The Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8

The baptism of the eunuch by Rembrandt, 1626, ...

The baptism of the eunuch by Rembrandt, 1626, depicting Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Chapter 8, an angel of the Lord appeared to Philip and told him to go to the desert land that was to the south on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. Philip did obey, and upon arriving, he met with an Ethiopian eunuch who was a court official to Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. “Candace” was a name assigned to all such rulers of Ethiopia during that time (much like the name Pharaoh was given to rulers of Egypt. Because the Ethiopian would have been returning from worship in Jerusalem to a destination over a 1,000 miles away, he must have been a a very devout man. Some speculate that he was a “God-fearer” — a Gentile who had converted to Judaism. That certainly seems to fit. Philip found him in his chariot reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit sent him to join the Ethiopian in his chariot.

 

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 11, Acts 12

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

The Day of Pentecost – Acts 1-2

Luke begins the book of The Acts of the Apostles by addressing Theophilus again. He summarizes what he had told him in “the first book” — the Gospel of Luke, emphasizing the charge Jesus had given to the apostles after his resurrection, and the fact that He spent 40 days speaking with them about the kingdom of God. He also made a point to say that Jesus provided “many proofs” during that time. It was an important point, and one that Paul also stressed at times (1 Corinthians 15:5-7). Peter also said plainly that they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

English: The Pentecost. From the Acts of the A...

English: The Pentecost. From the Acts of the Apostles printed in , Georgia, in 1709 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He further told Theophilus that Jesus had ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, “which you heard from me.” It was in Luke 24:49 that Jesus said “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you ware clothed with power from on high.” Here, he says “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” It is that baptism which will ensure that Jesus’ apostles have all of the knowledge they need to grow the Lord’s church.

On the day of Pentecost, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in “tongues” – not gibberish, but languages that people who spoke such would understand. Then Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, telling them who Jesus was, and how they were guilty in His death.

Verse 37 says that when they heard this they were “cut to the heart.” How many of them, one might wonder, had been among the frenzied crowd that was calling out “Crucify Him” just about 50 days earlier? So they asked Peter and the other eleven apostles what they should do. Peter’s answer in Acts 2:38 may be the most important verse in the this whole book:

Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But Peter made certain that they knew that this was not just a “good idea,” considering what had been done to the Lord. It was not something that just a few of them — the ones who may have been among that mob mentioned above. And it was not just a passing ritual to be done for now, but meaning no urgency for times to come. Quite the contrary, Peter’s next words sealed it as the promise of the path to salvation for all to come, as he said in verse 39:

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

About three thousand of them were baptized then, as the church immediately took hold. Now, this number has brought about some criticism from skeptics, of course, saying that 12 men could not have baptized so many. But of course, Jesus’ other disciples would have been baptized already, and would be there to help. God’s will would be done. I suppose that as a number of these were baptized, several of them joined in completing the task with those who remained, as well.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Luke 22, Luke 23, Luke 24, Acts 1, Acts 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

The Riches of His Grace – Eph 1

Paul loves the church at Ephesus, and that fact is no more evident than in his letter to the Ephesians. In chapter one, he speaks to them of the saving grace of Jesus:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River because Jesus told him to do it -- Matthew 3: 13-17.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River because Jesus told him to do it — Matthew 3: 13-17.

But it is verses 4-5 that cause much controversy and misunderstanding, when really the message is simple. The verses say:

…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…

Some take this to mean that God chose certain specific people to be saved and certain specific people to be lost. Not only does that interpretation misrepresent these verses, it also misrepresents God’s will. If that interpretation is correct, then 1 Timothy 2:4 is a lie, and God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2). God would rather have everyone saved. Would He then decide, before they even lived, those that would be lost? Nonsense!

It simply meant that it was always God’s plan that all those Jew or Gentile who were crucified with Jesus in baptism would be adopted, according to the purpose of His will.

 

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click here to read or listen to audio of this week’s chapters in Galatians and Ephesians

/Bob’s boy
___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

The First Gospel Sermon – Acts 2

A small diorama/model of what the temple in Je...

