Sermon: The Divine Leading of a Sovereign God (Acts 8:26-40)

The Divine Leading of a Sovereign God

Acts 8:26-40

Introduction

So far in the Acts of the Apostles, we have seen mass conversions.  We witnessed through God’s Word the day of Pentecost where 3000 souls were saved.  We’ve seen crowds converted as the Apostles preached and performed signs.  We saw Philip go to the land of Samaria and a great number paid attention to what he said and believed and were saved.  Today’s text is different.  Rather than seeing a massive number saved, we see one man converted.

Many of us are not able to preach great evangelistic crusades like Billy Graham but I think there is something here for all of us today, in that we can do personal evangelism.  In fact, just as surly as God called Philip to go down to Gaza, He calls us to go to folks we know and speak the Gospel to them.  So, if you ever thought you’re not gifted with the ability to preach to massive crowds don’t fret this passage is for you.

We see in this text a general movement now of the Gospel to the ends of the earth by way of this Gentile African who was traveling back to Ethiopia after coming to Jerusalem to worship.

Most scholars place this man in a category of a Gentile proselyte, that is one who is not Jewish but still in some way had an interest or admiration for the God of Judaism.

TT- We must always be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, listening and obeying as He directs us.

Human need met by text

We sometimes struggle with the fact that we may not know all the details.  What I mean is that here in this passage, Philip was simply given the very beginning of his mission and that was it.  Go down to the road that connects Jerusalem and Gaza.  That’s it.

God will at times place an idea or a thought of evangelizing someone but we think it’s just our own daydream or fleeting thought when in fact it is God and we must not quench the Holy Spirit but act in obedience.

Notice with me just how many times God gets things started here in this passage.  God is the First Mover always in the salvation of anyone and it is no different here in this text.  Also, notice that Philip was obedient to God as he was being led step by step…Go down to the road…Go up into the chariot etc.

Please hear God’s Word for us today…

Acts 8:26-40 (ESV)
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.
27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship
28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

1. God Leads Philip to a Certain Place

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.
27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship
28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

The first thing I want us to see today is that God was leading Philip every step of the way.  We see that because we can read the story.  For Philip, God was just giving him one step at a time.  Step one: Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

At this point, Philip doesn’t even know why he is to go there.  There could be a million different reasons why God would want him to do this.

What I want us to see is that God leads us step by step.

This reminds me of how God led Abraham out of his homeland…
Genesis 12:1-4 (ESV)
1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

So, Philip is obedient to the leading of God through the Angel of the Lord.  This is probably not the Lord Jesus but an angel messenger sent by God.  Often in Acts, Luke will have angels working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

So, who is this Ethiopian Eunuch?  He was no doubt dark skinned which is very vital here in that the Gospel is now beginning to span ethnic people groups.  He comes from Africa.  He is one who is in charge of the Queen’s treasury and because he works closely with the queen and her court he is a eunuch.  This man is probably wealthy and probably a God-fearer which is the title given to those Gentiles who practice certain aspects of Hebrew worship.  He is on his way back from Ethiopia from Jerusalem, which was a 5-month trip each way.

Because he was a Eunuch, he was denied full access to the Temple.  According to Deuteronomy, Eunuchs were denied access to the assembly of God (Deut. 23:1).

Here is a man who is not Jewish but a Gentile Ethiopian.  He is also unclean by the fact that he is a eunuch.  After some research I discovered that the people of Ethiopia were the descendants of Ham and Nimrod, a cursed people.  Yet God in His mercy sends Philip away from mass evangelism, where thousands were being saved to visit this one man traveling to his home far away.

2. God Leads Philip to a Certain Man

29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

Now, step two in Philips journey of obedience.  The Holy Spirit Himself directs Philip to, Go over and join this chariot.  This is an amazing act of sovereignty.  God knew exactly when to send Philip and Philip arrives at just the right time.  As in keeping with Apostolic obedience, he runs to the chariot.
When he arrives he hears the man from Ethiopia reading the Scroll of Isaiah.  Not just any place in Isaiah but Isaiah 53!  There is no way that he just happened to be traveling along reading Isaiah…God prompted him to read as he prompted Philip to be there at just the right time.

This man was reading from Isaiah 53…
Isaiah 53:3-9 (ESV)
3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

The thrust of this section in Isaiah is the innocence of Jesus Christ and the wickedness of mankind.  It begs the question what type of generation could kill such an innocent man?  A wicked generation.
What a perfect place to present the Gospel.  Not only that but the Ethiopian asks the perfect question, 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

It’s about Someone else!

Could imagine the joy of Philip as he considers the power of God…Oh what a God I serve!  No doubt is his shout.  God led him straight to this man.  God was working in Philip’s life and no doubt working in the heart of the Ethiopian.

3. Philip Leads the Ethiopian to Christ
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

God does not need to tell Philip what to do next.  He opens his mouth and out comes the Gospel.  The Bible tells us he starts with the Isaiah text and through a series of texts explains who Jesus is and what He did.  He no doubt tell this man that he is a sinner in need of forgiveness.  He no doubt tells how God through His mercy and grace has made forgiveness possible through the death of Christ.  All this he did as they traveled.

Now, in another act of sovereignty, as soon as Philip led this man to trust Christ as his Savior and Lord, they drive alongside a small body of water.

Can you sense the joy in the Ethiopian?  36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
Here was a man who by all intents and purposes should not have been saved.  He was from a cursed ethnic group.  He was not Jewish or even ½ Jewish (Samaritans) He was a eunuch, denied access to the temple, he was on a lonely desert road heading back to a pagan land…but God had placed His affection upon him.  God was the Prime Mover.  God made it happen.

Luke has already told ud that this is a desert region…26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.
No from Jerusalem to Ethiopia is a 5 month journey through the desert.  So, the reason he was baptized right away wasn’t to save him as some would want us to believe, but it was because there was going to be a 5-month journey in which water was extremely scarce.

39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

I’m not sure, we’re not told, but I have to think this man kept reading Isaiah.  I have to think he read a few more chapters with passion as he rejoiced.  If he did, he would have read Isaiah 56.  This would have caused him to stop the chariot again and let out another shout of praise!
Isaiah 56:3-5 (ESV)
3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,
5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

Tradition has it that this man went home to Ethiopia sharing the Gospel and many in that land (foreigners) became followers of Jesus Christ…

Go into all the world beginning with Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the uttermost parts…and behold I am with you until the end.

Isn’t it absolutely amazing to see how God works?  Here is an account of the Gospel coming to one foreigner and then he taking it back home.

God is a God of all the nations…and let the nations be glad!

TT- We must always be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, listening and obeying as He directs us.

 

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