THE ETHIOPIAN TREASURER
Acts 8:26-31 December 26, 2004
In this message I want to talk to you about a man who decided to become a Christian shortly after the beginning of the Christian religion. The man was from Ethiopia, a country located south of Egypt, and a large and powerful nation in the first century. This country was some 500 miles south of Jerusalem. He was a very religious man, for the Bible says he traveled all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem just to worship Jehovah God. We don't know his name, but he was a man of great prominence, for out of all the subjects of the kingdom, the Queen selected him to be her financial advisor and appointed him the secretary of the Treasury. All money that came in and all money that went out was by his authority. He was the Financial Administrator. We don't know if he was a Jew or a Jewish proselyte, having become a Jew by religion, but he was a devout worshiper of the God of Israel. One of the things about this man that should greatly impress us all is that he made a 500 mile trip just to worship Jehovah God. Has any of us ever gone such a distance for the sole purpose of worshiping God? I think not. The Bible says he came to Jerusalem to worship. I cannot but compare him to some worshipers in this far off day and time, . who excuse themselves from attending worship because they have so much business on hand they just can't make it to worship.. I don't think there are any worshipers today who even come close to having the responsibility this Cabinet member had on him. Yet he managed his business so he could drive to Jerusalem to worship. I might add this was not an hour or two hour drive; it was a 500 mile drive. There were no jet airplanes or bullet trains to enable him to go and get back in forty eight hours. He lived in the horse and buggy days, and the best you could do was to make four or five miles an hour. That journey took not less than thirty days. This man leaves us all a message, “If your heart is right, you don't get to busy to get to church on the Lord's Day.”
Since this man came to Jerusalem, offered his worship to God and was on his way back home, and since no Christian had contacted him about the Christian religion, God wanted this man to have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ. So He sent an angel to a preacher by the name of Philip, who at the time was 35 miles from Jerusalem. He told him to go to a certain road south of Jerusalem which goes to Philistia. He went not knowing why. When God says to do something, you don't ask why; you just do it When he arrived at that location he came on to this Ethiopian official in his expensive chariot, and the angel said, “Join yourself to that chariot.” Then he knew why he had been sent. As he drew near the
chariot the man was reading the Bible. I am sure that was very surprising to Philip to see this stranger reading the Bible. When did you ever see a person riding in their car or on a train or an airplane reading the Bible?. That would be so unusual it would attract attention. A man on a bus, train or airplane would cause everyone to look at him and say, “That man must be a preacher–he's reading the Bible.” But this man wasn't a preacher; he was a high official in the Ethiopian government.
When the angel said, “Go near and overtake this chariot,” Philip introduced himself to this man in a very unusual way. I don't how I would have started that conversation. I probably would have mumbled around and said something like this,” Sir, would you please excuse me. I have a question I would like to ask you.” But Philip at once said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” That was a very blunt way to speak to a stranger. Would you go up to man you had never seen before sitting in a car reading and say to him, “Do you understand what you are reading? Before asking a question like that, you would do well to see how big he is; for he just might work you over. He might say, “If I need any help from you I'll let you know.” I think Philip perceived that the man was having trouble with the passage he was reading, for he at once answered, “How can I unless someone guides me?” and he invited Phillip to sit with him.
The man was reading in the book of Isaiah 53:7 which says, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter and as lamb before its shearer is silent so He opened not His mouth....And who will declare His generation, for His life is taken from the earth.” The words that puzzled him were “He” and “His” Who was this person led as a sheep to the slaughter and whose life was taken from the earth. He asked Philip who Isaiah was talking about? Himself or some other man?. Philip knew Isaiah was talking about Christ the coming Messiah of the Jews. Then the Bible says that Philip began at that scripture and “preached Jesus to Him.” I wonder how he preached Jesus to this man. How would he go about it?. Where wold he begin and how would he end? To preach Jesus Christ is to make a clear, concise, and correct sketch of the life of Jesus Christ. That ride must have lasted a while.
Permit me to give a brief life sketch of Jesus that will give us some idea of how Philip introduced Jesus to this secretary of the Treasury from Ethiopia. His Hebrew ancestry can be traced down from Noah, down to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, down to David the greagtest king of Israel, and on down until finally He came to Joseph and Mary, of whom Jesus Christ was born in a manger in the city of Bethlehem. His birth was the greatest
event since the creation of the world. God gave Him birth in a marvelous and most mysterious way. Jehovah sent a divine, mysterious person from
heaven to the earth, whose mission was to save mankind from destruction and make it possible for the human race to live forever. The name of this being in heaven was, “The Word.” The Bible says He existed in the beginning with God, that He was a Divine Being like Jehovah, and that He was on an equality with Jehovah. The Bible clearly reveals there are three persons in Godhead, and we believe this One sent to the earth was one of those three. The Bible says that this mysterious Being came to this world and the world was made by Him and the world did not know Him. If you want to know who created the universe and life, read John 1:1-5. If the world does not know who the Creator is, it is their own fault for the Bible clearly tells us.