A small diorama/model of what the temple in Jerusalem may have looked like with the surrounding city during the time of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having gone through all of the reminders of what Peter’s listeners had witnessed Jesus do while He was among them, as well as David’s prophecy, Peter uttered what had to be the most chilling words he could have told them:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36)

Verse 37 says that when they heard this they were “cut to the heart.” How many of them, one might wonder, had been among the frenzied crowd that was calling out “Crucify Him” just about 50 days earlier? So they asked Peter and the other eleven apostles what they should do. Peter’s answer in Acts 2:38 may be the most important verse in the this whole book:

Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But Peter made certain that they knew that this was not just a “good idea,” considering what had been done to the Lord. It was not something that just a few of them — the ones who may have been among that mob mentioned above. And it was not just a passing ritual to be done for now, but meaning no urgency for times to come. Quite the contrary, Peter’s next words sealed it as the promise of the path to salvation for all to come, as he said in verse 39:

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

I don’t know how Peter could have made it any clearer. That was not the end of this, the first gospel sermon. Verse 41 says that “with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’” About three thousand of them were baptized then, as the church immediately took hold. Now, this number has brought about some criticism from skeptics, of course, saying that 12 men could not have baptized so many. But of course, Jesus’ other disciples would have been baptized already, and would be there to help. God’s will would be done. I suppose that as a number of these were baptized, several of them joined in completing the task with those who remained, as well.

Verses 42-47 indicate that what followed, was great unity of spirit and of purpose, as the believers had fellowship with the apostles and assisted in the growth of that early church. As the following indicates, the work of the Lord’s gospel was now in full swing:

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Preparing the Way

John the Baptist preaching repentance - polych...

John the Baptist preaching repentance – polychrome, Amiens cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If this writer kept a “top ten list” of the most important chapters of scripture in the Bible, Luke Chapter 3 would almost certainly be in that list, for reasons that will hopefully become apparent by the end of this blog. In verse 7, John the Baptist is speaking to the crowds that came out to be baptized. In Matthew chapter 3, we are told that Pharisees and Saduccees were among those who had come. The impression that is most natural to take away from John’s harsh-sounding words here are that they are meant for those two groups. But just as likely, they are aimed at any of those who had come without true repentance on their minds. That is what John had been preaching – a baptism of repentance.

Referring to them as a “brood of vipers,” the question he poses is “who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Judging from the verses that follow, it seems that what he meant was “where did you get the idea that you can avoid the wrath that is to come simply by baptism – that is, without repentance?” “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” means that they must not only repent, but they must show the change in their lives by how they live, and by how they treat others from this day forward. He then admonishes them not to have the idea in mind that because they are descendants of Abraham, they have nothing to fear. God, he tells them, can raise up children of Abraham from the stones present around them. In other words, it is not enough – God is not so impressed with their pedigree.

Jesus warned His disciples that the Temple would be completely destroyed. His prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus (Matthew 24:1-2)

Jesus warned His disciples that the Temple would be completely destroyed. His prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus (Matthew 24:1-2)

In verse 9, John tells them that already “the axe is laid to the root of the trees.” They do not know it, but the imminent destruction that this alludes to is the coming destruction that will result from the Jews’ rejection of Jesus. And “every tree,” he says, “that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” So when the various people asked what they were to do, everything that he tells each of them in verses 10-14 has to do with a complete change in the way John knows (from the Spirit) that they are living – mostly how unjust they are to others, especially the poor and down-trodden. That part is the same story throughout the Old and New Testaments – God has always cared very deeply about how those two groups of people are treated.

All of these things together make up the crux of what John’s commission by God is all about, as far as “to prepare the way” is concerned. This is part of what makes this chapter of Luke one of the most important in the New Testament. There has been no word from God for 400 years – since Malachi foretold the coming of John the Baptist in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5. Now comes John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Although baptism in some form did exist before John the Baptist received his calling from God, it was not a baptism of repentance, nor was it for the forgiveness of sins. There was no real forgiveness of sins under the Law of Moses because, as Paul said, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4). There was washing for purification, as first implemented with Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 16:23-24), and for remedy of defilement (Numbers 19). And at some point (though not Biblically required), baptism (immersion in water) was added to circumcision as a requirement for Gentile proselytes to be converted to Judaism.

