Nucleus 5
Sermon – Week 1
The Church
Title: Beautiful like a Child
Big Idea: The church is a beautiful community—and should live like it!
Scripture Focus: Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of
bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs
performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in
common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every
day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their
homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the
favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being
saved.
42
Introduction:
All of us came here today with many things to do. All of us came here today and left
some things undone in order to be here. Some of us have continued to do the things we just
couldn’t leave undone—we’ve checked email, sent a text message, updated Facebook—while we
have been singing, praying, and being together.
On the one hand, this desire to act and get things done is exactly what we should expect!
God has created us to be active beings. God has given us tasks! God has given us bodies that
move! New Testament scholar Richard Longenecker describes the passage we’ve just read as the
thesis paragraph for the early church. It’s a kind of state of the union of the church just after
Pentecost. And the state of the church is this: God’s activity has taken root in the world and the
church just can’t be still! A short list of the activities of the church includes teaching, eating,
praying, wondering, sharing, supporting, meeting, growing, and giving! There is a lot of
busyness and commotion under the work of the Spirit.
On the other hand, there is something conspicuously absent from the listed activity of the
early church that is often present in our activity. There is none of the stewing, worrying, fretting,
and mental writhing that some of us are feeling even in this moment about the things we have to
do. The early church, in this passage, even has time to do the things that seem, to us, unimportant
or even impossible: meeting together every day for a kind of spiritual renewal? Hardly! We must
realize that the activity of the early church is not the frenetic pace of the world. Its activity is not
simply a baptized busyness. This is holy work under the direction of the Holy Spirit. For us to
recall not only our mission as the church, but our nature as human beings, we must pay attention.
The early church reminds me of a child in its activity. There is something divine in the
inability of a child to sit and be still. Likewise, the early church, in its childhood, is active and
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lively. It can hardly sit still. And the power of the Holy Spirit has removed the worry and fear
that had previously gripped the disciples so that they locked themselves in an upper room. Have
you ever simply watched children at play in their freedom? There is an activity and busyness
unmarked by the pressure to accomplish and get things done that I think reflects the early church.
And just as there is beauty in that child, so can we be caught in the beauty of the activity of the
church to remind us of our beauty.
Content:
1. The church is beautiful because God is beautiful—so worship (vv. 46-47)!
Just as a child must not only be certain of her own beauty, a child must also see beauty in others.
The church is not beautiful simply on her own. The church is beautiful because of her God. The
church takes on the beauty of God as she does what God does. How? The church’s daily activity
was centered on God. The church’s daily activity was worship.
Personal/Church Application: What is your church teaching about worship at home? What is
your church teaching about the importance of corporate worship?
2. The church is beautiful and is meant to mature in this beauty—so grow and learn (v.
42)!
Beauty endures as beauty matures. Just as a child who grows in maturity likewise grows in
beauty, so the church must grow in its maturity. How? The members of the early church devoted
themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
Maturity involves knowing the difference between what is bad and good, and what is
good and best. The church is called to renounce the world, the flesh and the devil, and to
dedicate herself to the work which Christ committed to His church until He comes.
In the local church, we believe that Christ has brought every person to us and that we are
to work alongside them in discipleship no matter from where they are starting.
Personal/Church Application: Where is your church growing deeper? Do you have a new
believer’s class starting? Do you have a financial discipleship ministry starting? What growth is
taking place that you can celebrate?
3. The church is beautiful in its common life—so fellowship (vv. 42, 45-46)!
We revolt against the use of make-up on a child to enhance her beauty because in her
ordinariness a child is beautiful. Likewise, the church in her common life of eating together and
sharing with one another is beautiful. How? The church ate together, shared with one another,
and was with one another regularly.
Take joy in the monotony of life! In his book, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton says:
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“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because
children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they
want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up
person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to
exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible
that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to
the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that
God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that
He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father
is younger than we.”
Personal/Church application: Does your church have small groups? How does it facilitate getting
into smaller communities? Getting into a small group is essential to spiritual growth! You will
stunt your spiritual growth if you are not living in regular fellowship life with other Christians.
The church is the most ordinary means of God’s grace. The daily activity of eating
together, sharing together, praying together—of doing life together—is the backbone of the
church’s beauty in everyday life. New Testament scholar Robert Wall captures the connection of
growth and fellowship: “(A) fellowship of believers shares more than common beliefs and core
values; they display a profound regard for one another’s spiritual and physical well-being as a
community of friends.”
