Sunday, May 8, 2011

THE GOSPEL: the power of God unto salvation

THE GOSPEL: the power of God unto salvation

Acts 8:26-40                                                                                                                                   
Are you saved or  Are you a Christian? How do you know that you are a Christian? What did you do become a Christian? What happened when you believed? In this passage we have a very clear example of the conversion of a person from one of the neighboring countries – Ethiopia! There is nothing recorded of the Ethiopian that is criminal though he was a sinner just like everyone else. However, much is credited to him – his main defect is his ignorance of the truths of God. There are many who though are seeking after the truth, remain in darkness without light – without God.

1.   How were you before your conversion?

Surely you all must admit that at some point you were all sinners. We were sinners under the wrath of God. we loved sin and hated God – no wonder we were completely alienated from Him and so His enemies. This is the condition of every sinner – babies or aged, men or women, philanthropist as well as criminals. Those who have not trusted in Christ may do all the good to the whole world but without Him they remain His enemies. But they are this because of one or another reason. Let us therefore examine the situation of the Ethiopian Eunuch as well as our own.
1)     You had unfavorable situations just like this Ethiopian
His birth and residence in Ethiopia made it hard for him to hear the gospel. Being an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and stranger to the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world was a big hindrance for this man. This is true for each one of us here. You were probably born in an unchristian family and never used to go to church, the Bible was never read to you when you were young, you were not taught to pray by your parents. It might be that you were in a Roman Catholic family where it was not possible to be in contact with the Bible.
His position: He was the treasurer of the whole land of Ethiopia. This would naturally make his heart arrogant and proud. It might be that you were born in a well to do family, self-sufficient with no regard for God. It might be that because of the social class it was not even possible to mingle with believers.
His worldly wealth – having such influential position would automatically make him wealthy. Wealth is usually a snare to the soul, “How hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God – it is even easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! This is what the Lord observed. Pleas be careful that your present wealth will not be a snare for your own soul!
Extreme ignorance of the truths of the gospel: He was needy of all knowledge of Christ and of the gospel. He had no understanding of the Old Testament prophecy with which he read and was acquainted. This is a lamentable level of ignorance and on this, he was at the same point with the Jews, ‘whose minds’ the Lord said ‘were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away by the Lord Jesus Christ. But even until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts’ (John12:40). He appears to have no intelligent understanding of Old Testament and its connection with the plan of redemption in grace or the work of Christ who had been promised to our forefathers. There are very many who are in this category. Many are earnest and sincere in their profession of faith but they are not diligent in their search for the truth – they are happy as they are.
2)     But you  also had favorable signs
He was by birth a proselyte to the Jewish faith – hence a believer in the Living and only true God. He had become acquainted in the Holy Scriptures. He came to Jerusalem for worship. He was a man who had the desire and the energy to come and worship the God that he believed, not to inquire or dispute. He had a spirit of prayer – this was the reason for his going to Jerusalem – to seek God when He could be found. He read the Scriptures. We find him reading from the book of Isaiah 53:6,7. This was the warrant for his faith and hope – Isaiah 56:3 –he believed this promise and clung to it. For he believed what God told him, without presumptions. Being both a stranger and a eunuch, he knew that God’s promise was real to him and in the faith of it he came to Jerusalem and worshipped the God of Israel there. There was an evident of faith in his travelling all the way to Jerusalem in search of the true God in that he did not believe the myths and gods of his people. Look at how simple faith, and a devout spirit, an earnest mind will overcome a thousand difficulties to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and obtain life everlasting.
He had a spirit of humble and diligent inquiry. He asked for the help in exposition of the passage, recognizing his own inadequacy and accepting to be taught. He was teachable and did not hesitate to respond to the gospel he heard preached from the Word of God. Look that his inquiry did not end at Jerusalem  after the festivals – he kept on reading from the Word of God. (during the conference, I noticed that a number of people were eager to leave immediately after, and others did not join with us for the prayers on Thursday night. Others were not as eager to be taught the Word of God on Friday) not this man from Ethiopia, He was more concerned to obtain what he came for on the way back as much as when he was going!). Just imagine how much it would have cost him to obtain a copy of the Holy Scriptures that were handwritten at the time! Yet very few of us are willing to put resources into obtaining good Bibles – are still using the copy that were bought for them by the parents when they joined form 1! How much are we willing to pay for the gospel resources? This man exhibits diligence all the way. Secondly, look at the way he receives Philip , a total stranger and one who was in every way not at the same social level (judging by the dressing for example). When Philip came and asked the question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” he did not spurn the question. Instead, he replied with a child-like humility, “How can I, except someone should guide me?” and with this, he requested Philip to come and sit down with him.
God is not a respecter of persons but wills that men from every nation, race, tribe, language, colour, rank or class may be recipients of the God’s amazing grace. Before one is saved, there is always a preparatory work of the Lord to bring His light in the heart of a sinner. There may be a thousand impediments, and they are always there, but God moves by His Spirit to overcome them all and shine His light of truth to the heart of a sinner. His grace is irresistible and will overcome every barrier to bring a saving faith to those that He has elected for salvation. The unfavorable circumstances you were born in do not matter when His saving grace is effected. All you need to have is a submissive spirit – a humble and a contrite spirit, God will not despise. All you need to is to surrender to His Word and trust in Christ Jesus.

