Thursday, May 5, 2016
In 1957 Harvey Price Pearson immersed me in the name of Jesus for the remission of my sins (Acts 2:38-39). He warned me to not accept something because he said it, only if it was found in the Bible. A few weeks later he asked me if I noticed the difference between the East Main church and my former one. I told him what I had observed, but didn’t know why this difference existed. In response to my statement, he handed me an book, written by an uninspired man rather than the Bible, to explain why our practices were correct and my former church’s wasn’t.
I have always wondered if it would be possible to read the Bible without being influenced by what uninspired men have taught? If those uninspired men had “priest,” “father,” or “Reverend” attached to their name, Harvey would have quickly pointed me to the Bible rather than to their books! Harvey told me to put my trust in God’s word as my guide, not in him or other men. Yet, he gave me another preacher’s word to study!
If I knew nothing about Christianity and came upon the New Testament for the first time, what kind of faith would I develop? Can you think of anyone who did that? Could the eunuch be that person? He lived in a period when our New Testament was found in a few inspired men rather than in the form that you and I find at a Bible bookstore. The eunuch was familiar with the Bible of his day, which was God’s first covenant. We call it the Old Testament. He was reading from Isaiah. Philip began at that passage, the eunuch had a question about, and preached Jesus. Apparently something was mentioned from Philip’s inspired lips, for the eunuch saw water and asked about baptism. They stopped, both went into the water, Philip immersed him, they both came up out of the water, and Philip departed (Acts 8:39-40).
After Philip left, the eunuch still possessed his Old Testament parchments, but no New Testament. Why? It had not yet been written! The only thing he knew is that Jesus is the one Isaiah was writing about and Jesus wanted him to be immersed in water. Yet, what else did he know? We may assume he was taught a number of things, but assumptions are not a “thus saith the Lord.” Luke’s description doesn’t reveal much time for a large degree of teaching.
Without an inspired person like Philip, the eunuch would have no other information. Paul would not write about the organization of a local congregation because he wasn’t yet converted nor would he author any New Testament letters until later. The letters would be copied and circulated, but how long before one finally reached the eunuch’s African home? Perhaps he returned the following year to worship at the Temple and received added teaching from the apostles and prophets? Inspiration doesn’t reveal that information. Until he did, or until he found another saint who had received more inspired training than he, his knowledge would be greatly limited. If there was no assembly of saints available, or no instruction concerning the establishment of one, his only option would be Jewish synagogue worship. If the Jerusalem church continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses for some 15 plus years later, could he not continue worshiping at the synagogue and remain under God’s grace?
When the eunuch finally began receiving copies of the Second Covenant, what would his impressions be as he read it? While waiting for that day, perhaps someone approached him, gave him a book by an uninspired author and said, “Read this. It will do a better job of explaining what you need to know than the New Testament will!”
“These Jews were better people than the ones in Thessalonica. These Jews were very happy to listen to the things which Paul and Silas said. They wanted to know whether these things were true or not. They studied the Old Testament Scriptures every day.” (Acts 17:11 IEB).
* Read your Bible and accept what it reveals!