The Centrality of the Scriptures
Scripture: Acts 8:26–40
The Centrality of the ScripturesActs 8:26-40
Sunday, Sunday, September 16, 2007 (Beach Baptism Service)
Pastor Randy Smith
It wasn't many weeks ago when another gentleman and myself from this church were jet skiing late one afternoon in the vast ocean behind me. We were having a wonderful time when all of a sudden about 95% of the motor gave out about a quarter mile off the coast of Asbury Park. There we sat puttering at a minimal speed, our small watercraft was no match for the wind and currents that now controlled our fate. Would we drift further out to sea or smash into a rock jetty?
Well, after some heavy praying, we managed to stay safe and navigate a tedious course back to the beach. We were fortunate that evening that God returned us to the land. But we also saw the obvious potential for tragic consequences when a motor fails to work as it should.
The church is also given a motor that is "living and active" (Heb. 4:12). We are given a power supply that propels us in the right direction. This power source is the promised tool to guide the church and transform hearts. As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit will not work in the absence of this source. Yet to their own destruction (for a variety of reasons), many churches have neglected this essential feature and have unwittingly secured their own shipwreck.
What have I been alluding to?
Walter Kaiser said, "The Church and the Scripture stand or fall together. Either the Church will be nourished and strengthened by the bold proclamation of her Biblical texts or her health will be severely impaired" (Source Unknown). According to Al Mohler, "When the authentic preaching of the Word takes place, the church is there. And where that is absent, there is no church" (Feed My Sheep, p. 18). "But in the final analysis," said Mark Dever, "The people of God, the church of God, can only be created around the Word of God" (Nine Marks, p. 36).
This morning as we celebrate the baptism of seven individuals, I would also like to celebrate the Grace Tabernacle's commitment to the Word of God. Though always open to improvement, our church by the grace of God has always maintained a firm commitment to the Scriptures. As we look forward to the baptisms, I would like to walk you through Acts 8, encouraging and exhorting our church in three aspects pertaining to our commitment to the Word of God.
1. BRINGING THE SCRIPTURES (8:26-29)
First, we must be faithful to bring the Scriptures to others.
The Apostle Paul told the church in Rome that he was "not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16; cf. 1 Thes. 1:5; 2 Ti. 1:8). Philip in our account this morning witnessed first-hand the power of God from the Scriptures. Chapter 8 describes the growing revival that Samaria had encountered throughout its region. And it all came about from faithful individuals bringing the Scriptures to the hearts of the people.
This testimony is all over chapter 8 alone. We read after great persecution, verse 4, that those who were "scattered went about preaching the word." Verse 12 we see the people "believed Philip preaching the good newsabout the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." Verse 25 states, "They had solemnly…spoken the word of the Lord." And in verse 40 the account closes saying, "Philip… kept preaching the gospel to all the cities."
In our primary text this morning we see Philip called by God to bring the Scriptures to a specific person in a specific location. Philip was called to leave Samaria, the area of spiritual success, the area of comfort and minister at a place called the "desert road" (verse 26) - a remote, seldom traveled highway. Additionally, he would find that he was called to witness to a Gentile - not the most thrilling adventure for the first century Jew. Nevertheless, the beginning of verse 27 says, "He got up and went."
No procrastination, rationalization, justification or argumentation. Philip joyfully obeyed the Word of the Lord, and immediately sought to bring the Word of the Lord to this desired location, regardless of how unfavorable and illogical the circumstances may have appeared.
For Philip knew that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Apart from the Word there is no salvation. Philip was a faithful messenger, like all of us should be, to share Christ to fulfill our Lord's Great Commission calling us to "make disciples of all the nations" (Mt. 28:19). Let's remember, God's divine work is accomplished through human instruments faithful to share the Scriptures.
Along the road Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch. The term eunuch was used for a government official or a literal eunuch. If you don't know what a literal eunuch is, I'll let you research that one on your own! What we do know, according to verse 27 and 28 was that this eunuch was, one-highly influential, two-returning from a time of worship in Jerusalem and three-reading the prophet Isaiah.
Philip is now given specific instructions. Verse 29, "The Spirit said to Philip, 'Go up and join this chariot.'" Despite this man's ethnic differences and an impressive entourage, verse 30 says, "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet." Philip finds the eunuch reading the Bible. Therefore Philip asks a perfect question taking advantage of the opportunity. "Do you understand what you are reading?"
