"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
2) That this man was truly religious, and yet unsaved. He had just visited
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
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
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