They Did Jehovah’s Will
Philip Baptizes an Ethiopian Official
WHILE riding in his chariot, an Ethiopian was using his time wisely. He was reading aloud—a common practice among first-century travelers. This particular man was an official “in power under Candace queen of the Ethiopians.”a He was “over all her treasure”—in effect, he was a minister of finance. This official was reading from God’s Word in order to acquire knowledge.—Acts 8:27, 28.
Nearby was the evangelizer Philip. An angel had directed him to this location, and now he was told: “Approach and join yourself to this chariot.” (Acts 8:26, 29) We can imagine Philip asking himself, ‘Who is this man? What is he reading? Why have I been directed to him?’
As Philip ran alongside the chariot, he overheard the Ethiopian reading these words: “As a sheep he was brought to the slaughter, and as a lamb that is voiceless before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. During his humiliation the judgment was taken away from him. Who will tell the details of his generation? Because his life is taken away from the earth.”—Acts 8:32, 33.
Philip immediately recognized the passage. It was from the writing of Isaiah. (Isaiah 53:7, 8) The Ethiopian was puzzled by what he was reading. Philip struck up a conversation by asking: “Do you actually know what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied: “Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?” He then entreated Philip to join him in his chariot.—Acts 8:30, 31.
“What Prevents Me From Getting Baptized?”
“I beg you,” the Ethiopian said to Philip, “about whom does the prophet say this? About himself or about some other man?” (Acts 8:34) The Ethiopian’s confusion was not surprising, for the identity of the “sheep,” or “servant,” of Isaiah’s prophecy had long been a mystery. (Isaiah 53:11) How clear this must have been when Philip declared to the Ethiopian “the good news about Jesus”! After a while the Ethiopian said: “Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?” So Philip baptized him right then and there.—Acts 8:35-38.
Was this a hasty act? Not at all! The Ethiopian was a Jewish proselyte.b So he was already a worshiper of Jehovah with a knowledge of the Scriptures, including the Messianic prophecies. However, his knowledge was incomplete. Now that he had received this vital information regarding the role of Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian understood what God required of him and was ready to comply. Baptism was appropriate.—Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:21.
Afterward, “Jehovah’s spirit quickly led Philip away.” He went on to another assignment. The Ethiopian “kept going on his way rejoicing.”—Acts 8:39, 40.
Lesson for Us
As Jehovah’s present-day servants, we have an obligation to help honesthearted individuals to learn the truth of God’s Word. Many have had success presenting the good news to others while traveling or in other informal circumstances. As a result of the Kingdom-preaching work, each year hundreds of thousands symbolize their dedication to Jehovah God by getting baptized.
Of course, newer ones should not be rushed into baptism. First they must acquire accurate knowledge of Jehovah God and of his Son, Jesus Christ. (John 17:3) Then they must repent, abandoning wrong conduct and turning around so as to conform to God’s standards. (Acts 3:19) This takes time, especially if wrong thinking and conduct have been deeply ingrained. While new ones should count the cost of Christian discipleship, great blessings result from entering into a dedicated relationship with Jehovah God. (Compare Luke 9:23; 14:25-33.) Those who are Witnesses of Jehovah enthusiastically direct such new ones to the organization that God is using to accomplish his will. (Matthew 24:45-47) Like the Ethiopian, these will rejoice in learning about and conforming to what God requires of them.
a “Candace” is not a name but a title (similar to “Pharaoh” and “Caesar”) that applied to a succession of Ethiopian queens.
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Why Called a Eunuch?
Throughout the account in Acts chapter 8, the Ethiopian is referred to as a “eunuch.” However, since the Mosaic Law did not admit a castrated male into the congregation, this man was evidently not a eunuch in the literal sense. (Deuteronomy 23:1) The Greek word for “eunuch” can refer to a person in high office. Thus, the Ethiopian was an official under the queen of Ethiopia.