Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Acts 8:26-38 - A Baptism Message

This is the transcript of a message that was given at the baptism of a dear friend of mine.

"And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 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. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." - Acts 8:26-38


There are many baptism accounts in the book of Acts that I could have chosen to speak from, but I chose to speak from this one because it’s so simple, and yet so complete, in its testimony of what the gospel is, and what baptism is.

This passage tells us the story of a man’s salvation. I’d like you to notice three things about the man in this story:

1) That it was God who pursued this man, and that if God had not pursued him he would not have been saved. Philip was sent on a divine appointment into the desert to meet this man, a place where he would not have naturally gone. Had God not sent Philip, the man would have returned to Ethiopia in ignorance of God’s salvation and would more than likely have perished in his sins.

2) That this man was truly religious, and yet unsaved. He had just visited Jerusalem, the city of God, to worship God. This verse reveals to us that he was a proselyte, a Gentile, who, like many, had joined himself to the Jews in recognition that the one true God of all was also the God of Israel. He had gone to the right place at the right time, and yet still remained ignorant of the salvation of God through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. An onlooker may have thought this man was alright, but God sent Philip to him because he was not alright. His life was still unredeemed, and the wrath of God still hung over his head because he, like every one else, was a sinner. “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10). Whether you are Jew or Gentile, religious or irreligious, you are a sinner, and until you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you stand eternally condemned before God. You may, like the Ethiopian, go to church and worship God and do all the right things, but be just as unsaved and in peril as he.

3) He read the Scriptures, but did not understand them, and was humble enough to admit that and to ask for help in understanding them. He read the Scriptures, but that was not enough. In order for a person to be saved they must believe in Christ, and in order for them to believe in Christ they must first understand who He is and what exactly He did for them. That is why Philip asked the question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” And it is important that we ask ourselves that same question. Sure you may own a Bible and have read it your whole life, but if you do not understand what you are reading, your faith and your hope of salvation may be completely erroneous and therefore useless. We must “know whom we have believed”.

Now it tells us what place the Ethiopian was reading from. The text of Scripture that he was reading was from the 53rd chapter of the Prophet Isaiah: the most profound Messianic prophecy in all of the Old Testament. In it describes the death of Christ on behalf of the sins of his people: Isaiah 53:5-12. It is from this very text that Philip opens his mouth and preaches Christ to the Ethiopian. It doesn’t tell us what Philip’s sermon was, because that is unnecessary. He preached Christ, and we know what the preaching of Christ is, not merely because it has already been shown to us before in the book of Acts, but because of the marvelous text that He is preaching from: Isaiah 53. To preach Isaiah 53 is to preach Christ, and vice versa. I can tell you it went something like this:

Jesus of Nazareth, whom you heard all about while you were in Jerusalem, is the man spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. He is the Holy One of God, the Messiah and Savior whom God promised would come and save us from our sins. You see, all people everywhere have gone astray from God, like sheep, and have sinned, falling short of God’s standard of righteousness, so that we all deserve to die. The punishment for sin is to be accursed, eternally separated from God, and to suffer forever in a place of fiery torment. The requirement to be received into eternal life is to be righteous, and in the sight of God no one is righteous. For God to declare a person as righteous they would have to have no sin, or else God would be unjust, a compromiser, and turn a blind eye to sin. Since no one is righteous, all are in need of the Savior. God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus into the world to die in the place of sinners and bear their sins on their behalf. Christ Himself said, “The Son of man has come to give His life a ransom for many.” He was cut off, but not for Himself. “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to our own way, but the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus died upon a cross and paid for the sins of the world, then He rose from the dead the third day proving that He is the Son of the God and that He has atoned for sin by the sacrifice of Himself! Because the Lord laid upon Him our iniquity, it no longer is counted against those who believe, and they are freed from sin, forgiven and justified in God’s sight. Through Christ’s death, God can look upon sinners and declare them fully righteous in His sight, and therefore all those who believe are saved from eternal death and are given the gift of eternal life. That is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

It must have been quite a sight to see that wealthy and regal black man listening in the chariot to a poor and haggard Jewish man, but that day the royal treasurer of Ethiopia believed the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and was gloriously saved from his sins! Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1) The Ethiopian was miraculously born again by the Spirit of God, who opened his heart to receive the Word and gave him the faith to believe!

See now this beautiful picture. They come upon some water along the way. The Ethiopian asks this significant question which we may learn from: “What doth hinder me from being baptized?” An interesting, but helpful way to phrase the question! “The answer, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The only condition: to believe. To believe the record that Jesus is the Christ, the one of whom Isaiah spoke of. The one through whom comes the forgiveness of sins, by His death. He is baptized.

There are only two Christian ordinances in the New Testament: the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Both are symbolic: the one represents Christ’s body and blood that was given for us for the remission of sins: what happened to Him. The other represents the individual’s new birth and union with Christ: what happened to the individual. Both are given to us by God for explanation, for reference, for remembrance. Both focus on the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins, but neither of them actually contributes to that work. As we take communion, we recognize the sacrifice Christ made for us to pay for our sins, when He gave up His life. When we are baptized, we recognize the individual’s participation by faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, how that in Christ, the sinner is dead to sin by the body of Christ and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Baptism is a confession. It is not a step to exaltation and glory, but of humility. The believer acknowledges that he or she is a sinner who deserves to die, and that Christ died that death for them. But it is also a recognition of hope, that as Christ has died and put away our sins as far as the east is from the west, so has He risen, and we have risen with Him to newness of life before God. We are forever justified, saved and possessors of eternal life. Death has no more dominion!

This is what Bethanie is doing in obedience to the Lord today. She is not doing this to tell everyone how great a person she is, or to earn points with God, or to get her sins forgiven. She is confessing to everyone that she is a sinner, but that her sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus the Christ who died for her at Calvary, just as Isaiah 53 foretold. This is a day of remembrance and celebration for what Jesus, our Victor, has freely done for her. To God alone be all the glory. Amen.

4 comments:

Micah and Katie said...

I like it! : )

Anonymous said...

I got more out of it the second time! thanks Eli! It's a beautiful explanation of salvation and what baptism is, using scripture.

Bethanie said...

I am so very glad my friends could hear God's Truth spoken through you at my baptism! Thank you for posting it so I could have the chance to read on my own, here in the quiet of my apartment in China, and meditate on God's total approval of His daughter through Jesus blood alone! To God be the glory. Yours, Bethanie

earlericky@gmail.com said...

strong word of encouragement!