22 Jesus Christ and the Bible (2) 

It was the Police Appreciation Night at Grace Bible Chapel. The Senior Pastor, Rev. Hunt, was addressing division 25 of the Police Force and giving them gratitude for maintaining the neighbourhood in good shape. “Thank you, all church members, friends, neighbours and police officers, for attending tonight’s programme, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to all the police officers of division 25. As you are all aware of, our neighbourhood used to have lots of teens’ problems, and we probably got the highest rate of juvenile delinquency among the whole GTA in the past. Thanks to all the hard work of the police officers, they partnered with our youth drop-in centre to outreach to all the needy youths, and the crime rates dropped significantly. Many youths are now attending our church. Besides praising God, we need to let the cops know that their efforts are much appreciated and all the sweats are paid off! Now I would like to call upon the team captain, Sergeant Officer Jones to give us a few encouraging words.”

“It’s my delight to participate in your church’s youth programme. Throughout the years, I have seen many lives being transformed. That was unbelievably awesome. I was particularly excited about working with your youth pastor, Alex Howe, and I am sure he would like to say something to you all.” 

While Officer Jones was walking down the stage, Pastor Alex went up and gave him a big hug, then he started to speak, “It’s my honor to stand here speaking to all of you. If it was not of our Heavenly Father, I would not have been here; instead, you might have to visit me in the Federal Prison in Kingston. I was born into a Christian family; my father was the chairman of the deacon board at his church. I was forced to memorise all the Ten Commandments and the “rules and regulations”. I was very familiar with some of the Scriptures literally, but did not really understand it. All my family friends were very legalistic. As a result, I was very rebellious. I hung around with friends that were considered “outcast” and “immoralists”. I was handcuffed by Officer Jones a couple of times. Finally, I could not get away from it anymore and had to stay at the Juvenile Detention Centre in Milton for 18 months. My parents’ hearts were broken and all their dreams were shattered. I was a disgrace and a black sheep to the family. I was so shameful of myself to a point that I wanted to commit suicide. I thought God did not care for me anymore and He was punishing me for not being good enough. This cocoon of hopelessness engulfed me until one day the Prison Fellowship Canada visited our Centre. I was invited to join their in-prison Bible Study. The brother who led the group was very caring and patient. He explained the gospel clearly, he said God loved us no matter what and because of the grace of God; we did not need to do anything to earn the salvation. Nothing we can do could make Him love us more, and nothing that we’ve done could make Him close the door. I finally understood, it was saved by grace, not by works! I was very happy and owed a big thank you to the brother who taught me the real meaning of the gospel. Then I committed myself into the Lord and submitted to His will and became a youth pastor. My mission was to gain more troubled-teens like me for Christ and help them understand the real meaning of the Scripture through proper Bible Study.”

Your Initial Response

Did you understand the Bible that you studied? Have you ever shown appreciation to your group leader in helping you to understand the Bible?

Acts 8:26–40

26Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 

27So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 

28and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 

29The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 

30Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 

31“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 

32This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 

33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 

34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 

35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 

36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 

37 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 

39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 

40Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.(Acts 8:26–40 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.

3 Underline all the words relating to the Spirit of God.

4 Underline all the words relating to Jesus Christ.

5 Underline all the words about “Isaiah the prophet.”

6 Fill in the blanks. 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch __________________________ and Philip baptised him. 39 When they __________________________, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

The Ethiopian eunuch was not a Jew, but he went to Jerusalem to worship God. Furthermore, he had the habit of reading the Bible. By means of Philip’s interpretation, he could finally know and acknowledge that Jesus Christ was the Messiah according to the Old Testament prophecies.

1 Who was the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-28)?

2 Why did even the Ethiopian eunuch go to worship in Jerusalem (Acts 8:26-28)?

3 What steps did the Ethiopian eunuch go through before he received Christ as Saviour (Acts 8:28-37)?

4 Was the desert a waterless place? How could a person be baptised there (Acts 8:26)?

5 What role did the Holy Spirit play in the process of the Ethiopian Eunuch’s conversion to Christ the Messiah?

Acts 8:26

Formerly, Gaza was one of the five cities of the Philistines and it was situated about two and a half miles from the coastline. The city was destroyed in 93 B.C and was rebuilt some thirty-six years later on a new site nearer the sea. People called the old city Desert Gaza. The New King James Version stated that it was a “desert” and the New International Version translated as “the desert road.” What exactly does “desert” mean – a road or a town? A scholar deduced that it was a road. Philip was led by an angel to leave Samaria. He took a southerly direction along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

Acts 8:26-28

Concerning the Ethiopian eunuch, there are the following points that we should pay attention to:

He Was from North Africa

This Ethiopia was the empire of Nubia which we today call northern Sudan. Perhaps, Judaism was introduced to that country in Solomon’s time by the queen of Sheba or some of her officials who were converts of the Jewish faith. Even to this day there are black ‘Jews’ in Ethiopia. In reality, Israel evacuated many of these followers of Judaism to Palestine in the 1985 famine, and this may explain the Ethiopian eunuch’s visit to Jerusalem.

