Script for the June 26th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.

Introduction

Welcome to the June 26th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.

Today’s reading is Job 5-7 and Acts 8, but we will focus only on the New Testament in this podcast.

If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at mattellis1997@gmail.com. I may answer it on the next podcast.

Acts 8

Acts 8 tells us about Saul again. The authors of this book, the Holy Spirit and Luke, want us to see how God was weaving the story together of how a terrorist would become one of the greatest advocates and missionaries Christianity has ever known.

We’re told that Saul agreed to put Stephen to death. So the first Christian martyr was killed, and Saul approved of it. One day, he will die for the same Lord and Savior, but we haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet.

But what we really see in the first four verses of this chapter is persecution that quickly becomes a roaring flame that scatters the early believers.

Acts 8:1 (CSB): “Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.”

Follow me as I take you down a rabbit trail for a few moments. When we think back to the Old Testament, we realize that the Lord had commanded that the people be fruitful and replenish the earth. That command was first given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28. But it was later given to Noah in Genesis 9:7. The only problem was that Noah’s descendants didn’t seem to take the command seriously.

So, we read in Genesis 11:1-9 of the Tower of Babel. At that location, the Lord miraculously caused the people to immediately speak different languages. We are told that they scattered as a result. So, the gift of languages scattered the people in Genesis 11.

When we get to Acts 1:8, we hear Jesus telling the early Christians to be His witnesses and go into all the world. They were to scatter across the globe with the good news. But, like Noah’s descendants, it doesn’t appear they immediately complied. So the Lord gave them the gift of languages in Acts 2. Then He allowed persecution to come so that Christians scattered.

So, in Genesis, God used the gift of languages to scatter the people. In Acts, God used the gift of languages to draw the disciples together with the Gospel so that persecution could scatter them as well.

Once again, we are reminded that our good God sometimes uses very undesirable means to accomplish His purposes. Persecution was horrible. Some Christians lost their jobs, others were thrown in jail, and others were killed. But God used persecution to get the message of the Gospel out, beginning at Jerusalem. The Gospel message would make it out toward the ends of the known world by the end of the book of Acts.

In verses 5-8, we read that Philip, one of the Deacons named in Acts 6, went to Samaria. We realize from reading the Gospels that the Jews despised Samaritans and wouldn’t dare walk through the territory of Samaria.

But Acts 1:8 was playing out! The Lord was enabling the early Christians to get over their racism so that they could share the good news of the Gospel beyond Jewish territory. If we follow the process in Acts 1:8, the disciples have reached the third of four concentric circles. They started in Jerusalem that spread to Judea. And now they are in Samaria, ready to go to the ends of the earth.

It’s important to note that as Philip brought the Gospel to Samaria and healed many people, the city’s residents were happy. Hate was being replaced with joy because the Gospel was penetrating and changing hearts.

Acts 8:8 (CSB): “So there was great joy in that city.”

In verses 9-13, we read that a man named Simon, who had practiced sorcery, trusted in Jesus and was baptized. He had become a fellow believer. But through the eyes of Luke, we realize that Simon had a problem. He enjoyed the supernatural power he had before he got saved and was now watching with awe as Philip performed miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In verses 14-17, we read that the Apostles/pastors in Jerusalem heard that people in Samaria were coming to faith in Christ. So Peter and John were sent to investigate what was going on, and if they believed it to be a genuine movement of God, they would affirm it.

When Peter and John arrived and saw that people were genuinely giving their lives to the Lord Jesus, they prayed and laid their hands on the believers so that the Holy Spirit would come down on them.

Acts 8:15 (CSB): “After they went down there, they prayed for them so that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit because he had not yet come down on any of them.”

What’s up with this? Why didn’t the Holy Spirit come on them when they were saved? Why did the Apostles Peter and John have to lay their hands on them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit?

It seems to me that the best explanation is that God intended it to be this way for the Jewish Christians. They had already experienced Acts 2. The Holy Spirit had come upon them, and they had spoken in languages they hadn’t studied.

