Philip and the Ethiopian (8:26-40)

Bible Passage: Acts 8:26-40

This passage is one of the classic examples in Scripture of the spread of the gospel. It weaves together a global and a personal focus to evangelism. It is global in the sense that the man in the chariot was Ethiopian, and he represented the breakthrough of the gospel into a new region that was previously unreached, It is personal in that this incident shows a one on one conversation, and as such it serves as something of a model for our own personal evangelism.

Join What God Is Already Doing: In this story, we see the fingerprints of God clearly at work throughout. It begins in verse 26 as God speaks to Philip through an angel and instructs him where to go. When Philip got to the general area, he again responded to God’s voice to pinpoint the particular chariot. In it he found somebody who God had already been doing something in. This man had visited Jerusalem to worship (probably at one of the festivals) and had become curious. On his journey home he had with him a portion of Isaiah and was reading. This was a man who was curious and was asking the right questions and was perfectly places for Philip to share the gospel with him. Philip could not engineer this encounter himself, and it happened because God had already been working in both mean to bring them to this point. As we desire to see more evangelistic fruit, it is crucial that we listen to the leadings of the Spirit and respond to situations where we see that God is already at work. 

Start Where the Person Is At: Often when we speak about evangelism, we can be quick to jump to particular tools for presenting the gospel or sharing testimony. These have value, but they can sometimes narrowly constrain conversations into a particular direction that may or may not resonate with the questions the person is asking. In this conversation, Philip shows a different approach, and he starts with what the man is already thinking about. In this case, it is easy to see how he was able to get to the gospel, as the very passage the man was reading was a prophecy about the death of Jesus. Nevertheless, Philip used the questions the man was asking as his way of sharing the gospel, and this is a really helpful practice as we seek to have more evangelistic conversations with those around us.

Take People to Jesus: The goal of evangelism is to lead people to Jesus. Starting where the person is at is a very helpful way to get into the conversation, but this should serve as a foundation to declare Jesus, and that is exactly what Philip does here. In verse 35, we are told that starting with the very passage the man was reading, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus. Sometimes we can be timid in bringing Jesus into conversation, but much of the time he is the true answer to the questions that people are asking, and the gospel is good news that we should not shy away from. The outcome was that the man responded and was immediately baptised.

Potential Applications:

  • This is a great sermon to get people thinking about their personal evangelism. Who are the people around them who God is opening up opportunities to share their faith with.
  • It is also a good moment to invite non-believers to respond in the way the Ethiopian did and put their faith in Jesus.
  • The Ethiopian was baptised straight away. There may be believers in the room who have not yet been baptised, or people who respond to the invitation to trust in Jesus. You could encourage them to get baptised and provide an opportunity for people who want to do this (either within the service itself or at an upcoming baptisms event in the not too distant future).