Philip and the Eunuch

Read Acts 8:26-40

These verses are exceedingly interesting, as showing the way the Lord watches what goes on on earth. Yes, the eyes of the Lord traverse this scene, to see if there is a heart seeking the truth, seeking for Christ. Now who but God would have called away Philip at that moment? He had gone down to Samaria when persecution arose against the Church at Jerusalem, after the death of Stephen. He had gone down filled with the Holy Ghost, and had preached Christ to the Samaritans. It was not the first time they had heard of Jesus. A woman who had been a sad sinner had gone into the middle of the city and preached Jesus, and many went out of the city and came unto Him, and “many more believed because of his own word” (John 4:41). But that did not satisfy God’s heart, so He sent His messenger, after the death and resurrection of His Son, after the work of the cross was over, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, according to Luke 24:47, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Yes, beginning at the guiltiest spot of all, the spot stained with Christ’s blood, the Gospel went to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.

The devil raised a fearful persecution. He had thought to stamp the whole thing out, poor blind being that he is. He only sent the Gospel faster and farther. Opposition always sends the truth farther. Philip goes down to Samaria, and preaches Christ; so that not merely a few come out of the city to the Lord, as in John 4, but the Holy Ghost now enters into the very citadel of the enemy, into the very centre of the town, and “the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke,” and “there was great joy in that city.” Christ, the living, risen, victorious Saviour, was proclaimed, and many believed on His name, and there is always great joy where Christ gets in; and if you, my reader, have not great joy, the reason is not far to seek. If you have Christ, you will have great joy. It is impossible to have Christ in your heart without there being great joy. You say, “I am a believer, but I have not much joy.” I will tell you the reason, you have so much of the world in your heart, you cannot enjoy Christ. You are playing a very foolish game. When Christ is known there is great joy, and a great change in the life, as the soul gets under the influence of what the late Dr Chalmers called the “expulsive power of a new affection.”

From a person who is full of Christ the world drops off like autumn leaves. You have a most miserable existence if you are not in the enjoyment of Christ. Many a believer has too much of Christ to enjoy the world, and a great deal too much of the world to enjoy Christ. Am I addressing one whose history is this? I go back then to the beginning of things. “There was great joy.” Oh, you say, it was perhaps excitement. Not so. It is the Holy Ghost who says, “There was great joy in that city.” It had divine origin.

Now Philip was having a wonderful time in Samaria, a wonderful work was going on, and he did not know how nearly Satan had got the thing spoilt by means of Simon. If God makes one convert, Satan will make another straight off. An unreal one. It is no use the devil denying the work of Christ and the person of Christ. He says, “I will bring in corruption. I will bring in a false confessor of Christ, and meet it that way.” If I met with a false bank note I should not infer there were no real ones, but that there are rogues in the world. A false bank note proves to me there are thousands of good ones. Are you a counterfeit confessor of Christ? See before God where you are at this moment. Simon was detected, and so will you be. Philip was a true man, hearty and real, and he goes on with his work not discouraged. He had earned for himself this lovely title, “the Evangelist,” the man whose heart is crammed full of the Gospel, and who will carry the Gospel wherever he goes. Well, when he was full of the work the angel of the Lord said to him, “Arise, go toward the south, unto the way that goes down from Jerusalem, unto Gaza, which is desert.” Philip might say, “What shall I do in the desert? What can an evangelist do in the desert?” Whatever the inquiry of his mind, he arose and went. A very blessed lesson; there was implicit and unhesitating obedience on the part of this servant.

The Spirit of God now brings before us a man God has marked out for blessing. “And, behold, a man of Ethiopia,” a man in whose position hundreds and thousands would be glad to stand. He was of “great authority” under the queen. I never knew a man of the world who did not like authority, who would not rather be master than man. This mean was Chancellor of Ethiopia’s Exchequer. He had “come to Jerusalem for to worship.” His heart longed for that spot where the Lord had made Himself known, He was in thorough earnest. The hope of his heart was to get to the truth of God. He was a most earnest man. I find him “returning.” Happy? Certainly not. Rejoicing? Distinctly not. Understanding the truth? Manifestly not. Earnest, inquiring, but I believe, disappointed too. He had gone where he believed he would be sure to get the truth, and had come away disappointed. Have you not sometimes gone hither and thither where you thought you would get the truth and you have been disappointed, but you had your eye on earth instead of an object in heaven. The Holy Ghost turns your eye from earth to heaven. The time the eunuch goes up we are not told. Very likely one of the three annual feasts of the Jews. The beauty of the temple, the magnificence of the temple service, had done nothing for his soul. Neither, my friend, can any pompous ritual or public religious ceremonial ever meet the need of your soul. This inquirer is alone, alone in the desert. Oh, it is a great thing for a man to be alone. But he has got hold of the Word of God, and returning, he read Esaias the Prophet. What were you reading on your last journey? A newspaper? a novel? the last book of history or science? The eunuch had his eye on the Word of God, and God had His eye on the eunuch. It is a wonderful moment in your history when you find out that the eye of God is upon you.

