Our Stories: The Ethiopian (Part 2)

When it came to his religion, this Ethiopian was a man of the Word.  He was a man who read the Bible.  He was thirsty, hungry, seeking – wanting to know God.  Someone like that will have an appetite for the Bible.  You better believe he had a lot of pressing responsibilities in his position that would have been good excuses for keeping his Bible closed.  

But, rather than reading Profit and Loss Statements on his way home he spent his time studying the word of God.  And you can bet that a life in politics was a constant challenge to his character and integrity.  Where else could he find strength and guidance for navigating the snakepit of politics?  Here is a principle to write down:  A man of God will be devoted to the word of God.  The Apostles were devoted to the word of God (Acts 6) and the believers were devoted to it also (Acts 2).


But we must see too that he was a man who was searching for God.  He didn’t worship the gods of his own native country of Ethiopia.  He worshipped the One True God, the God of Israel.  This made him a religious anomaly in Ethiopia who stuck out because of his faith in Jehovah.  And as a man who pursuing the one real God he discovered on a deserted and dusty road that that one God was seeking him personally.  


Here is another principle to write down:  Those who seek God will be found by Him.  God said in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it shall be given to you.  Knock and the door will be opened.  Seek and you shall find.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Later in Acts 17:26-27 it says, “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  A man who honors God by seeking Him out will be honored by God.  This Ethiopian was such a man.


Application:  Are you seeking God?  A lot of people condemn God because they assume many people die and never heard of Jesus Christ.  But, the Bible shows us that anyone seeking God will find Him – He will come to them.  But if people don’t find God worth seeking, the question should be asked:  why should God seek them?  So, do you think God worth seeking?  If you do, He will think you worth revealing Himself to.


#3:  Presentation of the Gospel (35)

Thirdly, we see the Presentation of the Gospel.  Verse 35 says, “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”


Philip was ready to explain the Gospel to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  A verse that lays over this scene is 1 Peter 3:15,But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone…”  Philip was prepared.  Are we?


Both of these verses show us that getting ready to present the Gospel means preparing ourselves in two ways.


First we condition our own hearts.  The verse in 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to set Christ apart as Lord in our hearts.  Translation:  Jesus comes first.  In everything.  Philip proved this point perfectly:   wherever the Lord ordered him to go that’s where Philip went. It didn’t matter what the task was, where he was to go, or what the odds were.  It didn’t matter if it made sense to Philip because Philip had faith to know it made sense to the Omniscient God he was trusting.  Bottom line:  Because Philip made Christ first in his own heart Philip was obedient to everything Christ commanded him to do.  And his orders were to spread the Gospel.


Application:  Personal obedience will prepare you to present the Gospel.  You cannot underestimate this point.  Your heart submission to Christ will determine how much your mouth speaks of Him.  In other words, your effectiveness in speaking for Christ is determined by your effective submission to Him.  Our final song today is called “May the Mind of Christ My Savior”.  The song starts in the first verse describing the desire for a life of obedience.  The song finishes with a desire for the salvation of the lost. Here is the first verse on obedience:

“May the mind of Christ my Savior, Live in me from day to day

By His love and power controlling all I do and say.”


Then the last verse on evangelism:

“May His beauty rest upon me As I seek the lost to win

And may they forget the channel Seeing only Him.”


The song illustrates the pattern we see in Scripture:  obedience prepares us for evangelism.  The opposite is true also:  disobedience to the Lord will leave us unprepared – and indifferent to witnessing.  


Illustration:  I came to the office the other day and saw a bunch of my baseballs in the grass that were apparently lost during MSC but Logan found when mowing the lawn.  Well, they were water-logged from the rain and so I had Evan throw them in the truck so we could bring them home.  Later on we left to go downtown to hand out tracts and when we got in the car it reeked like nasty wet disgustingness in the truck.  I thought to myself “Man I’m glad I’m not giving anyone a ride anywhere, I wouldn’t want them to get in and smell that!”  Now, I knew that once I removed the baseballs the stench would be gone too.  Remove the balls – remove the stench.  Here’s where I’m going with this:  sin is a stench in the believer’s life.  And just like I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to smell my vehicle I certainly don’t want anyone smelling my life when it’s fouled up by sin – Can you imagine someone saying “Look at your life man get out of here with that Jesus stuff!”  Remove the sin and remove the stench from my life.  And the more God will want people around me so I can tell them about Him.


But if we’re self-willed, chasing after our own agenda with no regard for the Lord, if we practice sin, hide sin, and go about living for the things of the world then we will be useless when a witnessing conversation arises – like a surgeon needs a scalpel that is both sharp and sterile, the Lord can only use Christians who are spiritually sharp and undefiled.  So, if we don’t live any more holy than the unbelieving world around we’re useless to the Lord:  cohabitating, porn, cheating, angry and ill-tempered, drunks, foul selfish attitudes, lewd conduct and off-color comments or preoccupation with worldly things then when an opportunity comes up we’ll either not recognize it or we’ll shrink back from it or we’ll be speechless.  


Faithfulness to the Lord in our personal lives prepares us for faithfulness when presented with a chance to share the Gospel.  In other words:  Obedience conditions you for evangelism.   


Secondly, not only are we to be conditioning ourselves to share the Gospel, but, being ready means explaining the right content of the Gospel.  Acts 8:36 says that Philip explained “the good news about Jesus”.    The passage in Isaiah described mankind as guilty of sin and yet described the Messiah as taking that guilt and punishment on Himself.  Philip laid out those facts and so should we.  This means telling them about their sin, about Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross for their sin, and their need to believe in Him.  


Too often this message gets reduced to “accept Jesus into your heart” without the person ever hearing about the actual content of the Gospel.  If in the broader conversation you are explaining sin, Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection and the need for faith to be saved then I don’t think there is anything wrong with the statement:  accept Jesus in your heart.  I’ve said it, but, always in the greater context of explaining the clear Gospel of what Jesus did and why He did it.  Let me recommend we tell people to accept Jesus “with” their heart rather than accept Him “into” their heart.  We can’t sidestep the Gospel.  We need to be clear with the content of the Gospel:  We are sinners, Christ died on the cross for our sins, and we must believe in Him to be saved.  If that isn’t being communicated then we are not presenting the Gospel.


#4:  Products of Salvation (36-39)

Lastly, we see the Products of Salvation.  Verses 36-39.


After the Ethiopian believes we see two things produced in his life:  baptism and blessedness.


First is he has the desire to be baptized (36-37a).  This guy wants to be baptized – like, right now.  Over and over the NT shows new converts getting baptized immediately – the Pentecost converts (Acts 2:41), Paul (Acts 9:18), the 12 Ephesian Disciples (Acts 19:5).  The NT pattern, in obedience to the Great Commission, is salvation followed by baptism.  Let’s draw a couple lessons here from this.


First, baptism follows conversion.  We don’t baptize infants because infants cannot be converted – they don’t hear, understand and believe in the Gospel.


Second, while baptism is not a condition for salvation, it is so important that those who do get saved made it a priority.  Why did they make it a priority?  Because Jesus commanded they do it.  Are Jesus’ commands a priority to you?  If you are a believer and have not been baptized, you need to remember that it is a command, not an option.


This also means that baptism was part of the teaching that Philip gave him in the chariot.  Philip was faithful to the Lord in communicating to this Ethiopian that he needed to believe for salvation and get baptized in obedience.  Peter told the Pentecost crowds the same thing.   But not only were they faithful to teach this, the Ethiopian was faithful to obey.  


I was reading William Barclays commentary who usually has some great historical and cultural gems.  He describes the Christian’s baptism as a public symbol of someone’s breaking from their old life and beginning a new life with Christ.  Then he says this:  “Baptism marked a clean break.  We are told how one missionary, when he baptized his converts, made them enter the river by one bank and sent them out on the other, as if at the moment of baptism a line was drawn in their lives which sent them out to a new world.”  


This Ethiopian’s life was changed.  He came out of that water a different man.  Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore anyone who is in Christ is a new creature:  the old is gone and the new has come forth.”  Even though got out of the water dripping wet, got up into his luxurious chariot, and started out again on the same road, I’m quite certain he saw himself beginning down a new road in life.


Secondly, we see not only his baptism, but, the blessedness of his new salvation.  Look at verse 39, don’t miss it, “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”  This guy is happy!  He has just been doused with the joy of Jesus Christ!  Joy is a marker of new birth.  It comes installed with the new you in Christ.  Actually, it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and you get the Holy Spirit when you get saved.  It’s Jesus’ own personal joy that He is experiencing that He shares with those whom He is now joined to.  He prayed in John 17:13, “Father, I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”   This joy is very unique and can be experienced only by those who are saved.  Jesus only shares it with those who receive Him.


You see joy shared all over the conversion stories in Acts.  Wherever the word of God spreads it spreads joy.  In spite of persecution, Acts 13:52 tells us “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”  Later the Philippian jailer (whom we are going to study later on) also experienced this same joy:  “The jailer brought them to his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household.”  


Outside of Acts we see joy too.  When the angels appeared to the shepherds at Christ’s birth in Luke 2 they said, “Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people” – including the people of Ethiopia!  


The word of God brings salvation and joy!  This is why we can’t turn away from the word of God – it brings unequaled joy to God’s people.  Remember that also when you share the Gospel with people – you are offering them a joy they don’t even know exists.  How can we be silent and deprive them of a chance to have it?


Positioned by God; Profile of a Proselyte; Present the Gospel; and Products of Salvation.

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