Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Gospel Gathers Outcasts (Acts 8:26-40)

1. Our Spirit-filled mission
It’s the evangelists dream. When we first met Philip in 6v6 we’re told, along with us he was “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”. The Spirit-filled Philip fresh from revival in Samaria is walking along the road and comes upon a guy reading the Bible. And Isaiah 53 at that, and he asks you to explain it to him (30-31).

The scripture is read, and the Eunuch asks: “About whom does the prophet speak, himself of someone else?” to which Philip gets the opportunity, v35: “beginning with this scripture he told him the good news about Jesus”.

And almost matter of fact the guy believes, repents, is baptized and rejoices, going off to found the church in Ethiopia while the Spirit carries Philip off elsewhere, v40, to preach the gospel. Wherever he Philip preaches the gospel, such is the Spirit-filled life.

All of which is great if you’re Philip and your course/house/team mates happen to be reading Isaiah 53. Not to easy when it’s you and me and they’re only reading FHM and Facebook.

Look, what you have got here is the logic of our CU gospel projects. Say to your mates: you know me, you see how I live, you know its because of Jesus, you’ve never consider Jesus as an adult. Why not take an hour to read Mark’s gospel, and then to chat about it with me for an hour over a coffee or a beer. Of course you can wait until they people ask, but sometimes you may get to make a first move. 

New life comes by the word of God so what we see with Philip here is going to be fairly normative - and if those who aren't Christians never have the opportunity to hear of Jesus we shouldn't be surprised if no-one believes. If we’re going to get anywhere this year and see changed lives – people who live like Christianity is real, live lives of love, and have the confidence to get God’s word into people’s hands, and to engage their questions, and explain about Jesus is going to have to be part of it. It was the pattern of the church in Acts 6v7– “the word of God increased, the number of disciples multiplied”. It’s the 1st commission, be fruitful and multiply – as sex makes babies, the word of God makes disciples.

But, I don’t think that that is primarily what Luke is doing here. It’s great, but more is going on here.

2. Our humiliated Saviour
In Samaria Philip encountered Simon the Sorcerer who was into power and impressiveness. The Ethiopian is reading Isaiah 53. I believe in tongues and prophecy and healing as much as anyone, but our message is of a humiliated Saviour.
V9-11 Simon: amazed... somebody great. …paid attention to him… power of God that is called Great… they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them
V32:33 Jesus: Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter… silent… humiliation… justice was denied him… life taken away.
The contrast is striking. In a world that is addicted to impressing, salvation comes through humiliation – first of Christ, and then of us also. The Christian life is like it’s Christ, one of obscurity, of suffering, of loss of life – of sinking into the waters of baptism to rise to the joys of resurrection life in Christ. Christianity isn't shock and awe it's about a suffering servant, the kind of message the serious and clenched will mock. This is our gospel.

3. Our far-reaching salvation
There’s more. It’s not just any one who is reading Isaiah 53. It’s an Ethiopian Eunuch. A foreign Eunuch. An excluded outsider. A man who (v27) is just on his way back from worship at Jerusalem where his outsider status would have been emphasises, despite his grandeur. Stephen’s spirit-filled preaching told everyone that the LORD doesn't dwell in the land and in houses but meets his people outside of the land, good news form the nations. And then here, Isaiah 56:3-8, which perhaps Philip continued on to as he gave his fully formed presentation of Christ to the man (we know he taught baptism as he explained the gospel v37), goes further.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”  For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”
The Eunuchs were outsiders and dry trees, but through the gospel – no more! The outcasts will be gathered in, as spirit-filled missionaries take the gospel. The church on mission is a place to be finding all the outsiders and outcasts of this world.

Much helped by The Word of His Grace by Chris Green (IVP).


  1. gospel for the outcasts seems to be a theme of luke's gospel - the whole "who are abraham's children?" theme...hadn't noticed the link into volume 2, in fact, I don't tend to read them together anywhere near enough - love the Isa 56 spot too - that would tie in with "the things that have been fulfilled among us" theme. Good spot. Trying to become friends with Luke over this year - any other recommendations, or any other stuff that comes to mind on "outcasts" in Luke?

  2. Chris Green's book is helpful for spotting the connections - especially the Isaiah 56 one.

    Have to be reading Luke & Acts together I reckon... Driscoll draws the parallels of Jesus and the church from the two helpfully.

    I loved a term in Luke with CU small groups a few years back - a term in 9-19, Jesus in the cross-road, all the famous stuff 70 verses-a-time. The reach of God's grace again and again.