Acts 8:26-30 (NLT)
As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
Acts 8:31-32, 35-36, 38-39 (NLT)
The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth… So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.
This story is particularly instructive for the church in Nigeria today. It gives us a useful template for engaging with civic authority in our country.
Essentially, Philip had been given an opportunity to minister to the Minister of finance/Governor of the Central Bank of Ethiopia which was then a prominent and influential nation. Were Philip to be like many in the church today, that would have been a great opportunity for fawning, fanfare and long salutory speeches.
The high official had gone to Jerusalem to worship but came away having done nothing more than perform an ’empty’ religious rite. Today, many high officials similarly come to our fancy cathedrals and leave with their retinue of aides in obnoxious convoys having never met the Lord.
It appears that there are no Philips today who are led of the Spirit to ask the president when he visits their church, Mr President, do you understand what you are reading/doing? Or perhaps we are just too busy bowing and grovelling, or jostling to claim a vantage spot as we line up for photographs with a man whose soul is crying for redemption.
Having ministered salvation and baptizing the man, the Holy Spirit snatched Philip away. No time for photographs. No time for collecting the big man’s card and booking appointments for personalized prayer in his office; to kill all the witches and wizards threatening the renewal of his mandate.
What is even more alarming is that we are not only failing in our duty to seize the opportunity to bring men, whether lowly or highly placed to the Lord; what alarms is that we have surrendered to their divisive and partisan ambition which is turning our pulpits into propaganda lecterns and our services into campaign rallies.
There is talk now of the leadership of the church endorsing particular candidates. Caution! There is wise counsel here about the utter silliness of the church pursuing a partisan agenda.
The church as an institution must avoid this partisan silliness and focus on its primary agenda as stated in this porting of Scripture.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
It is as this is achieved that individual believers will be able to have the discernment to make the right choices as regards everything, including politics.
Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT)
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
In closing, let me leave us with the words Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and by extension the church regarding prioritising what we do with our time and opportunities.
2 Timothy 2:4 (AMP)
No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him.