Saturday, August 31, 2019

🔴LIVE NOW: Sermon on Acts 8:26-40


Sermon Outline: Acts 8:26-40

Saddlerock EPC
Jeff Sandberg, ruling elder
September 1, 2019

“Unless Someone Guides Me”

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch from Acts 8:26-40

OT Passage: Isaiah 53 (especially verses 7-8)


26 ¶ But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.)
             As Pastor Dennis mentioned last week, the ‘Philip’ mentioned here is not one of the apostles, but is first mentioned in the choosing of the first deacons alongside the now-deceased Stephen. The context that lays this out is 8:4-5. First, Saul (pre-Paul) is ravaging the church and Christians are scattering. Vs. 5 says that those who had been scattered went about preaching the Word. Philip, a deacon who was among the dispersion, went down to Samaria City and began proclaiming Christ (The Messiah) to them.

             It shouldn’t surprise us that his deacon duties have been put on hold seeing he is among the dispersing church being forcefully done so by Deputy Sheriff Saul. Now, what I find interesting is that he doesn’t disperse to serve more tables. Luke saw those who had been scattered went about preaching. In other words, they knew what was first and foremost - truth, gospel, salvation, forgiveness. Sure, one can feed and cloth a person, but food and clothing are not the gospel message. And, if you’re Paul Revere, you don’t have time to throw a BBQ; you’re warning “the redcoats are coming!” In Philip’s case, “Judgment is coming; flee to the savior!”

             His first successful preaching campaign is in Samaria where he wins the conversions of many, including one Simon the Sorcerer, though for a time Simon wished he could buy the ability to exercise the gifts of the spirit through money. It is noteworthy that Philip steps out of the scene for a moment once Peter and John show up. It isn’t until verse 26 that Philip makes his return, as he stood back to give first place to the apostles themselves.

             So now, we find ourselves back at verse 26 where Philip is told first by an angel of the Lord (possibly Gabriel, according to Don Stewart) head to, basically, the middle of the desert, and then to run up to and join the chariot in verse 29. Note that Philip went. I both love and am challenged by Philip’s response in verse 27.

27 So he got up and went
             Let’s just stop and ponder that for a moment. He got up and went. It sounds so much like the response of those who had been healed by Jesus. For me, the most recent story I read was from John 5, the man at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus asks this guy about getting healed. The guy, having no idea who he was talking to (or else, having a very low view of who he was) said he didn’t have anyone to let him in the water, you know the story. Jesus says take up your bed and walk. What does the guy do? John 5:9 says he was immediately healed. He took up his bed and walked. Philip now, knowingly preaching the good news of the gospel of the grace of God, is outright told to go, and what does he do?! He goes!!! We could just stop right there. Practical application: read the Bible and obey what it says. But, as much as a piddly sinner like me could say about it, there’s ... the rest of the story.”

27b and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship,
             Last week, when Pastor Dennis and I met, he asked me a simple question, “have you considered the significance of the eunuch to this story?” My answer: an honest no. Truth be told, I was experiencing some writer’s block up when I met with Dennis. Turns out, the Eunuch has a direct connection to the sermon I last preached on Ruth chapter 2 that I had not considered before.

             You know, sometimes preparing for sermons is like my favorite sport. Have you heard of it? It’s called “ball hunting.” You might know it as golf. Any fellow golfers feelin’ me there? You can either say “amen” or “ouch!” I’m lucky if I don’t lose two balls per round.

             That said, I’ll unleash the secret to this passage a bit later.

             Still, here we have a Eunuch. According to the context of the passage, he had already been to worship in Jerusalem and was on his way back to his queen’s court. As a Eunuch, he was likely forcibly “eunuch-ed” for his service to the queen. Eunuchs are usually grown men who have been “sterilized.” Emasculated men were not uncommon in courts where they had a connection with the women of a royal family. Boys were often made eunuchs so they could sing the higher register in songs and do so for much of their adult life. So, what’s the big deal, if it served some social function in society?

             Because, this dude is reading Isaiah 53, and he’s a eunuch. You may or may not remember back in my sermon on Ruth 2 when Ruth is blown away by Boaz’s kindness, knowing that she was a foreigner and, most notably, of Moabite foreign-ness? What was the curse? Deuteronomy 23:1-3 puts both Ruth and this Eunuch outside the temple. In Ruth’s case, she was a Moabitess. Moabites before her had failed to show care to the Israelites in a crucial moment, thus earning separation from the Lord. The Eunuch was, again, forced to give up his ability to procreate. It wasn’t his fault. Here he is seeking the Lord, trying to find answers to his big questions and has just come from Jerusalem to worship…but outside the temple. That had to have been heart-breaking.