4. The church is beautiful and it is meant to be seen—so share this beauty (v. 47)!
Children can fluctuate between courage and shyness. Sometimes they are daring and
sometimes they are fragile. Sometimes the difference is the security of a loving adult. When a
child is secure in the love of an adult, the child loves to be seen and to display her beauty.
Children love to display new creations and accomplishments to people they know love them!
The church, likewise, as it is in obedience to God, is beautiful to God and must be secure in this
love to share herself with the wider community.
The church exists alongside other communities and within other communities. Jesus
prophesied that the church would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends
of the earth. The activity of the church was not hidden from the community around it and its
activity was used by God to win people to this beautiful community. How? The church shares
her beauty by making public what she enjoys in her inner life. The church enjoyed the favor of
the wider community as the church shared its fellowship, worship, and joy with others.
Conclusion/Application:
How are we getting outside our four walls? Who is on your heart with whom you know you
should share your beautiful story of God’s activity?
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Nucleus 5
Sermon – Week 2
Communion / Lord’s Supper
Title: What a Meal Can Do
Big Idea: Communion can edify us and deepen our walk with Christ.
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
23
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night
he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This
is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after
supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this,
whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and
drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner
will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to
examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who
eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on
themselves.
Introduction:
What makes a meal in your home? Does soup make a meal or does it have to be meat and
potatoes? Are meals in front of the television or always at the table? Do meals happen at certain
times—dinner’s on at 5:00 p.m.—or are they happenstance—just when they can be squeezed in?
Different homes celebrate meals differently. Location, menu, time, attendees—these can all be
different and yet remain a meal.
Meals can be meaningful times. They can signal the end to a long day or the start of a
vacation. They can start the first party of a newly married couple or the gathering of friends after
a loved one is laid to rest. Meals are daily events that can sometimes be taken for granted. And
what we may take for granted is what meals can do. Registered Dietitian Timi Gustafson writes,
“According to a number of reports issued by the National Center on Addiction and Substance
Abuse at Columbia University(CASA), children who eat at least five times a week with their
family are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems or alcohol and
substance dependencies, and tend to perform better academically than their peers who frequently
eat alone or away from home” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timi-gustafson/familydinner_b_1898387.html). Something beyond the consumption of food is happening in this event.
But meals can also be very awkward. There are times when social convention requires
you to force down bite after bite when you would rather escape the setting and flee the food. Are
there unwritten rules around what subjects should and should not be discussed? Are there people
in your extended family who just seem to put everyone else on edge when they are around?
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Meals can be times of discomfort and awkwardness made even more difficult simply because it
is a meal. (Depending on your church’s context, a great movie clip here is a mealtime scene from
What about Bob with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss.)
Whether positive or negative, just a little reflection on these daily events lets us know that
meals do things. Meals can settle differences and spur new friendships; they can celebrate or
bring closure. In The Wesleyan Church, the meal we call communion is also an event where
something happens. Wesleyans believe that Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is a sacrament—
a sacred event where something mysterious is happening. When practiced by faith, the meal of
communion is an event where something divine happens. Here are three affirmations of what
happens at this sacred meal.
Content:
1. Communion practices and inspires Christian fellowship.
The Apostle Paul had many frustrations with the church at Corinth, but the failure to
celebrate the Lord’s Supper properly is especially pertinent. Paul’s frustration is not their method
of celebration, but what their failure is doing in their community. Paul says that the meetings of
the Corinthian church do more harm than good! (1 Cor. 11:17). Paul says that their meetings
emphasize divisions and, as a result, that it is not the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, that they
are celebrating. Instead, these “private suppers” show how one person is rich and another person
is poor. So, Paul finishes with this encouragement: “So then, my brothers and sisters, when you
gather to eat, you should all eat together” (1 Cor. 11:33). Paul wants the Lord’s Supper to be a
supper of fellowship.
But communion is not just any kind of fellowship. It is not like fellowship around a
football game, movie, or hobby. Communion is fellowship around Jesus. Communion is
specifically Christian fellowship. Paul tells the Corinthians that God has called them into
fellowship in Jesus (1 Cor. 1:9). Think about some of your best friendships: What drew you
together? Common hobbies? Common interests? Common friends? For Christians, the common
element is Jesus. Communion is a fellowship—a fellowship in Jesus. Communion is a meal that
helps Christians to fellowship as Christians.