But now it was different. John the Baptist did not come up with the idea of this baptism on his own. It was part of “the word” that came from God (Luke 3:2-3). John the Baptist “prepared the way” for Jesus in three important ways that we can clearly see: 1) by proclaiming and practicing the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3) 2) by proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven (and, necessarily, the Messiah’s arrival at last) was at hand (Matthew 3:2, Matthew 3:11-12), and 3) by clearly pointing his followers to Jesus as that long-awaited Messiah – the Son of God (John 1:29-34).

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Understanding the Cross – now available as eBook

Understanding_the_Cross_coverThe expanded version of our series “Understanding the Cross of Christ” is now available at Amazon.com in Kindle format at this link, in ePub format at Kobo, and for Nook at  BarnesandNobel.com!

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 6 (Christ Arose!)

This is the conclusion of a series begun in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  In part 3, we delved into God’s response to sin.  In all of that discussion, we have made great mention of the fact that God has a plan for our salvation.  In part 4, we looked at how Jesus really fits into that plan.  In part 5, we examined what was expected of the Messiah, and why His death on the cross was necessary.

What Did the Cross Accomplish?

The Very Real Suffering of “The Suffering Servant”

The Mount of Olives, looking from Jerusalem, with Gethsemane on the left and the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations) at the right. It is the third in a succession of churches that have been built on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father in the hours before his crucifixion.

The Mount of Olives, looking from Jerusalem, with Gethsemane on the left and the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations) at the right. It is the third in a succession of churches that have been built on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father in the hours before his crucifixion.

It is all too easy for us to get into a mindset, knowing that Jesus was the Son of God, of (at least somewhere in the back of our minds) thinking that all of this was easy for Him.  Or if not exactly easy, at least not as bad as it would be for a “regular”person.  We must never forget that although Jesus was (is) the Lord, he had made himself a man.  He had human emotions.  He felt compassion for the hungry (Matthew 15:32), love for the sick and the suffering (Matthew 14:14).  He cried real human tears for Lazarus’ death before he raised him from the dead (John 11:32-35).  Even more telling as He knew what was coming, His agony, dread, and pleas as He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest clearly show his humanity (Matthew 26:36-46, Luke 22:39-46).  There was nothing “easy” about preparing Himself to be crucified, any more than it was “easy” to be beaten and slowly killed on that cross.  So what exactly did His loving sacrifice and

resurrection accomplish?

Release From the “Curse of the Law”

The culmination of God’s plan to redeem mankind came at such a high price to Him, but it accomplished so much for us.  This supreme sacrifice by Jesus redeemed us from what Paul calls “the curse of the law” in Galatians 3:10-13.  Quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 (“Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them”), Paul points out that none of us could ever be justified under that criteria because we all have sin in our lives.  And so the sacrifices and offerings made under the old law simply put off God’s judgment.

Gethsemane, Rock of Agony, where tradition says Jesus prayed

Gethsemane, Rock of Agony, where tradition says Jesus prayed

By the blood of His sacrifice, God put Jesus forward as a propitiation (an appeasement or satisfaction) for our sins (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10).   Hebrews 9, speaking of the way things were before Christ, goes into some detail about the earthly “Most Holy Place” of the Tabernacle (into which only the High Priest could enter with blood to offer).  The word used for the “mercy seat” In Hebrews 9:5 (which was the lid on top of the ark) is the same as is used for “propitiation,” which is to say that it was a covering – a concealment – for the judgment of the law contained therein.

This earthly Holy Place and the Holy things it contained, the Hebrew writer refers to as mere “copies of the heavenly things” which are in Heaven.  By His death and resurrection, Jesus became a new High Priest of a better covenant (Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 7:22).  And Hebrews 9:11-12 explained that by His own blood, He entered once and for all into THE Holy Place, securing an eternal redemption for us.  Thus, Paul says in Romans 7:6, “…now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Eternal Life

Paul reminds us in Romans 5:12 that when man first sinned in Genesis 3, death also entered the world (“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”).  Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:10 that Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

By His resurrection, Jesus was victorious over death; and He brought to us the promise that when He returns, all those who have “fallen asleep” will also be raised, and will come to meet with Him (as well as those who are still alive) (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).  And then, 1 Corinthians 15:22-26 tells us, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  The Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 2:14-15:

“…he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

How Does One Earn Salvation – This Eternal Life?

