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Archive for October, 2009

Psalm 119:21 (ESV) – You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.

Reading through Charles Bridges’ commentary on Psalm 119, I came across the following quote regarding this verse which spoke powerfully to me…

“We wonder not at this expression of the mind of God concerning pride.  There is no sin more abhorrent to His character.  It is as if we were taking the crown from His head, and placing it upon our own.  It is man making a god of himself – acting from himself, and for himself.  Nor is this principle less destructive to our own happiness.  And yet it is not only rooted, but it often rears its head and blossoms, and bears fruit, even in hearts which ‘hate and abhor’ its influence.  It is most like its father, the devil, in serpentine deceitfulness.  It is always active – always ready imperceptibly to mix itself up with everything.  When it is mortified in one shape, it rises in another.  When we have thought that it was gone, in some unexpected moment we find it here still.  It can convert everything into nourishment, even God’s choicest gifts – yea, the graces of His Spirit.  Let no saint, therefore, however near he may be living to God, however favored with the shinings of His countenance – consider himself beyond the reach of this temptation… But can a sinner – can a saint – be proud? – one that owes everything to free and sovereign grace – one that has wasted so much time – abused so much mercy – so grieved the Spirit of God – that has a heart so full of atheism – unbelief – selfishness?  Nay, the very pride itself should be the matter of the deepest daily humiliation.  Thus the remembrance of it may, under Divine grace, prove an effectual means of subduing it in our hearts” (Charles Bridges, An Exposition of Psalm 119, Banner of Truth, pg 46-47.)

He concludes with the following prayer…

“Lord!   Teach us to bless Thee, for even Thy sharp and painful discipline which tends to subjugate this hateful pride of our hearts before our Savior’s cross!” (Bridges, pg, 47-48.)

Amen!

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I recently posted a link to a couple of articles by Kevin DeYoung on reaching the next generation.  He has posted a couple of more articles on this topic.  Here is an excerpt from one of the posts entitled “Hold Them With Holiness”…

“Look at what God says in 2 Peter 1:5-8:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you pick up on the promise in the last verse?  If we are growing in faith, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, we will not be ineffective ministers for Christ.  If ever there was a secret to effective ministry, these verses give it to us.  Grow in God and you’ll make a difference in people’s lives.  If nothing of spiritual significance is happening in your church, your Bible study, your small group, or your family it may be because nothing spiritually significant is happening in your life…”

Sobering thought!!!

Take the time to read the following posts:

“Hold Them With Holiness” found here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/10/21/reaching-the-next-generation-hold-them-with-holiness/.”

“Challenge Them With Truth” found here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/10/22/reaching-the-next-generation-challenge-them-with-truth/.

“Amaze Them With God” found here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/10/23/reaching-the-next-generation-amaze-them-with-god/.

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John Piper has posted a brief meditation on the importance of remembering that God’s free gift of grace precedes our efforts to meet His demands.  He states that this is one of the most important truths to keep in mind as we read the Bible.  It isn’t long and it is certainly worth reading.  You can find it here http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/2067_one_of_the_most_important_principles_in_reading_the_bible/

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I was recently asked by a new Christian how to recognize a “good” (by which he meant faithful) preacher.  Tullian Tchividjian answers this question well in a recent post by pointing back to the Five Sola’s (see historical theology is practical…)  For those of us involved in pastoral ministry on one level or another, this is also a helpful check-up.  You can find the post here http://www.crpc.org/blog/?p=748 .

 

 

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Tullian Tchividjian has a great post over at his blog on how to apply the gospel to our lives each and every day.  You can find it here http://www.crpc.org/blog/?p=747

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Kevin DeYoung has posted a couple of posts recently on reaching the younger generation with the gospel.  He has some excellent (and biblical) suggestions for how to do this.  Here is an excerpt from his first post…

“Reaching the next generation—whether they are outside the church or sitting there bored in your church—is easier and harder than you think.  It’s easier because you don’t have to get a degree in postmodern literary theory or go to a bunch of stupid movies.  You don’t have to say “sweet” or “bling” ” or know what LOL or IMHO means.  You don’t have to listen to…well, whatever people listen to these days.  You don’t have to be on twitter, watch The Office, or imbibe fancy coffees.  You just have to be like Jesus.  That’s it.  So the easy part is you don’t have to be with it.  The hard part is you have to be with Him.  If you walk with God and walk with people, you’ll reach the next generation…”

You can read the whole post here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/10/19/reaching-the-next-generation-is-harder-and-easier-than-you-think-grab-them-with-passion/

In a second post, he advocates the following biblical strategy:

“The evangelical church needs to stop preaching the false gospel of cultural identification.  Don’t spend all your time trying to figure out how to be just like the next generation.  Be yourself.  Tell them about Jesus.  And love them unashamedly.  I think a lot of older Christians are desperate to figure out what young people are into because they are too embarrassed to be themselves and too unsure of themselves to simply love the people they are trying to reach.  Jesus said it best: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  Jesus did not say “They will know you are my disciples by how attune you are to new trends in youth culture.”  Or “They will know you are my disciples by the hip atmosphere you create.”   Give up on relevance, and try love.  If they see love in you, love for each other, love for the world, and love for them, they will listen.  No matter who the “they” are…”

You can read the rest of this second post here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/10/20/reaching-the-next-generation-win-them-with-love/

This seems to be an ongoing series, so check back at his blog for further posts (found here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/.)

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The following is a sermon preached at First Baptist Church of Pine on October 11, 2009.

Have you ever asked the question, “Why would God save me?” When I look at myself and remember my sin… not just my past sin, mind you, but the sin which I still struggle with day in and day out… then I can’t help but ask this question, “Why me?”

I know the biblical and theological answers to this question.  Because God loved me.  Because He chose to bring glory to Himself by saving one who is not so wise… not so noble… not so mighty.  He chose to use people like me… who are nothing… to shame that which is something (I Cor 1:26-29.)  But still… in many ways it seems that I was a pretty unlikely candidate for salvation.

Do you know what I mean?  Do you ever feel this way?

I have spent a good deal of time in pastoral counseling with people who feel exactly the same way.  Time and again, I have encountered people who feel that their sin is somehow too great.  That their sin is so heinous… so final… that it excludes them from ever being saved.

Then I think about how God called me into pastoral ministry.  I certainly couldn’t think of a more unlikely person for pastoral ministry than myself.  If you had known me years ago… then you would understand what I mean.

Do you ever feel this way?  Like God could never use you to accomplish His purposes? Maybe God hasn’t called you into full-time vocational ministry… but, if you are a Christian here today… then God has called you into full-time ministry.  Our lives are to be lived wholly for Him… for His honor and glory… in service to Him in large part by serving others.

Do you ever feel like you are an unlikely candidate for His service?  Like someone else could do it better than you?

Sometimes we take these same ideas and feelings and project them onto other people as well.  I don’t want a show of hands or anything, but have you ever known someone who, for whatever reason, you just thought they would never be saved? That they are simply too far gone… too sinful… too removed from God to ever be converted?

If God could save unlikely people like us… through the ministry of unlikely people like us… then can’t we expect God to save those that we deem unlikely in our day to day lives?

We see a powerful example of this in our passage today.  Turn with me if you will to Acts 8, beginning in verse 26, and together let us see an example from Scripture of two unlikely men… one an unlikely evangelist in an unlikely setting… and one an unlikely candidate for Christianity.  And let us see how God brings about one unlikely salvation through these two unlikely men.

Acts 8:26-28 (ESV)26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

Our text begins with a man named Philip.  He was an unusual man in many ways.  He was a leader in the early church.  A man committed to service in his local church.  A man described as being “full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:3).  He was a man uniquely gifted by God to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  In fact, after persecution fell upon the early church, this man was part of those who scattered, taking the gospel with them wherever they went.  Philip went to Samaria and began preaching the gospel and a multitude of people came to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is where our text picks up today.  Philip is in the midst of a ministering in Samaria.  Many, many people are being saved.  When suddenly he receives a message from an angel of the Lord, who gives him a very explicit command, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

There is something important for us to note right off the bat here.  This entire event is all pre-arranged by God.  God has definite expectations for Philip here.  Nothing is left to chance.  God is explicitly telling Philip what he must do.  God has a plan… and Philip has a role to play in that plan.

Now take a moment and remember what is going on in Philip’s life.  As I just said, he is in the midst of a very successful ministry endeavor in Samaria.  God is at work here in Samaria and most of this ministry is centered around Philip.  Something amazing is at work here.  Ministry is booming in Samaria.  People are being saved.  There are new Christians who need to be discipled.  If you are familiar with the events surrounding this text, then you will remember that there are false teachers and heretics like Simon Magus lurking around, waiting to lure people astray.  Someone needs to shepherd this new flock to insure that they don’t fall away into error… don’t they?

There is a lot going on in Samaria.  God-honoring ministry is happening all around Philip.  But God explicitly tells Philip here to leave.  Leave this ministry behind and go to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza.  This was not exactly a “hot-spot” of activity.  We are told in a parenthetical statement here that this is a desert road.  This is the middle of nowhere.

From a human perspective… this command doesn’t make any sense.  God is reaching multitudes of people through Philip in Samaria… but now He wants Philip to go out into the wilderness.  And the angel doesn’t even tell him why.  He just says, “Go.”

And what does Philip do?  “ He got up and went.”  God commanded… and Philip obeyed.

Does this describe our obedience of God?  I don’t know about you… but I like to know why God wants me to do something.  I want to see the big picture.  I want to have all the answers.  I want to be able to decide for myself what I should or should not do.

Philip doesn’t see the big picture.  God doesn’t tell him why he is being called out to the middle of nowhere.  He doesn’t know what will transpire when he gets there.  And… from our finite perspective… what he is being called to do now doesn’t seem as important as what he was doing in Samaria.

But God’s ways are higher than our ways… His will is perfect… and our’s is always tainted by sin. His will is the one we should be obeying…

Given the success of Philip’s ministry in Samaria, it seems unlikely that he would be called away by God to a different ministry setting.  But that is exactly what is doing here.  And I find it remarkable that God is calling Philip away from the multitudes in order to reach one very unlikely man.

What does this tell us? God is not only concerned about the multitude… but He is also concerned about the individual.

Do you remember Jesus telling the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep in safety to go out in search of the 1 lost sheep in the wilderness (Luke 15)? That same principle is at work here.  God is taking Philip away from the 99 to seek out one lost sheep…)

Enter the second unlikely man… an Ethiopian man.  When we think of Ethiopia today… we generally think of starving children… but it was not so in the 1st century.  Ethiopia was a powerful kingdom in Africa… just south of Egypt.  It had been a powerful kingdom for several hundred years at this point… and it would continue to be a powerful and wealthy kingdom until the 4th century AD.  This man came from a mighty nation…

And he was a mighty man within that mighty nation.  He was a court official of the queen of Ethiopia…in charge of all her treasury.  He was kind of like the chief financial officer for the entire kingdom.

He was a powerful and rich man.  His wealth is seen in the fact that he is in possession of at least a portion of a copy of the Isaiah scroll.  That would have been no small purchase in those days… there weren’t that many copies of the scroll lying around… and to be able to buy his own copy implies that he was a man of some wealth.

But despite his secular wealth and power, this foreigner was a man seeking God.  We are told that he came to Jerusalem to worship God.  I want us to think about this for a moment and unpack this a little…

First… this man traveled a long distance in order to worship GodWell over 200 miles through desert… without air conditioning (Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary.)  This would have been a five-month journey by chariot.  What would motivate this man to travel that far?  It had to be more than curiosity.  He must have had a sincere yearning for God.  So he makes the trek… hundreds of miles… in order to worship God.

What would he have found when he reached Jerusalem?  What would his worship of God been like in Jerusalem?

Remember… he is an Ethiopian… not a Jew.  That means that at the most he would have been allowed to enter into the Court of the Gentiles in the temple.  Do you remember what took place there?  That was the marketplace… that is where the money changers set up shop.  Sacrificial animals were bought and sold.  It was not very worshipful.  Remember… Jesus had been so incensed by the activities in the Court of the Gentiles that He had driven the money changers out of the temple (Lk 19:45-48.)

Do you think this man could have found what he was looking for there?

But let’s unpack this just a little bit more… this man was a eunuch.  I read more than I cared to about eunuch’s this week… and I am not going to go into all the gory details with you… suffice it to say that most scholars believe that he was a totally emasculated male (Bock, Acts, 342, also Witherington, 296.)  This would have impacted him even further in the worship of God.

Deuteronomy 23:1 (ESV) – 1 “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 23:1 tells us that no eunuch shall enter the assembly of the LORD.  This meant that a eunuch could not enter into the temple whatsoever.  In fact… it means even more than that.  “The assembly of the LORD” are the people of God.  They are those who are in covenant with God.  They… and they alone… have a relationship with God and enjoy fellowship with him.

A eunuch was denied entrance to the assembly of the LORD.  Therefore…he could not be part of the people of God.  He could not enjoy fellowship with God.  He could not even adequately worship God.  He was excluded from God completely…

Why?  Why would God exclude eunuchs from having a relationship with Him?

The original command is pretty clear that is not intended to hinder people who had some form of natural physical deformity.  This was intended to keep out those who had voluntarily become eunuchs as part of a pagan religious ritual.  This was pretty typical in the ancient world.  In much the same way that circumcision among the Jews was a sign of being set apart to God… becoming a eunuch was a sign of being set apart… usually to a pagan deity… and often for pagan service (Kalland, Expositors Commentary, Deut 23:1, also Deere, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Deut 23:1.)

Why would someone do this?  Often eunuchs were granted positions of great authority and respect among the Ancient Near Eastern people.

So… when we realize the background behind why a person became eunuch… then we begin to gain a greater understanding as to why God would forbid them from being one of His people.  Because, in a very real sense, they were set apart to a false god.

Now… what this means is that… no matter how far he had traveled… no matter how rich and powerful he was… no matter zealous he was to know and worship God… this man would not have been allowed to enter into the temple whatsoever.  He is what was typically called a “Proselyte of the Gate”… one who couldn’t even come into the Court of the Gentiles.  He might have been welcome in a Greek speaking synagogue, but that was it (MacArthur, Acts 8:26-30.)  All he could do is to stand outside and look in at those who worshipped God.  He would be forbidden to worship God himself…

There are consequences for sin.  Scripture is clear… God is not mocked… whatever a man sows… that will he also reap (Gal 6:7.)  This man’s sinful decisions had enduring effects.  They hindered him from coming into fellowship with God and His people.

Every one of us… without exception… is naturally separated from God by our sin.  We are all guilty of sin… naturally we all stand condemned before God.  If we break God’s Law in one point… we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10.)

But let’s be practical here.  Some sin has farther reaching consequences than others.  All sin leaves us guilty before God and separated from Him… but some sin brings greater shame and stigma and suffering in the here and now.

That is what this eunuch discovered in Jerusalem. Some sin has farther reaching effects than others.  This man was barred from even coming into the temple because of his sin…

Imagine his shame… You don’t come hundreds of miles to worship a God you don’t know anything about.  He came to Jerusalem for a reason…but the shame of his sin kept him from enjoying fellowship with God.

And yet in the Old Testament… through the prophet Isaiah… God promised a time to come in the future when even eunuchs would be allowed to enter into fellowship with Him…

Isaiah 56:3-8 (ESV) – 3 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.” 4 For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 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.

This promise applies specifically to this man.  It is a promise that God will receive foreigners… Gentiles… into fellowship with Him.  It promises that God will pour immense blessing down upon those who were cut off from Him… even those who were cut off because of idolatrous sin.

And then God begins to talk about the blessing which He holds in store for the eunuch.  In the Ancient Near East… and among the Jews in particular… having children brought great honor to a person.  The more children one had… the greater their honor.

Obviously… the eunuch had no hope of having any children.  He was… a dry tree… unable to bring forth any fruit… unable to achieve any honor for himself.

But here God promises blessing and honor to the eunuch who keeps His Sabbath.  In other words… there is blessing and honor for the eunuch who remembers what God has done.  God promises blessing and honor to the eunuch who chooses what pleases Him.  I think this is another way of speaking of repentance. There is blessing and honor for the eunuch who turns from sin and seeks to do God’s will. Furthermore, God promises blessing and honor to the eunuch who holds fast God’s covenant.  In other words, there is blessing and honor for the eunuch who trusts in the promises which God has made.  In other words, to this man… despite the fact that he was a eunuch… God promised access and fellowship to Him and an everlasting memorial better than sons and daughters “in His house and within His walls.”  This is a promise of eternal life and blessing in the presence of God (Keil and Delitzsh, Isaiah 56:4-5.)

Was the Ethiopian Eunuch aware of this promise?

I tend to think so… because in a few verses we will see that he is reading from Isaiah  53… only three chapters before this promise…therefore these two passages would have been contained on the same scroll.

It would also explain why… of all the possible Old Testament scrolls he could have purchased… why this one?  Perhaps because it is the only passage in all of the Bible which speaks explicitly of the restoration of eunuchs?

Either way… despite a no doubt disappointing visit to Jerusalem… he is returning home to Ethiopia…but he is still seeking God.  After all… what is he doing?  As he travels home, he is reading aloud from the Isaiah scroll which he has in his possession

(Transition: Now don’t forget about Philip.  Here we have two unlikely men.  One… an unlikely evangelist standing around… waiting in the midst of the desert.  One… an unlikely sinner… previously set apart to false gods… with little or no hope of reconciliation with God.  Here we have two unlikely men who… in the providence of God… are going to have a very unlikely meeting…)

Acts 8:29-35 (ESV) – 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

We have no way of knowing how long Philip stood there in the wilderness… just waiting… not really knowing why God had sent him there.  But now his waiting is over.

The Spirit of the Lord commands Philip to go up and make contact with this chariot.  “To join” it… κολλάω … literally “to cling” to it or “be glued” to it.  It is as if He is staying, “Don’t let this one go, Philip…”

Again… he obeys without hesitation.  He runs and catches up to the chariot… and hearing the eunuch reading out loud from Isaiah… he asks him an important question…

Do you understand what you are reading?”

To which he responds, “How can I unless someone guides me?”

Notice the importance placed on understanding here.  Philip hears this man reading the Word of God… but he knows that means nothing if he doesn’t understand what he is reading.

This is something we shouldn’t pass over too quickly.  This is a reminder for all of us that it is possible to hear the Word of God…or go to church… or sing songs… or be involved in any number of religious activities… but if a person doesn’t understand what they are reading and hearing and doing… then it is all in vain.

As Christians, each and every one of us are called to “testify” of Jesus.  To “witness” of Him.  We are called to do our part to bring understanding to others about who Jesus is and what He has done.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that everyone knows and understands the message of the gospel.  They don’t.  Not only is the message of the gospel foolishness to those who are perishing (I Cor 1:18), but they often don’t even have the facts straight.

We live in a culture today which is becoming more and more biblically illiterate all the time.

1)      They don’t understand who God is…

2)      They don’t understand what sin is…

3)      They don’t know who Jesus is or what He has done…

4)      They don’t understand what is required of a person if they are to be saved from the wrath of God…

Fewer and fewer people all the time understand what they read and hear in the Bible… someone needs to guide them… and that someone should be us… no matter how unlikely a teacher we may think we are.

In many ways… Philip has his work cut out for him here.  God is at work here.  He has given this Ethiopian eunuch a desire to know Him.  He has brought him to Jerusalem and placed in his hands a copy of the Isaiah scroll.  God has directed this man to one of the high points of the Old Testament… Isaiah 53… and this is what he was reading…

Acts 8:32-33 (ESV) – 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

This passage speaks of an innocent Man willingly offering Himself as a sacrifice for others.  As He is humiliated and injustice is done to Him… He doesn’t open His mouth. He is silent… for He has come to offer Himself on behalf of others.  He has come to endure humiliation and suffering on behalf of others.

The eunuch seems to get this.  His question is, “Who is He?”  Who is the prophet speaking of?  Himself?  Or someone else?

Why would he be so concerned about the identity of this Suffering Servant?  Why would he really care?

Will you indulge me in just a little bit of speculation for a moment?

As I mentioned earlier, I tend to think this man had read the blessings promised by God to eunuchs in Isaiah 56.  If so… then in the context of Isaiah… the blessings of Isaiah 56 flow out of the actions of this Suffering Servant here in Isaiah 53In other words… it is possible for the eunuch to enter into the presence of God and be blessed within the walls of God’s house forever because of what this man has done.

Surely he would want to know who He is!

Acts 8:35 (ESV) – 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

This wouldn’t have been hard to do.  Jesus is the Son of God… but also the Son of Man.  Fully God and fully man.  He came bear our griefs and sorrows… our sin and shame upon His own body.  He was pierced through for our transgressions.  He was bruised for our iniquities.  The punishment we deserve for our sin fell upon Him.  By His stripes… through His death… we are healed (Isaiah 53:5-6.)  He suffered for our idolatry.  He died for the ways in which we have cut ourselves off from God.  He died so that we might live in perfect fellowship with God forever.  He perished so that we might be saved and be part of God’s people for all eternity.

That is the gospel.  That is the good news.  And this is the message which Philip preached to him… beginning right where he found him.

Can you think of two more unlikely people… meeting in a more unlikely place… resulting in a more unlikely salvation???

