Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 19
It is always so good to hear words of encouragement from our television audience, and the comments that you are learning. And as you know, the only reason I teach is to help you to enjoy your Bible. So let’s pick up again in Acts Chapter 8. In the last lesson we found Philip in Samaria preaching the Gospel. This is not the Gospel of Grace that you and I enjoy today, it had not been revealed. We have so many people who are now beginning to realize that these two Gospel’s are not one and the same as many people teach. The Gospel of the Kingdom, believing that Jesus was The Christ, repentance and baptism was going to the Nation of Israel by way of Jesus and the Twelve. And now Philip was continuing it. The reason I stand on that premise is we can find no mention of Salvation by the finished work of the Cross. There is no mention of believing in His death, burial and Resurrection for Salvation as proclaimed by the Apostle Paul in this Age of Grace. But they are still emphasizing that the One they crucified was indeed The Christ, and always watch for that. Always pay attention to what is said, not what you think they might have said.
In the last lesson we covered old Simon who made a non-real profession of faith. It was a counterfeit and fake. But for those who had truly believed Philip’s message that Jesus was The Christ, it took the laying on of hands of Peter and John before these believers received the Holy Spirit. This was a slight departure from what had taken place before, but as we emphasized that was to show the Samaritans that the authority rested in Jerusalem in the Twelve and nowhere else. In verse 25 after Peter and John have seen these Samaritans respond, you would think they would have said, “Now it’s time for us to spread out and go across the Roman Empire.” But do they? If they were carrying out what we call the great commission, at least after this experience, you would think they would have taken off for Egypt, and Greece and all points outside of Israel. But this is not the case. They go back to Jerusalem.
“And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” That is as they returned to Jerusalem. Now we arrive where Philip will be supernaturally transported from the area of Samaria and Jerusalem down into the area of Gaza.
“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.'” Gaza is about fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem, near the Mediterranean Sea. It was the normal trade route into Egypt. Philip’s instructed by the Lord to go there.
“And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia (I have always taught that this man was an Ethiopian proselyte, however these nations would use gifted and talented men especially from Israel, so he could very well have been a Jew. For example, Daniel was the second man in Babylon, and Joseph was the second man in Egypt. Even today in America Jews are in key positions of government. And where could a better qualified person be found to keep the treasury of a nation than a Jew? They have a natural knack for business, money and investment, so he very likely was a Jew. If he wasn’t a Jew then he had to be a proselyte because we see), 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.” The Temple is still in operation. The Law had not been set aside. We are only about seven years after the Cross, about 36 A.D. The Temple is not destroyed until about 70 A.D. So this gentleman has been to worship and is on his way back home.
“Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.” We know from the verses that he is reading Isaiah Chapter 53, which is still an appropriate portion of Scripture for approaching Jews about the finished work of Christ and His First Advent and so forth.
“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, `Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.'” As I reflect on everyday events in our own day and time, as well as the events in Scripture. I’m always made aware of the Sovereignty of God. God is Sovereign and He is in control of every detail that He wants to control. Now you see God has an intrinsic interest in this situation, and so the Holy Spirit directs Philip to this particular person. Now verse 30:
“And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, `Understandest thou what thou readest?'”
“And he said, `How can I,…'”
That hasn’t changed. I’ve maintained over the years that God did not leave His Word under the control or in the hands of angels. He did not leave it in the control of highly educated seminarians, but rather God has placed his Word with the leading of the Holy Spirit into the hands of every person that wants to handle it. And for those who are going to be made aware of the plan of Salvation, God uses common ordinary people. Over the years I’ve been watching and listening, and I only know one or two people who have claimed to come to a knowledge of the plan of Salvation by themselves, by simply reading The Bible. But usually without exception, it normally takes a human instrument to lead someone to a knowledge of Salvation. That is the case here in this verse. Philip is that human instrument. Now here the Holy Spirit is evident, but the Holy Spirit did not choose to show this Ethiopian the plan of Salvation without using the human instrument. Always remember that, but also remember that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. And here we have it. The eunuch is reading Isaiah, but he can’t understand it. But Philip is now being used to explain Scriptures. That is where you and I are to come in even today, we must always be ready to explain the Scriptures to someone who is interested and is seeking. Verse 31:
“And he said, `How can I, except some man should guide me?’ And he desired Philip that he would come and sit with him. The 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:'” Now that is Isaiah 53 plain and simple. Read on.
