Among the many exciting stories of changed lives in the book of Acts, the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 stands out. Here, in those enthusiastic words, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” we see what we often wish we’d see in our own ministries and relationships with others: someone truly leaping on board with Jesus, rejoicing in the truth about him and excited to head out on this new life.
How did this happen? By what power was this Ethiopian government official so utterly changed and filled up with what we can only call joy?
First, we can see that God is the primary worker in all of this. Philip, one of the seven “servers/deacons” introduced in chapter 7, is told by an angel of the Lord to head out to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. The Lord orchestrates this meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian. God has plans to work in this man’s life, and to use Philip as part of the plan.
Second, we can see that Philip is a person who has made himself available for the Lord’s service. Like Stephen before him, he does not let his ministry of food service to the widows become an excuse not to engage in a ministry of word, talking about the things of the Lord when called to do so.
Third, when the man’s eyes are opened and his life is changed, the Ethiopian is reading Scripture, and he and Philip are discussing it. It doesn’t appear to be any more complicated than that. The man is looking at the words of the Bible, and he asks Philip a question. Philip is hospitable enough to take the time to talk with him, and to point him to the real subject of all of Scripture: Jesus, whose life and death and resurrection are the ultimate good news to all of us. In Isaiah 55 the Lord says that his word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God speaks through his word, and he plans for us to be there to help make it available and understandable to one another as we grow in faith and to non-Christians who need to hear it.
The Ethiopian’s life was changed that day. The God who accomplished that transformation, through his Word and a faithful servant, is still changing lives today. The question is whether we trust God’s ways enough to make Scripture the priority in our own lives and to make ourselves available to serve others (whether believers or not) by helping lead them to the word as well.