Author: Ron Graham

Isaiah Lessons

Life Changing Words
—Isaiah 53:7-8

The Holy Spirit commanded Philip to meet a man from Ethiopia. He was the queen’s treasurer and had been to worship in Jerusalem. As he sat in his chariot on his way home, travelling the lonely road, he was reading from the book of Isaiah. The passage he was reading when Philip ran up to his chariot and greeted him, was Isaiah 53:7-8. The words he read were about to change his life forever (Acts 8:26-39).

The Passage in Isaiah

"He was oppressed and he was afflicted,
Yet he did not open his mouth.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
And like a sheep silent before its shearers
So he did not open his mouth.
In humiliation his judgment was taken away.
Who shall describe his generation
For his life is cut off from the earth
For the transgression of my people."

(Isaiah 53:7-8 as quoted in Acts 8:32-33)

[See footnotes]

1 The Right Questions

Philip and the Ethiopian’s Questions

Philip and the Ethiopian ask each other the most direct questions (Acts 8:30-31,34) which get right to the heart of the words of (Isaiah 53:7-8).

Philip doesn't ask, "Nice day isn't it?" but rather, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

The man in the chariot doesn't come in at a tangent either. He fires three questions at Philip:

This dialogue is full of question marks, but not in any sense that it is vague or uncertain. Both men know exactly what they want. Philip wants to teach the man from the scripture, and the man wants to understand the scripture. Both have their hearts in the word of God. So Philip starts talking, and the Ethiopian starts listening, each having the highest regard for the other’s part in the process.

2 The Right Responses

Philip’s Response to the Ethiopian

Philip responds in exactly the right way. "Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this scripture (in Isaiah) he preached Jesus to him." (Acts 8:35).

We don't know what other passages Philip used, but he showed the Ethiopian that Jesus is the Lamb of God led to the slaughter for the sins of the world. In the passage from Isaiah that the Ethiopian was reading, Philip could have pointed out the prediction of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and shown the Ethiopian that Jesus died to bear the sin of many, including him (Isaiah 53:9-12).

There is something that Philip taught as "he preached Jesus to him." which we observe from the Ethiopian's fourth question which was a response to what Philip had been saying.

The Ethiopian’s Response to Philip

The chariot is making its way along the road, and comes upon "some water" (Acts 8:36). This prompts a fourth question from the Ethiopian... "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:36).

This sudden question from the Ethiopian implies that Philip had been preaching baptism as a part of preaching Jesus. I will be blunt here. Nobody preaches Jesus if they do not preach baptism.

Baptism and Christ’s Death

Now how does baptism relate to the passage in Isaiah and to the preaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Paul explains this in Romans 6:3-11. Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins, and when we are baptized into Christ, we are "baptized into his death... buried with him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).

We see therefore that baptism is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) because through it we come into Christ’s death which was "a guilt offering" by which he "bore the sin of many" and was able to "justify the many" (Isaiah 53:5-12)

Philip’s Next Response

Philip did not hinder the Ethiopian from his wish to be baptized, nor did he try to delay it. If the Ethiopian believed with all his heart what Philip had preached to him, then Philip was ready to baptize the Ethiopian there and then. The Ethiopian confessed faith in Christ saying, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37). The chariot was halted, and Philip went down into the water with the Ethiopian, and Philip baptized him in the water (Acts 8:38).


3 The Right Result

The Ethiopian’s Joy

In one Bible study, the Ethiopian progressed from puzzling over who the "lamb led to the slaughter" might be, to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, which led to his obedience to Christ in baptism for the forgiveness of his sins. No wonder he "went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39). The words of Isaiah which had been explained to him had totally changed his life. Your life can be changed in the same way.


It is not essential to read these notes to benefit from the lesson. However there are some matters concerning the texts under study that you may wish to note