Bible League International’s mission is compelled by the story of Philip and the Ethiopian official from Acts 8:26-40. This story embodies both our heart and our practice of Scripture engagement. Philip, directed by the Holy Spirit, comes into close proximity to this official and hears him reading from the book of Isaiah. He asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The official responds, “How can I understand? I need someone to explain it to me” (Acts 8:30-31, ERV). With that opening, Philip sits down with him and, starting from the same Scripture the official was reading, he “told the man the Good News about Jesus” (Acts:8:35, ERV).
There are two things that I find so meaningful and fascinating about this story. First, I see that the Holy Spirit has orchestrated this encounter from start to finish. This was no random occurrence or coincidence. The Spirit of God sent Philip to the Gaza road and prompted him to go near the official. While the Scripture doesn’t say explicitly what Philip thought or felt about the Spirit’s direction, I imagine this wasn’t part of his schedule or strategic plan. Acts says that he simply “got ready and went” (Acts 8:27). I am humbled by Philip’s unquestioning obedience. He was so captured by the “sending heart” of our God and his mission to “bring about the redemption of the world.”1 While God may not send us to some obscure location as he did with Philip (although he could!), his Spirit still sends us every moment and every day to be ready to come close to others and to share the Good News with them. His mission is our mission every day!
Second, I am amazed by the way Philip explained the Scripture so that the official could understand…most especially to understand the Good News about Jesus. God intends for the Scriptures to be understood! God’s Spirit speaks to us through them while we are on our “Gaza road” – in our ordinary, daily life as we go about our business. The Scriptures are meant to be accessible to us in both our sacred and ordinary moments…and especially in our moments of failure, sin, and shame. In this story, we see the Holy Spirit use a person, Philip, to help the official understand the Scriptures in a way that leads him to a new life in Jesus. Rather than enrapturing the official in some otherworldly vision in which the mystery of the Scripture was revealed to him, the Holy Spirit used an obedient person to explain the Scripture and share the Gospel. The extraordinary occurred in the ordinary…and the official’s life was transformed forever.
I love how theologian and author Eugene Peterson expresses this, “The word ‘book’ (Greek biblion, which arrives in our language as ‘Bible’) suggests that the message God gives to us has meaning, plot, and purpose. Writing a book involves ordering words in a purposeful way. These words make sense. We do not come to God by guesswork: God reveals himself. These scriptural words reveal the Word that created heaven and earth; they reveal the Word that became human flesh in Jesus for our salvation. God’s word is written, handed down, and translated for us so that we can enter the plot. We hold these Bibles in our hands and read them so that we can listen and respond to these creating and saving words and get in, firsthand, on the creating and saving.”2
For this reason, Bible League International’s passion is easy-to-understand Scripture engagement. Our commitment is to Engage Everyone in God’s Word…and to do so in a language they can understand. In obedience to the Lord, we are committed to a scholarly and accurate translation of our Bible text.3 But we are also intent on using a style or language that lowers barriers to understanding and encourages rich experiences of Scripture engagement for anyone…from first-time to seasoned readers of the Bible.4 Our joy is to provide an easy-to-understand Bible, along with Scripture engagement training and resources, so that ordinary people, like you and me, all over the world are equipped and ready for every moment that the Spirit of God sends us into to share the Good News of Jesus with others.
1Scott W. Sunquist, Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), p. 7.
2Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), p. 20.
3Bible League International, Easy-to-Understand Scripture Engagement [internal policy statement].