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What really matters… October 14, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Baptism, Gospel, Jesus, Religion, Sermons.
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SERVANTS IN ACTS: PHILIP – PROCLAIMING GOOD NEWS

    Acts 9:26-40 (with verses 4-6, 12, 25)

     

We do not know a lot about Philip. We have the opportunity in Scriptures to look at some people’s lives over a period of time and we get a feel for what type of person they are. In the case of Barnabas, who we talked about last week, we get a feel from the Bible for the type of person he was. We see him at high points and low points in his life. He is identified in the Scriptures by his character. He was the type of person who you called on when you needed help.

BUT PHILIP… 

The Bible, however, identifies Philip differently. Not that he was not a man of good character. Acts 6:3 tells us that he along with six other men were “…of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” Like Barnabas, Philip was typical of the believers presented in the book of Acts. What Philip is known by, however, is the message he proclaimed, the good news of the gospel of Christ.

HIS MESSAGE WAS ANCHORED IN THE WORD OF GOD (verses 28-31)

Circumstances vary and these were unusual circumstances in which Philip found himself (verses 29-30a).  The context indicates that Philip was a man on the run (verses 1-5). He was having unusual success in the city of Samaria. His success was so great that the apostles came to see what was going on (verses 5-8 and 14-17). In fact, God uses the events in the city of Samaria to confirm the promise that Jesus made in Acts 1:8. “And you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem and in Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” 

But then God took Philip out of place of record breaking, ground breaking success and put him on a lonely road in the desert. Why? Because the message was not to stop with Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria. The message was to go to the ends of the world, even to Ethiopia which in the New Testament times was the area we now know as the Sudan.

The constant, though, even in unusual circumstances for proclaiming the message of God is basing your message on the Word of God and on the proper understanding of the Word of God (verse 30b).

In the book of Acts, there are a lot of unusual things that happen. You have speaking in tongues, casting out of demons, healings of various sorts. There is persecution and there are times of protection during persecution. The gospel is preached to the Jews, the people of God, and it is preached to the Gentile “dogs”. It is preached to the priests in Jerusalem and to the philosophers in Athens and even in the capital city of the world, Rome. The common denominator though, no matter where it is preached, to whom it is preached, or in what circumstances it is preached is that the message is from God’s Word.

MEET THE ETHIOPIAN… 

In this passage we find a man of importance in the kingdom of what is then called Ethiopia, who has been to Jerusalem to worship and is now returning home. The Jerusalem he has just come from is deserted of Christians. They are all except for the twelve apostles scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria but the gospel for the moment is not to be found openly in Jerusalem.

This man also had something very expensive in his possession. Likely, he had just purchased it while worshiping in Jerusalem. He had a scroll of the book of Isaiah. Philip hears him reading the scroll. He recognizes the passage and he hollers out, “Hey, I know that passage! You understand what you’re reading!” Now this man had been to the temple and was reading the Word of God but one thing he lacked, understanding.

THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WORD 

You must understand the message of the Word of God if you are ever going to be transformed by that message. There are no exceptions. In Acts 8, 9, and 10 we find men from three different stations in life who hearts knew the Word of God. We find in this chapter this Ethiopian. We find in the next chapter, Saul, a Pharisee of the Pharisees who needed to understand the truth of the Word of God. Finally, in chapter 10 we find a Roman centurion, a man who worshiped God but needed the message of the Word of God explained to him before he would be able to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. All three of them knew something of the Scriptures but had yet to understand that they spoke of Jesus Christ.

This brings me to another fact about the Word of God. God uses people to guide other people to his Word (verse 31). It is true that the Holy Spirit was given to guide us into truth and yet he acts through men and women of God. God intends for his people to guide others out of spiritual darkness and ignorance into the light. That is one reason for emphasizing the gospel over and over and over each week in our worship service. We need to be reminded what it is that men must know in order to come out of darkness. We need to focus on what is absolutely essential in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what did Philip do to bring the Ethiopian to an understanding of the Word of God? He preached Jesus Christ to Him! Philip’s Message was Anchored in the Person of Christ.

DOES HUMANKIND REALLY NEED JESUS TO COME TO GOD? YES!!! 

Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Jesus Christ (verse 34-35). It is not about the Ten Commandments. It is not about keeping the rules. It is about Jesus Christ. These things have their place. In fact, they help us to understand our need for Jesus Christ because we cannot keep the law of God. They help us to see the true character and person of Christ because He in His life here on earth kept the law perfectly.

Obviously, the Ethiopian knew something about the Jewish religion. He no doubt knew about some of the rules of Judaism, he had after all come from south of Egypt, the frontiers of Africa to worship at the designated place of worship, Jerusalem, but he did not know Jesus Christ.

