Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:29-31, NKJV)
Acts 8 records an encounter between an official in the court of Queen Candace of Ethiopia and Philip, the evangelist. Scripture does not tell us the man’s background, but he was probably a convert to Judaism. When Philip met him, he had been to Jerusalem to worship and was now heading back to his own country. God ordained the meeting of a man trying to understand the words of the prophet Isaiah and an evangelist who had just left a great revival in Samaria.
When Philip asked the man if he understood the words he read, the Ethiopian responded, “How can I unless someone guides me?” The man in the chariot needed a teacher before he could become a disciple. He immediately invited Philip into his chariot, eager to learn more. With such a teachable spirit, by the time the two men went their separate ways, he understood the message of Jesus Christ and had been baptized.
Everyone needs teachers, but sadly not everyone is willing to be taught. We’ve probably all observed this on the job, at church, and perhaps even within our own homes. (Hopefully, we are not the one with an unteachable spirit.)
lessons in discipleship
What lessons in discipleship can we discover from this man’s story and other portions of Scripture?
A disciple is a learner, a student. This is someone who is willing to listen and be taught. Proverbs 9:9 (ESV) says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” No matter how many years we have served the Lord or how many others we may have taught, we must always keep the heart of a learner, constantly seeking to know more about God. It is a lifelong pursuit.
A disciple shows humility. He willingly submits to the instruction of another. The Ethiopian eunuch was a man of position and power in his own country, yet he was willing to submit to the words of Philip because of his deep desire to understand the Scriptures. First Peter 5:5 emphasizes humility within the church. “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
A disciple listens to needed correction. “One who listens to life-giving rebukes will be at home among the wise. Anyone who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever listens to correction acquires good sense” (Proverbs 15:31-32, CSB). No one is above this. I know some outstanding people in leadership roles who still make themselves accountable to others and are willing to receive correction. If we don’t, we show a prideful spirit which can lead to our downfall.
a disciple becomes a teacher
The Bible does not tell us the end of the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, but I can make some assumptions. If he truly became a disciple of the Lord, he began to make disciples when he got home. A. W. Tozer is quoted as saying, “Only a disciple can make a disciple.” We can say “teach me” and benefit from what we learn. But in turn, we must share that knowledge with others.
Every true disciple will invest in the lives of others. We must always be a learner, but we must also always be a teacher. If you don’t know where to start, begin at home. Disciple your children and teach them how to live for God. Step outside your door, and disciple your neighbor, a coworker, or a friend. Just as God sent Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch, He wants to send you to someone who says, “How can I learn unless someone guides me?”
Lord, give me a teachable spirit so that I can grow in my knowledge of You. Help me to recognize and overcome any prideful thoughts that would hinder my spiritual growth. Help me to accept correction when needed and be in subjection to my leaders. As Your disciple, open my eyes to the possibilities of making disciples of others.