The Door Opens Even Wider
Having covered the glorious conversion of the Samaritans to the gospel of Jesus Christ and their reunion with their Jewish brethren through their mutually promised Messiah, and having introduced (and summarily dismissed) the arch-heretic of early Christian literature and history in the person of Simon Magus, Luke now returns to Philip with whom he began this entire episode. We discover that Philip is quite the evangelist as he travels along, and is constantly moved by the Spirit regarding itinerary, either telling him which way to turn or simply snatching him up and conveying him to the divinely-chosen locale. On this occasion, an “angel of the Lord” tells him the road to take from Jerusalem southwest to Gaza. On that road was a chariot carrying a notable person, the chamberlain over the treasure of the queen of the Ethiopians, no mean kingdom of the ancient world. Then the Spirit of the Lord tells Philip to join himself to that chariot. When Philip does, he discovers that the man is reading (aloud as was the custom in the ancient world) from the “Suffering Servant” passage of Isaiah 53:7-8, and asks him if he understands what he is reading. The gentlemen asks for guidance, invites Philip into his chariot, and is soon born again of the Spirit as Philip explains to him how this passage and others refer to Jesus.
So here we have the first Gentile in the Book of Acts to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not just any Gentile but a eunuch. The Law forbade one whose male organ had been cut off to enter the “assembly of the Lord,” which was referred to the inner courts when the temple replaced the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 23:1). One must understand that this law had reference to the practice of self-emasculation which accompanied pagan worship in the ancient world. Still eunuchs were excluded from some aspects of temple worship in Israelite and Jewish religion. As a Gentile, we must assume that this man was a “God-fearer,” one who worshiped the one true God revealed in the Scriptures but who had not converted to Judaism. Thus Philip preached the good news indeed to this man who experienced the fulfillment of Isaiah 56:3-5: “Let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” There are so many injustices in the world; being made a eunuch was one of them in the ancient world. The Christian experiences even now the blessings of the age to come, the fruit of which even the eunuch knows.