Because this man did not know of Jesus Christ, it was hard for him to understand this passage in Isaiah. Is the prophet writing about himself? Is he writing about some other man? Philip was able to explain to him that the man of whom Isaiah had written was known and had been revealed, Jesus Christ.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND AND BELIEVE ABOUT CHRIST? 

Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Christ as the crucified God/man (verses 32-33). This passage in Isaiah 53 is about death:  an unfair death, a humiliating death, a death endured in silence. No objection is raised against the injustice by the victim. He has no lawyer, no one to plead His case. There is no protest against the humiliation. No cry against his persecutors. Why? This is no doubt the question in the Ethiopian’s mind. Philip had an answer. I think it might have sounded like this, “You’ve quit reading too early. Look at this! 

    8b For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked––But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 ¶ Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.’ (Isaiah 53:8b-11)

Philip preached Jesus to the man. He told them of His death. Of His burial in a rich man’s grave. Of His resurrection. Of His ascension into heaven. Of faith in Christ for salvation from sins.

IT DOES NOT STOP WITH THE CRUCIFIXION 

Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Christ as King (compare verse 12 with verses 36-38). That is the significance of baptism. When one allowed himself to baptized, people understood that they were committing themselves to total allegiance to the message of the baptizer. I have not said a lot about baptism in several months and I need to return to this subject. If you claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ and you refuse to allow yourself to be baptized, your faith is suspect. I am not saying that you are not saved, that I cannot know. I do know, however, that Christ demands total allegiance from those who claim to follow Him and in that day and in this day, the first step of showing total allegiance to Christ is baptism.

The Ethiopian knew something about baptism. Baptism was a common practice among the various sects of the Jewish religion. He no doubt knew if Christ was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and that he demanded total allegiance, it would be necessary for him to allow himself to be baptized to show his allegiance to Christ.

Remember he served the Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. These women were “…portrayed as ‘powerful figures, enormously fat, covered with jewels and ornament and elaborate fringed and tasseled robes. Their huge frames tower over their diminutive foes, whom they are shown grasping brutally by the hair with one hand and to whom they deal the coup de grace with the other.’” At least one of these women had been reported by their Roman enemies as at the head of her army as they won a victory against the Roman army of Caesar Augustus. This man knew what it was to serve royalty directly, totally, and he was ready. [This paragraph from:  Yamauchi, Edwin M. “Acts 8:26-40: Why the Ethiopian Eunuch Was Not from Ethiopia” from Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis ed. Bock, Darrell L. and Fanning, Buist M. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books 2006. (364).]

Jesus is saying through His Word that He is all that really matters. He is the only one to whom allegiance is due. It is not only that Jesus died for sin but He lives today so that you may have the privilege to serve Him. Put your faith in Christ for salvation and surrender yourself to His will.

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Comments»

1. Fiseha D. Letta - October 15, 2007

Do you mind factual corrections in your article?

In your sum article, “MEET THE ETHIOPIAN…”, we read:

In this passage we find a man of importance in the kingdom of what is then called Ethiopia”

Is this a fact? Are you saying that there was a kingdom in those days that was called Ethiopia? The shortest answer is NO!

You have an option, though. Either follow the most reliable texts that show Nubia or follow the old Hebrew/Aramaic designation of the region, “Cush”. However, the text directs towards Numbia. The historical prove if you are interested is that Nubia overtook Maroe and Axum was the other kingdom south of Numbia known to the then world. Bottomline is that there was no kingdom known as Ethiopian then.

God bless you,

Fiseha

PS: I’m Ethiopian and I couldn’t stand the temptation

2. roberttalley - October 15, 2007

Thanks, Fiseha, for the correction. I should of written, “In this passage we find a man of importance in the kingdom of Maroe from an area south of Egypt that was known after the fifth century BC by the Greeks and later Romans as Athiops (translated into English as Ethiopia).”

As you can see the kingdom was not known by the Greeks and Romans as Ethiopia but rather the area, hence the use in the New Testament of the word “Ethiopia”.

This information is from [Yamauchi, Edwin M. “Acts 8:26-40: Why the Ethiopian Eunuch Was Not from Ethiopia” from Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis ed. Bock, Darrell L. and Fanning, Buist M. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books 2006. (364).]

3. Haimanot - October 17, 2007

Fiseha is an Eritrean, an arch enemy of Ethiopia. Now you get the picture why this man hates Ethiopia.

The whole world knows that Ethiopia existed for centuries and will continue to exist. Ethiopia is the only African nation with its own unique culture and unique alphabets.

Whether in the Hebrew Scriptures or in the New Testament, Ethiopia (not Eritrea) has been mentioned several times.

So, the post is accurate, no need to correct!


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