Shelby G. Floyd
We rejoice in this good audience. Our topic is “The Conversion of a Government Official.” I have just read the book “So Help Me God” by Mike Pence. I am glad to live in Indiana, because Mike Pence was our governor and Vice President. He is a godly man who I believe does the right thing. Why do I mention this? Because our study today is about a government official – the Ethiopian eunuch.
Jesus Christ commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person (Matthew 28:18-20). The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17). The preaching of the gospel is considered foolish by some people. We believe it is the wisdom and power of God unto salvation.
The book of Acts is a book of conversions to Jesus Christ. To be saved one does not go to Genesis, Psalms, or the Prophets. But we go to the Acts of the Apostles which is a book of sinners converted to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our lesson today is about the conversion of a distinguished citizen from Ethiopia. Ethiopia was located southeast of Egypt on the continent of Africa.
THE WORK OF THE ANGEL
First, we look at the work of an angel. Do you believe in angels? We have angels mentioned when Jesus was born,. And we also have angels in Acts of Apostles.
There is an angel in our story today. Philip was a gospel preacher. He had a great work at the time in Samaria. The Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jewish people. Jesus identified several Samaritans that were really good people.
But in the midst of his great work in Samaria, an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is desert’” (Acts 8:26). The angel did not go to the subject of conversion, did not preach the gospel to him, and did not appear to him in a dream.
The angel spoke to the preacher Philip and gave him his marching orders. Therefore the angel gave instructions to the preacher and not to the subject of conversion. This is because preaching by a human being is God’s plan to save sinners. Paul declared that we have the gospel treasure in human messengers: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The angel gave an explicit message to the preacher, “Arise and go toward the south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert” (Acts 8:26). Philip arose immediately and did as instructed.
THE LAND OF ETHIOPIA
What about Ethiopia? It was a well-known country at that time. It was 1593 air miles from Jerusalem to Ethiopia. And there is an Ethiopian government official on this road headed back to his home in Ethiopia. He had been to Jerusalem to worship. This means that he was either a Jew or a Jewish proselyte. He worshipped according to the law of Moses.
We do not know his name, but he was in charge of Queen Candace’s treasury. We have just witnessed the wealth of Queen Elizabeth of England. Queen Candace was probably very rich. This man had an important government responsibility. He was in charge of all of her treasury! Candace had allowed him to worship in Jerusalem. And now he is headed on the long trip home by means of a carriage.
THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Now we look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners to Jesus Christ. As this man rode in his chariot, he read Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit spoke to Philip the preacher, “Go and join yourself to this chariot.” That is all the Spirit said. He did not say anything to the Ethiopian riding in the chariot. The Spirit did not preach the gospel to the subject, and he did not change the heart of the subject of conversion. And that completed of the work of the Holy Spirit on this occasion.
THE PUZZLED ETHIOPIAN
This Ethiopian official read the book of Isaiah puzzled. He enthusiastically wanted to know what this was all about! Philip heard him reading Isaiah probably out loud. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” If we asked that question to someone on an airplane, they would tell us to mind our own business. Philip probably could tell by the expression on his face that he had no idea what Isaiah was talking about.
This man was not offended. He said, “How can I unless someone guides me?” We all need help on a lot of things. In dealing with putting things on a website, it has become very difficult. Often I say to myself, “I need help!” There are many things today that we should ask for help so we can understand. This Ethiopian treasurer needed some help. He needed someone to guide him about what Isaiah was talking about. So he invited Philip up into the chariot to talk things out!
The Ethiopian was a good candidate for conversion. He worshiped the one God by the Old Testament teaching. As he studied his Bible he wants to know more! We would ourselves do better to spend more time reading the Bible and other good books. This man had a long journey home. Reading his Bible was the best thing he could do! Someone said, “reading makes a full man.” – Bacon.
Isaiah 53 was the chapter he read. Do you know what that chapter is about? It is about the suffering Messiah who would appear on the earth. In great detail the life and death of Jesus Christ is described. This man did not understand what Isaiah was talking about. He did not understand who Isaiah was writing about!
This passage is not understood by many Jews and other people even today. The Ethiopian needed Philip to guide him to the right understanding. He began at that scripture and preached Jesus! I can go all the way to Genesis and preach Jesus. When God addressed the devil in the very beginning he said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman. And between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This is a reference to the devil striking the lower nature of Jesus, while Jesus would deal a death blow on the head of Satan. Therefore from Genesis through Malachi we can preach Jesus!
THE ETHIOPIAN BELIEVES
The Ethiopian now believes what he understood! We do not ask anyone to believe what they do not understand. That would not be right. You should only believe what you understand to be the truth. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The Bible also declares, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This man had not understood what he had been reading. And so Philip explained it to him. Paul taught, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Sometimes we hear people say they cannot understand the Bible. But the Bible says we can understand what it has to say, which is the will of the Lord.