2. EXPLAINING THE SCRIPTURES (8:30-35)
That leads us to our second point. From "Bringing the Scriptures" I take you to "Explaining the Scriptures." As Peter said in his first epistle, all of us as Christians should be "ready to make a defense to everyone who asks (us) to give an account for the hope that is in (us)" (1 Pet. 3:15). Similar to this eunuch, the world is running on empty souls following after false gods. People are looking for answers in every place but the Word of God. So are we able as Christians to explain the Scriptures in such a way that will lead one to Christ? Philip was! Let's see how he may have done it.
According to verses 32 and 33, the text the eunuch was reading was from Isaiah 53 (verses 7-8, LXX). Something about a sheep being slaughtered. Something about silence before its sheerers. Something about humiliation and judgment. If you are confused, you can imagine how this eunuch must have felt! Therefore in verse 34 he asked Philip, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?" To the eunuch, the text obviously held a deeper meaning beyond barnyard animals. He knew it pointed to a person, but who?
Verse 35, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him."
Philip explained that the text the eunuch was reading was a prophecy concerning the Messiah. The prophecy teaches that prior to the Messiah's glorious reign would come a time of humiliation, a time of suffering. Jesus Christ, the great Lion of Judah would first appear as a Lamb - tender, meek and prepared to be sacrificed. Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah came to earth for the primary purpose of death.
Most likely this response would have raised more questions in the mind of the eunuch. And most likely Philip would have taken him to the larger context of Isaiah 53.
For it is there that we read, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isa. 53:6). The Bible emphatically declares that all humans fall short of the Lord's expectations. We are sinners, and God's holiness is without compromise. We are helpless, separated from our Creator with no possible way in and of ourselves of bridging the infinite gap that exists. Regardless of what you have been told, religious activity, good works, and whatever else many fine people rely upon, will never remove our sin and reconcile us with the Holy God. We all stand condemned awaiting an eternity in hell.
But there is good news! Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners (in that while we were yet hopeless), Christ died for us." Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, became human. He lived the perfect life and died as our innocent substitute on the cross. Our sins were placed upon Him. He died in our place. He received the wrath we deserved. He, and only He, made salvation available!
Hundreds of years before His earthy birth, back in our text from Isaiah 53 we read about His substitionary death: "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed … The LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isa. 53:4-6). The text continues, "But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering… He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many" (Isa. 53:10-12)
Jesus would be the culmination and the completion of all the Old Testament animal sacrifices that were given to atone for sin. Is it any wonder that John the Baptist exclaimed when he first saw Jesus coming on the scene, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29)! The Lamb that would be slaughtered just as the eunuch was reading. The Lamb that was silent before His sheerers. All was going according to plan because the Lamb knew He had a divine mission to fulfill.
First Philip brought the Scriptures. Now from the Scriptures, Philip explained the Scriptures to show the salvation found in Christ for all who have faith in Him and repent from their sins.
3. OBEYING THE SCRIPTURES (8:36-38)
Lastly, let's move to our third point entitled, "Obeying the Scriptures." We saw how Philip was obedient to share Jesus with others. Now we will see how the eunuch was obedient to the command to be baptized.
There is no doubt that obedience to God's Word is one of the greatest marks that validate true conversion. "If anyone loves Me," said Jesus, "He will keep My word" (Jn. 14:23).
In verse 36 we read, "As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?'"
Well, we need to fill in some gaps that exist between verses 35 and 36. Though not recorded, it is evident that this eunuch trusted Christ for salvation. It is also evident that Philip explained the need for him to be baptized. The eunuch, eager to obey, saw water and expressed his desire to be baptized. To that Philip responded in verse 37, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And the eunuch answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Verse 38, "And (Philip) ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.
This morning we will see seven individuals like the eunuch publicly express their faith in Jesus Christ. They too, like the eunuch, will follow their profession of faith with baptism. They too, like the eunuch and every example recorded in the Bible, will be immersed signifying their union with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-5). These individuals know that they are not saved by their baptism. They are saved by grace, through faith, in Christ. And their baptism, an outward picture of God's work in their heart, is their desire, just like the eunuch, to be obedient to the Scriptures.
In verse 39 it says when the men came out of the water Philip departed, but the eunuch "went on his way rejoicing."
Have you experienced the delight of knowing that your sins are forgiven? Have you experienced the genuine joy that can only come from the Holy Spirit? You will if you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
And if you are in Christ this morning, are you faithfully connected to your power source? Are you living in obedience to the Word of God? Are you faithfully bringing the Word of God to others for the joy of all people?
Oh the joy we experienced that memorable summer evening when we were able to get that Jet Ski motor running again and arrive safely at our destination. You too will experience an even greater joy when you (like we observed this morning) bring, explain and obey the Scriptures. For when we follow the Word of God, we abide in the Son of God. And when we abide in the Son of God, just as He promised, His joy will be in us and our joy will made full (Jn. 15:11).