2.   How were you brought to a saving faith?

There are a number of things that we see here which were completely remarkable yet did not produce a saving faith in this Ethiopian. He had been to Jerusalem the city identified with God yet he had left it unsaved. Pilgrimages can neither save nor produce the faith necessary for salvation. He had been at the feast of the Pentecost, when the promise of the Father was fulfilled by the descent of the Holy Spirit, in the miraculous gift of tongues and the conversion of three thousand, yet he remained unregenerate. Keeping feasts and Sabbaths cannot regenerate anyone. Keeping the law cannot and has never saved anyone – the law only shows that man is utterly unable to keep it. He had been at a place where there was a revival as we may call it today. Yet this did not make him to be saved at the time although all the apostles were there. He left the place a hopeless individual – as ignorant as he had come!
But the Holy Spirit of God went after him by causing him to read even more diligently the Word of God, and particularly the passage that points to the One and Only Saviour Jesus Christ who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Holy Spirit went after Him by sending Philip the evangelist. The Holy Spirit caused him to have the spirit of inquiry and a spirit of prayer and a spirit of humility and teach-ability and submissiveness to the Word of God. Surely having been in Jerusalem at the time gave him an opportunity to hear about the events around the death and resurrection of the Lord from the first hand witnesses. Yet this is not what the Lord used to save him. It was the gospel through Philip because it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (not rumors and gossip). And what we see here is that salvation of the Lord.
i.                     Salvation is of the Lord because it is the angel of the Lord who told Philip to go to the road to Gaza
ii.                   Salvation is of the Lord because the God-sent evangelist brought the Gospel to the sinner. The Word of God is His power unto salvation to those who believe (Rom. 1:16).
Faith comes only in one way – by believing the Word of God which is preached by the one sent by God (Rom. 10:14-17). Notice that although Philip’s ministry was yielding a lot of conversions (C.f 8:6, 8, 12, 17.) he is instructed to go far to preach to one Ethiopian! There is revival in Samaria yet Philip is told to go after one soul!
iii.                 Salvation is of the Lord because the Spirit of God is even at this desert to attend to this Ethiopian. The Spirit guided Philip each step. He told him to go and join the Eunuch (v.29) and the same Spirit is working in the Ethiopian heart and mind so that he believed the good news about Jesus that was brought to Him.
iv.                 Salvation is of the Lord because the truths with which the Ethiopian is instructed on pertains to the Lord Jesus Christ – Philip began with the passage in Isaiah to tell him of the good news (the gospel) about the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you want to be saved you must believe on the gospel which is about Jesus Christ – the only permanent remedy for your sin. Why Jesus? Because He was sent by God the Father (approved of God even before the foundation of the world). It must be Jesus because He was sent by God to save the World from their sins (Matt. 1:21, 25). Jesus lived a completely perfect life without sin and was and is fully able to please God. More than that Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the people that the Father gave Him and was punished on their behalf By God the Father. His entire wrath was poured on Christ and so He crushed Him for our sins. So Christ died and was buried – to prove that He Actually died. But on the third day He rose from the dead and made Himself known to both His apostles and disciples. His resurrection was a proof that His atoning sacrifice had been accepted by the Father and that our sins had been propitiated.
Never imagine that you can be saved without the Lord Jesus Christ as a matter of fact, no will. If you would be saved you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. You must trust upon Him by acknowledging your sinfulness and appreciating that He is the only one who can forgive you. You must turn to Him in faith and repentance, crying to Him to be merciful to you a sinner. You must do this if you are to be saved. If you preach the gospel you must preach nothing else other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Every believer must always seek to share the gospel like Philip. While doing this, you must very clearly bring to the sinner two points:
1)     That they are sinners, totally unable to help or save themselves
2)     They must believe in Jesus Christ the only Saviour for their sins to be forgiven.

