Purifying Power

And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”

Acts 8:27-29

Have you ever seen the perverted purified? When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska on March 24, 1989, the ship spilled eleven million gallons of crude oil into the delicate ecosystem. Contaminated sea otters, birds, and other creatures were featured on the nightly news as a sad reminder of creation’s fragility. Years later, I remember seeing an advertisement boasting the ‘gentle power’ of Dawn dishwashing soap to decontaminate ducklings in Alaska following the environmental disaster of 1989.

By what power is the perverted purified? By whose power are the defiled made disciples of Jesus Christ?

He elects the excluded. Previously, the Holy Spirit sent Philip to a city (Acts 8:5), to a country, to a people, but in this account, he was sent to a single person. The Ethiopian was likely chosen—or sold by his parents as a child—to enter public service. To set a seal of trust on him for a special office around royal women, he was emasculated (Daniel 1:3-4). In the eyes of first century Judaism, the Ethiopian eunuch was perverted in body and soul and therefore to be excluded from worship in Jerusalem’s Temple (Deuteronomy 23:1). However, those who were once excluded because of indelible externals will be washed clean by irrevocable internals and included by the Holy Spirit of God.

He embraces the excluded. Worship and Bible study are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating presence in the Ethiopian eunuch. He went up to Jerusalem to worship and as he returned home, he read aloud from Isaiah while riding in his chariot. The Spirit directed Philip the Evangelist to intervene, but not at the Temple. Philip was commanded to “go over and join” the Ethiopian’s chariot. God broke down a wall of separation between Jews (Philip) and Gentiles (Ethiopians), but He also embraced the excluded (eunuchs) because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

In the Parable of the Banquet (Luke 14:13-14), Jesus said: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you (emphasis mine).” In Christ, God chooses the foreign, rejected, crippled, and perverted and applies the purifying power of His Spirit.

If you were God, how would you choose your friends?

When I was in the second grade, a classmate invited me to his birthday party. The problem was, I didn’t want to go. “If I go to his party, I’ll have to buy him a present and I don’t like him enough for that. Besides, the kids at school don’t really like him”, were the bratty rationalizations offered to my father. But dad, recognizing a teachable moment, said “Son, you don’t choose friends because they already have lots of friends or because of what they can give you. Be a friend to someone who has no friends. Give gifts to those who can give you nothing in return. Be the only friend someone has.” In a brief but unforgettable instant, he taught me about God’s grace in Jesus, the “friend of sinners”.

Aren’t you glad the Omnipotent God targets impotent men?

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2 Responses to Purifying Power

  1. toby says:

    Thank you, Jackie! You are so kind and generous.

  2. Jacqueline Compton says:

    What an interesting insightful look at this unique incident of Biblical interpretation to a eunuch. My attention was captured from the title alone. Thank you, Toby.

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