We must let this truth of Communion deepen our relationships in Christ. It’s unfortunate,
but Communion has become a kind of skimpy meal. In the early church, Communion was
connected with an actual meal—a common meal shared by the Christians. The fellowship of
Communion carried over into more fellowship. As we celebrate communion, invite God to carry
over the fellowship of Communion into your home or another’s home. Who would God have you
gather with, share with, and fellowship with because you have shared in the body and blood of
Christ together?
2. Communion applies Jesus’ redemption and inspires forgiveness.
The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the death of Christ: His body broken and His blood
spilled. It is a reminder of sacrifice. Jesus is the Passover Lamb. And just as the original Passover
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Lamb rescued the Israelites from the angel of death in Egypt, so Jesus the Passover Lamb
rescues us from death.
But the Lord’s Supper is not just a very cool illustration of redemption or an elaborate
object lesson. The Lord’s Supper does not just remind us of Christ’s death, but applies the
benefits of Christ’s death. One benefit of Jesus’ death that is applied, by faith, through
communion, is freedom. The death of Jesus establishes the covenant of forgiveness. When we
celebrate communion in faith, we have the freedom of clear consciences before God and before
each other. This is why the Apostle Paul tells us to examine ourselves before celebrating
Communion (1 Cor. 11:28). If God makes things clear that require our repentance, it is not to
condemn us. It is to save us! Communion applies Jesus’ redemption by giving us opportunity to
repent and then participating in God’s commitment of forgiveness.
As we prepare to celebrate Communion, is there someone with whom you are or have
been in conflict? Is there someone you need to forgive? Communion makes crystal clear the
hypocrisy of unforgiveness: We come to God in need of forgiveness, but continually condemn
others in the courtroom of our hearts. This is not to say forgiveness is easy. The death of Christ
shows clearly that it isn’t! But the death of Christ is for our freedom and it frees us to forgive
others. Communion helps us to receive God’s forgiveness for our sins and to forgive those who
sin against us.
3. Communion renews God’s pledge to us and our pledge to God.
The Apostle Paul said that when we celebrate Communion, we proclaim the Lord’s death
until He comes. The Lord’s Supper looks ahead to the Grand Feast of celebration between God
and His people in the return of Christ (1 Cor. 11:26). In some ways it is the consistent appetizer
God gives en route to the banquet. It’s a little meal to hold us over until the great banquet where
hunger will never again be known. It’s food for the journey toward God.
Jesus also made a pledge around Communion: That He would not drink of it again until
this great banquet—until He would drink it in His Father’s Kingdom. Of course, this is the
Kingdom that Jesus himself will reign. We remember this in one of the names we give to
communion. It is the Lord’s Supper. When we eat this meal, we eat and drink to the Lordship of
Jesus. And that means we pledge ourselves to Him and His Kingdom. Communion taken in faith
is our pledge of allegiance to God.
C.S. Lewis, in defending the monarchy, once described the human desire to honor those
above them. he writes, “Where men are forbidden to honor a king they honor millionaires,
athletes or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like
bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.” In Communion, we are
invited to feast on real food—the body and blood of Jesus made present by His Spirit. This meal,
taken in faith, is not only our pledge of allegiance to God, but the sustenance God gives so that
we may have no appetite for spiritual poison.
As we prepare to celebrate communion, examine your heart. Is it a renewal of your
pledge to God? Is it a recommitment of your allegiance to Jesus?
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Conclusion/Application:
Today we are eating a family meal. The Wesleyan Church practices an open
Communion, which means that you don’t have to be a member of this church to celebrate
Communion. You are welcome to participate in Communion if you are part of the family of
Jesus. Being part of the family of Jesus means turning away from sin and committing your life to
God. Being part of the family of Jesus means recognizing that you need forgiveness and offering
forgiveness to others. Being part of the family of Jesus means affirming that Jesus is Lord. It
could be that today is the first time you’ve thought about being part of the family of Christ. If
that’s the case with you today, as we prepare to celebrate Communion, I invite you to become
part of the family. (The pastor would then lead the congregation in a prayer of repentance and
faith in Christ.)
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Nucleus 5
Sermon – Week 3
Infant Baptism
Title: Welcome to the Family
Big Idea: We baptize infants because it reflects salvation.
Scripture Focus: Acts 16:29-34 (summary of Acts 16:16-28 is needed or should be read, too)
29
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He
then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your
household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his
house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then
immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his
house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe
in God—he and his whole household.
