The Gospel According To Star Trek
Text: Acts 8:26-40
1. Illustration: If you've ever been a fan of the sci-fi show Star Trek then you are familiar with the quote that opened every episode. "Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."
2. In many ways being a Christian is a lot like being on Star Trek, because we are called by Jesus to boldly go where no one has gone before.
3. In order to accept this mission requires...
A. Being Willing To Obey
B. Being Sensitive To The Holy Spirit
C. Being Willing To Seize The Moment
4. Let's stand together as we read Acts 8:26-40.
Proposition: Accepting the Great Commission requires following the directives of Captain Jesus.
Transition: To accept the Great Commission means...
I. Being Willing To Obey (26-28).
A. So He Started Out
1. Evangelist Charles Finney noted this about obedience and sacrifice, "Revival is nothing more or less than a new obedience to God!"
2. Philip was open to whatever God directed him to do. This can be clearly illustrated in his encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Luke starts out by saying, "As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
A. At this point "an angel of the Lord" spoke to Philip telling him to go toward the south to the desert road going down from Jerusalem to Gaza.
B. "Desert" also means "deserted, abandoned, desolate." Here, the emphasis is that the area was largely uninhabited.
C. The Bible tells of angels appearing to people comparatively few times. Yet they are often present and function as "ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation" (Heb. 1:14).
D. However, since they are spirits, God has to give them a physical form temporarily in order for them to appear and speak to people.
E. There may have been a special reason for sending an angel. Philip was in the midst of a great revival in Samaria.
F. It probably took something unusual to get him to leave the crowds and go down to a seldom-used back road. Some take "desert" to refer to Old Testament Gaza, the most southern of the five cities of the Philistines.
G. About sixty miles southwest of Jerusalem, it was destroyed in 93 B.C. In 57 B.C. a new city was built nearer the Mediterranean Sea.
H. The road to old Gaza might be called the road to desert (deserted) Gaza.
I. To go there must have seemed unreasonable, but the desert road may have reminded Philip of Isaiah's cry, "'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord'" (Isa. 40:3) (Horton, Acts: A Logion Press Commentary, 170).
3. In total obedience, Luke tells us that Philip "So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah."
A. God was leading him, for at the very time he reached the Gaza road, the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch was approaching.
B. In ancient times, most officers in palaces were eunuchs. He was a highly placed officer, a member of the court of the Ethiopian queen Candace and "in charge of all [her] treasury."
C. We might say he was a member of the cabinet and would compare to the secretary of the treasury, but with full responsibility for the care and disbursement of funds.
D. This eunuch had come a long distance "to Jerusalem to worship."
E. Though he was a God-fearing Gentile or a convert to Judaism, because of his being a eunuch he could go only as far as the Court of the Gentiles.
F. Even so, he purchased the scrolls of Isaiah to take back with him. These were hand-copied and extremely expensive in those days. Usually a whole synagogue would join together to buy one set, which they would keep locked up except for use in the worship and in the synagogue school (Horton, 171-172).
G. However, the most important thing to see here is Philip's obedience to the Angel's command. None of the rest of the story takes place if Philip doesn't do as he is directed by the Angel.
B. To Obey Is Better
1. Illustration: Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers require absolute obedience from the horses, and test them to see if they are completely trained. The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing. The trainers force the horses to do without water for many days. Then he turns them loose and of course they start running toward the water, but just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle. The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience, stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water, but they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience he gives them a signal to go back to drink.
We must consent to God’s training and obey Him.
2. Accepting the Great Commission requires obedience to the will of God.
A. 1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
B. If we are going to be true disciples of Jesus than we must be totally sold out to the will of God.
C. It's not enough to occasionally show up for church on a Sunday morning to be a disciple of Jesus.
D. It's not enough to read a verse or two from your Bible every once in a while.
E. To be a disciple of Jesus means being willing to sacrifice everything the way that Jesus did.
F. It means putting Jesus and his will ahead of everything else in your life.
G. Jesus made it clear that not everyone who says to me "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven."
H. Are you a true disciple of Jesus or are you a paper Christian?
Transition: Next, to accept the Great Commission means...
II. Being Sensitive To The Holy Spirit (29-35).
A. The Holy Spirit Said To Philip
1. If you have ever been speaking with someone to whom English is not their native tongue, you will notice that when they talk to you with an accent it forces you to listen more intently than if you are speaking with someone who has spoken English all their lives. It is the same with the Holy Spirit; we have to be in tune with him to hear him clearly.
2. Philip was very in tune to the Spirit, so when "The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” 30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him."
A. Now the eunuch was returning home, sitting in his chariot "reading the book of Isaiah."
B. At this point the Spirit spoke to Philip, possibly by an inner voice. (Guidance by the Spirit is prominent in Acts.)
C. Philip did not need an angel to speak to him this time. He was undoubtedly looking to the Lord to know what to do. The Spirit's command was to "go... and walk along beside" this chariot (Horton, 172).
D. As Philip approaches, he hears the minister reading from Isaiah, for reading aloud to oneself was "the universal practice in the ancient world" (Cadbury, Book of Acts, p. 18).
E. So while running along beside the Ethiopian's carriage, Philip asks, "Do you understand what you are reading?" (Tenney, 364).
F. His reply was a question that let Philip know he felt he was incapable of understanding it and needed someone to explain it to him. Then he "invited" Philip "to come up and sit with him" in the chariot (Horton, 173).
3. The passage that the Ethiopian was struggling with was from Isaiah 53. It read, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
A. In the providence of God the eunuch was reading Isaiah 53:7-8.
B. This must have been exciting to Philip as he saw how wonderful and how exact God's timing was!
C. It must have made him realize how God himself focused on the message of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the central point of the gospel (Horton, 173).
D. In fact, many refer to Book of Isaiah
4. This passage had the eunuch confused. So "The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus."
A. His question shows he had been considering Isaiah 53 earnestly but was not satisfied with any of the interpretations he had heard.
B. Jews at this time did not apply it to a suffering Messiah.
C. Some applied the passage to Isaiah. Isaiah became a martyr and Jewish tradition says Manasseh had him sawn in half. But Isaiah had position and wealth and had free access to the king's palace. He was not the humble sufferer of Isaiah 53.
D. Others applied the passage to Jeremiah, who suffered more than any other Old Testament prophet. Jeremiah, however, did open his mouth often to complain.
E. Isaiah 53 speaks of the One who suffers wholly for the sins of others and not for any of his own. The eunuch knew no one who could do that and he was puzzled.
F. This was Philip's great opportunity. Isaiah 53 is a high point in God's revelation of His will and plan.
G. Someone has called it "the Mount Everest of Messianic Prophecy." Beginning at that very Scripture passage, this Spirit-filled, Spirit-led evangelist "told him the good news about Jesus."
H. Jesus alone never sinned and never did anything to deserve suffering or death. For those who will see it, no passage in the prophets more clearly pictures the vicarious suffering, death, resurrection, and triumph of Jesus.
I. He alone is the sacrificial Lamb of God. Though His life was taken, He arose, and His spiritual descendants are "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ".
J. But Philip only began at Isaiah 53. He went on to explain the gospel further, with its commands, promises, and call to repentance, as Peter did (Acts 2:38).
K. He made it clear that without Jesus no one can properly understand the Old Testament Scriptures (Horton, 173-174).
B. Are You Listening To The Holy Spirit
1. Illustration: An Anglican bishop was asked to preach at a conference in England. For many weeks he did not respond to the invitation. Finally, the corresponding secretary for the conference wrote him a note which said, "We must know if you are coming. We need to make our plans." The bishop responded that he was waiting for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the matter, and he would let them know in four weeks. The exasperated secretary wrote back: "Bishop, please don’t bother. Cancel the invitation. We are not interested in having anyone speak at our conference who lives four weeks away from the Holy Spirit." It’s clear what the Holy Spirit can do for and in you. The only question is, "Are you willing to make room for Him?" You don’t need to wait four weeks. He’s ready to enter now.
2. A good evangelist always depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
A. Romans 8:14 (NLT)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
B. Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit opens us up to the will of God.
C. He speaks to our hearts and directs us in the direction he wants us to go.
D. He is sometimes referred to as the Hound of Heaven, and this is for a very good reason. If he wants you to do something and you try to ignore him, he will hound you until you give in and follow where he's leading.
