Sunday, June 28, 2020

Acts Study, Session 20

Today in our study we cover Acts 8:26-9:14. In this portion of Scripture, we see Philip meeting the Ethiopian Eunuch and his conversion after reading the text in Isaiah 53 that speaks of the Messiah and his rejection by the nation and Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus.


Teaching Notes
VERSE 26: And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. Philip was then instructed to down from Jerusalem unto Gaza. Of course, he may not have understood why God told him to, but he was obedient to the call.

VERSE 27: And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Now, many will read this verse and immediately assume that this man is an Ethiopian; not necessarily. Just from the text, he appears to be a Jew, or a proselyte, in that he was going to Jerusalem to worship. He may have been in Jerusalem for one of the mandatory feasts.

He is working for Candace, the Queen of the Ethiopians just like Daniel in Babylon and Joseph in Egypt. After all, who better to watch your money than a Jew. They are famous for their abilities to handle money. Notice that he was a eunuch just like Daniel was. This was very common when men were placed in authority around women. However, the word could also mean that he was also an officer or counselor of state.

The name Candace does not denote a proper name, but a position. Just as there were pharaohs, there were candaces who ruled from the city of Meroe, the capital of Cush, now known as Sudan. The name itself referred to a female monarch.

VERSES 28-31a Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? It is obvious from the passage that he is reading from Isaiah 53 which speaks of the Jewish Messiah. Amazing how God purposely knew that this eunuch was going to need someone to help him understand that text. This is another reason that we need to be students of Scripture so that we can be there for those who are curious and have questions (2Timoth 4:2).

VERSES 31b-34: And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? He was looking at Isaiah 53:7-8. He wanted to know who these verses were speaking about. I have no doubt that he had heard of Jesus of Nazareth and had his suspicions. I wonder how many in the church today could 34nswer this question if posed to them.

VERSE 35: Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. Remember that the New Testament had not been written yet, let alone canonized. Philip had to rely on the Old Testament Scriptures to answer his question. Also, notice he still preached Jesus and not the crucifixion.

VERSE 36: And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? It is obvious that Philip was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to this man because he wanted to be baptized. It was the same baptism of repentance that John the Baptist through Peter preached.

VERSE 37: And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Make no mistake, the Kingdom Gospel required belief that Jesus Christ was who he said that he was. This led to repentance and baptism. Understand that faith is required for both gospels.

I can't but compare and contrast this eunuch believing with all of his heart with Simon in the previous verses whose' heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21).

VERSE 38-40: And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. There are only two baptisms mentioned in the Bible. One is by water and the other is by the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is not required today in the church under the Gospel of Grace. Anyone that teaches otherwise is guilty of not rightly dividing between the two gospels (i.e., those who teach baptismal regeneration).

Notice that as the eunuch comes up out of the water, Philip is then whisked away. The word translated caught is harpazo which is also used in 1Th_4:17 in regards to the rapture of the church. Many point to this as to how the 144,000 are going to be able to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom during the time of Jacob's Trouble fulfilling Matthew 24:14.

Chapter 9
VERSE 1: And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, Remember that Saul had become his campaign against those of the Way back in chapter 7. The disciples of the Lord is simply referring to those who had embraced the Kingdom message.

VERSE 2: And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. Who were in these synagogues? Jews! Why were believing Jews still in synagogues? Because they were still Jews! The First Baptist Church of Jerusalem had not been founded yet. These were not Christians. Instead, they were only called those of The Way because they had embraced Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah (John 14:6). They were faithful Jews who had no desire to break from Judaism.

Why did Paul want to bring them back to Jerusalem? It is where the Sanhedrin was and the seat of the Jewish faith. It is where the prosecution could take place. Unlike Paul, most were not Roman citizens and could be dealt with by the Jewish authorities.

VERSES 3-4: And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Oh boy! This is where everything changed for Saul! We must understand that Paul was a religious man. He thoroughly believed in the Old Testament Scriptures (Romans 11:1; Phillippians 3:4-6).

