Thursday, January 18, 2018
Jesus told his apostles they would receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. He commanded them to remain there (Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 2). As promised, the Holy Spirit not only “taught” them, but also joggle their memory (John 14:26). Even though they were inspired, there was a problem residing in the apostles and prophets. They heard Jesus’ command to preach to “every creature” (Mark 16:15). The Holy Spirit included that command in Peter’s reply (Acts 2:39). But, despite the reminder, their culture blinded them to that truth! According to that culture, Gentiles were uncircumcised barbarians unworthy of God’s good news. It would take them a decade or more to understand who was the “every creature” and “as many as the Lord our God will call” (Mark 16:15; Acts 2:39; Acts 10:34-35)! After God added Gentiles to the saved, some did not believe they were true saints until they were circumcised (Acts 15:1, 5). An inspired meeting had to be convened in Jerusalem to settle this misunderstanding. Even after that, the misunderstanding continued to produce its hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-12). It even created “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9)!
In Acts 8:26 the Spirit told Philip where to meet the queen’s treasurer. After joining the eunuch, Philip began with Isaiah’s passage and taught the Ethiopian about Jesus (vv.32-35). The eunuch, wishing to follow the Lord, saw a body of water and asked what would stop him from being immersed (v.36). Philip immersed him, but the Spirit had another work in Azotus (v.40). Philip departed. The treasurer continued homeward bound, but in good spirits (v.39). Did Philip say anything to the eunuch about organizing the Lord’s assembly in Ethiopia? Not according to Luke. We could assume Philip gave the eunuch a quick 25 reasons I am a member of the New Testament church. Luke doesn’t record that either. Assumptions are worth a lot less than most owners think. Assumptions are not an adequate standard of authority. Some may assume that a fully developed assembly of Christ awaited this new convert when he arrived in country. Luke doesn’t record that either! Assumptions can create a congregation in Ethiopia. Is it Luke or our assumptions? Assumptions may be valued by their creator, but they are nothing more than exaggerated human opinions or judgments attempting to unseat God! They are probably worth more to Satan! Man has a habit of creating the church he is comfortable with. That is not a valid creation!
The eunuch could have attended the local synagogue on the first Sabbath after he returned. That too would be an assumption. We know his Jewish faith and zeal motivated him to travel to Jerusalem to worship. Luke does inform us on that (Acts 8:27). As a new convert his knowledge was limited. Since nothing is said about Philip teaching him on the subject, it would have been unknown to him that in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female since all “are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:29). Luke does not inform us about the eunuch receiving an special gifts from the Spirit. Neither was a copy of the New Testament available to him. How could the eunuch know about worship “in spirit and in truth” without the gospel of John? Did he continue to observe the Law of Moses as the Jerusalem church was doing? Luke does not tell us. Sadly, the eunuch’s home town actions are unknown to us. Doctrines should not rest on assumptions, but most find them easy to own.
We do know that the assembly at Jerusalem continued to be “zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:20 NKJV). The Acts 2 church didn’t begin as a U.S. Caucasian congregation with a heated and cooled edifice. It was Jewish, born into a Jewish practicing society. When Paul and company went on their first evangelistic campaign, they visited local synagogues in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and Ephesus. They spoke in each (Acts 13:14; 14:1; 17:1; 17:10; 18:4; 18:19). Today, when a preacher speaks, we call it one of the five acts of worship. The preacher Paul was zealous for the Law and proved it (Acts 21:23-24, 26). According to Jewish religious protocol, he would be asked to participate in the synagogue worship by the president of that Jewish assembly. If Paul used scripture, it would be first covenant text since Jewish synagogues would not possess second covenant scripture. He spoke to them of the Jewish Messiah, prophesied in Isaiah and other passages. Jewish saints continued to engage in Jewish customs, traditions, law and practices. The Holy Spirit did not discourage nor condemn it, only relieving Gentile saints from those practices (Acts 15:19-20, 22-29). It was a practice that some wanted to bind upon Gentiles despite the Jerusalem conference’s decision and letter (Galatians 5:1-12). Tradition meant more to them than inspiration! A fault that is shared today.
Although Corinth had multiple prophets, language speakers, and interpreters, they were plagued with problems of misunderstanding. Division handicapped every facet of their gatherings. Again, the problem was not with the Spirit’s message, but the men and women who heard it! Because of human error, an inspired apostle was needed to correct their in-house faults. Paul was that person! Inspiration did not guarantee instant understanding upon the part of the hearers. Paul knew that. Inspiration did not guarantee that a revelation was full or complete at the time it was given (1 Corinthians 14:30-31; Isaiah 28:10). For example, Jesus spoke of his return. The Thessalonian letters were written prior to AD 50. Some in that assembly thought Jesus’ return was imminent! Why work if Jesus returns before payday (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:16-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2:1-12; 3:10-15)? There are people today who expect Jesus to return in their lifetime! Some confuse Jesus’ coming in judgment in AD 70 as his ultimate return. Even when the inspired message was written down, people continued to stray from its intended meaning and purpose. The problem is not with the Spirit of God, but with the culture, habits, judgments, religious beliefs, and opinions of men. That continues to be a problem!
If individuals in the first century, who were inspired by the Spirit, could speak God’s word, but it was either misunderstood or misapplied, isn’t it possible that some may do the same with the message of the New Testament today? We’ve already seen that the apostle Peter had to be corrected (Galatians 2:11-12). Were his actions based upon ignorance? Paul didn’t think so. Was his problem limited or is it timeless? Could it be that some congregations today mimic the church in Corinth, Ephesus, Sardis, or Laodicea (Revelation 2:4; 3:1, 15-16)? If so, shouldn’t we study to make sure we aren’t guilty of cloning one of them? Yet, despite their errors, wasn’t each assembly made up of God added individuals? God added the newly saved to each one of those assemblies!
We need to constantly remind ourselves of Philip’s question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30; Acts 17:11).