E. If the Holy Spirit is leading in a specific direction you would be wise to follow.
F. If the Holy Spirit is directing you to do something, don't hesitate, but be like Philip and do it!
Transition: The Great Commission requires that we...
III. Being Willing To Seize The Moment (36-40).
A. Why Can't I Be Baptized
1. Now on Star Trek Captain Kirk is known for his willingness to push the envelope, take risks, and even bend the rules a little bit. No matter what it takes he always seizes the moment!
2. That's what Philip does with the Ethiopian. Luke tells us, "As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” 38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him."
A. The Holy Spirit must have helped the eunuch to understand the gospel and accept the way of salvation.
B. As Philip and the eunuch went down the road they came to some water. The eunuch called attention to it.
C. "Look" is the same word translated "behold" in verse 27 (KJV) and indicates something unexpected.
D. Most of southern Palestine is rather dry. The eunuch did not want to pass by the water without being baptized.
E. He put his request in the form of a question, "Why shouldn't I be baptized?," or "'What prevents me from being baptized?'" NASB).
F. Probably he was afraid that his being a Gentile and a eunuch might bar him from this, just as it barred him from most of the Jewish worship. Philip then asked for and received a confession of faith (Horton, 175).
G. Then, after commanding the driver of the chariot to stop, they both left the chariot and "went down into the water."
H. In fact, Luke draws attention to the fact that both went "down into" the water. Then Philip baptized him and they came "up out of" the water (v. 39).
I. The language here makes it clear that the word "baptize" has its usual meaning of immerse, submerge, dip under.
J. Many other passages make it clear that immersion was the practice of the Early Church (Horton,175-176).
3. Now if the Star Trek correlation hasn't already been clear, it will become crystal clear. Luke says, "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea."
A. Beam me up Scotty!
B. After they came up out of the water the Spirit took charge and with power snatched away Philip.
C. Luke does not explain how the Spirit "took Philip away."
D. After they came up out of the water the Spirit took charge and with power snatched away Philip.
E. We are told that the Spirit of the Lord "suddenly took" (herpasen) Philip from the scene. The verb harpazo connotes both a forceful and sudden action by the Spirit and a lack of resistance from Philip (Tenney, 365).
F. Luke does not explain how the Spirit "took Philip away." The verb used usually means "to snatch away." In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 it is used of the rapture of the Church.
G. The verb used usually means "to snatch away." In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 it is used of the rapture of the Church.
H. In 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it is used of Paul's being caught up to heaven.
I. In any case, the eunuch saw Philip no more, but as a child of God he "went on his way rejoicing."
J. A few ancient manuscripts and versions add that the Holy Spirit fell on the eunuch. We can be sure that he was indeed baptized in the Spirit and that this added to his rejoicing (cf. Acts 13:52).
K. Undoubtedly, he then spread the gospel in his own country (Horton, 176).
L. We are told that the Spirit of the Lord "suddenly took" (herpasen) Philip from the scene. The verb harpazo connotes both a forceful and sudden action by the Spirit and a lack of resistance from Philip (Tenney, 365).
B. Go For It
1. Illustration: "Carpe Diem." Seize the day. Make the most of every opportunity. Seize – the day. Notice the phrase is not "with utmost care and caution, after you have worked out the cost/benefit analysis and determined that there is no logical reason why all systems should not be go, and have assured yourself that the risk is zero, or as close to zero as is theoretically possible, slowly and timidly reach for the day, keeping eyes peeled at every moment for other factors which would render that decision less logical than previously expected and mitigate a sudden and calculated pull-back from the day-seizing operation."
2. When the Spirit leads you...SEIZE THE DAY!
A. Colossians 4:5 (NLT)
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
B. Don't hesitate or try and talk yourself out of it.
C. Don't walk the other way and find something better to do.
D. Don't say, "Well maybe I should pray about it some more."
E. Just do it!
F. Get er done!
G. Seize the day!
H. Preach the word!
1. In order to accept this mission requires...
A. Being Willing To Obey
B. Being Sensitive To The Holy Spirit
C. Being Willing To Seize The Moment
2. Are you ready to accept this mission? What mission you say?
3. Mark 16:15 (NLT)
And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.