31
Introduction:
We live in a culture of brokenness and transition. (You can find statistics for your
county/community on blended families and career transition.) I once heard a preacher say that
when Depends are a diaper and Ensure is a diet, then trust is a fuzzy concept. Not only is trust
fuzzy, but brokenness and transition have made us wary of one of the greatest benefits of trust—
belonging. Department stores offer consumers loyalty cards and charge accounts—“Buy here at
a discount, but if you blow your budget, we’re going to charge you massive interest!” We are
wary of belonging because many relationships only last as long as people are useful.
Last week we looked at the family that baptism creates and the story baptism gives us to
tell. Today we explore this idea a little wider with a subject that some of us are or have been
uncomfortable with—baptizing babies. We do so because the message of infant baptism is a
remedy to the crisis of belonging. Babies belong in our families from Day 1. While there are
exceptions to this rule and they matter a great deal—they help to prove the point: Even when
they mess up schedules, contribute nothing tangible to the family, provide incredible amounts of
inconvenience, cost money, babies still belong and will belong in their own unique ways. Once
babies arrive, parents very quickly cannot imagine life without them.
The Wesleyan Church believes that water baptism is a symbol of the new covenant of
grace and signifies acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Baptism, in short,
is a symbol and sign of salvation. Infant baptism teaches us a few lessons about salvation that are
reflected in the story of the Philippian jailer. This is not a story that “proves” infant baptism, but
it is one that provides illustrations of the truth of infant baptism and why Wesleyans baptize
infants.
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Sermon:
1. We baptize infants because salvation is God’s personal, gracious gift.
There is amazing transformation in the jailer, isn’t there? The jailer, it seems, is good at
what he does. After all, Paul and Silas are to be guarded carefully (v. 23). The magistrates who
have just overseen Paul and Silas’ beating would not have entrusted them to just any jailer. He is
a good jailer. A good jailer would have been tough; he would have been used to violence, harsh
language, and injustice. He would have hardened his heart. It is telling that the jailer is ready to
kill himself. This is not an act many of us could take so quickly, yet he makes a quick move and
is ready to take his own life because of his escaped prisoners. Whether for shame or for fear, it
doesn’t matter. He is ready to execute his own demise. But notice the change in the jailer’s life!
He moves from being the inhibitor of freedom to being host. He moves from being violent to
washing Paul and Silas’ feet. He changes from chaining their hands to feeding them food. The
transformation from the rough and tough jailer to the host is profound! John Chrysostom says
that the jailer was amazed at Paul’s “manly boldness”! The impact is so profound that he moves
from being willing to kill himself physically to submit his life to symbolic death. The jailer
moves from being willing to kill himself to submitting to the burial of baptism.
Here we see how the Philippian jailer provides a beautiful example of prevenient grace.
Prevenient grace is the grace of God that goes before any human action or human desire to
enable people to act freely toward God. Without the prevenient grace of God, people would
never desire God in the first place. The jailer does not change so radically without the grace of
God being present in his life. It would be impossible for him to change mindset without God’s
help! John Wesley said that prevenient grace enabled “the first wish to please God, the first dawn
of light concerning His will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against
Him” (John Wesley, Sermon 85, “On Working out our own Salvation.”)
Infant baptism affirms prevenient grace, as well. If Paul and Silas didn’t believe that God
was up to something in the jailer, they would have left when the opportunity presented itself. But
they understood that God was already active. They recognized that God was up to something.
Infant baptism is an expression of the same truth: We, as the church, aren’t waiting for God to
start doing something in this precious person. God is already active. God already has a plan for
babies and baptism is that sign.
2. We baptize infants because salvation is about belonging.
The jailer understands that his salvation is about belonging. Notice his first actions to
Paul and Silas: he washes their feet and feeds them a meal. He offers hospitality and belonging.
Church Father John Chrysostom (Homily 36 on Acts) says that just as the jailer was washed in
baptism, so did he wash their wounds; just as the jailer was fed spiritually, so did he feed
physically. The jailer is behaving in a way that has been modeled for him. He is passing on what
has been entrusted to him. Likewise for infants: their baptism is to model and entrust to them
what being part of the family means. In infant baptism, we bring infants into the family and
model for them what belonging means. Just as babies belong in families until they may choose to
leave, so does infant baptism draw infants into the church and, more importantly, into the saving
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work of God, until they may leave. Ken Schenck’s words make this point clear: “(The church) is
challenging (the infant) to stay in rather than holding (them) symbolically ‘out,’ at arm's length,
until (they) make a move.” Babies belong and they are encouraged to remain.
