This week we’re studying Pioneer Progress – how the early Christian movement suddenly reached a tipping point and started to grow beyond religious, ethnic and national boundaries.
We’re particularly looking at the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch this week. Yesterday we read the beginning of the story, where Philip ran after the chariot of this senior civil servant, the Queen of Ethiopia’s treasurer, and finds him reading the Old Testament. So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.  Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.  In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.  And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”  And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.  And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.  But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
He learns that Jesus is the lamb described 500 years earlier in the book of Isaiah. Jesus was like the one perfect sacrificial lamb when he died on a cross to pay the price, death, for the sins of everyone else.
This is life changing for the eunuch. I love his line of thinking: What is to stop me from being baptized? Nothing at all. The chariot screeches to a halt, the man is baptized, and Philip is taken away on another mission. Swiftness to it all.
Eunuch goes away rejoicing. You can only imagine how that infects others in his homeland. Ethiopia, in fact, has one of the oldest Christian populations in the world, with many distinctives, even today.
We see the Christian movement reaching the ends of the earth.
Philip has overcome language barrier, a national barrier and a cultural barrier all by sharing the gospel with a cosmopolitan, multilingual and influential traveller on his way home. Through that one person, a whole nation could change, and quite possibly was.
Question: What was driving the growth and progress of the Christian movement despite its challenges? Is it still possible? Why or why not?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]