3.   what is the change after conversion?

We see that this man believed that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” and confessed it. This shows that he had understood the substance of all the gospel truth. The automatic effect of his faith was that he requested to be baptized and this was a proof his new obedience and submission to Christ’s authority and lordship. There are many who though they confess faith in Christ are sluggish to obey Him. They are not willing to follow Him closely. They are unwilling to follow Him faster. They are unwilling to do all that He tells them to do in His Word. They are not willing to submit to His lordship. If there be one among you who profess Jesus to be the Saviour yet you are not willing to obey Him, your profession is in vain. If you will not listen to your Master speaking to you then He is not your master – you lie and the truth is not in you. All those who have trusted in Christ will do all that He tells them to do. (Illustrate with the councilor in Kima who said that he was fearing for his political ambitions if he was baptized).
We read that the Ethiopian went on His way rejoicing. The immediate change that occurs to a regenerated person is that he will start bearing fruit of the Holy Spirit. For this man, he went away with joy – glad that all his sins had been forgiven. This joy he had shows that he had known the peace with God and peace of God. He was no longer rejoicing in his earthly wealth or rank – he was boasting in the Lord. If you have known the salvation of the Lord you will know it and it will be manifested to others by the fruit that you will bear.
What is the change you experienced when you believed? Did this change last up until now? If the change you had was not a sustainable change, then POLE, it was not salvation. But if your salvation resulted to a change of mind, heart and will then it is for real. To those of us who are professing Christians, test yourself to see if you are in the faith. Do you love God with the whole of your heart, mind and strength as well His people as yourself? Do you submit to the lordship of Christ? Do you value the truths of the Bible? Do you rejoice to be with His people in a worship service like this? Do you give your resources and time sufficiently to the Work of the Lord? 
Conclusion
May I assure you all that if you heed what the Lord has told you, then you will for sure find hope and salvation for your soul. We are to realize as Christians that we are ‘on call’ every time whenever the Lord presents us with the opportunity to share the gospel. Obviously it must start with you knowing well enough what is the gospel. Please I strongly urge you to know your Bible by studying it, daily and consistently, for your own edification and to profit others. Also make sure that you share the gospel all too often when the Lord gives you the opportunity, because it is the means appointed by God to bring salvation to sinners. Start with those close to you – relatives and friends. If you think that you are not able then tell the Lord to help you in this area. If it is because of some other reasons then look for some literature to give them.
May it be that you will go having considered your own salvation – either to embrace it (if you have not) or to test it to find if it is genuine. If you were to give answers to this three questions:
 based on the gospel then indeed you are a believer in Christ. You have tasted His mercy and have enjoyed from the fountain of His Spirit and so you have a place in His presence forever. Amen.

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