When this mysterious Being left heaven to make His appearance on earth, it was necessary to give up His existence in heaven, with all its glory, honor and enjoyment. and live a sad life of sorrow, grief and humiliation.
To say the world did not know Him puts it mildly. The Bible describes His change from a heavenly existence to an earthly existence in these words, “Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.” He came to give the world eternal life. In making this visit to earth, the Godhead allowed Him to give up His heavenly form and transform Himself into a man of the Jewish race, born of the virgin Mary, divinely conceived by the Holy Spirit. Thus He was part God and part man. We call this the incarnation. The Bible says when this birth took place, “God was manifested in the flesh.” For 33 years He wore the name Jesus Christ. At the age of 30 He was baptized in obedience to God's command, and, by the way, that was the first time a voice from heaven publicly acknowledged Him to be God's only begotten Son. Many people today might well consider that fact who think they became sons of God before they obeyed God's command of baptism. He lived a perfect life, went about doing good, performing miracles, wonders and signs. He revealed secrets about Jehovah, never known before. Shortly before He returned to heaven, He offered this prayer to God, “Father the hour is come, glorify your Son that Your Son may glorify You. Glorify Me with the glory I had with you before the world was, as you have given Me authority over all flesh that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him.” He then offered His life as a sacrifice to Jehovah for the sins of all mankind, in order that the mankind might become reconciled to Jehovah God. He arose from the dead and lives forevermore to show mankind there is life
after death that will never end.. Just before He ascended to heaven He commanded the apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature and all who believe were to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to receive the forgiveness of sins. But all who do not believe will be condemned. He then ascended to heaven from whence He originally came and sat down on he right hand of God. Jehovah God has given authority over all flesh, has given Him all power in heaven and on earth, and has authorized Him to givel a never ending life to all who meet His requirements. The person born in Bethlehem who is remembered about this time of year by a third of the human race is exceedingly greater than most of these people have ever imagined. We will never know how great He is till we see Him. This person who now sits at the right hand of God most likely is the second person of the Godhead. This story is the greatest story that has ever been told or ever will be told. The evidence for the veracity of this story is available to all people in the New Testament
Finally, this is substantially what the Ethiopian Treasurer heard when Philip preached Jesus to him. I gathered His life history from the New Testament. It is impossible to preach Jesus to anyone without telling him the story of His life, and that is all that Philip preached. The man wanted to know who the man was in Isaiah he was reading about in the book of Isaiah, and Philip told him. I don't know how long it took this man to make a decision on this story, but the Bible says and as went down the road they came to some water and the Ethiopian said, “Here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” That is another way of saying, “I want to be baptized; is there any reason why I can't?” That is the only reasonable response a person can make to this story. If you believe the story you will ask for baptism. If you say you believe the story but have no desire to be baptized you believe only part of the story
“What hinders me from being baptized?, “he said to the preacher. Well, there was a hindrance. Philip could not baptize him at the moment. Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” Believe what? The Ethiopian knew what he had to believe but he had not confessed it with his mouth. He said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” In other words I believe He is who He said He was. I believe He was God's divine Son from heaven. He was not just a man but God manifested in the flesh..People who do not believe the story of Jesus' life are not ready for baptism He believed the story as Philip told it. When Philip heard that confession, he stopped the chariot; they both went down into the water and
Philip immersed him. When the man came up out of the water he had been washed in the blood of Christ, born again, born of the water and Spirit, and God added him to the church Christ purchased with His own blood. Tradition says he baptized the Queen of Ethiopia. I think it is a reasonable assumption that preached Jesus Christ to the Ethiopian peop;le.
I have one more thing to say about this man from Ethiopia. Since Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, and has in His hands the gift of eternal life for those who serve Him, this means that the man of Ethiopia was in line to receive the gift of eternal life, life that will never end, everlasting life. The word of God says, “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. To discover that there is a life that will not end and to discover that Jesus Christ is the one and only source of that life is the greatest discovery a human being can make in life. This is my greatest discovery.
In a manner of speaking, Christians have found the fabled fountain of youth which Ponce De L'eon, the Spanish explorer, was searching for when he discovered Florida. The Indians told him the legend of where there was an island that had a marvelous fountain that could restore youth to old persons. The fountain was supposedly the water of life found in the garden of Eden which was supposed to be in the Middle East. But the early Spaniards thought America was the Middle East, so De Leon searched the Caribbean Islands and Florida for that fable fountain but died disappointed. De Ldeon was looking in the wrong place. We learn from the story of Jesus' life that there is something like a fountain of youth, but it was to be found in the city of Jerusalem on a hill outside the city. The fountain of youth is really the fountain of blood which flowed from the side of Jesus when a Roman soldier pierced His side with a spear. That blood which flowed from His side contained the life of God's Divine Son who died that He might give eternal life to mankind. It is that blood that reconciled us to God and made it possible for us to live forever. Because of that blood God's people will never grow old. If there are any readers who would liketo make the same response the Ethiopian made to the story of Christ's life, contact the nearest Church of Christ in your area, and a Minister would be happy to assist you.