Friday, August 19, 2016

To The Remotest Part of the Earth

Isaiah 53:8

Persecution scattered the believers from Jerusalem into the regions of Judea and Samaria. Philip is led by the Holy Spirit to preach Christ to an individual representing the remotest part of the earth.

Jesus told His disciples they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, even the remotest part of the earth. In Acts 8 we see a partial fulfillment of the entire plan.

When the believers were scattered they preached the word wherever they went. Although these events are recorded in the New Testament this was written after the fact. At the time they scattered not a single New Testament book had been written. They were preaching Christ from an Old Testament foundation.

In Acts 8 we get a closer look at the second non-apostle to preach Christ. Philip is representative of what every Christian was doing at the time. He was preaching Christ wherever he went.

Philip first went and preached Jesus and the kingdom of God in Samaria. Many believed and were baptized. The apostles came to see what was happening in Samaria as a result of Philip's preaching. Philip's preaching received the apostolic seal of approval. The Holy Spirit came to the Samaritans.

The Holy Spirit leads Philip to approach an Ethiopian who served as a court official for the Queen of the Ethiopians. Here is the first recorded preaching of Christ specifically to a full Gentile in the early church.

The Ethiopian eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah. When Philip approached he could hear him reading out loud to himself. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. He said he did not. Philip took the opportunity to preach Christ from that passage. It was Isaiah 53:7-8.

Isaiah 53 in Context

Isaiah 53 was written approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ. The exact verses that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading is part of a larger messianic passage: Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Although directly messianic some Jewish interpreters would interpret the Servant as the nation of Israel instead of as the Messiah.

The Servant in this passage is described as suffering for the sins of the people. This suffering is according to the will of God. Although this suffering will result in the death of the Servant it is also prophesied that the Servant will see the fruit of His suffering. Under normal circumstances this would be impossible as the dead do not prolong their days. A resurrected Messiah would fulfill the full passage.

How Philip uses Isaiah 53

The Ethiopian asks a direct question about this passage. He asks if the passage is speaking of the prophet himself or someone else. In response to this question and beginning with this text Philip preaches Jesus to him.

It is unclear if Philip restrained himself to simply Isaiah 53:7-8 or if he expanded his explanation to include other verses from this chapter. These two verses would be enough to proclaim that Jesus died according to the Scriptures.

Explaining Christ

The gospel message is that Jesus died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose on the third day according to the Scriptures. The New Testament records that Jesus died, was buried, and rose according to the Old Testament prophesies. Isaiah 53:7-8 describes the false accusation and death of the Messiah according to the will of God.

Jesus was not executed because He made too many political or religious enemies. His execution was always part of the plan.

This passage prophesies the death of the Christ. It foretells that He would not open His mouth to defend Himself from the accusations against Him. Although many believed in a conquering Messiah this text tells of a suffering Messiah. A Messiah who will achieve salvation through His own death. A Messiah who would bring healing to the people by taking their sins upon Himself.

Philip proclaimed Jesus was the man who fulfilled this 700 year old prophesy. Jesus was falsely accused. He did not open His mouth to defend Himself. He came to lay down His life and die to take away the judgment upon all who will put their trust in Him.

When Jesus rose from the dead He fulfilled the entirety of Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

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