, the willingness to be taught, precede conversion in this case, and are the more attractive traits in one of high rank like the Ethiopian. We can only profit by the teacher when we have first used our own spiritual energy to the utmost. "To him that hath shall be given."

2. The prompt decision. New thought ever impels to new action. The light comes that we may use it. "What shall I do?" is the question of the conscience so soon as it is aroused and quickened by the light. The Ethiopian at once "decides for Christ" - the Christ he has learned to know through the study of the prophet and the preaching of the evangelist. And as Philip vanishes, a blessing is left on the heart of his disciple never to be effaced. The whole yields an important lesson on the value of opportunity, and how it should be seized both by teacher and by disciple. In interviews like these, like angels' visits, God is revealed, truth is sown in the heart, and influences are set at work which never cease. - J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert."

Philip and the Ethiopian
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