Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch Bible Story Study Guide

God reaches out to people who seek him

Philip and the Ethiopan Eunuch

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Philip the Evangelist was one of seven men appointed by the apostles to oversee distribution of food in the early church so that the apostles would not be distracted from preaching (Acts 6:1-6). After experiencing great success in ministry in Samaria, God called Philip to minister to one man alone in the desert--an Ethiopian eunuch who had been seeking God through the Scriptures.

It didn't matter if Philip was preaching to hundreds of people in a city or one man in the desert, faithfulness was all God required. A miracle took place that day as the eunuch believed and was baptized by Philip in the desert.

Key Takeaways: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

  • Led by the Holy Spirit and ready to go anywhere at any time, Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch reading from the Book of Isaiah.
  • The eunuch was seeking to know God, and Philip was happy to share the truth.
  • As Philip explained the meaning of the Scriptures, the man believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah spoken of in the book of Isaiah. When a faithful believer communicates the gospel to a willing and open listener, spiritual miracles take place.
  • God provided water in the desert for the eunuch to be baptized and then the Spirit of the Lord miraculously carried Philip away to another city.
  • The story shows the hand of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit involved in every aspect of Christian evangelism.

Scripture Reference

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch takes place in Acts 8:26-40.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch Story Summary

After the stoning of Stephen, the disciples left Jerusalem, with Philip going down to Samaria. He cast out unclean spirits, healed paralyzed and lame people, and converted many to Jesus Christ.

An angel of the Lord told Philip to go south to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. There Philip encountered a eunuch, an important official who was treasurer for Candace, queen of Ethiopia. He had come to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. The man was sitting in his chariot, reading aloud from a scroll, Isaiah 53:7-8:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” (NIV)

The eunuch could not understand who the prophet Isaiah was speaking about. Meanwhile, the Spirit told Philip to run to him. Philip then explained the story of Jesus and God's plan of salvation. Further down the road, they came to some water.

The eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36, NIV)

So the chariot driver stopped, the eunuch and Philip went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. As soon as they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away. The eunuch continued toward home, rejoicing.

Philip appeared again in the city of Azotus and preached the gospel in the surrounding area until he reached Caesarea, where he settled.

Historical Context and Points of Interest

This unnamed eunuch was a "God-fearer," a Gentile who believed in the God of Israel but because of his disability would not have been admitted to the inner court of the temple (Deuteronomy 23:1). Even so, he was eagerly seeking the Lord.

Prevented from having sons of his own, the eunuch had probably just read Isaiah 56:3-5 before Philip came along, a passage in which God promised eunuchs who held fast to God's covenant an "everlasting name."

The fact that the Spirit prompted Philip to convert this man showed that Christianity was very different from Judaism. The eunuch's baptism marked an expansion of the faith into other countries, regardless of past hindrances.

"Candace" was a royal title in Ethiopia, or Nubia, as it was also known, not a proper name. It was given to the queen-mother, who ruled the country. Nubian princes were worshiped as offspring of the sun and governing was considered beneath them.

The biblical account describes this area as a "desert place." Where did the water come from where the eunuch was baptized? Perhaps it was a miracle too.

Philip's supernatural disappearance from one place and appearance in another was like Elijah being taken up to heaven by God.

Question for Reflection

Do I understand, deep down in my heart, how tremendously God loves me in spite of things I think make me unlovable?

Sources

  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary, by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck;
  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor.