Acts 8:30-31 How Readest Thou? 9/2/2001
#1. What Do the Scriptures Say? (Acts 8:26-35)
#2. How Shall They Hear Without a Preacher? (Rom 10:14-17, Isa 52:6-7)
#3. Faith Cometh By Hearing (Rom 10:17)
Please open your Bibles to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6. In the early history of the N.T. Church a need arose for men who could serve the congregation in their physical needs. The Apostles then proposed to the congregation that they would nominate seven men who would do this service, so that the Apostles could devote their time fully to the spiritual needs of the congregation. We read:
Acts 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
Here we see the beginning stages of appointing men to the office of deacon in the Church, although here in Acts 6 they are not given the name deacons. From this list of seven deacons the first two are very active, not in the function of deacon, but in the function of Evangelist. The first two are:
In Acts 7 Stephen is being stoned to death. Please turn to chapter 8, verse 1,
Acts 8:1 Ά And Saul was consenting unto his death (Stephen's death). And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles (2X).
There was also an Apostle named Philip. But the Apostles stayed at Jerusalem. Therefore, when we read in verses 4 and 5 of this chapter,
Acts 8:4 Ά Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
This is not Philip the Apostle but Philip the deacon, or it would be better to call him now Philip the Evangelist, who was one of the seven men on whom the Apostles laid their hands. Philip preached the Gospel to the Samaritans, and as a result many Samaritans believed the things concerning the Kingdom of God, and were baptized. Then the Apostles Peter and John were sent to check out this great conversion in Samaria and it was at that time that the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. What does that mean, that they received the Holy Spirit? What do the Scriptures say? God clearly says in Rom 8 verse 9 that this was the moment when the Samaritans became saved. God says in Rom 8:9,
Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
By the way, the Samaritans were not rebaptized. Water baptism does not save anyone. It is only an outward sign; it is not a seal of salvation. Only God can give the seal, which is the giving of the Holy Spirit. Many churches fail this test at this point. Here, again we are confronted with the question:
#1. What Do the Scriptures Say? (Acts 8:26-35)
If you don't know your Bible, you will get snared. Here in Acts 8 is another event where we must ask: "What do the Scriptures say?" Or: "How Readest Thou the Scriptures?" Please turn now to V. 26
Acts 8:26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto
the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
Acts 8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Acts 8:28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
Acts 8:30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? (How readest Thou the Scriptures?)
Acts 8:31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
What do we see here? God sent the Gospel to one of His elect, the Ethiopian eunuch, and God sent one of His evangelists, Philip, to share the Gospel. The Ethiopian Eunuch needed not just the words of Scripture, but he also needed explanation. He said: "How can I understand, except some man guide me?" Is that a general rule in evangelism? YES! "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
Let's apply this to us now. When we want the Gospel to be made known, don't just give them a Bible, but share the Gospel with them. They need an explanation. Let's go on in verse 32,
Acts 8:32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter (2X); and like a lamb (2X) dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
Acts 8:33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.
Acts 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
How did Philip know the answer? Did it come to him automatically? NO! It does not come to us automatically either. It takes study to find the right interpretation of the Scriptures. But that is not the only condition. To give the right interpretation we must be comparing Scripture with Scripture and we must have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must pray constantly that we may remain faithful.
What did Philip say? Philip preached unto him Christ crucified. Philip spoke about: He was led
This was the point in Scripture where the Ethiopian eunuch began to ask questions, and verse 35 says that it was at this point where Philip began to preach unto him Jesus. What do we understand from these verses? Do we understand that this sheep refers to Jesus? Does that not remind you of God's words spoken by the mouth of John the Baptist when he exclaimed: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"? But Jesus did not look like a sheep, and Jesus did not look like a lamb. Why was God representing Jesus by a sheep, or by a lamb? The Lamb of God was a direct reference to the killing of the Passover lamb, which led to the liberation of the children of Israel from bondage to Egypt 1477 years earlier. In like manner the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on Friday April 3, in the year 33 AD, led to the liberation of all the Israel of God from bondage to sin and Satan.
Why was the Lord Jesus led as a sheep to the slaughter? To answer this question we have to go to the page in Scripture from where the Ethiopian eunuch was reading. Please turn with me to the Prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 53 (2X). The two verses the Ethiopian Eunuch was quoting are in Isa 53:7 and 8. But the sheep are mentioned just in the previous verse. We read in Isa 53:6,
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Without exception, "all we like sheep have gone astray". God says in Rom 3: "There is NONE righteous, NO, NOT ONE; there is NONE that understandeth, there is NONE that seeketh after God. There is NONE that doeth good, NO, NOT ONE". There is not one human being who has not sinned and is not deserving the wrath of God for his sins. Not even a newborn baby. We all deserve to go to Hell for an eternity. But God had mercy on us and God sent us a "Redeemer", a "Substitute".
If the Lord Jesus came as our "Redeemer", then He had to come as our "Kinsman", because the Hebrew word for "Redeemer" is the same word as "Kinsman". Isa 53:6 says that God compares us to sheep, probably because "we are the sheep of His pasture". In order to become one of us the Lord Jesus was compared to a sheep. "And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all", which means that God took all our sins and laid them on the Lord Jesus, and then God began to pour His wrath on the Lord Jesus because He was bearing our sins. As our "Redeemer" He had to be our "Substitute". This is His name whereby He shall be called: "The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jer 23:6). He had to be our "Substitute" in bearing our sins, and He had to be our "Substitute" in giving us His righteousness. That is why He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and He opened not His mouth, because He was guilty with our sins. He did not defend Himself. He took our guilt upon Him; He was guilty, no contest.
But who are "us all" as mentioned in the last two words of Isa 53:6? Did the Lord Jesus die for the sins of everyone in the human race? But then, why did God say in Isa 53:8,
Who are My People? We read in Isa 53:8,
Isaiah 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
What penalty did the Lord Jesus have to endure for our sins? He had to endure the full payment for our sins. The Law of God demands that our sins be paid by an eternity in Hell. This is what the Lord Jesus had to endure. He suffered the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. That is why He had to endure the wrath of God, because to be in Hell means to have come under the wrath of God. That is why He had to hang on a wooden cross, because "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree"(Gal 3:13). He was under the curse of God, and therefore He had to endure the torments of Hell. Only then could He make the full payment for our sins. The physical sufferings he endured were only an outward sign of the fires of Hell He had to endure inside. God made Christ's Atonement the central focus of the whole Bible. It is wrong and it is carnal to put your focus on the physical sufferings of Jesus. (A spir. Book)
But for whom did the Lord Jesus suffer the equivalent of an eternity in Hell? Did Jesus suffer the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for those who themselves are going to Hell? Would God be such a monster as to require the same sins to be paid twice? NO! The Lord Jesus suffered the equivalent of an eternity in Hell only for those who are His People. That is why God said in Isa 53:8, "For the transgression of my people was he stricken". Who are His people? The Angel said to Joseph in Mat 1
Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (2X)
Who are His people? Are they only those of the bloodline of Jacob? That would leave me out, and that would leave out most of the Christian people in the world. That cannot be the right conclusion. How Readest Thou the Scriptures? What about Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Timothy, and Titus? They were all Gentiles, but they were undoubtedly His People. You see, throughout the Bible we can read that His People are all those who were saved by grace, because they have been elected unto salvation from before the foundation of the world. Not because they were of the right bloodline. The Lord Jesus Christ paid only for their sins when He went to the cross. The Lord Jesus Himself said in:
John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life (lit: my soul) for the sheep (2X).
He laid down His life and His soul only for the sheep of His own flock. He did not lay down His life for all the sheep in the world. But how can the people in the world get to know this?
#2. How Shall They Hear Without a Preacher? (Rom 10:14-17, Isa 52:6-7)
Please turn with me to the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, chapter 10. Perhaps you remember that the Ethiopian Eunuch said the same thing. Philip asked: "Understandest thou what thou readest?" And he said, "How can I, except some man should guide me"? The Gospel of Christ crucified had to be preached unto him. The Gospel, meaning the Good News that Christ has already suffered for our sins, and so we do not have to go to hell any more. But only those who believe that they are on the way to Hell for their sins, only for those the Gospel of Christ crucified is Good News. God says in:
Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
Romans 10:15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"
Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, "Lord, who hath believed our report?"
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
How shall they hear without a preacher? What kind of hearing is God speaking about? God speaks about the hearing we do with our spiritual ears. It is not the kind of hearing we do with our physical ears. The Lord Jesus was the most perfect preacher that ever lived. The Pharisees heard him preach, but it did not do them any good. After hearing Him for 3½ years they wanted to kill Him. In other words, their spiritual ears remained closed. How can anyone get his spiritual ears opened? God has to open those spiritual ears. We cannot do it. It is entirely a gift from God. God opens the spiritual ears of those for whom Christ suffered and died. But God chose to use human beings to bring the Gospel to those whom God intends to save. Therefore, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" This again is a quotation from Isaiah. Please turn with me to Isaiah chapter 52. How beautiful it is when God sends someone to preach the Gospel? How else would our children hear without a preacher? Do we parents realize that God has given us these children so that we can preach the Gospel to them? You may be the only preachers that preach the true Gospel to them. The Ethiopian eunuch was not yet saved. He needed help. The Ethiopian eunuch became saved when Philip preached Christ to him. It was a vivid illustration of the principle that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". God says:
Isaiah 52:6 Therefore my people (2X) shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day (2X) that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. ("In that day" means the day that we became saved)
Isaiah 52:7 Ά How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Do we indeed bring a Gospel where we say unto Zion, where we say to the place where God resides, Thy God Reigneth? Do we indeed bring a Gospel where God is the Sovereign Lord who does and accomplishes that which He plans to do, and not a god who is subject to the whims of man?
There were lots of unsaved people in Jerusalem in those days. But God chose to save this Ethiopian eunuch because Christ suffered and died for his sins, and therefore God sent Philip to him. How does that apply to us? What message is here for us? Actually, the message is plain and simple: People who have become saved should be taking the place of Philip. They should be ready, and willing and able to bring the Gospel to whomsoever will hear, and they should be willing to take the Gospel to faraway places as missionaries, or by sending missionaries. So, why don't we:
Of course, we first need to know if God has saved us. Only those who truly have been saved, only those who truly have been Born Again, are qualified to bring the Good News to others. Only if we have experienced salvation ourselves can we explain to others what salvation is. How can we know if we have been saved? We have been saved if we see in ourselves that we have a fervent ongoing desire to do the will of God, and if the God whom we serve is indeed the God who is circumscribed by the Bible, and by the Bible alone, nothing more and nothing less. Do we have a desire to live as close as possible to this God whom we are serving? Do we love the voice of the Bridegroom, this Bible, and do we love to spend time in the Bible to get to know our Bridegroom? Do we love to be with Him in heaven, or are we afraid to die? These, and similar questions we must ask ourselves, and examine ourselves if we truly have been saved. In all these, let not the words of the Pastor be the final word, but let the Word of God be the final Authority to which we have submitted ourselves.
But then, when we have found that we have truly been saved and that our names are written in heaven, what a joy overwhelms our soul. Then we are ready to follow our Lord's command. The Lord Jesus said: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men". Does this mean that if we are not fishers of men, we are not following Jesus? Indeed that is true. If we are not evangelizing or witnessing, then we are not following Jesus. Someone who has become saved also has received a new nature, in which it is his urgent desire to witness for the Lord Jesus, who saved him at such a great cost. In fact, please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 12. (2X) The Lord Jesus has some strong language to say in a verse rarely quoted in other churches:
Matt 12:30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
This is actually a very condemning verse. It reflects that there is a spiritual battle going on in this world. Paraphrased, the first half of this verse says: "He that is not with Me, in My army, fighting the battle against the enemy, is actually against Me and is fighting on the side of Satan". The second half of this verse says: "He who does not gather with me in sowing the seed and reaping the harvest and gathering the wheat into My barn, will actually scatter people away from Me, helping the enemy.
So we see that the Lord's command is really: "Get started, and just do it. Bring the Gospel to many of those who want to hear". Give the enemy a run for his money.
But there is one condition: Has God opened the door? Philip was sent, because God told him to go. Today God does not tell us in our ears, but God creates the circumstances from which we infer that God has placed before us an opportunity to witness. Has God opened the door?
Did we study our Bible? Are we prepared to answer questions for example about Isa 52 and Isa 53? Are we ready to answer questions about the sovereignty of God? When we open our Bible:
How Readest Thou? We cannot hide or claim that we did not grow up in reading Scripture. We cannot claim that nobody taught me anything. We cannot assume that it is really not that important. None of our cultural backgrounds can be used as an excuse. We plainly and simply must know what the Scriptures say. I do not mean that we must have a perfect understanding of the Word of God before we engage in witnessing. But we must have an understanding of the elementary things pertaining the Gospel. We must ask the Lord for guidance. He will show us the way. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. We all make mistakes. No one knows the Bible perfectly. I have made mistakes for many years. God uses our mistakes (which are actually called sins) to work out His perfect plan of redemption. God knows whom He will save and whom He intends to pass by. We do not get the credit for any conversions, but we do not get the blame for any blunders either. But in the elementary things pertaining to the Gospel: We must know what the Scriptures say. How Readest Thou?
For example, we must have memorized Eph 2:8-10. Many of us already know these verses:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Clearly, our faith, which is an evidence of our salvation, is a gift from God, and it is not the instrument that saves us, because our salvation is also by grace, and therefore it also is a gift from God. To make sure we understand that none of our actions can contribute to our salvation, God emphasizes: "Not of works, lest any man should boast". To rub it in the third time, God says:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We are Christ's workmanship. None of our works contributed to that. But that is not where our works stop, for we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them". God intended us to work for Him. But God has prepared those works for us, so that we simply walk in them.
And be encouraged that our works bear the approval of our Master. In our Bible studies God says:
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
What do we do now? God says:
Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only (Jam 1:22). Now that we heard this message will we go to work on it? What are we doing with all this information? Will we act on it, or will we forget it? Is this how we usually react to sermons we hear on Sundays? My suggestion is that you take this outline and tape it to the mirror in your bathroom, so that you will be reminded of it every day.
#3. God says: Faith Cometh By Hearing (Rom 10:17)
If we only realize that God is using the actions of man to accomplish His plans of redemption and reprobation, we would be much more careful in raising of our children and in developing interpersonal ties with other people. All our actions have a lasting effect. For example: What do we want most for our children and for our family members whom we love. We desire that they be saved, because then they will be in the highest bliss. How does that happen that they be saved? There is only one-way: By the will of God, or by the command of God. How Readest Thou? God says in Rom 10:17,
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by (through) the word (rhema) of God.
Does everyone realize that God is using here the word faith as a substitute for salvation? Our faith is not salvation, but it is a sure evidence of salvation. Our faith is one of those good works, "which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them". Our faith comes by the hearing of the Gospel message. Who can hear the Gospel message? Nobody can hear it unless God gives us spiritual ears to hear the Gospel Message. And that is exactly the meaning of the second half of this verse: The spiritual hearing is given through the command from God. Significantly, "the word" in Rom 10:17, is not the Greek word Logos, but it is the word "Rhema", which means the spoken word of God, or the message from God, or the command from God. Spiritual hearing is given through the command of God. How then can our children be saved? We must preach to them the Gospel. We do not just read them the words of the Bible, but we must explain them also, for "How shall they hear without a preacher?" And then, how do we dare to withhold the Word of God from our children. If our children do not know the Word of God, the likelihood is that they will be snared. If we do withhold the Word of God from our children, we will live with regret for the rest of our life. We don't get a chance for a replay.
Don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you marry or get engaged to someone who becomes your missionary field. God says in II Cor 6:14-17,
2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial (Satan)? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel (unbeliever)?
2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
The Word of God in the strongest language commands that we must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Do not make your fiancι your missionary field. That is contrary to the Word of God.
Please turn in your Bibles to Eph 6:4. When I said that our first missionary field is at home, I meant to apply that in the first place to our children. If God wills, our outreach to our children will be greatly blessed. God tells us in Eph 6:4,
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (How Readest Thou?)
What does it mean "provoke not your children to wrath"? Whose wrath? It is the wrath of God. Did
you notice that the first half of this verse is in contrast to the second half of this verse? The good way to bring them up is "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord". Then they will be raised in the favor of the Lord. But in the first half of the verse you will raise them so that they come under the wrath of God. How do we provoke our children to the wrath of God? According to Eph 6:1 we do that by raising our children so that they do not obey their parents. If we fail to discipline our children, we actually hate them, and we will provoke our children to the wrath of God. If our children do not learn to respect their parents, who are in the place of God, then they will not respect God either. When God in His wisdom created Prov 22:15,
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (How Readest Thou?)
God is not giving a gentle advice about child rearing. God is giving a command that must be obeyed. We may not like this command from God. If we have committed ourselves to believe all that the Word of God commands us to believe, then we must obey this command also.
How do we put into practice the principle: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing through the word of God"? Some parents simply give up, because they do not know how.
First of all there has to be a plan: We gather the family together, we pray together, we eat together, we open the Bible and read together, then we ask the children questions and discuss the answers together. Most people live without plans, or schedules. It will not work without a plan. We must have a plan, a place and a time allotment. During this time there can be no telephone or other interruptions. Everyone is going to be present. Start your Scripture with our memory verse for the week. What is our memory verse for the week? It is in the Sunday Bulletin. Why is our Bulletin so empty this week? Would you believe that none of the parents knows what our memory verse is for the week? NO, NOT ONE! We have published it faithfully in the Bulletin for 3 years. I have checked the records. But when the children come to Sunday School, none of the children have rehearsed it at home at any time. Perhaps I have been overloading the Bulletin with too much good news. Nobody reads it any more. Therefore, for your benefit, I have left only the Sunday School announcement in. Perhaps you will read it now.
· Let me conclude this matter: You have listened to a 50 minute speech, preceded by a 25 hour study. The welfare of this congregation is of great concern to me. You can now do one of two things: Either you go home and practice what you have learned today, or you forget it and then you are on your own, but don't feel sorry for yourself.
· God says: Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only.
Pray to God that we may be good readers and good understanders and good obeyers of the Word of God.