Philip & the Ethiopian Official
Open Your Bible
Acts 8:5-8, Acts 8:26-40, Isaiah 56:1-8, 1 Peter 2:9-10
BY Guest Writer
As one of the seven deacons chosen to care for the poor, Philip had a good reputation in the community and was full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3, 5). Philip followed the movement of the Holy Spirit with obedience and devotion to what God was doing through him. When the Spirit redirected his plans by leading him to a specific ministry opportunity, he followed with enthusiasm and was God’s vessel for showing the “immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
These two stories from today’s reading contrast God’s pursuit of many and of one, both in surprisingly bold yet gentle ways. Through Philip, God reaches down into the territory of Samaria, and purposefully chooses to make the lame, paralyzed, and demon-possessed a people for His own possession (Acts 8:5–8; 1Peter 2:9). But remember that at that time, “Jews [would] not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). This is the shocking grace and kindness of God’s upside-down kingdom on display.
Later, Philip came across an Ethiopian official, who was also a eunuch, heading home in his chariot after worshiping in Jerusalem. He sat with a copy of the book of Isaiah open, reading the prophet’s words aloud. God orchestrated a divine meeting and chose to use Philip as His hands and feet, delivering the gospel message to the Ethiopian man. His position in life meant he was not welcome to worship with Jews (Deuteronomy 23:1), yet he was still determined to know God (Acts 8:31). Philip, led by the Holy Spirit, “proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with [the] Scripture” he’d been reading (v.35), which said:
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb is silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will describe his generation?
For his life is taken from the earth (Acts 8:32–33).
After hearing Philip’s explanation of the passage and understanding that the good news of Jesus was for him, too, everything changed for this man, leading him to excitedly ask to be baptized at the first sight of water (Acts 8:36). Reconciliation through Jesus Christ meant that he would never again have to be separated from God (Isaiah 56:4–5). He was welcomed into the family of God. Like the Ethiopian official, these shocking promises of grace and kindness in God’s upside-down kingdom should bring us great joy and peace.
In both of these accounts, Philip was led by the Holy Spirit to faithfully testify to the power of God through Jesus Christ, which has come to claim all people for His glory. And while Philip is an example of a faithful servant of God fulfilling the Great Commission, ultimately, the story of Philip is not really about Philip at all; his story points to an otherworldly mercy that claims us as God’s own, calling us out of darkness and into His eternal light (1 Peter 2:9–10).
Brooke Kocher is a wife and mother of three. She is a Southern girl at heart and a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest.