BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For Sunday January 22, 2011
FOCUS ON SPIRITUAL TRUTH
(The Gospel is the whole Spiritual Truth)
Second Kings, chapter 17 chronicles the origins of the Jews and Samaritans hatred for each other. By the first century A.D., the quarrels between the two groups were centuries old. One would have to go all the way back to the eighth century B.C., when the Assyrians, under the leadership of Shalmaneser, the son of the great Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser, conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (722 B.C), whose capital, at that time, was Samaria.
As Syrian conquerors often did in those days, Shalmaneser transported the greater portion of the Jewish population to Assyria, and then, resettled Israel with his own people. The small portion of the Jewish people who were left in Israel eventually began to intermarry with the Assyrians who were transplanted there. The progenitors from those marriages became the hated group of Samaritans, who were the “half-breed” Jews, of JESUS’ day. On the other hand, the Jews who were transported to Assyria, for the most part, stubbornly refused to lose their identity by intermarrying with the Assyrians and most were able to retain their “pure breed” status.
In the days, long before King David made Jerusalem the center of Jewish worship (2 Samuel 6), all the Jewish people went to Mount Gerizim to pay homage to the LORD (Joshua 8:33). The Samaritans continued to worship at Mount Gerizim after King David’s restructuring of Israel’s worship traditions, while the “pure breed” Jews adhered to David’s new system of worship at Jerusalem. In John chapter 4, verses 4-41, fourteen generations after King David’s death, we see JESUS finally entering into Samaria to initiate an end to this ancient hostility.
The Apostle John gives us a vivid description, through his writings, of JESUS’, now famous encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. There, we see JESUS attempting to teach HIS Disciples, and all who wish to follow HIM, that, the time had indeed come to put an end to petty disputes, that had spilled over, even into the way they were worshiping the FATHER. HE tells them that GOD is looking for anyone who can worship HIM in “spirit” and in “truth”, because HE HIMSELF is SPIRIT.
In Acts chapter 8, verses 4-17, after the scattering of the Believers from Jerusalem, by way of the Christian persecutions that followed the death of Stephen, we see Philip, one of the seven chosen servants of the early Church (Acts 6:5), fleeing Jerusalem and later finding himself preaching to the, still hated, Samaritans. It was now the appointed time of the LORD, to show all mankind that the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST would be embraced by Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike.
JESUS had shown HIS Disciples, during HIS three-year ministry that prayer was made for all men, and that, for the Christian, there would be no such thing as an enemy, except satan, in all the world. No one is outside of the love of CHRIST, and no one is outside of the purpose of GOD. GOD wishes all men, be they Jew, Samaritan, or Gentile, to be saved.
While in Samaria, Philip performed many miracles, and the people of that city listened to him because of those miracles. Many evil spirits were cast out of people, and many who were cripple, were healed. There was a man by the name of Simon Magus, or Simon the magician, who had become known as a great man in Samaria, because of the magic he performed. All the people of Samaria thought him to be the possessor of the great power of GOD.
Philip’s miracles and message of the good news of GOD’s kingdom, and the name of JESUS CHRIST, had won the people over from Simon. In fact, Simon himself was baptized and began following Philip everywhere he went. He was utterly amazed by the miracles and signs that Philip performed. When the news that the Samaritans had accepted GOD’s message got back to Jerusalem, Peter and John went to Samaria to pray for the new Christians, that they would receive the HOLY SPIRIT. They then laid their hands on the new believers and they did indeed receive the HOLY SPIRIT.
The miracles that accentuated the ministry of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, we can see, continued on in the early days of the Church. Those miracles were used by GOD, to authenticate those men, who were acting as HIS representatives, in carrying HIS Gospel message to the people.
The purpose of the HOLY SPIRIT was to make that connection man needed to be able to worship GOD in “spirit”. The purpose of JESUS’ first advent was to make that connection man needed, in order to worship GOD in “truth”. Therefore, it is for the purpose of GOD that the Christian is called, and it is by the work of the HOLY SPIRIT that a person’s life is hallowed towards GOD. And it is by the sprinkling of the blood of JESUS CHRIST, that past sins are forgiven, and we can look forward to a future of obedience to GOD.
It is important that a person comes to realize the purpose for which, he or she, came into the world, and that purpose has always been, to serve GOD. And unless a person is able to understand and grasp that fact, they will forever find themselves living a life, not unlike the Samaritan woman, who first met JESUS at her father Jacob’s well.
She had been meandering around for many years, looking for “physical” answers in many different men, to problems, that had always been “spiritual”. We who are created, must come to know the TRUTH of the CREATOR, and when that happens, we will be able to embody the SPIRIT that can help us stay focused on HIM, WHO’s WORD, is the whole spiritual truth.
THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD
In the Greek, there is a wonderful sounding word that New Testament writers use for “promise”. It is “epaggelia” (ep-ang-el-EE-ah), and it is “an announcement of divine assurance of good”. In Isaiah 56:3-5, GOD promises, through the Prophet Isaiah, to pour out HIS blessings on the Eunuchs of the world, who serve HIM and keep HIS commandments, and to reward them with a special place in HIS house. It would be a memorial that would be everlasting.
In Acts chapter 8, verses 26-40, we begin to see the first signs of GOD’s fulfillment of that promise. Acts chapter 8 depicts a very significant phase in the history of the development of the early church, as it begins to show signs of an initial shedding of its “strictly Jewish” membership doctrine and status. We see here, the Church being compelled to scatter and flee Jerusalem, as a result of the Christian persecutions that followed the tragic death of Stephen.
And so, they were now unconsciously taking one of the most important steps in the history of the early Church, and, at one and the same time, discovering that JESUS’ life was sacrificed for the entire world, not just the Jews. And when they were forced to leave Jerusalem, they also couldn’t help but take the good news of the Gospel of CHRIST with them, wherever they went.
Philip was one of chosen seven, who served in the Church at Jerusalem, alongside Stephen and five other men, who were full of the HOLY SPIRIT. After Stephen’s death, Philip fled to Samaria, where he preached to a group of people who were a natural bridge between Jews and Gentiles, because they themselves were half Jew and Half Gentile in their racial descent and makeup.
But suddenly, by divine intervention, Philip is told by an angel of the LORD to go south to Gaza. Just for general knowledge sake, it may serve development of our understanding better, to know that there were two Gazas. The original Gaza was destroyed in a war in 93 B.C., and the new Gaza was rebuilt, just south of the old desert Gaza, in 57 B.C. This new Gaza is where Philip was told to go.
Along the desert road, Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch, who was employed by the Candace of Ethiopia, as her nation’s treasurer. Candace is the title given to the queens who ruled Ethiopia’s governmental affairs. The king, or “Royal Son”, was thought to be above those kinds of duties, and so, the responsibilities of government were laid upon the queen. Eunuchs were used in trusted positions in the royal courts, especially those positions that involved working around the king’s wives and harems.
The Ethiopian eunuch, Luke tells us, was on his way back from worship service in Jerusalem. This particular eunuch was apparently a student of the Scriptures, and had converted over to Judaism. He was most likely a “GOD-fearer” and not necessarily a “proselyte”. A GOD-fearer was a non-Jewish person who converted to Judaism and did not accept “circumcision”, and a proselyte is a non-Jewish person who has converted to Judaism, and also, had accepted circumcision. We know that a eunuch is a person who has been castrated, or sexually mutilated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and, if mutilation of his sex organs had occurred, then it stands to reason that he couldn’t be circumcised.
However, whatever his circumstances were, he appeared to be a man who was seeking to know GOD better, and GOD promises us that whoever is willing to seek HIM through HIS WORD, shall find HIM. And so we find this royal eunuch riding in his carriage and reading from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. He is reading from the “Septuagint”, which is the first Greek translation of the Old Testament. He is concerned with the passage we know today as Isaiah 53:7-8 in our bibles.
Philip is told by the HOLY SPIRIT to go over and walk alongside the eunuch’s carriage. He then runs over to the carriage, and he hears the man reading from Isaiah. At this point he asks the man if he understands what he is reading. The man answers, in effect, that he doesn’t understand and invites Philip to join him in his carriage.
Philip, being very knowledgeable in GOD’s word, began to explain this passage and many others concerning CHRIST and the good news of Salvation. As they rode along, Philip was able to lead this man to CHRIST, and when they came to some water, the man requested that Philip would baptize him, and he did.
It is a life-changing thing, getting to know, and becoming accustomed to practicing the word GOD. GOD’s word has already come, in fact, it has been with us since the beginning, and it simply cannot be, and will not be disregarded. The word of GOD is synonymous with life, and therefore, the word of GOD is effective and penetrating, and it absolutely scrutinizes all of our thoughts, desires, and intentions. All things lay naked before GOD, as HE sees all, hears all, and knows all that we do. And every one of us will have to make an account for the deeds done in our lifetimes, and whether or not we believe that HE exists, therefore, becomes totally irrelevant.
(1). Make a list of beliefs, traditional or otherwise, that you may have, that may be
inconsistent with the truth of the word of GOD, and then seek ways, through
GOD’s word, to overcome them.
(2). Make it a daily practice to stay focused on the living truth of the Gospel, and
also, through your studies, prayer, and worship, make yourself prepared to
share GOD’s saving word with others.
(3). Remember that the TRUTH can never be compromised, we either hold fast to
the things of GOD, or we will allow ourselves to be deceived by satan.
Pray to GOD and ask HIM to empower you with the life saving knowledge and understanding of “spiritual truth” so that you may be able to help yourself, and others, to overcome this world, just as CHRIST JESUS, our LORD did.