The Ethiopian Eunuch
This is the second article in a series of lessons on New Testament examples of conversion. While each example illustrates obedience to the same commands, each also demonstrates something quite different from the point of view of the convert. The first converts on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) were all practicing Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Pentecost holiday. Acts 3-5 tells of the beginning of the persecution of the church by the Jewish authorities. Acts 6 describes the first internal division within the church, caused by a questioning with regard of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews with regard to the taking care of their widows. This was resolved quickly by the appointing of faithful men to look over this process.
The end of Acts 6 and all of Acts 7 tells of the persecution, defense and the murder of Stephen. After this there was a scattering of the Christians who had been localized to Jerusalem to this point. There are no cases of conversions recorded in Acts 3-7. However, the scattering of the Christians had the effect of spreading the word, since: "They therefore that were scattered abroad, went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). In particular, the disciples (excluding the apostles) went throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. The conversions of the first Samaritans are described in Acts 8:5-13.
The specific conversion that we want to discuss here begins in Acts 8:26 and extends to the end of the chapter. It is a story about the conversion of an Ethiopian man who was a Jewish proselyte and was returning home after worshiping in Jerusalem. It demonstrates that the gospel is to extend to all races and nationalities (Mt. 28:19).
WHAT DOTH HINDER ME
To be baptized? (Acts 8:36). This is what the Ethiopian asked after learning the gospel from Philip. What a wonderful attitude he had! Let us study his characteristics so that we can follow his example:
1. He was attempting to learn more about God. He was reading from Isaiah the prophet when Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading (30).
2. He had an open mind. He was willing to reason about the truth with a person (Philip) who seemed to be knowledgeable in the scriptures (30-31).
3. He depended on the scriptures as the basis for his authority. Philip's explanation of these scriptures fit the facts as the Ethiopian Eunuch knew them, and he accepted them as truth (32-35).
4. Once he learned the truth, he wanted to immediately act on it. Hence, the question that is the title of this article (36).
5. He willingly confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God (37)
6. He gladly allowed himself to be baptized by Philip (38).
7. He went on his way rejoicing because he knew he was saved and his sins were forgiven (39).
In compliance with the commands of Jesus, the Ethiopian man heard, believed, repented of his sins, was willing to confess his belief, and was baptized for the remission of his sins. In this regard his conversion was identical to those on Pentecost.
It is interesting that there was no church sanction for the baptism of the Ethiopian. Philip was not authorized to baptize by any church, he was authorized by Jesus Christ (Mt.28:18f), as are all preachers of the gospel.
It is interesting to notice, the Eunuch did not go to a place where there was a church. However, he carried with him the seeds (the truth) by which more Christians could be made and by which a church would therefore be formed in Ethiopia. History tells us that there were churches formed in that part of the world. Although the scriptures are silent on this, it would seem reasonable that they were the result of the truth preached by this new convert. This would fit the model given by Paul (2 Tim.2:2).
Ye often hear it said
You can be baptized anytime .
But the Ethiopian asked (Acts 8:36):
Behold, (here is) water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?
This man was obviously a devout Jew, and recognized that something was missing in his obedience to God. It is clear that he did not wish to delay this act of obedience for one second longer than would be necessary. Philip "preached unto him Jesus" and this included the entire plan of salvation. The Ethiopian man obviously heard the truth, and he believed what he heard. While the subject of repentance is not specifically mentioned in this case of conversion, it is clear that the Ethiopian had an attitude of service to God that would motivate him to turn from his sins. The fact that he was penitent is evidenced by Philip's response to him when he asked: "Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Philip's response was : If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. The Ethiopian man responded with the rock and foundation of the church (Mt.16:18): "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Finally, it is clear that the baptism (immersion) that they practiced here was water baptism.
This example is very explicit and simple. Can we go wrong if we follow the example of obedience of these faithful men? To ask the question is to answer it.
YOU FIND THE ANSWERS
These Bible study questions provide assistance to you in studying and teaching God's word. The answers are quite clear, and they prove that we can have the same understanding as the apostles had by reading what they wrote (Eph. 1:4). We challenge you that you open your Bible and establish the truth.
AND HE BAPTIZED HIM. (Acts 8)
- Were some in the first century directly guided by the Holy Spirit? (26)
- Why was the Ethiopian man in Jerusalem? (27)
- What was he doing while sitting in his chariot? (28)
- What demonstrated Philip's obedience? (30)
- Did the Ethiopian man ask for help? (31)
- Who was Isaiah referring to? (32-33)
- Did the Ethiopian man understand this? (34)
- What was it that Philip preached to him? (35)
- Does preaching Jesus include preaching about baptism? (36)
- What is the only thing that can stand in the way of baptism? (37)
- Did they practice sprinkling, pouring or immersion? (38-39)
- Was the Ethiopian man saved at that point? (39)
- Was this man saved the same way as those on Pentecost? (Acts 2)