             This is the primary problem that non-Calvinists have with Calvinists like me. They believe I would count this man as never being able to enter heaven because he’s “outside the camp,” or, at least, in a spiritual sense, they think we believe that people can have a desire to become a Christian and be rejected by God. Okay. This man, who is found reading aloud Isaiah 53, seems to be seeking the Lord but is Scripturally outside the camp (for the time being). As Calvinists (I use Calvinism interchangeably with “reformed theology”), we believe that a man is made alive by God and then knowingly comes to Christ. “Salvation Belongs To Our God.” Spurgeon said, Calvinism is nothing more than “Salvation is of the Lord.” However, the Scriptures also say that all who call upon the Lord WILL be saved. Our Bibles include both sides of the same coin of salvation. One side reads “the Sovereignty of God”. The other reads, “the responsibility of man.” Note that the Sovereignty of God is God’s business. I’ll tell you about our part in greater detail in a few moments.

28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot and was reading the prophet, Isaiah.
·        Suzanne Borges noted, “We also are trained by movies like Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments to think that chariots are two-wheeled racing vehicles. This is an important man. He was in a larger vehicle, possibly like a wagon, with a driver, which freed up the eunuch to read. Reading scripture aloud was a common practice, allowing Philip to hear what is read as he drew alongside the chariot.” This, too, had to be part of God’s plan for the Eunuch.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."
30 Philip ran up [NOTICE HIS INCREASED URGENCY] and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
             I was once confused by the order in which things occurred in this passage until I noticed that the Eunuch had likely already been to Jerusalem to worship. For instance, he already has the scroll which contained Isaiah 53. He was not able to enter the temple to worship and could have likely already heard a gospel presentation outside the temple. He came in order to worship. Just like Lydia later on, he was a worshiper of God but with massive restrictions, heart-breaking restrictions.
             Charles Spurgeon writes of Philip’s question, “To understand what you are reading, that is the main thing! A religion that is not based on understanding will soon come to an end. An emotional religion—one that is nothing but emotion—will be a temporary and transient religion. The Bible was meant to be understood, and it benefits us in proportion as we get at the meaning of it. The mere words of Scripture passing over the ears or before the eyes can do us little good.” So, was this man devotionally reading, studying, searching? What we do know in the next verse is he is seeking to understand something, or someone, in the Isaiah passage.

31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
             “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” It is clear throughout the context that the Holy Spirit is at work in both Philip and the Eunuch. Let me ask you, have you had the experience of the Holy Spirit telling you to walk up to someone and teach them? This might be both a blessing (direct instruction on who to talk to), and a potential curse. I mean, my heart rate would be through the roof if that were to happen to me right now. Are we ready for such an experience?

31a “Unless someone guides me…”
              Les Feldick comments, “God did not leave His Word under the control or in the hands of angels. He did not leave it in the control of highly educated seminarians, but rather God has placed his Word with the leading of the Holy Spirit into the hands of every person that wants to handle it. And for those who are going to be made aware of the plan of Salvation, God uses common ordinary people.”
             In Matthew 28:19, Jesus uses the Greek word, “matheteuo,” which means to disciple (in the verb form), instruct, or teach.” The King James uses the phrase “teach all nations.” Another much lesser-known translation, the Apostolic Bible Polyglot uses the phrase “disciple the nations.” So, I’ve really struggled with the phrase “make disciples.” I had one of those “how can I understand, unless someone guides me” moments. So, we can’t necessarily “make” disciples, but we can sure be in the act of discipleship, teaching, and instruction. I can’t “make” my band students disciples of me, but I am discipling them as they are in my presence. That said, what I saw over and over in commentary is the focus on the urgent need to preach, which is what we catch Philip doing. So, Philip, not an apostle, but a deacon chosen to serve tables, is now a preacher. It is the urgency that is brought out in the phrase “make disciples.” I had two Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door. Do you know what I felt? A bit of shame. I left actually admiring these two men who, though in the wrong about their idea of God and of the deity of Jesus, were willing to scorn shame in order to spread their message. We ended up having a very good conversation and I hope to speak to them again soon. What is the point? Philip was urgent to share the good news of the finished work of Christ. Philip was not caught second-guessing the angels or the Holy Spirits very words to him. He was an officer in the army of the Lord. He was, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “an ambassador for Christ, as though God were making his appeal through us.” May God raise us up to reach the Wenatchee Valley and beyond for Jesus. That word for “appeal” in Greek is ‘parakaleo’. It can be rendered besought, beseech, exhort, among other words. It means to call near, invoke by imploration, [exhortation], or consolation. This is so relevant in preaching the gospel. Do you know why we often hear the phrase “don’t preach at me?” It’s because of attitude, not the message. We are all called to preach.
             What comes to mind is how I got saved. I was randomly searching on the web years ago and came across an evangelism conference message called “Hell’s Best Kept Secret.” It was a message aimed at training preachers, in general, but street preachers, or more properly called “open-air preachers.” Ironically, that was the message that brought me to faith in Christ. I had grown up “Christian.” I prayed the prayer at 5 but lived like the devil. Ask my grandmother, God rest her soul. She once told my mom when I was a teenager that I had a devil, that I was filled with the devil…I think mostly because I played jazz…Seriously.
             The great preachers and theologians like George Whitefield, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and William Booth preached open air. Many examples of street preaching in the Bible include Noah, Solomon, Ezra, Jeremiah, Jonah, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, Peter, Paul, Phillip and Apollos. Modern examples are too numerous to name. This also includes preaching to a crowd and one-on-one contact evangelism. Why do I bring this up? Paul said in 1 Corinthians that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Philip, it seemed, was ready for such an occasion as the Holy Spirit prompted him. It seems no good to “live the life” without “talking the talk.”
             Kirk Cameron of “Growing Pains” fame also got saved listening to Ray Comfort’s message. He once said that after his conversion when he was on a set, he would walk around with a  “glowing smile,” hoping that his care-free look of happiness would draw people to ask what was different about him. In fact, the exact opposite happened. Only 1 person ever responded to his demeanor with, “Hey, Kirk, you look sick. Are you ok?”
             So, Philip gets invited up into the chariot to teach and simply asks if the man understood what he was reading.

32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?"
             This is the prophecy of the suffering servant. How many times prior to Jesus passion did Jesus teach something to the disciples that they didn’t understand until after he had risen from the dead, either immediately or shortly thereafter? This particular passage was understood to mean one of three things: the slaughtered sheep represented Israel, or Isaiah was referring to himself, or yet that the coming Messiah was Isaiah’s subject. So, it is no wonder the Eunuch was confused.

35 Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
   Philip used words and explained, preached the gospel. The word in Greek is “euaggelizo.” Sounds like the word for evangelism, but also can mean preached, preach, bring (like when we say “bring the Word”), or to declare. It is an announcement of the good news of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. He was “making a disciple.” He was fulfilling Jesus words in Matthew 18.
   Several things should be noted in Isaiah 53. Let’s pick it up in verse 10:
    Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;[
when his soul makes[
h] an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
    As Philip begins with this passage, I wonder what happened when Philip read, then explained verse 11:
    11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.
   Turn now to Isaiah 56
    Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
    and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
    and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
    Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
    For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
    I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.
   What do you think is more comforting? Keeping the Sabbaths, or entering into everlasting Sabbath rest through the only one who could “keep the Sabbath?” Once he learns of Jesus finished work, of Jesus being our sabbath rest, of Jesus being the temple instead of Jerusalem, this must have been gloriously freeing for him. Look at his response in verse 36.

36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
37 [And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."]
   The Eunuch did not just have his intellectual concerns assuaged. It wasn’t mere intellectual assent that the Eunuch was looking for. He was barred from entering the temple to worship the God he loved. Now he knew what Philip knew. The temple was no longer necessary. That’s why he could immediately worship God through the sacrament of baptism in the middle of the desert. Think about this: He was sure that the law was to be followed. That’s why he’d been up to Jerusalem. But, what did Jesus say? He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He had to in order to secure our ransom. Jesus brought those near who were once far off. This man virtually leaped off the chariot to be baptized.
   The preaching of Jesus should do one of two things: it should save and sanctify you, or it should make you angry. In my effort to do both, I ask you to think about this week. Are you playing church, or are you the church? Jesus’ clear intentions to the Eunuch was to console this man who had been kept out of “the temple” for so long. So, for all you who think that coming to this building makes you the church, you’re wrong. So gladly wrong! Jesus is the temple, and those who rest in Him are part of him now.

38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him but went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through, he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.

   We need to make it a practice to talk about Jesus with each other, to share what we’ve learned, but especially those things we don’t understand. I’ve heard very well-meaning preachers say they won’t preach out of certain books of the Bible or certain subjects. We would do well to heed the application implicit in this story: We need to strengthen the body by struggling with tough subjects. I mean, with many in the church beginning to turn away and reject the Bible, God, and all that, we have sat on the sidelines long enough. I may very likely not have an answer, but let’s work through that together. This includes gathering hospitably with one another, whether it’s serving one another pulling weeds or gathering for coffee (Of course, I always think food should be involved…).
   The Eunuch is one of many stories in Acts where “those who were once far off are brought near by the blood of Christ.” If you are one of those, you could talk to one of us today. However, in the spirit of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and most of the Puritans like him, I pray that you think about this every day this week. You can email us on Session, the pastors, or call us anytime. I want to take this seriously, and I hope you do, too. That said, I wouldn’t wait very long. If you sense the Holy Spirit drawing you near right now, don’t wait. Trust Him.

   We have moved communion to next week. What a wonderful opportunity to celebrate your new life in Christ. If you are in Christ, you are born again, a new creation! If you are not born again, strive to enter the narrow gate of salvation!