Acts 8:26-39 – The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch
SummaryPhilip is taken by the Holy Spirit to meet a highly placed Ethiopian court official who is reading Isaiah on the way home from Jerusalem. The Ethiopian asks for and receives baptism as a believer in Jesus as God's Messiah, promised by Isaiah.
AnalysisThis passage is often thought to be about the first baptism of a Gentile. If that is true (we are not told whether the eunuch is living as a Jew prior to meeting Philip), very little is made of it in Luke-Acts. The story is more interesting for three other reasons. First, the man is an Ethiopian who returns to a position of power among his people. One presumes that he will speak of his new faith and perhaps establish it in his homeland. Second, he returns to Ethiopia with joy, reminding us that becoming part of the community of the baptized, welcoming Jesus as God's Messiah, creates and sustains joy. Third, this story fulfills a prophecy from Isaiah 56:1-7. In this passage God promises that, when God's "salvation will come" and God's "deliverance [will] be revealed," foreigners and eunuchs who love God and keep God's covenant will have a place among God's people and experience joy. The fulfillment of this prophecy is both an important part of proof that God is acting to save and an example of how the mission will go forward.