During the last month of this year TLI staff will be sharing stories of how God has used us in 2014. This one is from Josh Montague. Enjoy.
In October, a team of TLI teachers was in Lome, Togo teaching a number of courses at a seminary. Our teachers taught Old Testament Exegesis, Old Testament Theology, Old Testament Survey, while I was tasked with New Testament Exegesis.
As we examined narrative passages in the New Testament, we looked at the typical story structure found in much of the New Testament. From an initial setting, a conflict is introduced that moves into a climax. A resolution of some sort follows and then the narrative concludes with a new setting. Some semblance of this pattern can be found in many, if not most, of the New Testament stories.
We worked through a number of examples, paying particular attention to how the emphasis of the story was often found in either the climax or the new setting. Eventually we made our way to the account of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. The Ethiopian eunuch is a servant of Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. As we noted this historical detail, I reminded the students of the connection to the Old Testament queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10:1. In the Old Testament, an African queen travels to Jerusalem and encounters the glory of God. In the New Testament, one of Jesus’ commissioned disciples is taken by the Holy Spirit to encounter a representative of an African queen.
I mentioned the connection because of the obvious African connections, but the students seemed more excited than I was expecting. There was a buzz in the room. As I queried them, they mentioned that the Togolese people trace their roots to Ethiopia. So we were examining a story with great genealogical significance and their enthusiasm level was noticeably affected.
The book of Acts traces the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and then then to the “ends of the earth”. Sitting here in a Wisconsin coffeeshop, I’m at the ends of the earth according to the New Testament’s perspective. In a small seminary in west Africa, these men were able to see the gospel’s historic spread from the location of Jesus’ death and resurrection to where their ancestors were said to have lived.
I’m not an anthropologist and I make no claim to understand the genealogical roots of west African people groups, but I can read Scripture and see Jesus’ promise to Philip and the rest of his disciples in Acts 1:8: “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
About half of the men in my class were pastors in the city of Lome. A number of them, however, were planning on planting churches in small villages in the more remote areas of northern Togo, where the gospel has not penetrated at all. We were teaching men who would take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus’ promise was fulfilled as the Spirit moved Philip and others to witness to people such as the Ethiopian eunuch. Christian tradition has this Ethiopian official taking the news of Jesus back to his people in Africa. Jesus’ promise is still being fulfilled as faithful Togolese pastors plant churches in areas where there is no gospel witness.