THE READING OF ISAIAH 53:7-8
What was the Ethiopian reading out of Isaiah? We have a verbatim account of what he was reading. The place in the Scripture which he read was this:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.” (Acts 8:32-33 NKJV).
This is a direct quotation of Isaiah 53:7-8. Accurate translation will always give you the same reading. Then the Ethiopian asked another question: “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man? (Acts 8:34).
THE WORK OF PHILIP THE PREACHER
Now we discuss the work of the preacher. We have noticed the work of the angel, the Holy Spirit, and the Ethiopian. Philip the evangelist is tutoring this one man concerning his salvation. One individual is very important, especially if it is someone close to us! Philip was commanded to go! We also are commanded to go (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20). This is a case of personal evangelism that demonstrates the value of one soul. Jesus said, “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” (Mark 8:37)?
This preacher was eager to rescue the perishing. God’s plan for salvation is by the agency of preaching. Philip and the Ethiopian now discuss “the plan of salvation.” Scripture sums up the work of the preacher: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture (Isaiah 53 sgf), preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).
THE ETHIOPIAN IS CONVERTED TO CHRIST
We understand the concept of what is a conversion. In our county they convert farmland into shopping centers, banks, schools, subdivisions, restaurants, etc. Conversion is changing one thing into another. This Ethiopian is changed from a sinner to a forgiven Christian living under the gospel of Christ. How does this take place?
THE PROCESS OF CONVERSION
1. First, this man believed what he understood. He also needed to believe some other things. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
2. Second, he confessed what he believed. We should confess what we believe to all who ask? “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:8-10).
Take note that he said to the Ethiopian, “you will be saved.” This is the determinant future tense. We must submit our willpower to what is required. Paul wrote to Timothy, “I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (1 Timothy 6:13). Even Simon Peter made the good confession when he said, “You are the Christ the son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
3. Next, Philip preached water baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sin. The Ethiopian requested water baptism. New Testament water baptism is a burial or immersion: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4).
4. Philip preached baptism in water for the forgiveness of sin: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38). Let us reflect on how the religious world looks at baptism. They largely reject water baptism as a condition of salvation. They reject baptism out of hand even though it is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament. Neither Philip nor the Ethiopian rejected baptism!
5. The Ethiopian now obeys what he understood, believed, and confessed what he should do. Now get the picture. This chariot is rumbling along down the road and suddenly “they come to some water.” This was desert, but there was an oasis with water. The eunuch said, “see here is water.” Why is he so concerned about water? Is he thirsty? Why does he make a big issue about water? The only reason is because Philip had informed him about the necessity of “water baptism” for the forgiveness of sins. We know that this is the case because he asked, “what hinders me from being baptized?” He would not have asked that question if they had not discussed water baptism while sitting in the chariot!
WHAT HINDERS BAPTISM?
Everyone today should ask that same question? “What hinders me from being baptized?” One thing that hinders multitudes from asking that question are preachers who say, “All you need to do is just say the sinner’s prayer!” I will not mention any names because they are many. Do not listen to them. Listen to the Bible preacher Philip!
BELIEVE WITH ALL YOUR HEART!
What was Philip’s answer to the man who asked if he should be baptized in water? The answer was: “If you believe will all of your heart you may” (Acts 8:37). He answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
IMMERSED IN WATER
The Bible says that both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water. But when you say Philip and the eunuch it is not necessary to say “both.” That is the first redundancy. And it is also not necessary to say “they.” But God wanted us to understand that in water baptism it is necessary for both the candidate to be baptized and the one who is doing the baptizing, that both of them to go down into the water. Therefore baptism is by immersion. It is not necessary for two people to go down into the water if they are going to be sprinkled for the action of baptism.
I JUST DRANK YOUR JORDAN DRY!
One of our pioneer preachers went to an outdoors baptizing where the candidate was to be sprinkled. While the preacher was not paying any attention he slipped up to where they had a glass of water. He drank some of it and then poured the rest out on the ground. When the man was ready to sprinkle the candidate, he was embarrassed when he had no water. The mischievous preacher cried out, “I just drank your Jordan dry!”
The Ethiopian Rejoiced!
But in the case of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, he baptized him by both of them going down into the water. He was immersed and that is the meaning of the word baptized. What did the Ethiopian Treasurer do next? He did what everyone does after they have been baptized. He went on his way rejoicing back to his home in Ethiopia. There is great rejoicing to know that your sins have been remitted and you are added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47). He rejoiced that he was a Christian and a child of God.
Philip Continued To Evangelize
What did the preacher Philip do? He left the Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot and went over to the seacoast town Azotus. And from there he worked his way up the Mediterranean seacoast to the Roman garrison of Caesarea.
Why not confess Christ and be baptized today so you can go home rejoicing. If you are subject to what we have taught today please let us know while we stand and sing.
Copyright © 2023 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon February 12, 2023, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142 firstname.lastname@example.org