“In his humiliation his judgment was taken away (His authority, and of course it’s in reference to Him being crucified); and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth. (He was put to death). And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, `I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?'”
They ask the same question today. I remember a gentlemen I led to the Lord several years ago, and that was the first question he asked as we opened our conversation, “Who in the world is Jesus Christ?” Now we think that’s a terrible question. No, it isn’t. I wish more people would ask, “Who is He?” Why do we in the 1990’s still maintain that the Person Who died 2,000 years ago has everything to do with us? A lot of people don’t know. But they have to be brought to the place of understanding that He wasn’t just a prophet, or just another individual, or just a martyr. He was the Creator God. He was the One Who alone could purchase man’s Salvation and people have to be made aware of that.
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.”
Remember the New Testament isn’t written yet. Philip couldn’t read to him out of Romans like we would have done. Philip couldn’t even take him to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. These books haven’t been written yet and so the only thing that Philip could use was the Old Testament. And so from the Old Testament he preached unto him Jesus. I’m a stickler for what The Book says and what it doesn’t say. And he does not preach unto him Jesus crucified and resurrected from the dead. It doesn’t say that.
“And 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?'”
Now from that you can gather what Philip had been telling him? That Isaiah 53 was speaking of Jesus, Who had just a few years ago, walked those three years in Palestine; had been put to death; had been raised from the dead and God was still ready to let Him be the King of Israel. But Israel’s responsibility now, under the Law, was to repent, especially of that sin of Crucifixion, that was the biggest one. And they were to prove that repentance with water baptism. This is why after Philip has explained all of this to the eunuch, that the eunuch says,“Look, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Now, look what Philip says in verse 37:
“And Philip said, `If thou believest (how?) with all thine heart, thou mayest.'”
Remember the situation up in Samaria with Simon. He believed but not with his heart. He was just believing with the head because he could see the material gain. But here again the Scripture makes it so plain, and as Paul does in Romans 10 that we have to believe with our whole being. Our innermost being – the heart. And it’s always been that way. I can always take people back to Cain and Abel. They were both, I suppose of the same stock, and they probably had, more or less, the same values. And they had both come to realize they had both sinned and God had told them what to do when sin came. And so here they come – Abel with the required sacrifice, as God has instructed it, because he had faith to do what God said to do. But nevertheless, Cain came with something. He didn’t just turn his back and say, “I’m not going to do anything about it.” But you see, Cain’s big problem was that he didn’t do what God told him and so that made him without faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God and there the balls starts rolling. Now, the same way here. The Ethiopian eunuch has not heard what God has required for Salvation. He has believed it with all of his heart and is not just doing like Simon and trying to make some material gain. But he is believing it. Now, let’s go on:
“And Philip said, `If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.’ (that is be baptized) And he answered and said (now here is the crucial part of this whole account. What did the eunuch believe? Now watch carefully because I’m going to throw you a curve. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Who died for me, was buried and rose from the dead.” Does your Bible say that? Everybody likes to think it does. But he didn’t mention death, burial and Resurrection. What did he believe?) `I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'”
Now let’s compare Scripture with Scripture. I’ve done all of this before but when you have new listeners coming in every week you have to do some of this again for their benefit. Let’s go back to John Chapter 11. This is in Christ’s earthly ministry when Lazarus died. You all know the story. Martha is weeping and is almost distraught that Jesus could have come a little sooner and spared him, but He didn’t. So here is the conversation. Verse 23 of John 11:
“Jesus saith unto her, `Thy brother shall rise again.’ Martha saith unto him, `I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said unto her, `I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?'” (now look at her response and compare it with what the eunuch said in Acts Chapter 8) She said unto him, `Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art The Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.'”
