Sunday School Lesson, Called to Break Down Barriers
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Time: A.D. 32 Place: Between Jerusalem and Gaza
To escape persecution in Jerusalem, Philip fled to Samaria where he continued preaching the gospel. While he was there, an angel commanded him to meet an Ethiopian official on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. The eunuch was a foreigner, a man of Ethiopia. The Ethiopians were looked upon as the meanest of the nations, blackamoors as if nature had stigmatized them; yet the gospel is sent to them. He is a person of quality, a great man in his own country, am a eunuch, lord Chamberlain or steward of the household. He was of great authority and bore a mighty sway under Candace queen of the Ethiopians. He had charge of all her treasure. Philip and the eunuch are brought together and now Philip shall know the meaning of his being sent to into the desert. Philip is ordered to fall into company with this traveler. He had been sent from Jerusalem where the apostles were preaching the Christian faith to be sent to a single person to give them salvation through the understanding of the Word of God to be given the opportunity of salvation to his nation.
Outline Lesson: I. Philip’s Call Acts 8:26-28; II. The Ethiopian’s Need – Acts 8:30-34; III. The Ethiopian’s Conversion – Acts 8:35-39
Lesson Outline: I. Phillip’s Call – Acts 8:26-29
Acts 8:26 – And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is a desert. This road descended from Jerusalem to Gaza, southwest of Jerusalem, near the Mediterranean coast of Palestine. Gaza was the last settlement before the desert wasteland stretching to Egypt. This was the road the most travelers took to Africa. God had a divine appointment for Philip to meet the Ethiopian eunuch. The gospel would take a leap from the Samaritans to Africa. Philip had a successful preaching ministry to great crowds in Samaria, but he obediently left that ministry to go to a desert road. Because Phillip went where God sent him, Ethiopia was opened to the Gospel. Follow God’s leading even if it seems like a demotion, we may not understand His plan at first, but the results will prove that God’s way is always right. It may have seemed as a demotion to Philip leaving a successful ministry where he was speaking to many people, now, he’s being sent to the desert, but he immediately obeyed the instructions given him.
Acts 8:27 – And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopian, an eunuch of great authority under Candance queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship. Philip’s faith in God means being ready to move without explanation. Technically, a eunuch is a man who has been emasculated. However, by the first century, the term had become a government title used for important military or political officials. The ancient kingdom of Ethiopia was ruled by a queen mother or Candance, who ruled on behalf of her son, the king. Because the king was considered the child of the sun, he was too holy to become involved in secular affairs. Therefore, his mother took over the responsibility. The eunuch in this passage was the minister of finance, a prominent position in the Ethiopian regime. He was responsible for distributing the funds of the treasury based on the desires of the queen mother. Many Gentiles in the first century had grown weary of the multiple gods and loose morals of their nations. They were searching in Judaism for the truth if they accepted Judaism as their faith, they would obey all the rules and regulations of the Law of Moses. This would include being circumcised and baptized. This type of convert was called a proselyte. Gentiles who did not become proselytes but attended the Jewish synagogues to listen to the Scriptures were called God-fearers. Philip probably would not have taken the initiative to approach a person of higher rank, but the Spirit prompted him to do so. God was concerned about the Ethiopian’s salvation just as He was with the Samaritan’s who were the results from the intermarriage of Jews and Gentiles. Having been to Jerusalem, perhaps for one of the Jewish festivals, the eunuch was returning home. Seated in the chariot, he was reading the book of Isaiah the prophet, he was obviously seeking the truth and was approached by Philip. Philip led the man to salvation which caused many in the Ethiopian nation to receive salvation.
Acts 8:28 – Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. The chariot referred to in this passage was probably an ox-drawn wagon. Most likely the eunuch was part of a caravan journeying in the same direction, moving slowly down the road. The practiced of the day, the man was reading aloud. Philip prompted by the Spirit spoke to the man about the prophecy of Isaiah, explaining the prophetic words about Christ. If Philip wouldn’t have been truly a man of god, he wouldn’t have been familiar with the prompting of the Holy Spirit but because he was a man that had connection and relationship with God, he knew the voice and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:29 – Then the Spirit said unto Philip, God near, and join thyself to this chariot. In order to follow God’s specific instructions to join this man, Philip first had to follow the Lord’s general instructions to be in this place. Most likely there were other chariots for the Spirit to instruct Phillip to “this” chariot. If we too expect divine guidance in specific decisions, we need to be following God’s will in the general principle s of life. We can’t receive divine instructions if we don’t know the voice of God or the leading of the Holy Spirit. We get to know Him through reading and studying the Word of God and then submitting to His instructions.
