Sunday School 10 28 2012

Change Your Words Change Your Life - Joyce Meyer

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“Philip Baptizes a Man from Ethiopia”http://www.allkingdom.net/SundaySchool.html

Lesson Text: Acts 8:26-39

Background Scripture: Acts 8:26-39

Devotional Reading: Isaiah 56:1-8

 

Acts 8:26-39 (KJV)

26And 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.

27And 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,

28Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

29Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

30And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

31And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

32The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

35Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

36And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

 

OBJECTIVES

To consider how to overcome social barriers in order to share the gospel with others.

To understand we have a duty and must be ready to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To know we must study God’s word so that we may be able to share it with others. 

 

INTRODUCTION

Get the Word Out

  A tornado is coming—take cover! The river is rising—head for high ground! An escaped convict is on the loose—watch out! Whenever there is imminent danger, the authorities will try to get the word out. They will use television and radio announcements; they will send police cars with loudspeakers into the streets. More recently, reverse 911 phone calls are made to every home and cell phone. The technology may change from generation to generation, but the demands of the emergency are the same: by whatever means possible, the people must be told how they can be saved.

  The same thing is true about the greatest danger of all: the peril of losing eternal life. God has gone to great lengths to sound the warning and to provide information about the rescue available through His Son. But what good does it do for Jesus to die on the cross if no one knows about it? How can people turn to Him for deliverance if they have never heard about Him? And how will they hear unless God’s people tell them (Romans 10:13-15)?

  The incident of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is a clear example of God’s initiative in getting the word out. Even though the promised Messiah had already died for him, the Ethiopian was not aware of that fact.

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

Time:A.D. 36

Place:between Jerusalem and Gaza 

  Thousands of Jews returned to Jerusalem after the time of exile in Babylon ended, but many scattered to places all across the Mediterranean world. They set up synagogues wherever they settled and translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek. As a result, they brought knowledge of God to the Gentiles.

  Some Gentiles became believers when they learned about the one true God. A few became full converts to Judaism by submitting to the rite of circumcision (compare Exodus 12:48). Others became only “proselytes of the gate” (not required to be circumcised). Either way, these were people who wanted to honor God and learn more about Him (see Acts 2:10; 6:5; 13:26, 43; 17:4, 17). This explains why a court official of Ethiopia made a journey all the way to Jerusalem—hundreds of miles each way—to worship God.

 

God’s Appointment (Acts 8:26-29)

1.    Where does God instruct Philip to go next? (Acts 8:26) 

   Philip has preached the gospel in Samaria (last week’s lesson), and the first converts outside of Jerusalem have been welcomed into the church (Acts 8:5-25). Now the circle of believers is about to be expanded a bit wider. Again, Philip is the spokesman. 

   As we continue the narrative in Acts 8, we learn that an angel of the Lord told Philip to leave the city and go south to the road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza (v. 26).  Not knowing what he would find on the desert road, Philip obediently leaves his work in Samaria and begins the two- or three-day trip.  

   God’s mission will take Philip to a dry, desolate area—a rather unlikely spot for successful evangelism! “God’s opportunities may not always excite us. We may think we see greater potential elsewhere. Obedience like Philip’s, however, opens the door for God to do things we could never have imagined.” (Cook)  

What Do You Think?   

   What are some “desert places” where God has sent you?  How did you handle the call? How did things turn out? 

Talking Points for Your Discussion 

   A move away from family and friends |A change in jobs |A neighbor who is hard to love

 

2.    Who did Philip meet on the desert road? (v. 27) 

   A man from Ethiopia (ancient Cush, the nation south of Egypt), is also traveling that road. He has come to Jerusalem “for to worship,” which indicates that he is a believer in the God of Israel. 