Randy White makes an interesting observation. "It is of interest that Saul is only called by this Jewish name prior to his conversion, after which he is called Paul. The use of the Jewish name could associate him with the rejection of God made by the Jewish people at the time of the selection of Saul as their first king (“they have not rejected you, they have rejected Me”). Saul represented the rejection of Jesus Christ by Israel. Graciously, God chooses the icon of rejection to become the bearer of the new Gospel to all the world."

Notice the question that the Lord asked him, Why persecutest thou me? There is no doubt that Saul knew exactly what the question meant because he was persecuting those who followed the man who claimed to be their Messiah.

VERSE 5: And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Some disagree as to who Saul is addressing here in his response. Either it was simply a term of respect or he knew that it was God. Of course, it would be hard for me to imagine that Saul didn't know that something supernatural was going on here.

And then Jesus drops the bomb on him! What does the expression it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. It means that he is working against God by failing to realize that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

VERSE 6: And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. This had to have hit Saul like a ton of bricks. The very Jesus that he hated. The very one that he thought he had to stamp out any memory of was the Jehovah God of the Old Testament! I can't help but think that he immediately knew the error of his ways. His immediate response is what wilt thou have me to do? God has a knack for taking men that are low high and men that are high low. Saul of the OT started low and went high and Saul of the NT started high and went low! Paul recounts this event in Acts 26:15-18.

VERSES 7-9: And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. Saul was blinded for three days. Some would make a comparison between Saul's three days without sight and Jonah's three days in the belly of the great fish. Both were changed men at the end with Jonah going to the Ninevites and Saul embraced the Jewish Messiah. Les Feldick makes another observation that should give a clue as to Saul's calling in that he is the only apostle called outside of the confines of Jerusalem.

Also, as far as I can tell, Saul was the only one that was a Roman citizen. These facts should be a clue that the 12 were called to Israel and Paul to the Gentiles. Saul was both a Jew and a Gentile by citizenship. Only he uniquely met these qualifications that would enable him to reach the Gentiles (Acts 21:37-40; Acts 22:24-29).

Sadly, far too many in the church today, don't see this, and even have the audacity to say that Peter got ahead of God in selecting Matthias. However, as we have discussed before, Paul never met the requirements (Acts 1:21-22). So, it had to be someone who been there during John's baptism (some would say had been baptized by John), followed Jesus during his three-year ministry, and had witnessed the resurrection (been present for the 40-day seminar). Saul came nowhere close to meeting any of these requirements! Paul was always distinct from the Twelve (Galatians 1:11-17).

VERSES 10-14 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. Now we are introduced to Ananias who was a disciple at Damascus. It can be assumed from the text that he was part of the synagogue there that Paul had received letters to arrest (Acts 9:2). With that in mind, is it any wonder that Ananias knew exactly who Saul was when he said Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem.

Paul will mention him later in his testimony in Acts 22:11-12 where he says that he was a devout man according to the law, and had a good report from all of the Jews that lived there. Again, obvious from the text that the believing Jews had not stopped temple worship. They maintained their Judaism but still had accepted the Gospel of the Kingdom. Paul also refers to this event in Acts 26:9-11.

Again, to me, these verses fly in the face of the notion that the Body of Christ was born in Acts 2. It is also important to see that this is the first time that we see the term saints mentioned in the book of Acts and it is referring to Jewish believers. This is also true when it is first mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew 27:52. In fact, the word saints, in mentioned four times in Acts and it is always referring to Jewish believers.

This important in studying the Bible. It is called the Law of First Mention and simply stated means that what is first means should be the primary meaning throughout. "The reasoning is that the Bible’s first mention of a concept is the simplest and clearest presentation; doctrines are then more fully developed on that foundation. So, to fully understand an important and complex theological concept, Bible students are advised to start with its 'first mention.'"

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