Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education
Estimated Reading Time: 7 min.
Did you know that welcoming instruction in the Bible from others is a desirable and necessary quality for effective Bible study?
There are numerous examples in Scripture, but this article will deal with an incident involving a non-Israelite in the early years of the Church of God. This person realized that his understanding from his reading of the Book of Isaiah was limited and that he needed someone to guide him. The two individuals involved in this account from Acts 8:26-40 are Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
We are first introduced to Philip in Acts 6, where he was appointed as one of seven men (later known as deacons) to serve the needy widows of the church. Philip appears next in Acts 8 when he travels to the city of Samaria to preach Christ following a scattering of the church in Jerusalem due to persecution. From here on, some sources refer to him as Philip the Evangelist to distinguish him from the Apostle Philip (Acts 21:8).
Starting in Acts 8:26 we learn that God’s angel next moves Philip to head south from Jerusalem to Gaza on the main road to Egypt. There he meets a God-fearer (a Gentile who worshiped the God of Israel but was not a full convert) from Ethiopia (Nubia) who is heading home from Jerusalem where he had traveled to worship. This man is described as a eunuch (v. 26), which was either an emasculated man or a high official, who worked closely with the queen as her finance minister. While riding in his chariot (indicating he was a man of means), he reads the scroll of Isaiah (vv. 27-28). It was common then to read aloud. Philip is guided by the Spirit (v. 29) to join this man’s chariot after hearing the Ethiopian’s reading of a particular Messianic passage.
Upon approaching this man’s entourage, Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading (v. 30). The Ethiopian could have been insulted by such a question, assuming he did not need anyone to teach him God’s written word. John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible characterizes this Ethiopian’s attitude as “…of an excellent spirit and temper; since instead of answering in a haughty and disdainful manner, as great men are too apt to do; and instead of charging Philip with, impertinence and insolence, in interrupting him whilst reading, and putting such a question to him, he expresses himself with great and uncommon modesty; with a sense and confession of his ignorance and incapacity and of the necessity and usefulness of the instructions of men, appointed of God to open and explain the Scriptures…” (e-Sword 12.1).
Instead, the Ethiopian replies in v. 31, “How can I except some man guide me?” He recognized his need for a man of God to teach him the meaning of this passage. The Pulpit Commentary explains his approach: “The humility and thirst for instruction of this great courtier are very remarkable, and the instance of the joint use of the written Word and the living teacher is noteworthy” (e-Sword 12.1). He humbled himself before this man of God, inviting Philip to climb aboard his chariot to provide spiritual instruction. He was reading a passage from Isaiah 53, one of the clearest prophecies of Jesus’ sacrifice, which is requoted in Acts 8:32-33.
In v. 34 the eunuch asked if this passage referred to Isaiah or someone else. This opened the door for Philip to preach to him Jesus as the expected Messiah (v. 35). Philip then asked the man if he believed what he read and the Ethiopian replied that he did and then asked what hindered him from baptism (v. 36). Philip baptizes him after the man professed his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (v. 37). Philip then is instantly guided by the Spirit on to new territory (v. 39). The eunuch never saw Philip again but continued his journey home rejoicing (v. 38-39).
This story contains a significant lesson for every serious student of God’s written word: we all need teachers. Some mistakenly believe today that when they begin to study the Bible as novices that they are already fully equipped to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy_2:15 ). This self-reliant approach can lead well-intentioned but ill-equipped people to erroneous conclusions about what the Bible teaches. The Common Man’s Reference Bible annotation on John 16:13 says, “The Holy Ghost [Spirit] will guide a sincere and humble student into all truth who does not seek to justify his preconceived ideas” (Bible Analyzer 184.108.40.206).
God has provided us with trained and skilled teachers who have spent years studying the Bible and who are guided by God’s Holy Spirit with discernment, wisdom, and understanding. Each of us needs to tap into their reservoir of knowledge for principles on how to apply the Scriptures. Notice Paul’s questions about this learning process: Rom 10:14 KJV “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible identifies this Ethiopian as: “The humble, the teachable, the prayerful, the gentle of spirit – those who are willing to learn. A proud person who supposes that he already knows enough cannot be taught; a haughty person who has no respect for others, cannot learn of them; a person who is willing to believe nothing cannot be instructed. The first requisite, therefore, in the work of religion, as in respect to all kinds of knowledge, is a meek and docile spirit. See Matthew 18:3” (e-Sword 12.1). The word of God is a large and sometimes complex book with deep spiritual concepts that are not always self-evident. We need teachers to guide us.
This is not to say we cannot learn a limited amount on our own. David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary adds this explanation on v. 31: “This is the proper question of anyone who wants to understand the Bible. We should never feel bad if we need to be taught before we can understand many things…It is glorious when we come to understand the great truths of Scripture on our own, but God always has a place and a purpose for teachers in the body of Christ” (e-Sword 12.1).