   This man is a eunuch of great authority under the Candace queen of Ethiopia. The word “eunuch” usually means an emasculated male attendant assigned to oversee the king’s harem (see Esther 2:15). In some cases, however, the word eunuch seems to have been purely a governmental title, not necessarily applied to a castrated man (see Jeremiah 29:2). Some think the Ethiopian “eunuch” was of this type. They say this, for one thing, because the eunuch had been in Jerusalem for worship. Generally speaking, Jewish law prohibited the participation of eunuchs in the Jewish assembly (see Deut. 23:1), though there may have been exceptions to this ban (see Isaiah 56:4-5). Moreover, the Ethiopian was in charge of finances, not a harem. Acts 8:27 states he was a sort of secretary of the treasury under “Candace” (probably a title, not a proper name).   

   Nevertheless, he was concerned enough about his spiritual life to travel over 200 miles to Jerusalem to worship God; but his heart was still not satisfied. 

   This Ethiopian represents many people today who are religious, read the Scriptures, and seek the truth, yet do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ. They are sincere, but they are lost! They need someone to show them the way. 

What Do You Think?  

   What was the greatest difficulty you ever had to overcome in order to worship God? How did things turn out? 

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In accepting a change in worship styles |In traveling a great distance, as the eunuch did 

In attending a worship service that was cross-cultural 

In worshipping alongside someone who held different doctrinal viewpoints 

3.    Why was the book of "Esaias" important to the Ethiopian?  (v. 28)

   As the man is on his way back to Ethiopia, he is reading in his chariot. Since this man is “of great authority” (v. 27, above), he probably has the luxury of having a chauffeur do the driving. The fact that the Ethiopian eunuch has a scroll from which he can read Esaias the prophet (also known as Isaiah) is a further indication of wealth; it is quite a luxury to possess one’s own copy of Scripture in the first century! 

   The book of Isaiah is an appropriate and providential choice for the Ethiopian. More than any other Old Testament book, Isaiah foresaw a day when all nations would come streaming to Jerusalem to acknowledge the true God (see Isaiah 49:6-12; 60:1-14), including residents of Ethiopia (“Cush” in 11:11). In the days of the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel is to be honored by all nations, and salvation will come to the ends of the earth. 

   We also note that the eunuch may be drawn to the book of Isaiah for a personal reason. The book has a specific promise that in the messianic era God will accept eunuchs who keep His Sabbaths and do what is pleasing to Him (Isaiah 56:3-5). For this particular individual, that is good news indeed.  

4. What instructions did the Spirit of God give Philip? (v. 29)

    The angel of the Lord initially sends Philip down to the desert road (v. 26, above). Now God’s own Spirit brings Philip the next instruction. 

  We note that in the angel’s instructions of Acts 8:26 there is no information given to Philip that his new ministry will be to just one individual. If the angel had given Philip that information, perhaps Philip might have resisted. Wasn’t Philip already having a successful ministry in Samaria? Why leave a ministry that is reaching many to accept a ministry to only one man, who may or may not respond positively? But God knows the bigger picture when we don’t. God also has ways of overcoming human resistance and reasoning (compare Acts 10:28, 29). 

  There seems to be a sense of urgency in the Spirit’s instructions to Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. The chariot is moving. If Philip hesitates, the chariot may move out of reach. 

  A simple but profound lesson for us here is that in order to receive this specific divine guidance, Philip first had to obey God’s general command (v. 26). Likewise, we need to make ourselves available to God by following the clear and basic principles of His Word.

 

Philip’s Message (Acts 8:30-35)

5. Did Philip obey the Spirit of God?  (Acts 8:30-31)

   Philip obeys the Spirit’s call, and runs to catch the moving chariot. As he gets close, he hears the eunuch reading Isaiah the prophet. God had already prepared the man's heart to receive Philip's witness! If we obey the Lord's leading, we can be sure that God will go before us and open the way for our witness. 

   Since the Ethiopian was reading aloud, Philip knew the Scripture verses the eunuch was contemplating. Knowing that this passage referred to the Suffering Servant, Philip asked the official if he understood what he was reading.