The answer, of course, is that one does not earn salvation.  The bad news is that everyone has sinned, and however “small” one may consider his sins to be, God counts no difference between those sins and those we may consider to be the most despicable or callous.  The good news is that Jesus already paid the price for our sins with His death.  It is our faith in Jesus that justifies us through His grace, as told by Paul in Romans 5:1-2:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

baptismBut the fact that this salvation is freely given to us, does not mean we have no responsibility in the matter.  We must obey His commandments, among which is as Acts 2:38 says: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”  Jesus said in Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  Peter said in 1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Paul gives the best explanation in Romans 6:3-5: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Staying the Course

If baptism were the end-all of the Christian’s commitment, how easy that would be.  But how easy is it to remain righteous in a world that seems to become more and more wicked?  Well, to be sure, Christians today (especially young people) face new and different challenges in that regard.  But there really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  We know that is true from reading the Scriptures about the time before the flood (Genesis 6:5-8), about Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-19:29), about God’s patience with the depraved wickedness of the Canaanites (Genesis 15:15-21) – and events all throughout history.  But as Peter tells us as God’s children, Christians “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Paul proclaimed the great promise in Romans 2:6-8: “…to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”  The Apostle aptly described our course in Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

1 Corinthians 1 – Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

Corinth – Temple of Apollo

As he did in his letters to the Romans, Colossians, Galatians and Ephesians, Paul opens the letter in his greeting with the declaration of his apostleship being given by the will of God – not by his own assertion.  As with the Galatians, it appears that some false teachers had called his apostleship into question at Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:1, 2 Cor 11:4-5, 2 Cor 12:11-13).  he reminds them that they are sanctified (set apart) from the world in Christ Jesus, as are all Christians.  He recognizes their God-given talents, and emphasizes the spiritual gifts that they had been blessed with by God by being “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (verses 4-9).

So the problems at Corinth were not caused by ignorance of the word of God, or by a lack of intelligence.  We will see that their problems, as is often the case today, stem from such age-old problems as envy, pride, jealousy, and lust.  Some people have taken verse 17 to be stating that baptism is not necessary.  But if that were the case, why would he have baptized anyone (as he gives some of the many examples of doing so in the preceding verses)!  Paul himself makes clear the importance of baptism in other scripture, such as Romans 6:3-5, Ephesians 2:5-6, and Ephesians 4:4-6, as did Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Verses 10-17 is addressing the divisions that had been reported to Paul (we do not know who Chloe was, but probably was one of their members).  Barclay said in his commentary that the word he uses to describe them “…is the word for rents in a garment.  The Corinthian Church is in danger of becoming as unsightly as a torn garment.”

Corinth – Lechaion Road

In verses 18-31, Paul ironically speaks quite eloquently, as he decries the foolishness of pride.  He declares the folly of men who think themselves wise, and speech that is eloquent but empty.  There was no shortage of philosophers in their Greco-Roman society nor, therefore, those who were “wise in their own eyes.”  He points out that not many of the saints at Corinth had been powerful, or of noble birth, or wise by worldly standards.  But God, through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, had given even those who were considered foolish, weak, lowly or despised the blessing over the “wise” or “strong” or “powerful,” who choose not to believe – so that no human being has the right to boast about anything other than Christ Jesus.  Verse 19 is quoted from Isaiah 29:14.  Verse 20’s rhetorical question is a timeless illustration of the impudence of human confidence in their superior intelligence – “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Acts 8 – Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Before Saul became Paul, he persecuted the Christians, putting many in prison and even having some executed — Acts 8: 1-4.

The chapter opens with the statement that Saul approved of Stephen’s execution, and that from that day forward there was a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem.  And Saul was right in the thick of it, dragging men and women out of their homes and putting them in prison for their Christianity.  This was Saul’s darkest hour, and he would later have great sorrow for it.  It was a dark time for Christians in Jerusalem for sure.  But the scattering throughout Judea and Samaria described in verses one and four was not without a positive gain, as those people continued preaching the word in new places.

Philip went to Samaria healing the lame and preaching the “good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (verse 12); and he baptized many new Christians.  When the Apostles at Jerusalem heard about this reception, they sent Peter and John there to “lay hands” on some of them, so that they would receive the Holy Spirit.  Those Christians would have the power to perform miracles and signs as Philip did, but only through the Apostles could this happen.  Simon the magician’s conversion seemed genuine, but his heart was not in the right place.  But Peter’s rebuke of him for trying to buy the gift of God seemed to evoke the right response (verse 24).