3. We baptize infants because salvation impacts whole families.
The jailer’s salvation impacts his whole family. It is clear that the disciples have a
different view from the jailer. His initial desire for salvation is connected with his own safety.
Before killing himself, Paul and Silas alert him to the fact that they are still there. The jailer then
wonders what he can do to be saved—in other words, how can I convince you to stay and save
my neck? But something in Paul and Silas clues him into something bigger. They answer his
question not just about his physical safety in the moment, but about eternal salvation. They don’t
simply expand the scope of salvation, but the recipients of salvation, as well: You and all your
household will be saved (v. 31)! The story goes on to affirm three more times the influence of
the jailer’s decision on his household: His household hears the message (v. 32); all his household
is baptized with the jailer (v. 33); and all his household believes the message (v. 34).
Not only was the jailer’s life different from that day on, but his whole family’s was
different, as well! It is possible that this story includes a reference to infant baptism—if there
were infants in the jailer’s household, then it seems they would have been baptized. But
regardless, the story illustrates one of the reasons that infant baptism soon emerged after the first
century. As Christian parents started having children, they were expected to rear them in the
faith. Parents were expected to pass on their knowledge of God and faith in Christ.
This is much, much different from the belief that parents remain neutral and allow
children to make faith choices for themselves, without significant input or guidance. Parents are
to be invested in the faith choices their children make. As Keith Drury said of Wesleyans, “We
expect our children to be Christians.” This belief means we aim for proper instruction in
Scripture, daily praying, and faithful modeling. Infant baptism is a sign and symbol of God’s
salvation coming to a family and expecting the children to participate in this salvation, as they
are able, as they grow and mature.
Conclusion/Application:
We have some “jailers” in our congregation today. We have people in whom God is at
work. Things in your life seem to have hit rock bottom. Just as desperate as the jailer who was
ready to kill himself, you know that God has a future—not just for you, but for your family. And
today is a day when you can be washed. Today is a day when your family’s path can take a brand
new direction. Today may be a day for your baptism. (Or to enroll in baptism
courses/membership classes/new believers training.)
We also have people who are like the household of the jailer. Maybe the radical new
direction your life took happened before you were even born. The changed life that a grandfather
or mother or other mentor had has impacted you. Today is a day you can make their choice your
own. Perhaps you were even baptized as a child and want to affirm that decision publically.
(Offering of confirmation ceremony might be appropriate.) Or it could be that you were
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dedicated to God as a child and that your own baptism is important. You are making choices that
will continue to be passed on through you and those you influence.
Scripture says that today is the day of salvation. Today is a day for you to belong; today
is a day for your family’s future to be changed; today is a day for the faith of your parents or
grandparents to become your own.
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Nucleus 5
Sermon – Week 4
Adult Baptism
Title: Fitting In, New Starts, and Long Commitments
Big Idea: Baptism creates a family.
Scripture Focus: Acts 8:26-40
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that
goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an
Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake
(which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
28
and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.
29
The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
26
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do
you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
30
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come
up and sit with him.
31
32
This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or
someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the
good news about Jesus.
34
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look,
here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to
stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip
baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took
Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
40
Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the
towns until he reached Caesarea.
36
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Introduction:
Everyone needs a place to belong. Everyone needs a new start. Everyone needs a family.
But the world is broken. Instead of helping people to belong, we invent ways to ostracize and
exclude each other. Our pasts bully themselves back into our memories and remind us of their
presence. Families split, shake, and wreck on the rocks. Even families that stay together are not
always happy and don’t always make members feel like they belong.
The story we have just read fits into our world very well. The Ethiopian eunuch is a
character that fits very much into a North American postmodern context—he is a person of
means, and yet ostracized; he has information at his disposal, but he does not understand; he is
an insider and yet an outsider, all at the same time.
In the ancient world, eunuchs were made and set aside for political service. The eunuch
knows what it is like to be unlike almost everyone else—not fitting in. But he has an important
role, too! He is in charge of the Ethiopian banks! He is a brutalized banker—wealthy and poor,
all at once. An insider and an outsider.
The eunuch is a person of privilege. He rides in a chariot; he has access to the Scriptures;
he can read! And yet he needs a guide. “How can I understand unless someone guides me?” (v.
31 GOD’S WORD Translation). He is an ignorant intellectual—educated and uninformed, all at
once.
