SESSION 16 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

Review of the study thus far:

— Jesus’ briefing on the Holy Spirit in John 14-17

— The promise for which they were to wait

— Fulfilled in Acts 2

— Peter’s sermon, boldly speaking their sin and Christ’s resurrection, and 3,000 come to Christ

— The beggar born lame is healed, Peter speaks again of Christ’s resurrection and their sin, and 5,000 come to Christ

— Peter, John and the beggar are brought before the Sanhedrin

— Do not speak this name or do anything in this name

— Should we obey God or you? You be the judge!

—We cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard

— The bond-servants of the Lord ask for greater boldness to speak,

and God answers their prayer!

— Contrast between Barnabas, who gives all, and Ananias and Sapphira, who lie about their offering, and the consequences.

— The apostles are arrested. The angel who frees them delivers this message: Go! Stand! Speak all the words of this Life! And they did, and were arrested again!

— Sanhedrin cut to the quick, Gamaliel’s advice to let them be, for if it is of God, they may find themselves fighting against God! The Apostles, flogged and released, rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer as Jesus did.

— Spirit-filled believers are required for even the most menial tasks in the church. Filled with the Spirit, full of God’s wisdom, full of faith, full of grace and power! Stephen persecuted for what he speaks and does. As his accusers gaze intently at him, they see his face like the face of an angel — he is radiant!

— Stephen boldly speaks of Israel’s history and how they continually reject and repudiate their God and His servants. He is stoned to death, but as he is dying, he asks the Lord not to hold this sin against those who are stoning him. We see the first mention of Saul, whose Roman name is Paul.

— Saul begins his efforts to destroy the church, causing most of the believers to be scattered. The Apostles remain in Jerusalem. Simon the magician tries to buy the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is publicly rebuked by Peter, who is able to discern Simon’s heart, by the power of the Holy Spirit who has filled him.

Now, Session 16 — Acts 8:25-40

Verse 25 — Having solemnly testified (of what they have seen and heard) and spoken the word of the Lord (the gospel, and the specific words publicly spoken to Simon the magician), Peter, John and Philip start back to Jerusalem and preach the gospel to the Samaritans, as they go. They are compelled to speak what they have seen and heard, in obedience to God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what it is to be the church, beloved! As you go, wherever you go, you speak!

NOTE:  Here we will see the Holy Spirit operating in and through Philip in new ways. He has  —

— preached,

— healed people

— cast out demons,

— brought many to salvation

So are we limited to one gift of the Spirit (1Corinthians 12:4-11)? No! But the Holy Spirit distributes to each one individually, just as He wills.

Verse 26 — They are nearing Jerusalem. Suddenly, Philip hears from an angel of the Lord!

By all accounts, Luke means, “the Spirit,” since he uses those terms elsewhere in this passage. Luke sometimes uses the term, “the angel of the Lord” in the Book of Acts to stress the special presence and activity of God  — as with this special assignment.

What does Philip hear? “Go up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza, a desert area.” Those are specific directions! He is about to embark on a “divine appointment.”

It is the same today. Many Spirit-filled believers receive special instructions at times. At the end of this week’s session, I will give you a couple of my own experiences, so you might believe, and to glorify the Lord, who prepares in advance the God works that we are to do!

Verse 27 — So, what did Philip do? He got up and went. He obeyed. He knew it was the Lord, and Spirit-filled people obey Him.

When he arrived, he saw an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, and in charge of all her treasure — he was a completely trustworthy official.

NOTE: Those in high positions to kings and queens were often castrated, so they would have no sexual desires that would undermine the kingdom. He was in charge of all her treasure, so he was made a eunuch.

Being a eunuch, he would have been banned from the Temple by Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 23:1), but he likely worshiped in the outer court.

Isaiah prophesies in Isaiah 56:7 that the Lord’s house WILL BE called a house of prayer for ALL the peoples. Jesus announces it in Mark 11:17, while chiding the Jews for making the house of God a robbers’ den.

And it was fulfilled when? After Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and glorification, seated once again at the right hand of the Father. He opened heaven to EVERYONE! And we will see it in this encounter, in the rest of the Book of Acts, and in the rest of the New Testament.

That the eunuch’s came to worship in Jerusalem indicates he was either a Jew who was born in Ethiopia, whose ancestors were in one of the exiles, or a proselyte (convert to Judaism).

Verse 28 — He was returning from Jerusalem, sitting in his chariot (carriage), and reading the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit gave Isaiah many prophecies of the coming Messiah/Christ! Philip knew that, as we will soon see.

Verses 29-30 — Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this carriage.” He ran because the carriage was still moving, but more importantly, to immediately obey!

And Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah the prophet. This is the hand of God! Do you see it? So Philip said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

Verse 31 — And the eunuch said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”

So he invited Philip to join him in the carriage.

Romans 10:12-15 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (See Isaiah 52:7.)

Philip’s beautiful feet carried him to the road, carried him up to the eunuch’s carriage, where the eunuch asked the question that would open the way for Philip to share the Good News of Jesus Christ! And the eunuch was prepared in advance for what the Lord was about to do, through Philip —

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Philip is about to do one of those good, God works!

Verses 32-33 — Look at the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading! Isaiah 53:8 (the Greek Old Testament’s language in my NASB)! He was reading about Jesus Christ1 Can you see the Lord’s hand in all of this?

Verse 34 — So the eunuch asks Philip to PLEASE (he begs and beseeches) explain to him who the prophet is speaking about— himself or someone else. He is wide open to receive the truth of Christ!

Verse 35 — So Philip “opens his mouth.” I believe this expression indicates the Lord will now be speaking through Philip. And beginning with this Scripture, he preached Jesus to him! PRAISE BREAK!

Verse 36 — During the course of his teaching, Philip must have explained to the eunuch about baptism as an outward sign that a person has repented and believed.
And lo and behold, here was water! The eunuch exclaimed, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

Verse 37 — So Philip led him through the vast list of requirements. Here they are:

1) Repent; and 2) believe in your heart!

And the eunuch did!

NOTE: This verse is not in early manuscripts because many false teachers were “adding to” the requirements for salvation. We will see them appear on the scene shortly, as we continue in Acts.

Verse 38 — And the eunuch ordered the carriage to stop. They both went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. PRAISE BREAK!

I believe the eunuch was later filled with the Spirit and was a missionary to the Ethiopians. As of 2007, 62.8% of Ethiopians are Christians!

Verse 39 — Now here is another amazing work of God! He is always working!

As they come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatches up Philip (harpazo in Greek, rapturo in Latin)! This is the same term used by Paul in this passage —

1Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain will be CAUGHT UP together with them (the dead in Christ who have risen first) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

So Philip is not told, “Go to another place.” He is snatched up, forcefully and suddenly taken elsewhere by the Spirit!

Verse 40 — And suddenly, Philip “found himself” in Azotus. The Spirit delivers him to his next assignment. As Philip passed through, he preached the gospel to all the cities along the way, until he comes to Caesarea! To the ends of the earth! He was being the church!

Is it so with you? Is it so in your church? Compare and see, and if it isn’t true of you, ask the Lord to fill you with His Spirit — He will give you divine appointments, too! And if you are filled but you know your church is not like the Book of Acts church, pray for revival, for the Lord’s presence to come in such a way that they repent and receive the baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit!

Now, as promised, here are two of my own experiences of being led and spoken to by the Holy Spirit, so I may go out to divine appointments —

Once, in a grocery store, the Spirit prompted me to go up to a woman who worked in the bakery. I said hello and asked how she was. She smiled and said she was fine, but had a sore shoulder. I asked if I could pray with her. She said yes.

I extended my hands, palm up, and asked her to put her hands on mine. Then I prayed for the Lord to heal her shoulder and rebuked the pain. She immediately testified that she felt a burning sensation going up her arm and into her shoulder. She was healed, in that moment. She could freely move her shoulder! It was a divine appointment

And on the third day after Jeff’s heart attack, at about 6 a.m., the Spirit woke me up, and told me to get my guitar and worship music, and go to his room in the PCU, the step-down unit just outside the ICU. I called the nurses’ station and asked permission. They readily agreed, having seen Jesus in both Jeff and me (unbeknownst to us!).

I came in, began to play, and Jeff says, “Jesus entered the room.” Jeff was instantly healed of severe damage to the entire front of his heart. For you who know medicine, his was a “widow maker” heart attack because of 100% blockage of the LAD artery from the top of the front of Jeff’s heart downward. We have medical records of the “before” and “after” of this amazing healing!

He was discharged that same day, and an echocardiogram done 41 days later showed that his heart function was completely normal! And a year later, it was even better than the first normal test! It was a divine appointment! Thank You, Lord Jesus!

And, I believe that all of this led to the salvation of the cardiologist who followed Jeff after the healing! He was amazed and overjoyed one year later, when he reported to me that the latest catheterization showed Jeff’s function was even better than it had been the year before — right in the middle of normal! I said to the cardiologist, “It is the Lord,” and he agreed! Many others were amazed, and I believe many came to faith because of this miracle. That’s His plan! PRAISE BREAK!

Stay tuned for Session 17, the conversion of Saul!

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