Wednesdays in the Word: The Gospel and Repentance Podcast
The Holy Spirit has instructed Philip to make contact with the Ethiopian and he does so. Running alongside the chariot, he hears the eunuch reading from Isaiah. In those days, it was customary to read aloud, not silently when one read to their self. Philip asks him a simple question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” The English translation does not do justice to the original Greek wording. Philip’s question really asks the eunuch if what he is reading has any meaning for him, if what he is reading makes any sense.
The response is so telling! It is a response of frustration, discouragement and disappointment. “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” Despite his apparent regalia and retinue, no one in Jerusalem had taken the time to answer his questions. No one helped quench his thirst for the knowledge of the One True God. He had a copy of the Scriptures, but could not understand what the words meant. He could read them, he was an educated man fluent in languages, but the meaning, the import, and the supernatural impact of the words eluded him.
There is a reason why the Bible says that only those who are spiritual can understand spiritual things. Until a person comes to submit their life to the Lord Jesus, the Bible depicts them as spiritually blind, unable to see or comprehend spiritual truths. They need the Holy Spirit to open their spiritual eyes and illuminate their minds. Often, the Spirit uses believers, like Philip, in that process.
The Ethiopian invites Philip up into his chariot and asks him a question about the passage he is reading. “Who is the prophet referring to?” Without being able to identify the subject talked about, a person cannot make a proper interpretation. Philip begins introducing the Ethiopian to Jesus through this passage. The Book of Isaiah was tailor-made for a person like this Ethiopian. It’s in Isaiah that many prophecies of Jesus’ birth and reign are found. It’s in Isaiah where one finds promises to eunuchs of their inclusion in God’s Holy Temple alongside other worshippers of God. Isaiah described God Himself, high and lifted up, as having compassion on people who have wandered away from the truth; who are like sheep.
Philip begins with the passage the Ethiopian is wrestling with and uses it as a springboard to tell the story of Jesus, God’s Messiah. As Philip expounds the meaning of what the Ethiopian was reading God’s Spirit illuminates his mind. Now, he realizes how a person is to worship God. Now, he realizes that it’s not at a Temple made by human hands but through faith in Jesus Christ that a person comes to approach God. As they pass by some water, he interrupts Philip to ask, “Is there anything that hinders me from being baptized right now?” He understands; he wants to identify with Jesus Christ and he desires to proclaim his newfound faith.
Water baptism was quite common in those days. In Judaism, it stood as a symbol for a Gentile’s repentance and conversion to Israel’s religion. In Christianity, it stands for each person’s repentance and as a symbol of his or her submission to Christ’s Lordship.
Philip baptizes the Ethiopian, which shows us an important picture. Philip, an olive skinned man, baptizes the Ethiopian, a black man, into the fellowship of the church. Philip, a former adherent to Judaism, and the Ethiopian, a former adherent to the religion of Meroe, become equal in standing before Christ. In Christ, racial barriers, national barriers, cultural barriers fall. Each person finds themselves equal at the foot of the Cross.
DAY 23 – FROM GREENLAND’S ICY MOUNTAINS
From out of the days of great missionary endeavors comes this hymn, which captures the spirit that moved so many to proclaim the gospel across the globe. It is our duty to bring the gospel to those who have never heard its story. It is our privilege to show all people the correct God to worship as well as the correct way to worship Him.
Paul told the Greeks in Acts 17, “You worship what you do not know, in ignorance “(my paraphrase) and then proceeded to enlighten them with the truth. In the same manner, those in places without a gospel witness worship in vain: idols made by hand, false gods, political systems, etc..
One of the charges against Christianity is that we destroyed people’s religion and culture with our missionaries. Yes, we did. We sought to destroy false worship and replace it with the knowledge of the True God. Social customs, as long as they do not violate Scripture, are to be left alone. Religious and moral deficiencies are to be exposed to the gospel light so that its transforming power can set the spiritual captives free. May we never shirk from seeking to transform every culture, including ours, and having them conform to God’s laws.
May we never be ashamed of the gospel’s power. May we never apologize for loving people so much that we are diligent in showing them how God requires them to worship.
Lord, move on me to be unashamed that You have set up a narrow way, an exclusive way to salvation – through Jesus Christ. Help me to never apologize for holding fast to the truth that through Him alone salvation is found. Help me to proclaim salvation to those who have never heard as well as those who have never responded.
FROM GREENLANDS ICY MOUNTAINS – Reginald Heber
From Greenland’s icy mountains,
From India’s coral strand,
Where Africa’s sunny fountains
Roll down their golden sand,
From many an ancient river,
From many a palmy plain,
They call us to deliver their land from error’s chain.
What though the spicy breezes
Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
Though every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile:
In vain with lavish kindness
The gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.
Can we, whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high,
Can we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny?
Salvation! O salvation!
The joyful sound proclaim,
Till each remotest nation has learned Messiah’s Name.
Waft, waft, ye winds, His story,
And you, ye waters, roll,
Till like a sea of glory
It spreads from pole to pole;
Till o’er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain,
Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign.
The God who who not only pursues us, but who woos us with His Spirit. Sermon from John chapter 4 on the Holy Spirit’s drawing of the Samaritan woman. Based on the speaker’s book, A Heart Hungry to Worship