But I suspect that there may have been a feeling of moral superiority. The Jews may have given the nod to Gentiles who were trusting in Jesus. But they may have felt that the Gentile Christians weren’t on the same par as the Jewish Christians. So it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come upon the Samaritans as He did the Jews in Acts 2. This clearly showed Peter and John that the Holy Spirit wasn’t playing favorites. The Gospel tore down the wall of division between the Jew and non-Jews.

In verses 18-24, the attention refocuses upon Simon, the former sorcerer. He was enamored with the power to do miracles. He offered money, apparently to Peter and John, so that they would somehow give him the ability to bestow the Holy Spirit upon others. The Apostles were furious and told him he had better get right with God. The gift of the Holy Spirit was free. Any attempt to purchase the gift of the Spirit rendered the deal null and void.

As we look at Simon’s response, it appears that he was truly broken. He may have also pleaded with Peter and John to pray for him because he felt unworthy to approach the Lord on his own. This is the beauty of the Gospel – no matter what we do, we can be forgiven by our gracious Lord.

Acts 8:25 (CSB): “So, after they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they traveled back to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.”

Did you notice what Peter and John did as they made their way back to Jerusalem? They were so convinced that the Lord was working among the Samaritans that they stopped along the way back home to preach in more cities of Samaria. The stain of racism was being broken by the Gospel.

In verses 26-29, an angel of the Lord told Philip to go south to “the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This road was southwest of Jerusalem, the natural route that someone would take to travel to Egypt and beyond.

We’re told that Philip came upon a prominent Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the scroll of Isaiah in his chariot. Philip had cultivated such a close relationship with the Lord that he could sense the Spirit telling him to “go and join that chariot.”

In verses 30-39, Philip stepped up into the chariot and shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch. A little research informs us that the eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53:7–8.

Acts 8:35 (CSB): “Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture.”

That’s incredible. Philip started to talk about Jesus and the Gospel beginning in Isaiah 53. Many Christians would probably wonder why Philip didn’t start with a passage like John 3:16 or the book of Romans.

For beginners, the book of John and the letter to the Romans had not been written yet. Believers in the first part of the book of Acts only had the Old Testament.

But to the person who has studied the Old Testament, we realize that the Gospel is written all over its pages. There is so much in the Old Testament, particularly passages like Isaiah 53, where the Gospel is so crystal clear.

There is one thing that I want to draw your attention to. It is a statement ascribed to Philip that doesn’t appear in the Christian Standard Bible and other translations. Verse 37 is missing. Because of this, we don’t hear Philip answer the Ethiopian’s question by saying, “If you believe, you may be baptized.”

Some folks get irate when they see translations like the Christian Standard Bible omit a few verses. They claim that “the newer translations take verses out of the Bible.”

Yet, that’s not at all what is going on. If you investigate Acts 8:37 and the few other passages that are omitted in some of the newer translations, you’ll discover that those verses aren’t in the earliest, most reliable manuscripts. Acts 8:37 and a few other verses didn’t start showing up in the Greek manuscripts of the Bible until later. This leads scholars to believe that they were not a part of the original manuscript. They seem to have been added later, probably by a well-intentioned scribe who felt that some words needed to be inserted into the text.

Whether Acts 8:37 was actually said by Philip and recorded by Luke doesn’t ultimately matter. Its presence or absence doesn’t change any part of the story. We know that Philip would have said something like it, so we aren’t troubled if some Bible translations omit a verse because the translators think it wasn’t written by the original author.

Verse 40, the last verse of this chapter, tells us that Philip traveled about 20 miles northwest to the coastal city of Azotus. Eventually, he ended up in Caesarea Maritima (by the Sea).

This is not Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus once took His disciples, about 30 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. Instead, this was Caesarea Maritima. It was a port city on the Mediterranean Sea and was about 50 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee. We will read more about this city in the book of Acts as Peter and then Paul visit it.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, as we read about how Philip was ready and willing to share the good news of the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch, may we be just as ready. Help us to already have an eye open to what you are doing around us. May we refuse to overlook someone that You would have us give the greatest news that they will ever hear, the message that Jesus died for them and will save them if they only trust in Him. Help us to always be restfully available to You. We pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Closing

I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.

The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you next time!