INTERESTING FACTS :
Noah Webster, born October 16, 1758, West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S., died May 28, 1843, New Haven, Connecticut, American lexicographer known for his American Spelling Book (1783) and his American Dictionary of the English Language, 2 vol. (1828; 2nd ed., 1840). Webster was instrumental in giving American English a dignity and vitality of its own. Both his speller and dictionary reflected his principle that spelling, grammar, and usage should be based upon the living, spoken language rather than on artificial rules. He also made useful contributions as a teacher, grammarian, journalist, essayist, lecturer, and lobbyist.[1
"[T]he religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles... This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government. The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws."[2
Daily Reading : ACTS 7 - 8
TEXT : Acts 8:26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 8:28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the Prophet. 8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 8:30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the Prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 8:31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 8:32 The place of the Scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 8:33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the Prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 8:40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
THEME : READING THE BIBLE
When our Lord Jesus called his apostles out to be employed in services and sufferings for him, he told them that yet the last should be first, and the first last, which was remarkably fulfilled in St. Stephen and St. Paul, who were both of them late converts, in comparison of the apostles, and yet got the start of them both in services and sufferings; for God, in conferring honours and favours, often crosses hands. In this chapter we have the martyrdom of Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian Church, who led the van in the noble army. And therefore his sufferings and death are more largely related than those of any other, for direction and encouragement to all those who are called out to resist unto blood, as he did. Here is, I. His defence of himself before the council, in answer to the matters and things he stood charged with, the scope of which is to show that it was no blasphemy against God, nor any injury at all to the glory of his name, to say that the temple should be destroyed and the customs of the ceremonial law changed. And, 1. He shows this by going over the history of the Old Testament, and observing that God never intended to confine his favours to that place, or that ceremonial law; and that they had no reason to expect he should, for the people of the Jews had always been a provoking people, and had forfeited the privileges of their peculiarity: nay, that that holy place and that law were but figures of good things to come, and it was no disparagement at all to them to say that they must give place to better things (v. 1-50). And then, 2. He applies this to those that prosecuted him, and sat in judgment upon him, sharply reproving them for their wickedness, by which they had brought upon themselves the ruin of their place and nation, and then could not bear to hear of it (Act_7:51-53). II. The putting of him to death by stoning him, and his patient, cheerful, pious submission to it (Act_7:54-60). [Matthew Henry][3
In this chapter we have an account of the persecutions of the Christians, and the propagating of Christianity thereby. It was strange, but very true, that the disciples of Christ the more they were afflicted the more they multiplied. I. Here is the Church suffering; upon the occasion of putting Stephen to death a very sharp storm arose, which forced many from Jerusalem (Act_8:1-3). II. Here is the Church spreading by the ministry of Philip and others that were dispersed upon that occasion. We have here, 1. The gospel brought to Samaria, preached there (Act_8:4, Act_8:5), embraced there (Act_8:6-8), even by Simon Magus (Act_8:9-13); the gift of the Holy Ghost conferred upon some of the believing Samaritans by the imposition of the hands of Peter and John (Act_8:14-17); and the severe rebuke given by Peter to Simon Magus for offering money for a power to bestow that gift (Act_8:18-25). 2. The gospel sent to Ethiopia, by the eunuch, a person of quality of that country. He is returning home in his chariot from Jerusalem (Act_8:26-28). Philip is sent to him, and in his chariot preaches Christ to him (Act_8:29-35), baptizes him upon his profession of the Christian faith (Act_8:36-38), and the leaves him (Act_8:39-40). Thus in different ways and methods the gospel was dispersed among the nations, and, one way or other, "Have they not all heard?" [Matthew Henry][4
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "THERE IS A VITAL LINK BETWEEN PREACHING AND CHRISTIANS READING THE BIBLE."
What many Christians do not understand is that there is a vital link between preaching and Christians reading the Bible. The teaching of the Word of God is dependent on the student's ambition to learn. In a sense, learning the Word of God is no different from any other academic discipline. Of course, the primary distinction between understanding the Bible and merely hearing it or reading it, is the need for God the Holy Spirit to "open your eyes." Once you understand that, then learning the Bible is dependent on the diligence and desire of the Christian.