Then, an angel of the Lord came to Philip and told him to go south to a “desert place” to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.  There he met an Ethiopian, a court official to their queen, Candace.  He was reading from Isaiah.  The scripture he was reading in verses 32-33 is from Isaiah 53:7-8.  Philip told him that the passage was about the Christ, and told him “the good news about Jesus.”  As they came to water, the Ethiopian asked to be baptized.  After doing so, Philip was carried off, and found himself at Azotus (the ancient Philistine city of Ashdod).  From there, “he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea” (verse 40).

The significance of the story of the Ethiopian’s conversion was more than to teach us about the power of God’s word, or even to instruct us more about baptism.  Philip was doing very well with conversions and could have stayed where he was doing the same.  This demonstration of the providence of God in sending Philip to this one soul in this remote location was for the Ethiopian to continue back home and further the kingdom there.

Side note: In Philip’s time, Caesarea was the seat of Roman government in Judea.  Excavations there have provided significant discoveries.  The following link to BiblePlaces.com contains some highlights and photos.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Acts 2 – Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

At Pentecost, a priest presented two loaves of leavened bread, representing the thanks of all Israelites. It also commemorated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.

There were three annual feasts at which Mosaic Law required every male to be present – Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.    The Feast of Weeks was also known as the firstfruits of wheat Harvest, the Feat of Ingathering (Exodus 34:22-23, Numbers 28:26-31), and Pentecost.  Pentecost also commemorated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  The day of Pentecost was the fiftieth day after Passover.  The name comes from a Greek adjective meaning “fiftieth.”  In this instance, counting up from Passover fifty days, the day fell on Sunday.  Jesus was crucified on Friday.  Appropriately, both His resurrection and the Holy Spirit immersion for the Apostles both occurred on Sunday.

The first four verses describe one of the most momentous occasions in the entire Bible.  The description of the sound and of the visual display – “rested on each one of them” – is of an awesome event, but what happened was much more magnificent than just this spectacular sensory description.  Some commentators ascribe what took place in these verses to have happened to about 120 people.  But in doing so, one has to take the context of  verse 1 (“they were all together in one place”) all the way back to the 15th verse of chapter one.  But the actual context of verse 1 is more properly associated with the verses just prior to it, particularly verse 26 – the last verse of chapter one (“And they” – the apostles – “cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”)  It is helpful to remember that the chapter divisions are not inspired, but made later by ordinary men (and sometimes in unfortunate  placement of location in the text).

This Holy Spirit baptism was for the twelve apostles, and it was expected and foretold for them alone by Jesus in several verses (Luke 24:49, John 14:26, and Acts 1:4-5, to name a few).  The power (to which Jesus referred) that it gave to them was the ability to recall all that He had taught them and finally understand the whole true meaning of His words.  It was the power to understand the full meaning of His death and resurrection, and to know with certainty the whole truth about the will of God and what is expected of us. It provided the very basis of the authority for the teaching of the Apostles from that point forward.  From this moment forward, that authority is evident in even the way they speak, for they speak for the Lord.

The significance of the Apostles speaking in other tongues on this occasion was two-fold.  First, Luke tells us in verses 5 and 9-11 that there were people from a list of nations that named most of the Roman world of the first century.  The “sound like a mighty rushing wind” and that of the twelve Apostles speaking in other languages quickly attracted a “multitude” of people, a great many of whom were amazed, as each heard them speaking in his own language.  Getting the attention of such a large number of people was undoubtedly one of the goals.  But just as importantly, what they witnessed proved that “the mighty works of God” (verse 11) being spoken of were voiced by authority not coming from ordinary men.

Tomb of David; one traditional site; Bethlehem.

Peter begins his sermon by telling them that what they were witnesses to was prophesied by Joel (Joel 2:28-32).  Then he begins telling them about Jesus, how David prophesied of his death and his resurrection without his flesh seeing corruption.  He quotes David from Psalm 110 and Psalm 16:8-11.  Then in verse 36, he tells them that they crucified the Messiah – the one that God had made “Lord and Christ.”  Verse 37 says they were cut to the heart, and wanted to know what they should do.  Verses 38-39 were the most important answer to any question ever asked:

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

The church was begun that very day with “about three thousand souls” being added!

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.