“Do you understand what you are reading?” Acts 8:30

by Steven Chan

The Bible records an interesting account of how Philip the evangelist was guided to help a truth-seeker understand the Scriptures. This is the account as recorded in Acts 8:26-39:-

“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” 34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”

37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.”

Let’s learn a few lessons from the above account:-

  1. God and His truth can be found by those who are seeking for Him. “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lordsearches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.” (1 Chron 28:9) Paul declared thus to the people at Athens that it is God’s desire: “that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27)
  2. Reading the Scriptures is important: Paul exhorted the young preacher Timothy: “Till I come, give attention to reading” (1 Tim 4:13). He later further emphasized that in his second letter to him: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)
  3. Understanding the Scriptures is even more needful.

30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.”

There are some who are always reading and studying but their efforts do not lead to the knowledge of the truth: “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3:7). We ought not to be such kind of students.  We must be students who truly seek to know His will and desire to do His will: “ If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:17)

  1. God has provided faithful teachers to help guide us to understand the word of God.

In the Old Testament it was recorded thus about Ezra and the Levites: “The Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” (Neh 8:7-8)

In the New Testament, God also provided evangelists and teachers to edify and build up the faith of the members of the body of Christ: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men” (Eph 4:11-14). “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:2)

  1. We must be humble to admit that we need to learn from others. The Ethiopian eunuch exhibited a humble spirit when he was asked whether he understood what he was reading; he admitted his need for someone to guide him so that he can have a better understanding of what God’s Word said. If we refused to accept our need to learn the truth, we will not progress in our understanding.
  2. The purpose of the teacher is to teach the truth for obedience unto salvation. Philip the evangelist explained from the Scriptures and evidently taught the student (eunuch) his need to obey the gospel so as to be saved. The purpose of Bible study is not an exercise of “brain power” or to show the extent of our knowledge but to teach such that the students will want to obey the Word of God unto salvation. Immediately after the eunuch was baptized, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away – to preach to others.

May we be guided by faithful men to understand the word of God. The exhortation by Paul: “ Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Tim 4:15-16)

If we listen to those who are not faithful to God and His Word then we run the risk of losing our own salvation: “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matt 15:14). If you need “someone to guide you in understanding the word of God”, then please contact us. We stand ready to help you