In Acts chapter 8, we see Phillip - a deacon anointed by the Holy Spirit (like Stephen), going from Jerusalem to Gaza. There, in the desert, he meets a man of Ethiopia - a eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia (Candace), who happens to be reading the Scriptures. It is evident this man was a diligent student of the Bible, for when asked if he understood what he was reading he wanted someone to guide him. The man wanted to know what Isaiah meant in that 53rd chapter. However, the Ethiopians had no one to teach him what the Prophet meant. This is where Phillip comes in, and where you see that vital link between you - reading the Bible, and the pastor or preacher (teacher) bringing out the truth of the text. One without the other is not complete.
In other words, there is a relationship between the pastor as teacher of the Word of God, and the average Christian as student. Again, the two go together. One without the other is a glass only half-full. In order to be a teacher one must have a student. In order to be a student, one must have a teacher. Hence, the dilemma many Churches face today. For instance, if the pastor is himself a student of the Word of God and therefore a teacher, sometimes the Christians sitting before him are not students of the Word of God. At this point, there is no end of trouble in the local Church. On the other hand, if in the Church there are truly hungry and thirsty Christians with a desirable appetite for the Holy Scriptures, and the pastor does not adequately and sufficiently teach the Scriptures (that is, properly) we have a similar situation. There is no end of trouble or difficulties in the local Church.
You see, when you read Acts chapter 8 there is a divinely appointed time for Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch to meet. Though strangers one to the other, once Phillip sees the Ethiopian reading the Holy Scriptures at Isaiah, the Ethiopian wants to know whom the Prophet speaks of. Reading precisely at the verse that says - "he was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearers, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth" - the Ethiopian asks of whom the Prophet is speaking about - himself, or some other man?
Therefore, Phillip is able to explain that Isaiah is writing of the Messiah, more accurately, of the Suffering Messiah; and can expound on the truths found in Isaiah 53 because the Ethiopian was reading in a diligent manner, interested in knowing the Holy Scriptures. Thus, we stumble on a "hidden" truth of the Scriptures. That being, students need teachers, and teachers need students. This is, no doubt, an abecedarian fact, and intuitively known by you. However, generally speaking, many Christians do not comprehend this vital link in the Body of Christ. Stated simply and succinctly - if one or the other component fails in their duty, whether the pastor does not study the Scriptures with the intent of preaching and teaching to make clear the truths contained in the Scriptures; or the average Christian is not reading the Bible daily with the desire to learn, the Church sufferers to that degree.
As an aside - in Acts 8:35 as Phillip preaches to the Ethiopian - Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior, the eunuch seeing water wants to be baptized. Notice if you will, the uncomplicated approach of the early Church as Phillip says to him - "if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." The Ethiopian replies - "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Although the early Church would eventually adopt a system for catechumens that would include one year of instruction before any professing Christian could be water baptized, in the beginning it was not so. There was an enviable simplicity about the early Church sometimes missing in today's postmodern Church.
In addition, after they came out of the water, the text in Acts 8:39 - 40 says - "the Spirit of the LORD caught away Phillip, that the eunuch saw him no more: anyone on his way rejoicing. But Phillip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached and all the cities, till he came to Caesarea." The phrase "caught away," is the Greek word "harpazo." It means -"to snatch away suddenly." This Greek word - harpazo, is the word we use for "rapture." In the Latin translation of the New Testament - the Vulgate, the Latin word for harpazo is translated as "rapuit" in the phrase - "Spiritus Domini rapuit Philippum;" (Holy Spirit "raptured" Philipp). Thus, we have an instance in the Bible (there are others -Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul), where a man of God is taken away from the earth alive in a "rapture."
With this lesson about the rapture in mind, it goes to the point of teachers needing students and students needing teachers. Perhaps, you did not know the origin of the word "rapture," since some people object to the term since it is not found in the English Bible. However, the word Trinity is not found in any English Bible either. Yet, it is a clearly established doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. That said, if I did not bring to you this teaching (that is, on the origin of the word "rapture"), or if you did not study this devotion, that small lesson would not have be learned.
Therefore, keep in mind this fact. There is a vital link between preaching and Christians reading the Bible. I hope you continue to read on a daily basis, searching the Scriptures daily as the Christians at Berea did, so you may learn the truths of the Holy Bible. Certainly, the days in which we live provides much impetus to seek the LORD through the study of the Bible.