  The Ethiopian did not try to hide his ignorance. As one who wanted to comprehend God’s Word, he admitted that he needed another to explain the prophet’s words. Perceiving that Philip was such a person, the official invited Philip to sit next to him in his chariot (v. 31). There are times in life when people are more open to receiving the gospel than at other times. The Holy Spirit knows when those times are, and He will guide us to reach people at opportune moments.

   That’s what we see here as the Ethiopian eunuch responds in a friendly, self-deprecating sort of way. 

What Do You Think?

  How do we make ourselves available for spiritual conversations without being pushy?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Job 2:11-13; Acts 16:13;Acts 17:17; 1 Corinthians 9:11-23; 2 Corinthians 11:9

   Other

6.What specific place of scripture was the eunuch reading from? (vs. 32-33)

   While it is true that the meaning of many portions of Scripture is self-evident, some passages are difficult to understand. Even Peter found portions of Paul’s letters difficult to comprehend (see 2 Peter 3:15-16). In light of this circumstance, God has provided gifted believers who through study and the illumination of the Spirit can expound His Word for the benefit of others.  

   The place of the scripture that the Ethiopian is reading is known to us as Isaiah 53:7, 8. If you compare the wording of that passage in the Old Testament with what is quoted here, you will notice some differences. This is because the Ethiopian is not reading from the original Hebrew, but from the Greek version known as the Septuagint, which was translated a few centuries before Christ.

  In either version, that passage offers a surprising picture of a coming Savior: someone will come to take the iniquities of God’s people on himself. In so doing, that person brings peace and healing by his own wounds (see Isaiah 53:2-6). Specifically, this “someone” will be led as a sheep to the slaughter. Helpless, defenseless, and vulnerable, this individual will be led out to die! And not only will this man be like a helpless sheep, He will also be like a speechless lamb about to be sheared.

  For a man to be treated no better than a slaughtered sheep seems inhuman. The fact that his judgment was taken away indicates that he is denied a fair trial. The rhetorical question who shall declare his generation? indicates that the victim leaves no children; no one will speak of His descendants because the generations of His family tree end with Him. As he loses His life, His lineage ceases. End of story—a sad, tragic story.

  From this side of the cross, however, these words are beautifully symbolic and expressive. We can see exactly how they apply to Jesus as He quietly submitted to the abuse of men and bore the sins of the world on His shoulders. But to the Ethiopian, who apparently does not know of Jesus, nothing about the ancient prophecy makes much sense.

What Do You Think?

  How has your reaction to the story of the suffering and death of Christ changed as you have moved through the seasons of life? How do we keep the story ever new?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   In your teenage years |As a young adult |As an older adult

7. What did the eunuch want to know about this passage?  (vs. 34-35)

   The eunuch asked Philip whether Isaiah was talking about himself or referring to someone else (Acts 8:34). Either way, it is difficult for the eunuch to see how any good can come from such mistreatment of a man of God.  What an opportunity this was to tell the Good News.  

   The Ethiopian is open to the truth, so Philip seizes the opportunity to teach him. An important technique in sharing the gospel is to “begin where the other person is.” That’s exactly what Philip does as his response starts at the same scripture that the man is reading. This is Philip’s launching pad to speak about Jesus, the Son of God.  

   The Ethiopian focused on Isaiah 53:7-8, which describes our Lord as the willing Sacrifice for sinners, even to the point of losing His human rights. As Philip explained the verses to him, the Ethiopian began to understand the Gospel because the Spirit of God was opening his mind to God's truth. It is not enough for the lost sinner to desire salvation; he must also understand God's plan of salvation. It is the heart that understands the Word that eventually bears fruit (Matt. 13:23).

 

Eunuch’s Decision (Acts 8:36-39)

8.  What was the eunuch’s response to Phillip’s teaching? (Acts 8:36-37)

   Evidently, part of the conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian included the topic of baptism. It was the government official, not Philip, who noticed water along the way and proposed that he should be baptized (Acts 8:36). Thus we conclude that Philip must have declared the whole gospel message to the eunuch by this point (compare Matthew 28:19). What has happened in Jerusalem and Samaria is now happening to a man of Ethiopia—when he believes, he is baptized (see Acts 2:38; 8:12). The gospel is spreading to the whole world.   