The Meaning of “Eunuch”

Usually, this term is used to describe a man who has been castrated early in life. As for many ancient rulers in the Middle East, they preferred using eunuchs as their high officials. Without family burdens, the rulers believed eunuchs would be more faithful to them. Sometimes, the title “eunuch” was granted to high officials and was not necessary for them to be castrated.

The Office of an Eunuch

Candace was not a name, but a royal title. People regard the king of Ethiopia as the child of the sun; as he was too sacred, it was not suitable for him to govern the country. Candace was the queen mother and she was the one who exercised the rule. This eunuch was powerful, as he was the chief treasurer of the kingdom, having money, status and power.

The Faith of the Eunuch

 “This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27), meaning that this Ethiopian eunuch had just worshipped in Jerusalem. Very likely, this man was a follower or a seeker of Judaism. However, if he was castrated, he could not become a full proselyte to Judaism because he would be refused to the Temple.

The Eunuch Read the Scripture

As the eunuch was traveling on a chariot, he read the book of Isaiah the prophet (Acts 8:28). The covered chariot was probably drawn by oxen. Perhaps, he bought this Greek translation of the prophet Isaiah when he was in Jerusalem. As there was no spacing or punctuation on a manuscript, thus reading aloud was the common practice in ancient times. The passage he read was Isaiah 53, and it was about the prophecy of God’s Suffering Servant. Regarding to its content, it was about the birth of Jesus Christ, life and ministry, substitutionary death and resurrection.

Acts 8:29-31

As Philip was traveling on the desert road, the Holy Spirit spoke to him and asked him to approach a chariot (Acts 8:29). Philip ran to the eunuch’s private vehicle and heard him reading the Scripture. He grabbed the opportunity to ask a very important question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” His reply was not only frank but revealed his humility as well (Acts 8:31).

Acts 8:31-33

The roads that ancient people they trotted along were very dusty. The eunuch, who possessed status and power, was willing to humble himself now, letting a passerby to ride on his vehicle. He was a modest person. Most probably, owing to his love of the truth, he asked Philip to explain this passage to Him (Acts 8:31). It happened when the eunuch was reading, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” (Isaiah 53:7-8; Acts 8:32-33)

Acts 8:34

After the eunuch finished reading it, he was very perplexed, and wondered who was this Biblical character? The prophet himself or some other man (Acts 8:34)?

Acts 8:35

Philip grabbed the opportunity of introducing the character that the Scripture talked about to the eunuch – the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews (Acts 8:35).

Acts 8:36-39

Why did the eunuch request to be baptised? Perhaps, this is related to his knowledge about Judaism, for proselytes must be baptised. More likely, this is because the eunuch had understood the truth that Christians must be baptised. Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may (italics mine, may receive baptism).” Furthermore, the eunuch confessed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”Philip talked about believe with all his heart, by means of the eunuch’s reply, this must be related to the essential truth of Christianity. Therefore, there was no Jewish flavor in the eunuch’s request to be baptised, and this was the decision of acceptance of Christ. Although many modern scholars considered that there were no Acts 8:36-37 in the most trustworthy manuscripts; however, those devout supporters of the King James Version offered many evidences to vindicate the manuscript that this version referred to was most reliable. Some scholars thought that there was impossible to perform baptism by immersion in the desert for there was not enough water; but, there were other scholars firmly believed otherwise. Supporters of baptism by immersion have offered the following arguments:

Sufficient Water Supply

There is running water in the North-east of Gaza.

Original Wording

 “Be baptised” means “to immerse” in water.

Special Action

Out of the water,” is an indication that it is not from the edge of the water, but out of the water.

Acts 8:39

After Philip baptised the eunuch, he was suddenly caught away by the Holy Spirit. This was a strange feat (Acts 8:39). As the eunuch received Christ and baptism, he was delighted and continued to move on his journey (Acts 8:39).

Acts 8:40

Azotus was twenty-five miles north of Gaza. The coastal Caesarea was over fifty miles to the north of Azotus. Philip brought the Gospel to the places that he went.

Conclusion

Philip could only explain the Gospel clearly to the Ethiopian eunuch by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the correct interpretation of the Scripture is very important. We should not exalt our personal experience and wisdom in preaching Christ, but we should proclaim the Saviour according to the Scripture. After all, there are three important points about the preaching of the Gospel: 1) the correct quotation and interpretation of God’s Word; 2) Preach Christ. 3) Submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

2 Memorise Acts 8:30. 

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. (Acts 8:30)

3 Resolve to read carefully over and over again about the prophecies of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.

4 Resolve to observe the works of the Holy Spirit in our daily life.

5 Resolve to depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and spread the Gospel to our relatives and friends.

6 Accept the promise of salvation according to the Scripture and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour and the Lord in your life.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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