Acts 8:27

 

Today we are baptizing Moeroa and that is neat.

 

Let us go back to a baptism that occurred in the first century and some truths that come out of this incident:

 

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, 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 snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

 

First lesson is that no one is barred from following God:

 

The Ethiopian official of the Ethiopian queen, was a proselyte to Judaism, in a class called a God fearer. However, if he was in fact castrated (the meaning of eunuch), he would have been unfit to enter the temple according to the Mosaic law (Deut 23:1).

 

The writer of Acts, Luke may have included this episode in Acts to show that the kingdom of God was open to those who were formerly shut out, such as foreigners and eunuchs (see Isa 56:3–5).[1]

 

One of Luke's great concerns in his writings in Luke and Acts is that obstacles of age (Lk 18:16), religious tradition, old or new (Lk 9:49-50; 11:52), race or ethnic origin (Acts 10:47; 11:17), or physical condition (8:36) must not keep people from hearing and applying to themselves the gospel of salvation.[2]

 

No one, male female, slave, free, genius or imbecile, foreigner or local. No one is prohibited from following Jesus.

 

Galatians 3:27  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

 

Second: there is no threshold of Bible knowledge to qualify

 

In this case, the official had a prior knowledge of God. He had been worshipping God in Jerusalem. He was reading the Hebrew Bible, but with limited knowledge of what he was reading.  Philip explained how the scripture he was reading was about Jesus. On realizing that the scriptures were about Jesus, the official wanted to be immediately baptized.

 

There is a verse in the KJV that is not in any other translation because it cannot be confirmed by ancient texts. But in the context of the passage it seems to make sense to include. In response to the official’s question “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”, the absent verse 37 says

Acts 8:37 KJV And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

 

Confession of Christ as Lord is the only pre requisite of baptism.

 

Later the church decided that there needed to be period of study before baptism – catechism. But that was not what happened in the time of the book of Acts.  Confession of Christ as Lord and saviour, then baptized straight away. Think of other new Testament baptisms: Cornelius and his family for example, or the crowds at Pentecost – confession then baptism straight away

 

Acts 22:16 ESV

And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

 

Acts 16:30-33 ESV

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

 

Third:  it is a choice of the one being baptized.

 

It was not Philip who told the official that he needed to be baptized. It was the official who said he wanted to be.  We cannot compel people to be baptized, or even to follow Jesus. It is a free will choice.

 

Although of course there is command that we should all be baptized.

 

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

But God waits for our free will offering of obedience.

 

Fourth: It brings all to the same level. 

 

Here was a court official from the kingdom of Ethiopia. A man of influence and power, yet he humbled himself to be baptized.  This is in contrast to another incident of a foreigner bathing.

 

Remember the Syrian general Naaman who had leprosy. He went to Israel to be healed by the prophet, yet balked when the prophet told him to bathe 7 times in the River Jordan.  Why would I want to bathe in these dirty foreign waters he said, there are better waters in my home country.  The Ethiopian had no such qualms. “Here is water, why can’t I be baptized in it?”

 

Fifth: Baptism releases us into service.

 

The Ethiopian church recall the eunuch as the first evangelist to Ethiopia.

 

Baptism releases us into service to God.

 

Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)
38  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Ethiopian Eunuch. In The Lexham Bible Dictionary..

[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Acts/Philip-Ethiopian-Eunuch