By Russ Ramsey
“Do you get what you’re reading?”
Philip’s question for the Ethiopian is a good one for us, because the heart of this passage is that Scripture, rightly understood, is glorious and life-changing. The Ethiopian’s conversion and baptism shows us this.
Philip was a lay servant in the church, but God used him mightily. He read God’s Word to understand—not just to get through it.
When we read the Bible, do we read to understand it? Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The Book was written to be understood…It must be so written as to be understood, since it were a mockery for God to give us a revelation which we could not comprehend.”
I was part of a men’s Bible study in which we read a book by a man I know personally, a mentor of mine. If I got confused about what he wrote, I could call him and ask him what he meant. If you’re a Christian, you know the author of Scripture. If you’re not sure what His word means, ask Him. Read to understand.
How do we do this? We give ourselves to prayer. Savor waiting upon the Lord. Avail ourselves of the resources of trusted scholars, knowing that God can use them in our life much like He used Philip in the Ethiopian’s. Philip did not read to get through it. He read to understand what it taught about Jesus.
Notice the fruit of this encounter. Philip was prepared to begin with the passage the Ethiopian was reading and tell him all about Jesus. How could he do this? Well, every page of Scripture is about Jesus. Connecting a text to Him is not about being clever, it is about understanding what is written. And when we do understand, we must do what it says.
From the eunuch’s response, I suspect Philip probably went from Isaiah to the great commission—Jesus’s call to His people to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This new disciple from Ethiopia understood this meant him, so he asked to be baptized. He heard the Word, understood it, and then did what it said.
Spurgeon also said, “Be true to truth as it comes to you. If God gives you only common candle-light, make good use of it; and he will trim your lamp till it shineth like the sevenfold golden light of his holy place.”
How long will it take for us to really understand Scripture? Our whole lives, and then only when all is revealed in glory. Still, we seek to understand. Read it often. Read it repeatedly. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate it. Dwell on a text for as long as you need to. It’s not a race.