Thursday, July 05, 2012

A parishioner's notes of a sermon on Acts 8:26-40

Text:  Acts 8:26-40

Reading:  Isaiah 11: 1-11; 56: 3-8

Philip, the evangelist who had preached in Samaria, now preached to the Ethiopian and then went on to Azotus (also known as Ashdod).  Each of these was the focus of the gospel.  ‘What prevents me from being baptized?’  asked the Ethiopian. ‘What prevents me from living as a baptized person?’ we ask.  ‘What prevents me from going on my way rejoicing?’

The Holy Spirit uses Philip to gather the Ethiopian eunuch into the church of Christ. The Holy Spirit’s use of Philip is

1.       deliberately directed,

2.       evangelically focused, and

3.       joyfully effective.

1. Deliberately directed.  ‘All of Samaria’ turned to Christ as a result of Philip’s preaching.  He was one of the greatest preachers of all time. The Holy Spirit sent Peter and John to preach and after the Holy Spirit had come, they went back to Jerusalem, but Philip remained and worked in Samaria.  Then he was suddenly called away from these hundreds or thousands to minister to one man.  The Lord directs us.  We just need to trust and obey.  That is all we are asked to do. 

Ethiopia was considered one of the ends of the earth.  Thus the Ethiopian had come a very long way to worship the Lord.  This man was a eunuch, the finance minister of Candace.  (Candace was the title of the queen mother who ran the day-to-day life of the country, because the king was a god, too holy for everyday business.)  As a Gentile and a eunuch, however, he couldn’t enter the assembly of the Lord, but Philip was called to minister to him. 

God deliberately directs people and events, sometimes building the church through massive conversions, and sometimes through individual conversions.  God directed each one of us into the church, some through childhood, some through friends and family.  Some were born in the church and drifted for a long time, and some are still drifting.  The Holy Spirit sends people to bring drifters and others into the church. 

2. Evangelically focussed.  The man was reading Isaiah 53 and invited Philip to explain it to him.  This chapter clearly and profoundly explains Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the interpretive key to all of Scripture. We need preaching that focuses on Christ. We need it to teach, inform, change, edify, and release us from guilt.  Any other kind of preaching leads to discouragement.  What could prevent the Ethiopian from being baptized?  Nothing. 

Then the Spirit moved Philip 30 km to Azotus because his work with the Ethiopian was done.  When Philip got to Azotus, he started to preach there.  As Acts 21 shows, he lived in Caesarea later on.

3. Joyfully effective. What was there to be joyful about?  The Ethiopian eunuch was welcomed into the kingdom, even though he was not welcome in the temple.  He himself had been made to be a temple.  So he went on his way rejoicing.  Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  As Isaiah 56 pointed out, a day was coming when eunuchs would enter the church of Christ.  The only thing that is needed to enter the church of Christ is faith in Jesus. Yes, there are texts about sinning against the Holy Spirit. They are important, and we never preach cheap grace.  But we always preach freegrace. 

So, what prevents us from living for Christ, going our way rejoicing that the Holy Spirit lives in us?  Nothing, absolutely nothing at all.  Believe, and receive.

Sermon by Pastor George on July 1.  Notes, errors, and omissions by NPS.