GOD DIRECTS ETERNAL SALVATION
Acts 8:26-40 - April 28, 2002
26Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road--the desert road--that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."
30Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.
31"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
"He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth."
34The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?" 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39When 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. 40Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
Dearest Fellow-Redeemed & Saints in the Lord:
As we heard these words of God, we realized the strength and power of God that He has to change men’s lives. Yet, as we live and walk about in this world, many do not believe in that same strength and power of God to change men’s lives or even direct men’s lives. So mankind from time to time rejects that God has any power or strength. When they do that, they even reject the fact that God has any wisdom or knowledge. Yet, today as our text shows us, it is by the wisdom and knowledge of God who has that power and strength that anyone would be saved at all. When Adam and Eve sinned, the thinking of man would have been to destroy them and take revenge; but God’s wisdom was to save them, to provide a Savior for their eternal salvation. Paul wrote to Timothy and he reminded the believers there that they should pray for all the people all the time. He told them why, "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth" (TIMOTHY 2:3,4).
That is God’s wisdom. That is God’s power and strength that He would save any of us. He wanted all to share eternity with Him. With that in mind, we look at the words of our text and realize that:
GOD DIRECTS ETERNAL SALVATION. As our text points out to us, He directs eternal salvation I. from Scripture to man and II. from man into humanity.
We find God directing this salvation at the very beginning of our text as Phillip is given direction in his life. "Now an angel of the Lord said to Phillip, go south to the road--the desert road--that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." He was to leave from where he was. He had been in the area of Samaria preaching and teaching and had great success. Great crowds had come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the Lord says he should leave, and now he does. "Phillip started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians." Even though Phillip had great success in Samaria, the Lord says there is one more soul to be saved. So He sends Phillip on his way. There was so much going on where Phillip had been that he had Peter and John come up and help him. Peter and John and Phillip were preaching the Gospel to hundreds and hundreds believed. But God’s plan was for Phillip to meet one person, no longer working among the hundreds but with this one person. Phillip listens and the Lord directs eternal salvation.
We are told a little about this Ethiopian, a man who had gone to Jerusalem to worship. On his way home, he was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the Prophet. So we find that this Ethiopian wasn’t just an unbeliever, but he had some knowledge of Christ the Savior; because he had gone to Jerusalem. He had made a journey of 200 miles in order to worship the Lord. He was dedicated, we would say. A trip of 200 miles should not be taken lightly in the day of Jesus’ time. We find as he returns back, he had brought a portion of Scripture. Again, something that only a dedicated believer would do because it was quite expensive to have any small portion of Scripture to read. Now we see he is not ashamed to be reading this Scripture in public while he is journeying back to his home riding in his chariot. The Lord is directing his eternal salvation; because He has the Ethiopian reading this portion of Scripture from Isaiah so He might work faith in his heart, to have that faith grow and increase.
We are told the portion of Scripture is from Isaiah 53:7,8. The eunuch was reading this passage: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and a lamb before the shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth. In His humiliation He was deprived of justice? Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth." Now as we hear those words, we find them quite familiar. We realize that they are talking about the Savior, aren’t they, that He was silent before his accusers. He was put upon the cross and no one would speak of His descendants because His life was taken from the earth. He didn’t have a heritage left. This was Isaiah’s prophecy of the Savior who was to come. As we are going to hear later, the eunuch didn’t know yet that the Lord was directing him. He was still directing his own eternal salvation by having him read the Scriptures.
That is where we find salvation. The Lord tells us that this is the only place that there is eternal salvation. It is in vogue today for some to say today that they will worship God in nature. We can find Him in all the great things around us. That is true, but nature doesn’t tell us about salvation. Nature will testify to the glory of God, but not the salvation, not the saving work of Jesus. That only comes from Scripture. Some would even say we could look at other religions and find salvation, but other religions don’t teach about Christ the Savior. Without starting at Scripture and without using God’s Word, there is no salvation. It is only the Bible, which teaches of God’s atoning sacrifice for all of our sins and the sins of the world. John wrote in his Gospel and said that the miracles were recorded and the things that Jesus taught and preached were for one reason: "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name"(JOHN 20:31). We heard that in our Gospel, too, from John that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. He shows us that time and again from God’s Word.
Don’t let anyone dissuade you in today’s society by telling you that the Bible was written thousands of years ago for people long ago; and that it doesn’t apply for us today. It is just a moldy, musty old book that has long since been replaced by new and modern philosophy. We know differently, don’t we? Yes, the Bible was written thousands of years ago, and it was written for people long ago; but it is also written for you and I as believers today and for generations that are yet to come to remind them of their salvation. This Word of God is living and active. We read from Hebrews: "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart"(HEBREWS 4:12).
