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The Ethiopian Eunuch and the Body of Christ

26 Jan

Luke has Philip joining an Ethiopian on a road near Gaza, south of Jerusalem. The man was returning from worshiping at Jerusalem, probably after one of its Holy Day seasons, which, in this case, would probably be Passover of 35 CE. (accounting for a six-month ministry for Philip in Samaria).

The Spirit (Angel of the Lord) led or inspired Philip to go to the desert place for the sake of the Gospel. Luke shows the eunuch reading from Isaiah 53 in his chariot, but he is troubled over the meaning of the text. Philip asked if he understood what he read and offered to help. At this, the Ethiopian invited Philip to join him in his carriage. The text reads:

Acts 8:32 KJV  …He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:  (33)  In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

The text agrees with the Septuagint, the Bible of choice by Jews and proselytes living in foreign lands. Philip began at this excerpt and preached the Gospel—Jesus to the man.

A main argument that comes from the Jews today is that Isaiah 53 refers to the Jews, and on this point they are correct, but they overlook that it also, and in the main, speaks of Jesus. I think their interpretation is put down by many Christians, today, without proper consideration, not giving credit where credit is due. We cannot help anyone see, if we are blind ourselves. Consider what Paul says about this very subject, except that he speaks of Christians.

In Colossians 1:24 Paul speaks of his own sufferings for the Colossians and rejoices in that he is filling up – i.e. fulfilling what must be done – or what is lacking in Christ—i.e. what is lacking in the Body of Christ. He says elsewhere that all who will live godly in Christ will suffer (2Timothy 3:12). Where did Paul get this understanding, if it wasn’t Jewish? Don’t forget that on the road to Damascus Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting him (Jesus), showing that he suffers as the Head, when his Body (the Church) suffers. Speaking of a person and including the group, and speaking of the group and pointing to the person has been Jewish theology since ancient times.

Looking at Isaiah 53 in the light of it showing how the Jews have suffered over the centuries could be quite enlightening, perhaps as enlightening as a Jew looking at the same passage and seeing Jesus! Just as showing the Body of Christ (the Church) can be overdone in some Scriptures (e.g. the Church didn’t die on the cross), so too, it is over stated for the Jews to believe that the whole nation dies for to redeem the nation. Notice:

Isaiah 53:8-9 KJV  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.  (9)  And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (emphasis mine)

The allegory falls on its face if carried too far. The Jews are not sinless. They cannot be sinless and die for their own transgressions at the same time. Therefore, though the text speaks of the suffering of the Jews and their Messiah, there are parts that can be associated **only** with the Messiah.

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Kingdom of God

 

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3 responses to “The Ethiopian Eunuch and the Body of Christ

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