The Bible (Part 1)
- Value the Bible as the story of God's salvation.
- Awaken curiosity about the Bible and cultivate a desire to learn more about God.
- Develop a habit of reading the Bible.
- Wonder at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the gospel.
Once we have discovered that Jesus is the only Savior, the next question is "Where can I learn more about Jesus?" A Reformed confession called the Belgic teaches that we actually know about God from two sources: creation and the Bible. But only the Bible is God's special revelation. Only the Bible teaches us the depths of God's love and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Today's lively story about Philip and the Ethiopian shows how the Spirit uses the written Word (from Isaiah) and the spoken word (from Philip) to bring salvation to one person. This is a glimpse of the larger story of how the church spreads beyond Jerusalem and the circle of the Jews to a multitude of others.
After Stephen was killed in Jerusalem, Philip preaches about Christ in Samaria (Acts 8:4-25). Then, "an angel of the Lord" directs Philip to a desert road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. There Philip meets an Ethiopian man, and the Holy Spirit tells Philip to talk with him. Notice how the Holy Spirit directly leads people in this story.
The Ethiopian man seems to have been a convert to Judaism who has come to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. Though he was an important official of the queen of Ethiopia, he probably experienced serious prejudicial treatment. The text says that he was a eunuch---a characteristic that, along with being a Gentile, would by Jewish law bar him from the inner part of the temple. Yet God chose to welcome him into God's covenant family.
The Q&A for today describes the Bible as "the story of God's saving acts through his covenant with Israel (Old Testament) and through the new covenant in Jesus Christ (New Testament)." There has always been a temptation in the church to tear the Bible apart, so that the Old Testament with its laws and the way God is revealed within gets superseded by the New Testament. It's gospel over law, judgment over grace.
But as Reformed Christians, we see Scripture as the one story of how God brought salvation to the world. It's one big, sprawling, passionate, complex story about God's love affair with the world he made. While there's some development through the Bible in the way people understand God and his purposes, God's resolve to save his creation, culminating in Jesus Christ, is constant throughout the biblical story. That's why Philip was able to start out with the Old Testament to tell the story of salvation through Jesus Christ.
We believe that the Bible is more than a book, more than a story, more than information about God. Inspired Scripture has power! The gospel (the story of God's saving love), says Paul, "is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). It's that same power that brought the Ethiopian man to faith in Jesus Christ.
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