There is also a place for utilizing Bible reference works. The Ultimate Cross-reference Library draws this important principle about personal Bible study from v. 31: “There is no necessity to reinvent the wheel. It is the height of egotism to suppose that we can go ourselves to the Bible alone, and learn all that God has for us in His Word, never utilizing cross references, concordances, commentaries and specialized topical studies, as though the Holy Spirit never assisted the labors of the writers and scholars that have gone before us. God will hold us responsible not only for what we know, but for what we could have known had we made the proper and diligent use of the means He has made available to us. Proper spiritual growth is dependent upon our careful and systematic study of the Word of God” (e-Sword 12.1).
We all could learn much more if only we applied ourselves to studying the Bible with the assistance of those who have “blazed the trail” before us! This enriching Bible narrative from Acts is for our learning (Romans 15:4). Let us all model this humble Gentile’s approach to biblical instruction.
Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.
Estimated Reading Time: 1 min. 20 sec.
Let’s say you’re about to read from the book of Judges, and you just finished going through the story of Samson with your son and daughter. Flipping ahead you see in chapter 19 the story of the Levite’s Concubine. You knew it was coming, but you were hoping it wasn’t so soon! But now you have to make a decision as you look at the earnest, expectant faces of your innocent children looking up at you. Is now the time to share this graphic account with them? Would they even understand it?
This is a simple example of the type of dilemma you might run into as you read the Scripture to your little ones. We want to be honest and accurate with our children as we teach them about the Bible, but here is where we have to exercise a little Godly wisdom. Are your children, who have very little exposure to the evils of the world, really ready to hear such disturbing material? Also, what about those long lists of genealogies? You might ask, “Well, since it’s the Bible, doesn’t that mean its age appropriate?”.
We must take care not to use the Bible (God’s Word) as an excuse to destroy innocence or to ignore the youthful perspective of our children. We are trying to instill in their minds a deep admiration and love for God and the Bible. We should also be mindful that “there is a time for everything” (Eccl. 3), and “not everything is beneficial” (1 Cor. 10:23).
There will be a time when our children should be introduced to every section of Scripture, but it may be best to save the reading of some parts of the Bible until they are able to appreciate and understand the purpose of those sections. Let’s be careful to remember and appreciate the season of innocence as we read to those impressionable minds from God’s word.
You have been considering applying to LivingEd-Charlotte and you find yourself scanning through the list of requirements to complete your application.
Basic info? Check. Official transcripts? Check. Recommendations? Easy. Autobiographical essay? Wait…what? Oh no, not an essay!
The very name Autobiographical Essay has sort of a daunting effect. But don’t let it scare you, and certainly don’t let it be the reason you decide not to finish your application! Writing an essay may not be your favorite activity, but if you apply these three basic principles to your writing, you’ll find this task is a cinch! Also, you’ll have all the ingredients to please the admissions panel.
The following tips are written to aid students who are applying to our LivingEd-Charlotte program. All applicants are required to submit an autobiographical essay as part of their application.
1.) Be Focused
The first element the panel is looking for is how completely you answered the prompt. There are four content elements that need to be included. Be sure to carefully answer each issue. Since there is a length requirement of 3-5 double-spaced pages it is necessary to get to the point and not become too wordy. The panel is looking for complete answers with relevant detail – enough to give some context, not too much to hold interest.
2.) Be Professional
These days, many students fall into the trap of casual writing. Writing about yourself means writing the way you speak, right? Nope. It means presenting who you are in an academic context. So, use a clear, easy-to-follow format, full sentences, proper grammar, and suitable vocabulary. Certainly your personality can, and should, come through when you write an essay about yourself, but it’s good to always keep in mind your audience which in this case is the admissions panel for a 9-month educational program. Sure, the panel wants to get a better sense of who you are by the time they finish reading your essay, so let them be left with a sense of your skillful attention to your use of words.
Quick Tip: Read, read, and re-read through your essay before you submit! Small, unchecked errors show a lack of consideration for detail on the part of the writer. You want to be sure that it is you who catches all the little spelling and grammar errors in your writing, not the guy reviewing your completed application.
3.) Be Real
In other words, be honest about who you are. While you want to present a polished essay, it’s okay to allow your personality to come through in your writing! Remember, the panel wants to get to know YOU! They want to learn what you are about, what some of your goals are, who you look up to, and why you want to come to Charlotte to spend nine months with a bunch of young people to learn about God’s way. While this is not the place to get super personal, you can certainly allow your own charm and unique characteristics to be evident in how you present yourself.
So that’s it! Be focused, professional, and real! If you think about these principles as you prepare your autobiography, you’ll be that much closer to stepping on-campus as an official member of the LivingEd-Charlotte family. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get writing!
Ready to begin your application? Begin Here!