Does she mention anything about his death, his Resurrection? Not a word! Of course that hadn’t even happened yet so how could she? But nevertheless, her profession of faith was, Who Jesus was. Turn to Luke 18 for just a minute, to show why these people back here at this point in time do not attribute Salvation to death, burial and Resurrection. God has not revealed it yet! And we cannot expect anyone to believe something that God hasn’t said. Faith is taking God at His Word! Faith can’t operate until God speaks it. To illustrate, did Noah start building the ark about six months before God told him to? Did Noah assume that he was going to need an ark and start working on it? No! When did he start hewing the lumber? After God said to build the ark. Did Moses presuppose, as he led the children of Israel out of Egypt, that they were going to have to have a system of Law and the Ten Commandments? Did Moses start laying the groundwork? No! What did he wait for? For God to give him the instructions. And so it’s always been throughout human history that God has to speak something before that generation, or whatever, can believe it. Now let’s look at Luke 18. This is shortly before Jesus’ Crucifixion. They are on their way from Galilee, northern Israel, down to Jerusalem.
“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, `Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Song of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.'” You can’t make it any plainer than that. But now look at the next verse:
“And they (the Twelve) understood none of these things… (they never comprehended a word of that. Why? Because they didn’t want to listen? No, because God had not yet seen fit to reveal it)…and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” Plain enough?
In other words, a Sovereign God does not reveal a truth until He’s ready to reveal it. Look at another confession during Christ’s earthly ministry. This time from Peter in Matthew 16. We’ve done this many time over the past few years, but for the benefit of new listeners who are probably jumping and thinking that I’m way out in left field, I have to qualify what I’m saying from the Scriptures. And again, Jesus and the Twelve are up in northern Galilee, in Caesarea Philippi, the head waters of the Jordan River. Verse 13:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, `Whom do men say that I the Son of man am (now, there are three accounts of this in the Gospels so this isn’t a little quirk of Matthew. This is repeated in Luke and Mark and to a certain extent, even in John)?’ And they said, `Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias: and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.’ He saith unto them, `But whom say ye that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, `Thou art The Christ, the Son of the living God.'”
Who died for me, was buried and rose from the dead? No! It doesn’t say that. So what’s the confession here? Thou art The Christ, the Son of the living God. This is all the way through Christ’s earthly ministry as far as Acts Chapter 8. We’re even going to see it in Chapter 9. Because God has not revealed the tremendous plan of Salvation based upon Grace, that Christ died for the sins of the world and that He was buried and that He rose from the dead. (Reference I Corinthians 15:1-4) Up till now they were to believe Who He was and that’s the Gospel of the Kingdom. Now let’s go back to Acts Chapter 8. Now verse 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 (there’s no room for argument. He baptized him just as John the Baptist baptized his converts). 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 (the eunuch) went on his way rejoicing.”
Of course he did. He was coming back from Jerusalem steeped in religion and still wrapped in his sin. But after believing that Christ was indeed The Messiah, The King and everything associated with that First Advent, he experienced Salvation. And so he too could go on his way rejoicing, even as we saw they did up in Samaria. Verse 40 gives us a little hint of what’s going to happen when the 144,000 begin their ministry during the Tribulation. They won’t have to get airline tickets. I think they’ll have to depend on earthly transportation, yet we know they’re going to get into every tongue and tribe around the globe in less that seven years. How are they going to do it? I think by the same glorious means of transportation that Philip experienced right here. But Philip was found at Azotus. Gaza is down there at the southwest curve of the Mediterranean Sea and then about half to two thirds of the way between Gaza and Jerusalem was the city of Azotus which today we call Ashdod. Suddenly, not by walking or camel riding or any other way, Philip is transported from one place to another. And I think this is how the 144,000 men are going to cover the world in less than 7 years during the Tribulation.