Yes, it looks at us and it looks at our souls and reminds us that we are sinners at the depth of our heart. We are born into this world as enemies of God, and that is not pleasant to hear. Some don’t like to hear that so they try to dismiss the Bible. They try to dismiss God’s Word, but it cannot be done because it is living and active. It reminds us of our sins, and it reminds us also of our Savior. For those that would reject God’s Word, He will reject them. Paul wrote: "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus"(2 THESSALONIANS 1:8). In this preciousness of God’s Word is how God directs His eternal salvation from Scripture to man.
God gives us His Word that we would be saved. As you and I are given His Word and it has a place in our heart, then He directs eternal salvation from us, from II. man right into humanity.
In our text we have already seen part of that, how the Lord was directing His eternal salvation through man. He directed Phillip to go on this road--the desert road. As he travels there, what happens? He meets the eunuch who is traveling there, people would say, by chance. We know that is not true. God put both of them there at that time that they would carry out God’s plan of salvation. As the eunuch is reading, "the Spirit told Phillip, ’Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Phillip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the Prophet." Phillip knew those words. The eunuch did not. "’Do you understand what you are reading?’ Phillip asked. ’How can I,’ the eunuch said, ’unless someone explains it to me?’" Can you imagine that? This is more than chance, isn’t it, that these two strangers who had never met, meet on a desert road at this time, Phillip, a preacher of the Gospel and the eunuch struggling in his faith. Then they don’t talk about the weather. They don’t talk about how the trip is going; but Phillip says, "Do you know what you are reading? Do you understand God’s Word?" We see the eunuch invites Phillip up into his chariot, a total stranger who is on foot, and invites him into his chariot to ride with him that they might discuss God’s Word.
"The eunuch asked Phillip, ’Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’" We already know that he was talking about Jesus. "Then Phillip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus." In God’s Word, wherever one might find himself reading, we can always find something about Jesus. Phillip told the eunuch that this is Jesus, this is the Jesus who went quietly on the cross. This is the Jesus whose life was taken from Him so the sins of the world would be paid for. They go on the way discussing these deep matters of God, and we know the rest. They came to some water, and the eunuch asked to be baptized; and Phillip baptizes him. As he comes up out of the water, Phillip is taken away. We are told the eunuch doesn’t see him. What happens? Is the eunuch sad? Hardly. The eunuch did not see him again but went on his way rejoicing.
Here was a found saint for the Lord, that God had directed His eternal salvation, starting with the reading of the Word and then to meet this man of God who understood the reading of that Word, and finally even to be baptized. Of course, we know that Phillip did not stop there. In our last verse, "Phillip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the Gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea." So he too, went on and proclaimed that Word of God as a man who was sent into humanity to lead others to eternal salvation.
The Lord says that we are the Phillips of the world. We are the Peters and the Johns, the Matthews and the Marks, the Lukes, the early women of the Bible, Lydia and Dorcas, and everyone who also testified about their faith. We are the believers who are people sent into humanity to be able to explain that Word of God, to be able to lead others to see the joy in God’s Son, our Savior. That is what Paul says. He writes in Romans and asks all these questions and we know the answers. He says, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"(ROMANS 10:14). He is saying faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of God. People have to hear it, and in order to hear it someone has to speak it to them. In order to believe, they have to understand what God says to them. We understand what God says to us, and we are able to share that with others as people going into humanity.
The message is simple--God’s Word is God’s Word. It is the truth. We have our beautiful lessons today where again Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." It can’t be any simpler than that even though we know that people look for different things. They try to add to what God’s simple message says. They want to do something to save themselves in order to feel good about themselves. God says that we can’t feel good about ourselves. We are full of sin; we are born with sin; but God saves us totally by His grace, by His power and strength, His wisdom and knowledge. We have the simple message that we are given in Corinthians: "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles"(1 CORINTHIANS 1:22,23). He says that simple message of Christ crucified is sometimes foolishness, even though Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. Sometimes it is a stumbling block, even though it is the foundation of our faith. We heard that in our Second Lesson, a stone, which is the cornerstone, could become a stumbling block, to those who harden their hearts and don’t want to believe.
That does not say that we can’t go out as people go into humanity with the message of salvation, a simple message that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. This is a simple proclamation that really is just an invitation. Listen to this from the Prophet Isaiah when he says: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost"(ISAIAH 55:1). We invite people to the banquet of God, a feast of salvation which lasts for eternity and which is free.
The Lord does direct eternal salvation. He reminds us on these Sundays after Easter, we still see the joy of Easter marching on--starting out at Jerusalem and going to the ends of the earth. As the Lord directs salvation, He uses His most powerful tool; and that is His Word. He sends His Word to men, to people, so that you and I as His followers, would take it into humanity.
What a joy to know that the Lord directs eternal salvation! We are part of it! He gives us His great commission (we know the one from Matthew). The one from Mark says: "He said to them, ’Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’"(MARK 16:15,16). We proclaim God’s message. God directs His eternal salvation. Those who are saved, are saved by the power of God. Those who are not have rejected Him on their own. He doesn’t demand success of us. He promises success through His Word. God directs eternal salvation with His Scripture to men and with us, His people, into humanity. Amen. Pastor Timm O. Meyer