Thursday, September 14, 2017
Have you ever asked someone, “Do you read your Bible?” Did you get this response? “Yes, I read it all the time.” That’s always a welcomed replied. Yet, not everyone has a good grasp on understanding what they read, nor putting it in context. When Philip approached the eunuch, the Ethiopian was reading the scriptures (Acts 8:28). The man needs commending. 1) He was an influential man that loved Yahweh. 2) He had traveled a great distance to Jerusalem to worship. 3) Despite the distance covered, he was under some restrictions due to being a eunuch (Deuteronomy 23:1-2). 4) He probably was a Gentile that was a proselyte to the Jewish faith. Again, some restrictions. 5) He carried scripture with him and read it. He was reading when Philip approached him.
Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Rather than be embarrassed by the question, he replied, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” He immediately invited Philip to join him in his study. Philip began by telling “him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:30-31, 34-35). During that study, a nearby body of water caused the eunuch to ask a question, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Philip had been reading from Isaiah 53:7-8 (Acts 8:32-33). Isaiah states,
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken” (Isaiah 53:7-8).
There is nothing in the passage about “water.” Neither is there anything about “baptism.” There is no command given to the eunuch. Did the eunuch believe Jesus was the one Isaiah was prophesying about? The passage is silent on him expressing faith. Is there anything taught by Philip informing the eunuch that he needed to repent of his past sins? Again, silence. Was confession mention? Not by Luke. How did the eunuch know that he needed to have faith, repent of his sins, confess Jesus as God’s Son, or be immersed if Isaiah 53:7-8 did not mention it? The only inspired teacher present was Philip. Prior to meeting with the eunuch, Philip had been doing an outstanding work among the Samaritans. He preached Jesus to them (Acts 8:5). They heard him, believed, and were baptized (verse 12). Why did they believe and then submit to baptism? Jesus’ great commission was, “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). The Samaritans wanted to obey Jesus. So did the eunuch. Both had to receive that instruction from an inspired teacher. Scholars estimate that between 100,000 to 300,000 could have heard Peter speak in the Temple courtyards on Pentecost in Acts 2. Yet, out of that number of hearers, only about three thousand gladly received the apostle’s teaching. On that occasion, they asked Peter what to do (Acts 2:37). He gave them the “how” in verse 38. They responded in verse 41. The majority rejected the message at that time. Many do the same today!
Some will read a passage and assume that because an item is not mentioned, it isn’t necessary. Jesus stated to the apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Did they? No. Why? They did not grasp the full picture, just as the eunuch did not understand Isaiah’s prophecy until Philip came along. Even today, the complete picture may not always be given in one passage. Yet, folks will go through this subtracting scenario, building their faith on partial information. The opposite is also true. Some will add their perception into a passage being read. The apostles did this as Jesus commanded the Great Commission in Mark 16:15. Neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John mention a question being asked as to the “who” that “world” included or excluded. Yet, their thoughts never included the Gentiles unless they were proselytes! Even when God used the vision to open Peter’s eyes, he refused to comply (Acts 10:9-18). If an inspired apostle could be blinded by his religious culture and misunderstand the Lord’s word, are we uninspired believer’s superior?
Are we guilty of affirming our success of restoring the first century church, when our efforts are in resurrecting the ideal which most were not maintaining? If a first century congregation was being corrected, they needed to be restored rather than cloned! The list of those being corrected is surprising: Jerusalem, Ephesus, Colossians, Sardis, Laodicea, Corinth, Galatia, Romans, Thessalonica, Crete, and Hebrew members.
Sometimes we are so busy looking for the perfect ideal, that we completely bypass Jesus who is perfect! We may be reading the Bible, but not really understand its message!