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How does God convert the sinner? What changes the sinner’s mind? In the N.T. many times there was a miracle that accompanied the conversion.
- Jerusalem – In Acts 2 the Apostles spoke in different languages. The apostles’ ministry in Jerusalem included signs and miracles. Acts 5:12-14 – And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
- Samaria – Acts 8:5-7 – 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.
- Lydda – Acts 9:32-35 – Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. 33 There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately. 35 So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
- Joppa – a widow named Dorcas (Tabitha) died – Acts 9:40-42 – 40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. There were many conversions that were motivated by an awesome miracle. The Holy Spirit was at work here.
I. A Man Meets Jesus – Read Acts 8:27-35 27 And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” 34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him
A. In most respects this conversion was no different than others in Acts. But when we consider what motivated him to change, there is a difference. He was not impressed by an awesome miracle or moved by the massive response of others. At the time of his conversion he was simply riding and reading.
1. Do you understand what you are reading? The O.T. prophet Isaiah had revealed a dramatic and somewhat perplexing picture of the coming Messiah in Isaiah 53. Philip’s task was to help this Ethiopian understand what he was reading. So beginning where he was in the text he “preached Jesus to him.”
2. This example provides us a closer look at the heart of a conversion. The awe and wonder of a miracle opened the eyes and mind of the unbeliever, but no true conversion took place apart from teaching and understanding. This is also the work of the Holy Spirit.
II. What Did He See in Jesus? The Ethiopian’s willingness to obey Jesus and be baptized tells us that he was moved and impressed with what he learned about Christ. What did he learn about Jesus? How did he see Him?
A. A Man of Sorrows – The text of Isaiah described Jesus (the Messiah) as one that others would not desire or be impressed with. Isa 53:2-3 – 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
- No form nor comeliness – This word is translated honor, glory, majesty; He brought no splendor with Him.
- No beauty that we should desire Him – He does not appear in the form in which he was anticipated. He is not attractive to others.
- Despised, rejected by men – He was not received, but rejected as a worthless person. He had nothing to offer.
- A man of sorrows acquainted with grief – The word rendered ‘grief’ means usually sickness, disease, but it also means anxiety, affliction; and then any evil or calamity. In Jewish thought the person who suffered greatly was spiritually deficient (Job) because God was punishing him. Thus Jesus was seen as one who was afflicted by God in judgment (vs. 4 – Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.)
- Hid our faces from Him, and did not esteem Him – Interpreters have explained it in various ways.
- An allusion to the Mosaic law, which required lepers to cover their faces (Lev. 3:45 ), or to the custom of covering the face in mourning, or for shame.
- As one before whom a man covers his face from shame or disgust.
- He induced others to cover their face before him, as they were induced to turn away.
1. But His rejection is the product of a perception. Jesus is not now, nor has he ever been, despised and rejected because of any flaw in himself. He “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Peter 2:22); he was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15); his public challenge was “which of you convicteth me of sin?” (John 8:46); and Pilate’s verdict was, “I find no crime in him” (John 18:38). God from heaven declared “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus is not despised and rejected due to any personal defect.
2. Why is Jesus rejected? Why is He not desired?
a. He is too Good. Ironically, the unbelieving world rejects Jesus because He is too good. His perfect holiness condemns their imperfections with glaring clarity. Immediately following the most famous verse in the Bible (even the unbelievers know John 3:16) Jesus said.. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:17-21) Many “good” people reject Jesus’ teaching only when it exposes and condemn sin. (“just leave people alone”)
b. He does not give them what they want. In fact, many have reinvented Jesus in the form of a genie in a bottle who stands ready to fulfill their every selfish want. Prayer is a wish list, and God’s greatest gift is material prosperity for his people. When the multitudes were following Him just because he could feed them, Jesus rebuked them. John 6:26-27 26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” They struggled with the identity of Jesus and thus rejected Him because He was not what they expected. Vs. :41-42 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said,”Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” From that time many turned and walked with him no more. (v. 66)
c. They do not know what they need. Pride gets in the way here. Many reject Jesus because they fail to recognize their own spiritual need and what He has to offer them. Luke 7:39-43 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying,”This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” It is only when we see our own sin that we can come to appreciate Jesus. For when a person is aware that he is lost in sin, he is eager for the one who is “able to save…all who come unto God by him”. Isaiah presents a Messiah “by whose stripes we are healed.”
3. Coupled with the conviction of sin, and just as indispensable is the conviction of righteousness. God through the Holy Spirit justified Christ by raising him from the dead, thus refuting the charge that He was being punished for His sin (afflicted by God), Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God…by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The resurrection of Jesus demonstrated that he was “with God elect, precious”. Seeing him as the Son of God, we are not dismayed at the realization that the world despises and rejects him. Rather than dismay there will be boldness to rely on him to justify all who come unto God by him.
B. A Sacrificed Lamb. The Ethiopian understood that this lamb was actually a man. When he understood how this lamb represented Jesus he came to Him without hesitation. By human standards of judgment, Jesus was, and is, undesirable. But the Ethiopian came to Jesus in trust and obedience. What attracted him to Jesus?
1. The strength in His weakness: Men must come to regard meekness and lowliness of heart as strengths rather than weaknesses before Jesus has beauty and comeliness for them. This lamb in Isaiah appears weak as though he is being taken advantage of (was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted, he opened not his mouth” – Isaiah 53:7). The Holy Spirit spake by Peter, saying, “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you…who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (I Pet. 2:21-23). Such reaction to oppression does not appeal to the proud and arrogant. The world applauds the one who stands up for himself and reacts to evil in kind. Even Jesus’ disciples struggled with this paradox in Jesus.. Luke 9:51-56 – 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”
a. So the world views the cross as foolishness, especially if it is presented as a voluntarily self-sacrifice. Yet it is in this perceived foolishness that the cross presents enormous power. 1 Cor 1:18 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…vs. 21-24 – For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
2. The Life in His death – This lamb’s blood is atonement for sin. Isa 53:5 – The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. Vs. 10 – When You make His soul an offering for sin. This lamb died for him. 1 Peter 1:18-19 – 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
a. If there is anything that the Ethiopian would have seen in Isaiah’s picture of the Messiah (this lamb) it was the vicarious nature of this death. Consider the NIV translation of vs. 11 – After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. No doubt Philip described the events of the cross. But more than that he told him why Jesus died. He died for him, and you and me.
3. The Love in His Sacrifice – Can you preach Christ without talking about love. It is not just a mechanical message of a crucifixion, or a rigid set of rules to follow. It is a demonstration of God’s heart toward us. That is what makes Jesus attractive. John 12:32-33 – 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Conclusion: What did the Ethiopian see in Isaiah 53? He saw a Savior who died for Him. A lamb of sacrifice the God had provided. He saw the cross. He saw what the world rejects. And so must we if we are to be truly converted and changed.
is reception of the gospel was consummated in his acceptance of the authority of Christ, as one risen from the dead. He was baptized, by the authority of Jesus for the remission of his sins.
- Acts 8:38-39 – So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
- He did not despise and reject; he believed and was baptized and then went on his way rejoicing in the beauty of holiness.