2017-08-09 / Religion

We Are Called to Break Barriers

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Acts 8

An evangelist is the individual who is a “bearer of good news.” In the case of the New Testament use of this word, and the concept, the Good News is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The power of evangelism is, obviously, divine in origin. Our Master declared, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:17, 18. The geography of evangelism is divinely directed, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both (1) in Jerusalem, and (2) in all Judaea, and (3) in Samaria, and (4) unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

The first members of the church, called out ones, were Jews. Their location, at that time, was the city of Jerusalem. Thus, the first portion of the divine directive was not difficult for them to accept or to follow. It took drastic measures to cause the application of the remainder of this directive.

The believer, Stephen, gave his physical life as the means of moving the believers from their “comfort zone.” Acts 1:1; Luke 1:1-4 recorded “there was great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Acts 8:1b, c.

When “the seven” were given their assignment, this position was not seen as a permanent task. Stephen was a member of this group. Another member, Philip, was sensitive to his “change in assignment.” The general statement made by Luke shows us that the focus remained singular “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” Acts 8:4. His report continued, “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” Acts 8:5. These people had already been exposed to this message. Jesus, himself, had ministered in that region. See John 4:1-30.

The ministry of Philip touched many hearts. “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, (1) hearing and (2) seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them, and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.” Acts 8:6, 7. Luke described the attitude of the people, “And there was great joy in that city.” Acts 8:8.

News of this great spiritual move reached Jerusalem. The leadership responded immediately in a positive way, “They sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.” Acts 8:14c, 15.

While this great move of the power of God was touching many lives, Philip had a divine visitor. “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.” Acts 8:26. There was no reluctance on the part of Philip, “And he arose and went.” Acts 8:27a. This faithful servant of God had no clue, regarding the circumstance that he would meet.

In the meantime, God was working in the hungry heart of the Ethiopian national treasurer. This man had made the journey from his country to “come to Jerusalem for to worship.” Acts 8:27c. The Holy Spirit, Timothy 3:16, Peter 1:21, had Luke to record the scene. As this man “Was returning, and sitting in his chariot, he read Esaias the prophet.” Acts 8:28.

The record does not tell us the distance between the faithful preacher and the chariot when “the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to the chariot.” Acts 8:29. The divine command was immediately obeyed. “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?” Acts 8:30. This government official seemed to have known the Hebrew words that he read, but their meaning was hidden from his understanding. He asked, “How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.” Acts 8:31.

Luke reported the passage that the man was reading. “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 he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away, and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.” Acts 8:32, 33. The official asked

Philip, “I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” Acts 8:34. The faithful servant used this opportunity to carry out his personal call “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” Acts 8:35.

There is no indication in scripture regarding the length of time that Philip was teaching this hungry heart. As they travelled, “they came unto a certain water, and the eunuch said, see, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? 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.” Acts 8:36b, 37. This Ethiopian was the first “uttermost part of the earth” believer. Luke reported that “he went on his way rejoicing.” Acts 8:39c.

When we are presented with an opportunity to minister, do we know enough of the Word of God to teach a hungry heart? Philip had no problem in sharing the Good News. How faithful are we?

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478, 299, 2068. Email: jctjet@aol.com.

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