So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “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.” So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:30-38)
An Open Mouth And An Open Heart
Stories of conversion are divine testimonies to the changing power of the word of God. There is nothing more thrilling to read than the manner the gospel moves in a man’s heart to accept the mercy and grace of God and the forgiveness of sins. Luke fills the Acts of the Apostles with story after story of first-century converts from three thousand in Jerusalem to towns and cities throughout the Roman Empire. Multitudes of men and women believe and obey the call of redemption through Jesus Christ. Evangelists like Phillip, a man full of faith, face the onslaught of persecution with the courage to go everywhere preaching the word. An angel of the Lord tells Phillip of an opportunity to teach a man from Ethiopia returning to his home after going to Jerusalem to worship. Phillip finds the Ethiopian along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.
The man of Ethiopia was a person of great authority under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of her treasury. He was a man of faith who believed in Jehovah God and spent many hours examining the scriptures from prophets like Isaiah. As the Ethiopian is reading Isaiah, Phillip approaches the chariot and asks him if he understood what he was reading. The treasurer was eager to have someone explain the text to him, and he invited Phillip to join him in his chariot. Sitting together with the scroll of Isaiah open before them, the evangelists opened his mouth and taught the Ethiopian the story of Jesus Christ. The record does not say how long they talked. As the story of the suffering servant opened up before the Ethiopian, his heart began to open to a message he had never heard before, and it thrilled him to his soul. Phillip told the story of Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God by miracles, wonders and signs, and His message of love and sacrifice. The evangelists wove the plan of God’s redemption throughout the scriptures to show that Jesus had risen from the dead and salvation was no longer found in keeping the Law of Moses. Instead, there was a new covenant through the blood of Christ.
There is no record of what Phillip told the Ethiopian, but there are bookends that fill the gap of his message that day. Phillip began at Isaiah 53 and preached Jesus. As the two men sat and talked of scripture, the Ethiopian understood that God now desired men to believe and be baptized. It was the Ethiopian who suggested they stop when they came to some water. His heart had opened to the story of Jesus that commanded water baptism for salvation, and he asked Phillip what hindered him from being baptized. Phillip responded the only thing at that point was to believe with all the heart the word of God, and the Ethiopian agreed. So the Ethiopian commanded his chariot to stop, and he and Phillip went down into the water, and Phillip baptized the man from Ethiopia.
The story of the Ethiopian treasurer is one of an open mouth teaching a man with an open heart. An angel sent a man to teach a lost sinner. The angel did not teach the man. In the plan of salvation, men must teach men. No divine being will come to earth to save a man. Later, Jesus would appear to Saul of Tarsus, but Saul was not saved until a man came to teach him the word. Cornelius was told by an angel what to do to have words of salvation. He sent to Joppa for Peter, and the apostles came and taught the household the word of God. Evangelism requires an open mouth willing to find opportunities to teach others.
Through the grace of God, an open heart will be receptive to the word of God. There could have many arguments the Ethiopian could have used to dissuade the teaching of Phillip about the Christ. It was the open heart of the man from Ethiopia to accept that he was the subject of Isaiah. In the story of Jesus, Phillip told the Ethiopian that he must be born again in the waters of baptism. The man from Ethiopia embraced the necessity of baptism without reservation. He commanded the chariot to stand still, and he wanted Phillip to baptize him immediately. The Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing because he was a Christian, bound to Christ through the waters of baptism. An open mouth taught an open heart, and that is where stories of conversion come from. Thank God for open mouths and open hearts.