The Spirit now says to Philip, “Go near,” and a really anxious inquirer and the heart of the evangelist are brought together. Have you needs in your soul you do not know how to meet, my friend? What a wonderful thing God’s eye is upon you. He has the very same words for you that the eunuch got hold of as he went down into the desert. You have exactly the same scripture and the same question, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”

Well, he reads on his journey, and the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and join thyself to this chariot; and Philip ran thither.” Ah! he is all earnest too. There are souls thirsting for Christ, and we Christians often hold our peace because we “have not been introduced.” Philip needed no introduction to this stranger. It is the state of our souls we have to look at as Christians. So intent was the eunuch on what he was doing, he had no thought of any person within earshot, and as Philip ran alongside he heard him read Esaias the Prophet. “Understandest thou what thou readest?” was his introduction. Do you, my reader, understand Isaiah 53 and its wonderful meaning, the blessed story of the Saviour? Listen, and may God give you to understand. The eunuch did not, for he said, “How can I, except some man guide me?” He feels his ignorance, his insufficiency, while God saw the longings, the deep-toned earnestness of his soul, and longed to put him in possession of that which would satisfy his unfilled heart. The traveller with eagerness “desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.” Would you like me to come and sit by your side, and talk to you plainly and quietly? That shows where you are. Look at this man What did he know about Philip? Some person interested in me, who perhaps can tell me what I want to know, was his thought, and he desired Philip to come up and sit with him.” He is the very expression of a downright earnest soul, that wants the truth at all costs. He does not mind being spoken to personally about his soul. Do you want the truth at all costs, no matter what the consequences may be?

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 her shearers, so opened he not his mouth.” He reads of One who, in presence of opposition, and scorn, and contumely, and shame, is patient, is silent, is unmurmuring, uncomplaining. He came down low in grace. “He was taken away by distress and judgment, and who shall declare his generation, for his life is taken from the earth?”

I can well understand this man’s perplexity and his desire to understand the scripture. A soul in downright earnest is simple and transparent as light, and he says, “I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” That soul is ready for blessing, “and Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached to him Jesus.” What more blessed scripture could he possibly begin at than this 53rd chapter of Isaiah—a scripture that tells us of the Saviour’s death, the Saviour’s sorrow and shame, and His suffering for us.

Let me ask you to ponder that scripture. Philip speaks to him of Jesus. Isaiah 53 is the Spirit of God, long before the birth or the death of Jesus, explaining, in a wonderful way, what He passed through for sinners. It was this blessed scripture that engaged the eunuch’s eager attention at that moment, and he was reading aloud those verses when the servant of the Lord drew near. Out of this dry, barren earth, subject to Satan’s power, has come One unlike to any other, the blessed, holy spotless Jesus. Oh! what a solemn thing to see no beauty in Him. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him. He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Every one of us has to make the same confession. It is the Spirit of God telling us the truth about Christ and about ourselves. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Oh! what sorrows, what a Saviour, what grace and love! “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed.” When the soul gets healed by that One, it sees what a Saviour He is.

Thus Philip tells the eunuch of Jesus. Every believer has part in this truth, “He, his own self, bore our sins, in his own body, on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). He has sustained the judgment of God for sins. He has won the victory; we share all the spoils. Go and be a witness for Him. Your life will tell, and actions speak louder than words. I heard lately of the departure of a beloved brother, long on a bed of sickness, with intolerable bodily suffering and agony. In the midst of it all his soul was not only peaceful, but joyous, in the thought of seeing the Lord, and he was pouring forth praise and thanksgivings to God. What did it mean? It was the power of Christ, the grace of Christ in the poor earthen vessel. He was leaning on Christ.

Not only does the Gospel bring us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, but it gives us the present privilege of being witnesses for Christ in a scene where Christ is not. We are not alone to enjoy the Gospel, but to stand for it.

We are too apt to forget that the earth has been stained with the blood of Christ, that He has been murdered and rejected here. The world will refuse, and the world will oppose to the end. You cannot have the world and Christ: that is very plain. It is well to have this distinct and clear.

“He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” “He was numbered with the transgressors.” The wickedness of man treats Christ as if He had been a transgressor. He is crucified between two malefactors. One of these men comes boldly out as a witness of the perfection of Christ saying—“This man hath done nothing amiss.”

“He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” He bare the sins of that poor man expiring by His side, and enabled him to bear that beautiful testimony, vindicating Him. When every one was against Him, this man by faith discerns the glory of His Person, and “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!” is his prayer. He had the sense that He was coming in His kingdom.

“He bore the sins of many.” Cannot you find your place among the “many”? The eunuch did. “They came to a certain water, and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? 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.” He wanted to put on Christ; in that sense to identify himself with Christ. I want to be identified with Him. He puts on Christ, accepts death with Christ; he comes up out of the water, and now Philip is taken away. “The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip.” Everything is gone as to earth. The man is left alone in the desert with the Saviour he had found, and he goes on his way rejoicing. What follows? His soul has heard of Jesus; he knows Jesus He goes on his way rejoicing, he confesses Christ, the Saviour he has found. Will you go on your way rejoicing? If not, I say it is because you have not believed on His name; your heart has not found Him where He is.

The Lord help you to go on your way rejoicing.