Lesson Outline: The Ethiopians Need – Acts 8:30-34
Acts 8:30 – And Philip ran thither to him and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? The question indicates the diligence that is required in the study of Scriptures. The Spirit of God does not eliminate the need for human teachers or diligent study. The Spirit is not given to make study needless but to make study effective. Philip found the Ethiopian man reading the Scriptures, and he took advantage of this opportunity to explain the Gospel by asking if the man understood what he was reading. This eunuch was in high authority but yet he had humility and was hungering for the truth of God’s Word. He was not offended by Phillip asking him whether or not he understood what he was reading. The Scriptures confirms the truth that we can’t fully understand the Old or the New Testament without proper interpretation and that comes by the Holy Spirit and the five fold ministry (Apostle, Pastor, Teacher, Prophet, Evangelist). It’s important that we don’t attend church for entertainment but to receive the truth of God’s Word.
Acts 8:31 – And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The eunuch invited Philip to join him and explain the passage of Scripture to him so that he could fully understand what he was reading. When we don’t understand the Bible, we should first pray and ask God to give us an understanding of the Word of God as we do so, He will or He will send someone to explain the Scriptures to us. We should never allow our insecurity or pride get in the way of understanding God’s Word.
Acts 8:32 – 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 his shearer. so opened he, not his mouth. The passage the Ethiopian was reading was Isaiah 53, a clearly Messianic prophecy. It speaks of the Servant of Yahweh suffering awful humiliation and death, but it was confusing to the eunuch. “Opened not His mouth, speaks of the Servant willingness to die for sinners which the forthcoming of Jesus who would die in order for God’s people to be reconciled to Him.
Acts 8:33 – In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation: for his life is taken from the earth. The Judaism to which the eunuch had been converted had no unified view on the interpretation of Isaiah 53. The passage is indicating the Servant would die for the sins of the world. He was humiliated, judged for the sins He took upon Himself to bring salvation to generations to come. Jesus clearly understood that suffering and death must precede His Messianic glorification. Jesus’ apostles and New Testament writers also saw that Isaiah’s Suffering Servant as Jesus, indeed His suffering, death, and resurrection made up the heart of the early church;s preaching.
Acts 8:34 – And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? The eunuch asked Philip whether the Prophet was speaking of himself or about some other man. The eunuch admitted to Philip he didn’t understand, and he needed someone to interpret what he was reading.
Lesson Outline: III. The Ethiopian;s Conversion – Acts 8:35-39
Acts 8:35 – Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. Some think the Old Testament is not relevant today, but Philip led this man to faith in Jesus by using the Old Testament. First century Jews did not speak much about a suffering Messiah. The Jewish people, facing the yoke of Roman rule, believed that the Messiah would come as the Lion of Judah, a delivering King, not a weak lamb. They believed and taught that the suffering One spoken of by Isaiah was the suffering nation of Israel. The eunuch probably heard this passage in Jerusalem but still had some questions. Philip showed him that suffering One was Jesus, He had to suffer on the Cross for the sins of all humanity.
Acts 8:36 – And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? It is obvious that Philip included in his explanation of the gospel that one should be baptized as a witness that the person believed the Lord Jesus died and rose again for his or her sins. The eunuch saw his opportunity for such a declaration of his new found faith by baptism.
Acts 8:37 – And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Philip did not argue that the man was not a Jew neither did he have any part in the Jewish Messiah. Philip only wanted to know whether or not the eunuch believed.
Acts 8:38 – 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. The eunuch was excited about his faith and wanted to do whatever was necessary to show forth his faith in Jesus. He commanded the chariot to stop so that he could be baptized. “Both Philip and the eunuch” could be an indication that identifying with Christ was the same for Jews and Gentiles. After Philip heard the eunuch’s belief in Jesus Christ, he and the eunuch both went into the water, and Philip baptized him.
Acts 8:39 – And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. The Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship God and had come back having found the Lord’s promised Messiah. His joy in Jesus Christ would result in his explaining the whole incident to the people back home. When they reached the shore, the Spirit of God carried Philip away to his next place of ministry and the eunuch saw him no more. Philip’s obedience to the call of God may have led to the salvation of many in that nation. We have to be sensitive to the voice of God and the leading of His Spirit to follow Him to wherever He instructs us to go without an explanation of why Lord!