The Man Reading in the Chariot
Acts viii: 4 to
first church of those who believed in Christ was
broken up, and its members were driven away by the
fury and rage of its enemy, the young man Saul. But
as those who were scattered went into other places,
they told the people about Christ and his gospel.
And very soon new companies of believers in Christ
began to rise up, all over the land. In place of one
church in Jerusalem there were many churches among
its cities and villages of Judea. Thus Saul, for all
his hate toward Christ, really helped in spreading
the gospel of Christ.
Among those driven away by Saul was a man named
Philip, not Philip the apostle, but another Philip,
who had been one of those chosen with Stephen to
care for the poor. This Philip went down to the city
of Samaria, near the middle of the land; and there
he began to tell the people about Christ. These
people were not Jews, but were of the race called
Samaritans. The woman of Samaria, with whom Jesus
talked at Jacob’s well was of this people.
The Lord gave to Philip the power to work many
wonders among these Samaritans. At Philip’s word,
evil spirits came out of men. Those who had the
palsy were cured, and the lame were made to walk.
The Samaritans saw these things done by Philip, and
they believed that he spoke to them the words of
God. Very many of them became believers in Christ,
and were baptized; and there was great joy in that
At that time there was in Samaria a certain man
named Simon, who had made the people believe that he
had great power and could do wonderful things, by
some magic that he used. But the works wrought by
Philip through the power of Christ were so much
greater and more wonderful than his own, that Simon
himself listened to the teaching of Philip, claimed
to believe in Jesus, and was baptized. But his heart
had not been touched; he thought only that Philip’s
magic was better than his own, and he hoped to find
out what it was, so that he too could use it.
The twelve apostles, you remember, were still in
Jerusalem; for they did not leave the city when Saul
broke up the church. After a time Saul ceased to
trouble, and some of the believers began to go back
to Jerusalem. A new church grew up in that city
around the apostles, though it never became as large
or as whole-hearted as had been the church of the
News came to the apostles of the great work wrought
by Philip in Samaria, and they sent Peter and John
to visit the new church in that place. Peter and
John came to Samaria, and were glad when they saw
how many and how faithful were the believers in
Christ. They prayed for them, that the same power of
the Holy Spirit that had come upon the disciples in
Jerusalem might come upon those in Samaria; and the
power of the Lord came when the apostles laid their
hands on the heads of the believers.
When Simon saw that this strange power of God came
with the laying on of the apostle’s hands, he
offered Peter and John money, saying to them, "Sell
me this power, so that I may give the Holy Spirit to
those on whom I lay my hands."
But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with
you if you think to buy the gift of God with money!
You do not really belong to Christ, and your heart
is not right with God. Turn away from this your sin,
and pray God that he will forgive you. For I see
that you are yet in your sins, sins that are as
bitter as gall; and you are fast bound in evil as
with a chain!"
Simon could not understand this, but he said, "Pray
for me to the Lord, that none of these evils that
you have named come upon me!"
After this Peter and John preached among many
villages of the Samaritans, and then they went back
to Jerusalem. Philip’s work in Samaria was now done,
and an angel of the Lord spoke to him, saying:
"Rise up, and leave this city; and go toward the
south, on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to
This was a road through a desert region, without
villages or people; but Philip at once obeyed the
word that came from the Lord. He left Samaria and
walked southward, until he came to the road between
Jerusalem and Gaza. While he was on this desert road
he saw a chariot drawing near, and in it was seated
a black man reading from a roll. This man had come
from the land of Ethiopia, in Africa, far to the
south of Egypt. He was a nobleman of very high rank,
the treasurer of the queen in that land; and though
he was not a Jew, he had taken a journey of more
than a thousand miles to Jerusalem, riding in his
chariot all the way, that he might worship God in
his Temple. He was now going back to his own land,
and in his hands was the roll of the prophet Isaiah,
from which he was reading aloud while he was riding
on his journey.
As the chariot of this black man came in sight, the
Spirit of the Lord said to Philip, "Go near, and
stand close by the chariot."
And Philip ran toward the chariot, and spoke to the
man, and said "Do you understand what you are
The nobleman answered him, "How can I understand it,
unless some one tells me what it means? Can you show
me? If you can, come up into the chariot and sit
Then Philip came up and sat down in the chariot. The
place where he was reading was the fifty-third
chapter of Isaiah, with words like these:
"He was led as a sheep to the slaughter,
And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb,
So he openeth not his mouth.
His story who shall tell?
For his life is taken from the earth."
These are the words that the prophet spoke of Jesus
many hundreds of years before he came to the earth.
Philip began with those words, and told the
Ethiopian nobleman all about Christ. And the man
believed, and took into his heart the word of the
Lord. As they went on the way, they came to some
water, and the nobleman said, "See, here is water!
Why may I not be baptized?"
And Philip said to him, "If you believe with all
your heart, you may be baptized."
And he answered, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the
Son of God."
Then the nobleman gave order for the chariot to
stand still; and Philip and the man went down into
the water together, and he baptized him as a
follower of Christ. And when they came up out of the
water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away, so
that the nobleman saw him no more; but he went on
his way home, happy in the Lord.
Philip went next to a city near the shore, and there
he preached; and from that place he went northward
through the cities by the Great Sea, preaching in
them all, until he came to Caesarea, and at Caesarea
he stayed for many years.