Even Eunuchs Are Included

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’” (v. 36).

- Acts 8:26–40

According to Deuteronomy 23:1, no castrated man might enter the assembly of the Lord. Whether a man was accidentally emasculated or deliberately castrated to be a eunuch, he was not regarded as a full citizen in Israel. God required, for symbolic reasons, a certain degree of physical perfection in His priestly nation (Leviticus 21:16ff. and 22:20ff.).

In the book of Acts thus far, we have seen Grecian Jews and Samaritans welcomed into the church on an equal footing. Now the Holy Spirit raises the question of a eunuch. Does the new covenant set aside the symbolic standards of Deuteronomy 23:1?

An angel from the Lord told Philip to go out to the road that leads down from Jerusalem to Gaza. There Philip encountered a eunuch from the court of the Ethiopian Queen Candace. In the Old Testament, Ethiopia had had contact with Israel, so there had always been some flickers of the light of God’s truth in that land. The Ethiopian eunuch was clearly interested in the Bible, and was probably a God-fearing Gentile who had come to Jerusalem to worship.

The eunuch was reading, and Philip drew near and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch’s reply is important: “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31). God has ordained that His truth is communicated not by Bible reading alone, but by Bible reading in the context of the church, where we help one another understand.

The eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53, the great prophecy about the sufferings and glories of the Messiah. Philip opened up this passage to him, and explained the Gospel to him. We can assume that Philip discussed with him Isaiah 52:15, which says that the Messiah will sprinkle many nations, and Isaiah 54:2, which says that Israel’s tent will be expanded to include many peoples.

The light of the Good News dawned on the eunuch. “If the Messiah will sprinkle many nations, what prevents me from being baptized?” he asked. If the Gospel means everyone is included on an equal footing, it must apply to eunuchs as well. So Philip baptized the eunuch, and he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39).

 

Coram Deo

In Ephesians 2:14, Paul says that Jesus, by His death, has not only secured redemption for the elect but also destroyed the walls of hostility which so often divide people with ethnic and social differences. What people today continue to be cultural, social, or financial “eunuchs”? What can you do to minister the Good News to them?

Passages for Further Study

Romans 1:16
Galatians 3:26–29
Ephesians 2:11–3:13

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