The account of the Ethiopian eunuch’s conversion in Acts 8:26-40 is one of the most stirring and enlightening records in Scripture. A man of considerable power from the nation of Ethiopia, the eunuch had come to Jerusalem to worship (v.27). Here was a moral, religious man who yet needed to know what God required of him. At the end of this account, the Bible says the eunuch, “went on his way rejoicing” (v.39). What was it that caused this good, moral man to rejoice?
The Lord had sent a preacher — The eunuch rejoiced because God, in His mercy, had sent someone to preach the Gospel to him. Philip the evangelist was commanded by God to go to a deserted place (v.26). Philip did what the Lord commanded, even when it did not seem to make sense from an earthly perspective (after all, couldn’t many more souls be saved in the cities of Israel and Samaria? Why go to the desert, of all places?). All Christians are commanded to be proclaimers of God’s word (Matt. 28:18-20), and it causes a sin-sick world to rejoice when the good news of God’s redeeming message is heard and understood. Every one of us was first taught the Gospel by someone else. What an occasion for rejoicing when we encounter one who serves God by teaching His holy word (Rom. 10:15)!
He understood prophecy fulfilled — The eunuch rejoiced because Scripture was made more plain to him. Who knows how many miles he had ridden in that chariot, pondering the meaning of Isaiah 53:7-8: “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.” For centuries the greatest religious minds of Israel had wondered about the meaning of this passage and debated its significance. The eunuch rejoiced when Philip explained the full meaning of Isaiah’s words to him. It is a great occasion for rejoicing when the truth of God’s word is made plain (Mk. 12:37)!
He heard the message about Jesus — The eunuch was introduced to the Savior by Philip that day, and it was an occasion for rejoicing. Acts tells us that Philip, “opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus unto him” (v.35). Whatever else preachers and teachers of God’s word communicate, we should never fail to preach Jesus. He alone is the way to salvation (Jn. 14:6). Only Jesus provides the truly abundant life (Jn. 10:10). Only Jesus has the power to forgive sins (Mk. 2:9-10; Acts 2:38). People can truly rejoice when they hear God’s message about Jesus (Rom. 1:1-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-5).
His sins were washed away — The eunuch rejoiced because he was permitted to respond to God’s abundant grace. It is fascinating indeed that after Philip had preached Jesus, the eunuch desired to be baptized (v.36). This tells the careful reader that baptism is part of the gospel plan for man’s salvation. We do not truly preach the Gospel when we do not tell people what God’s word says about baptism. In baptism, the sinner dies with Christ (Rom. 6:3), is buried with Him (Rom. 6:4), and is raised with Christ as a new creation (Rom. 6:5). The Ethiopian eunuch, having heard Philip’s message, already believed in Jesus (v.37), but he did not rejoice until after his baptism. At the point of baptism, sinners come into contact with the saving blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7; Acts 22:16), and sins are washed away (Heb. 8:11-12; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). So, the eunuch rejoiced because he understood what his baptism meant.
The Ethiopian eunuch was apparently a good, moral man who was still lost. However, one sincere Christian made all the difference between confusion and rejoicing. May we all be dedicated to helping a confused world find occasions for true rejoicing. —JB