Summary: The Ethiopian Eunuch's conversion shows us that God works through the Holy Spirit, the Word, and through His people who willingly step out in faith. God can do great things through His children who are led by the Spirit!
Some of us remember the movie Raiders Of The Lost Ark from 1981, where Indiana Jones discovers the Ark of the Covenant, the 4-foot long container holding the two tablets of the 10 commandments that God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai. Jones takes the Ark back to America, and at the end of the movie you see it being stored with millions of other crates in a humungous building. That’s fiction, of course, but it makes us wonder: where is the Ark of the Covenant today? Was it destroyed, is it intact and in a cave somewhere waiting to be found again, or is somebody keeping it?
The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia claims that it has the ark. They say that when the Queen of Sheba, ruler of Ethiopia visited King Solomon around 1,000 B.C., she witnessed first-hand Solomon’s great wisdom, the great temple, and the great land of Israel. She also got pregnant by him and bore his child when she returned to her homeland. Years later, her son returned to Israel to visit his father. Unbeknownst to her son, his companions stole the ark and brought it back to Ethiopia! Today it’s being guarded by a group of virgin priests in a chapel high in the mountains of northern Ethiopia. Nobody but the priests are allowed to see it.
Quite a story! We don’t know if any of it is true. But we do know that the Christian church in Ethiopia is ancient. In fact, since about 350 A.D. Christianity has been the official religion of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches in the world! And it just might be that in our Bible reading for today we find the reason why. An Ethiopian official on his way home from Jerusalem hears the Good News of the Gospel and becomes a Christian. Tradition says he was the first gentile, the first non-Jew, to convert to Christianity. And when he returned to his homeland, he became the founder of the Christian Church in Ethiopia.
The Holy Spirit moved one man, Philip, to go and tell the Good News to another man. That event becomes the spark that ignites an entire nation. One person can make a difference in the world. That person can be you. Let’s read this inspiring story and see how God worked in the heart of this man from Ethiopia. Let’s get inspired to believe that God can work through each of us too…
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road - the desert road- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’” Philip is a man who shows up in Acts chapter 6. The Bible says he was chosen, along with 6 other men, to oversee the distribution of food to the Christian widows in Jerusalem. He was chosen, the Bible says, because he was one of the men full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3-5). Then persecution hits the church: Stephen is martyred (7:60), Christians are scattered (8:1), Saul begins to “destroy” the church (8:2). Philip, one of the scattered, went to a city in Samaria and preached the Gospel. Multitudes came to faith in Christ. Then God led Philip to another place: “An angel of the Lord said, ‘Go…to the desert road that leads to Gaza.”
Notice - the Spirit leads, Philip goes. He comes to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, called the Gaza strip, the trade route to Egypt and north Africa. When he reaches the road, the Spirit again leads, to a specific person this time; Philip goes. Twice the Spirit leads, twice Philip obeys.
God does a great work, the conversion of the first Gentile, through Philip. It all starts with the leading of the Holy Spirit. God can do a great work through you, through Living Branch, through other Christians. But it must start with the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The first lesson we learn from the conversion of the Ethiopian is that GOD WORKS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. It’s a good thing to want to do a good work for the Lord, but let’s be sure we’re being led by the Holy Spirit and not our human reason. Proverbs 16:9 -- “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps.” We want the Lord to direct us, we want to go where the Spirit of God is moving us. After all, salvation is God’s work, not ours. Let’s pray for guidance and God’s power.
Some of you have heard the story of how we were led to this building, but it bears repeating because it has everything to do with what we’re talking about. When we knew we had to leave our building on Hemingway Avenue 7 years ago, we started looking for options. What do we do? Where do we go? One of our members asked me, “Pastor, can we pray this prayer every Sunday?” One of our Bible study groups was studying the book of Acts and came across a passage. It was Acts 4:29,30. The disciples Peter and John had just been released from prison for preaching Christ. They went to their fellow believers and told them what had happened, how the enemies of Christ threatened them and commanded them not to speak about the Lord anymore. When they heard the report, the believers prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” They didn’t pray for safety or comfort. They prayed that God would be glorified through their lives. This was what we wanted at Living Branch - more than anything, to do God’s will.