Lifting Up Jesus Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
I believe that the people of the world are hungry for the truth about God. They are not interested in dull, dry religion. They are interested in Jesus. That was also true for the early believers, because we read, “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”
There are many things in the world that will make your life better and even make you a better person, but the purpose of the Church must always be to lift up Jesus. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” The Church should present Jesus to the lost, and Jesus will do the rest.
Now, there was an incident that happened in Samaria that showed that the Holy Spirit cannot be bought. This is what happened. The apostles, who were still in Jerusalem, heard that Philip was preaching to the people of Samaria and that they had accepted the word of God, so they sent Peter and John to them. When Peter and John arrived, they discovered that the Samaritan believers had not received the Holy Spirit. These people had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them. Therefore, Peter and John placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. This was a special function of Peter and John and it would not be repeated.
The first instance of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon a group of individuals was in the upper room with the one hundred twenty. They were Jews; these Samaritans were not present. Therefore, Peter and John brought the power of Pentecost to another group of people. This was never repeated again.
Today, every believer is baptized into the body of Christ the instant he believes (I Cor 12:12–13). Subsequent baptisms of the individual by the Holy Spirit are unknown in Scripture. But there was a man by the name of Simon who saw what happened, so he offered the apostles money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.” Simon was a member of this body of believers and claimed to have been converted, but he showed that his faith was false and that he held a materialistic view of God by attempting to buy that which is God’s prerogative alone to give.
Peter sized up the situation and immediately diagnosed the problem, and he said to him, “You and your money should both be destroyed because you thought you could buy God’s gift with money. You cannot share with us in this work since your heart is not right before God. Change your heart! Turn away from this evil thing you have done, and pray to the Lord. Maybe he will forgive you for thinking this. I see that you are full of bitter jealousy and ruled by sin.” Peter knew that Simon was caught up in superstition and that he had a fascination with magic and sorcery.
He wanted the power to bring the Holy Spirit to people so that he could charge for the service. But Peter’s words made him terror-stricken. Simon begged Peter and John, “Both of you pray for me to the Lord so the things you have said will not happen to me.” It is not known what happened to Simon, whether he repented or not. But the gospel had gone to Samaria and these believers had been added to the Church. We are only told, “After Peter and John told the people what they had seen Jesus do and after they had spoken the message of the Lord, they went back to Jerusalem. On the way, they went through many Samaritan towns and preached the Good News to the people.”
Philip continued to obey God and to lift up Jesus. Obedient people have beautiful experiences, and those who see Jesus are changed.
God was going to send Philip to the last place on earth he wanted to go. He had a date with a man from Ethiopia; he would hitch a ride on his chariot and give him a ticket to heaven. The Bible says that “An angel of the Lord said to Philip,
“Get ready and go south to the road that leads down to Gaza from Jerusalem—the desert road.” So Philip got ready and went. On the road, he saw a man from Ethiopia, a eunuch. He was an important officer in the service of Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians; he was responsible for taking care of all her money. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship.”
This man of Ethiopia was in charge of all the treasure of the Queen. He was actually the Secretary of the Treasury. He was an official and a high official of that day. This man was not traveling alone. He had a great retinue of servants and minor officials with him. He wasn’t set in a chariot with the reins in one hand and a book in the other hand as we see him pictured. This man was setting back in a chariot, protected from the sun by a canopy. He had a private chauffeur and was riding in style.
He was a citizen of Ethiopia, but he had come to Jerusalem to worship. This indicates that he was a proselyte to Judaism. He had just been to Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish religion. Although Judaism was the God-given religion, he is leaving the city still in the dark. He was reading the prophet Isaiah, but he didn’t understand what he was reading.
The Spirit of the Lord told Philip, “Go near and join thyself to the chariot.” The man was reading the Bible; he was reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip asked him if he understood what he read, and the man replied, “How can I, except some man should guide me.” Philip lifted up Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch.
The man had been reading Isaiah 53:7-8 which says, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.”
The man said to Philip, “Please tell me, who is the prophet talking about—himself or someone else?” Philip began to speak, and starting with this same Scripture, he told the man the Good News about Jesus. While they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The man said, “Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?” Then the man commanded the chariot to stop. Both Philip and the man went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away; the Ethiopian never saw him again. And the officer continued on his way home, full of joy. The Ethiopian rides off the pages of scripture in his chariot. He went on his way rejoicing.
Now, what happened to this man? The first great church was not in the United States, nor was it in Europe, nor was it in Jerusalem, nor was it in Asia Minor. The first great church was in northern Africa. The Ethiopian evidently went back and through his witness and his influence, a church was begun there.
Our assignment is to lift up Jesus wherever we go. Verse 12 clearly states this assignment and the resulting possibilities for the church. “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” Philip preached the gospel in Samaria and many men and women believed. As the Church lifts up Jesus, the world will respond. Today, our assignment is to lift up Jesus. You can do it here at the Inn. Tell others about Jesus. Tell them how much you love Him and what He has done for you. Tell your family how He saved you and that you have a home in heaven waiting for you. Just lift Him up, for He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
I am thankful that there was someone in my life who lifted up Jesus. He is a wonderful Lord and Savior.