This is one of two stories in the book of Acts where we see the election of God, the choice of man, and our need to go as God’s witnesses all interacting with each other. Many people wonder about the first two in particular. How can God choose people to be his own, and yet be held accountable for accepting or rejecting him? And for some, they wonder why we even need to go to the lost and share the gospel if God has already elected them?
I don’t have all the answers, but that all are true is made clear in this passage.
Here we see an Ethiopian eunuch who had a high position in his queen’s court. Yet, somehow, he had heard about the God of Israel, and had gone to Jerusalem to worship.
Note here that though he was a God-fearer, God did not simply say, “Well, he doesn’t know about Jesus, but that’s okay. That he fears me and is trying to serve me is enough.”
Instead, he sent an angel to Phillip and told him to go out to where this man would be. And when Phillip saw him, the Spirit whispered to him, “Go up to him.”
Phillip did and heard this man reading from Isaiah 53, a chapter that specifically prophesies about Jesus. And Phillip asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” The man’s answer is very striking.
How can I…unless someone explains it to me? (31)
Reading that brings to mind Paul’s question to the Romans.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)
The answer: They can’t. The eunuch certainly couldn’t. And so he invited Phillip to join him on his chariot. Phillip explained the gospel, and upon hearing it, the eunuch believed and was baptized. He then took the gospel back to his own country, and Christians in Ethiopia today trace their roots back to this man.
Several points to be made. First, before a person can be saved, they must hear the gospel and believe. If it was possible for a person to simply be a God-fearer and go to heaven without the gospel, God would not have gone out of his way to send Phillip to this Ethiopian.
Paul, in the same passage in Romans I mentioned above, asks,
And how can they preach unless they are sent? (15)
The answer again is that they can’t. But God does send us out to go and preach the gospel that people might believe, just as he sent Phillip to go to the eunuch.
Second, God clearly chose this man to be saved. This man was on the way to hell with no way of hearing the gospel. God intervened so that he could hear the gospel. Without that intervention, this eunuch would never have been saved.
Third, this man still had to make the choice to believe in order to be saved. He did, and was saved.
How do these all intertwine philosophically? I don’t know. But somehow in the mind of God it all makes sense. And that’s good enough for me.
The main point: Go. There are so many people like this Ethiopian who are headed for hell. There are so many people like this Ethiopian who need to hear about Christ. And just like God called Phillip to go, he calls you to go as well. Let us remember the words of our Lord, who commanded us,
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)