This should be the model for our personal evangelism as well.  Wherever we are in life.  In the midst of the multitude… or alone in the midst of the desert… when God sovereignly brings those who do not know Christ across our path… then this is what we are to do.  Start wherever they are… and tell them the good news about Jesus.  No matter who we are… no matter who they are.  Our job is to explain to them with as much clarity as we can who Jesus is and what He has done.  And we are to do this no matter how unlikely an evangelist we might be.  And we are to do this no matter unlikely this person is to be saved.

This is what Philip did… and the results were that God saved this Ethiopian eunuch.  We know this because the next thing we are told is that… as they traveled… they came upon water.  Notice what the eunuch asks… “What prevents me from being baptized?

Think through what he is saying here.  The fact that he was an Ethiopian had hindered him in having fellowship with God.  The fact that he was a eunuch had completely excluded him from both fellowship with God and His people.

Baptism is a picture of our belonging to Jesus.  It is a symbol that we have placed our faith in Jesus and we are united with Him.  We have died with Him and risen to new life in Him.  Our sins have been washed away because of what He has done for us.  Baptism is a symbol that we are part of His people, because of what Jesus has done for us.

The eunuch wants to know if he can be part of the people of God.  “What prevents me from being baptized?”  And the answer is, “Nothing!”  Jesus has suffered and died for his sin… and has opened the door so that this man… who was once far off… can be brought near by the blood of Jesus (Eph 2:13.)  He now has a memorial within God’s house… an everlasting future in the presence of God which will never cease.

What hinders him now from full participation in fellowship with God?

Nothing…

Verse 37 is not contained in the best Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  In fact… it doesn’t occur in a single Greek manuscript until the 6th century AD.  So it is highly doubtful that it is part of the inspired text.

But there is little doubt that Philip would have said something similar to this.

Acts 8:37 (NASB95) – 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.”]

Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?  Do you believe that He died for your sins?  Do you believe He was buried and rose again?  Then there is nothing which need hinder you from full fellowship with God in Christ for all eternity.  All that is necessary is for you to know what Jesus has done for you and to turn from your sin and trust in Him.  It doesn’t matter who you are… or what you have done… there is a place of everlasting blessing for you in the presence of God if you will only repent and believe in Jesus.

Philip was convinced that this was the case here with this Ethiopian eunuch… so they stopped the chariot… together they went down into the water… and he was baptized.

The text tells us that as they came out of the water…the Spirit of God snatched up Philip and transported him 20 miles away… where he was found in the city of Azotus.  What happened here?  We don’t know for sure.  We don’t know if he was carried off in a chariot of fire like Elijah (II Kg 2:11) or if he was beamed out by God like in Star Trek.  We don’t know.  All we know is God sent this unlikely evangelist there for a purpose… that purpose was now complete… and God miraculously moved him elsewhere.

When he was found in Azotus… he continued preaching the gospel as he traveled up the coast to where he came to reside in Caesarea.

But what happened to the Ethiopian eunuch? We don’t know for sure.  Early church history says he returned to Ethiopia as a missionary and brought the gospel of Jesus to many in his native land (Longenecker, Expositors, 366.)  We don’t know for sure…

But we know he went on his way rejoicing.  He had once been separated from God by His sin and shame… but now He was brought near… and welcomed into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, I really only have two things that I want you to remember:

1) God specializes in using unlikely servants in unlikely ways and unlikely places to accomplish unlikely salvations.

It doesn’t matter who we are or what our strengths and weaknesses are… if we are a Christian, then we have a responsibility to be obedient to God’s command on our lives and to share the good news of Jesus with those around us.  Often we may find ourselves in strange places.  We may find ourselves presented with strange people to share the gospel with.  We probably won’t understand exactly what God is doing or why He is doing it the way that He is.  But our job is to tell others about Jesus.  God specializes in using unlikely servants in unlikely ways and unlikely places to accomplish unlikely salvations.

2)      God specializes in saving the unlikely sinner.

Whether it is the Ethiopian eunuch… the tax-collector Zaccheus… the immoral Samaritan woman at the well… the murderous Apostle Paul… or you and me.  No one is beyond the grace of God.

We need to remember this when we encounter people in our day to day life.  No matter who they are or what they have done… no one is beyond salvation.  Don’t let our evaluation of someone determine whether or not we share the gospel with them.  God specializes in saving the unlikely sinner.

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