15 July 2019Acts 8:26-40
So Philip ran up to it [the chariot] and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' (v. 30)
Psalm: Psalm 4
This is a story of the Church's progress to the non-Jewish world. Philip, a leader within the Jerusalem church meets an important official from Ethiopia. The official was curious about the Jewish faith and made the journey to the Temple and read some of the Hebrew Scriptures. Luke (the author of Acts) makes it clear that God’s Spirit guided Philip and helped develop the conversation. This passage implies a divine initiative to the expanding activity of the Church.
Note how the official remains in control of the process. It is he who asked Philip to sit with him; it is he who asked the question; it is he who initiated the opportunity for baptism. This feels like the official was empowered to develop the conversation at his own pace. Philip was open to what God was doing and then he joined in. This 'mission moment' appears to be the activity of both Spirit and man working together.
The passage raises big questions about how the expanding Christian faith interpreted the Old Testament in the. Here Philip made an explicit connection between the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53 and Jesus.
The encounter between these two men on the hot dusty road between Jerusalem and Gaza ends with the cool water of baptism. Baptism predates Christianity and was an important rite within Judaism to signify a change of heart and a desire for new beginnings. Within the early Church it quickly became the means by which new followers of Christ expressed their commitment.
- Donald English once said, "The job of the church is to find out what God is doing and join in." What is your experience?
- Philip and the official seemed to have a natural conversation. What makes a good conversation for you and where does control and influence lie?
- The Ethiopian official took his new found faith back to Africa long before it reached Europe. What do you know about the World Church?