The eunuch reminds us that though we might be surrounded by people of privilege—
without any need for God—we are all people who need a place to belong, a new start, and a
family. And this is exactly what the eunuch’s baptism provides.
Sermon:
1. Baptism creates a family for Jesus.
The text of Acts quotes the prophet Isaiah 53:7-8, but with one important change. Isaiah
ultimately affirms the death of the suffering servant—He was cut off from the land of the living
(Isaiah 53:8). But Acts changes the phrase to say, “For his life was taken from the earth” (Acts
8:33). This phrase reminds us of another event in Acts—the ascension of Jesus—where the same
root word is used to describe the ascension (airo). Whereas the phrase means devastation and
death in Isaiah, in Acts the story of Jesus has become one of victory and validation! The
crucified Jesus—who is the sheep led to the slaughter—is the risen and ascended Jesus who now
reigns from on high, at the right hand of God. The ascension of Jesus does not deprive Jesus of
descendents, but creates a family of many backgrounds—including the Ethiopian eunuch.
Application: I don’t know what brings you to this church. But if you have been
baptized—whether as an adult or as an infant—it is a sign that even if you have been far from
Jesus, He wants you to know He wants you to be part of His family. If you have not been
baptized, baptism is an important event that marks you as part of Jesus’ family because Jesus is
washing you by His Spirit. The response of the eunuch, as Philip explains the good news of
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Jesus, is to be baptized. The eunuch becomes part of Jesus’ family! And so can you! Have you
been baptized? If not, then why not? If you have, then remember your baptism!
1. Baptism gives us a story to tell.
The text of Isaiah tells the story of a leader suffering injustice and death. The suffering
servant’s life is cut off from the living and there is no ongoing story of his descendants. When
you remember the importance of a Jewish person’s heritage—the genealogies that we so often
skip over!—we see the devastation that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 has no descendents.
But since Jesus has ascended and the eunuch baptized into His family, this means the eunuch is
His descendent. This new sense of belonging seems to take root immediately in the eunuch. Acts
8:39 tells us that he went “on his way rejoicing.”
The phrase “on his way” is an affirmation of his ongoing faith. The early Christians were
called “followers of the way.” The eunuch being “on his way” is not just a literal description of
physical movement, but a communication of spiritual growth! And notice what he is doing: He is
rejoicing! He is praising God! No doubt he is sharing the story that he now belongs to Jesus.
Application: What is your story? Are you on the way, like the eunuch? Does your daily
life include rejoicing and sharing your story, like the eunuch? Do you share about what it means
to belong in Jesus? To have a fresh start in Jesus? To have a family in Jesus?
2. Baptism creates a family of radically different people.
It is hard to imagine two more different people than Philip and the eunuch. They come
from different places; they have different heritages; they have different missions and callings in
life; they operate in different social strata. The eunuch rides in a chariot, while Philip travels in
the Spirit and on his feet. And yet the waters of baptism bring them together. Acts tells us that
“both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water” (Acts 8:38).
The Apostle Paul understood this concept well. In Galatians 3:26-28, Paul wrote, “26 So
in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into
Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor
free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Some of these differences are human-made (like between slaves and free persons); some
of them are created by God (like male and female). But Paul affirms that the family of God
overcomes all of these distinctions. We sometimes need to be reminded of this because even in
church, things can separate us. Not everyone will think like you and you will not always think
like me. We are radically different people drawn together in this family. But we cannot allow
these differences to separate us within Christ. When you’re family, you’re family. Jesus makes
us family. Baptism brings us not just into relationship with Jesus, but into relationship with each
other.
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Application: Are you at odds with someone in your church? Baptism reminds us of our
commitment to each other. Baptism reminds us that just as God forgave us and washed us of our
sins, so we must forgive each other.
Conclusion/Application:
There is one more lesson from this story. After baptizing the Ethiopian, Philip does not
enter into a spiritual retirement. His work is not finished. Instead, the Spirit takes Philip away
and he continues to minister. Our family isn’t complete. God’s family isn’t full. Stop and think
for a moment about someone who is not yet part of this family. What would they look like in
Christ? Paul tells us that Christians regard no one from a “worldly” point of view, but that in
Christ we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:16-17). Imagine this person encountering Jesus, like the
eunuch, and being baptized. What would their baptized version be like? Who could God make
them to be? This might be a family member, friend, co-worker. Whom does God want to make
part of His family? How can you be Philip to them this week?
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Nucleus 5 - Sermons - The Wesleyan Church