   The earliest Greek manuscripts do not include verse 37. Thus verse 37 is not included in most newer translations of the Bible, except as a footnote. What the verse says, however, certainly conforms with the rest of what Scripture teaches. Just like any other man or woman on earth, the eunuch is eligible to accept Christ as his Savior. This does not mean he qualifies by his status or his works; he qualifies by believing in Jesus with all his heart. Jesus said that people should confess Him publicly (see Matthew 10:32), just as Simon Peter did (see Matthew 16:16). Paul will later promise salvation to those who confess “Jesus is Lord” and who believe that God raised Him from the dead (see Romans 10:9- 10). Because the eunuch believes, he is glad to confess his faith openly. 

   "…Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The Ethiopian believed on Jesus Christ and was born again!      

9. What request did Philip fulfill for the eunuch? (vs. 38-39)

   Since the Ethiopian now trusted in the Lord Jesus, the government official ordered his chariot to be stopped. Most likely the Ethiopian was part of a caravan journeying in the same direction and moving slowly down the road. Once the chariot was no longer moving, the eunuch stepped into some nearby water and allowed Philip to baptize him (Acts 8:38). The baptism could have taken place at any number of locations. Tradition identifies the spot as near the town of Bethsura. The baptism, however, may have taken place nearer Gaza.  

   Verse 39 says that once the two came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord “caught away Philip.” Some see in this description a miracle in which the evangelist was transported from the site of the baptism to Azotus. Others, however, interpret this merely as Philip’s abrupt departure under the compulsion of the Spirit. The biblical text leaves no doubt that Philip carried his preaching mission farther to the north until he came to Caesarea (v. 40).   

   Even though the eunuch does not see Philip again, the all-important message has been delivered successfully. The queen’s official resumes his long journey back to Ethiopia, but this time he has in his soul a joy unlike any other! Now he knows that the Lamb of God has died even for his sins.  

What Do You Think?

   What are some ways to share and promote the joy of a new birth in Christ? 

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   With church family | With unbelieving relatives | With coworkers

 

POINTS TO PONDER

1.    Don’t let social and cultural differences stop you from being used by God in a special way. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. (Acts 8:26-30) 

2.    Be prepared to share the good news of Jesus Christ! (Acts 8:31-34; 1 Peter 3:15)    

3.    We can use the Bible to encourage others to trust in Jesus.  (Acts 8:35-38) 

4.    Our mission field may begin with our families, then extend into our neighborhood, and finally into larger society. Regardless of the individual or situation, we need to be alert to the opportunities to tell people how much Jesus means to us. (Acts 8:39-40)

 

CONCLUSION

Long-awaited Deliverance 

   The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch did not begin on a desert road winding its way down toward Gaza. Rather, it began in a garden where the serpent led the parents of the human race into sin. Although Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, God had a plan to deliver humanity from the penalty and power of sin. 

   God chose Abraham and made a chosen people through that man’s descendants. God spoke to them through Moses and the prophets, leading them forward to the time of redemption. Moses promised that the Lord would raise up a prophet like himself (Deuteronomy 18:15). Job knew that his Redeemer would one day stand on the earth (Job 19:25). David knew that his own descendant would sit on the throne of an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13), yet he wrote a haunting psalm predicting that descendant’s crucifixion (Psalm 22). Isaiah rejoiced to see a day when, “Unto us a child is born” (Isaiah 9:6), even though that child would become the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

   The unified theme of the Old Testament is the coming Messiah. It is His story—a story thousands of years in the making—that ultimately reached the Ethiopian eunuch. The deliverance had been long awaited, and it was gladly received.

PRAYER

   Lord, we praise You for making Your salvation available to all. Send us on our own road to Gaza to meet someone who needs to hear about Jesus. In His name; amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

   The gospel is for everyone.

 


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