By David Faust
We don’t know the name of the chariot-rider who rolls across the scene in Acts chapter 8, but we know a lot about him:
• He was a prominent government leader, presumably well-off and well-educated, “an important official in charge of all the treasury” for the queen of Ethiopia (Acts 8:27).
• He was serious about the one true God. Though he lived in North Africa, he “had gone to Jerusalem to worship” (v. 27).
• He was a student of Scripture. During the trip home to Ethiopia, he “was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet” (v. 28).
• He had a teachable spirit. Philip ran alongside the chariot and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” and the Ethiopian responded, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” He was reading Isaiah 53—a prophetic passage about the Messiah—and “Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (vv. 30-35). After hearing the gospel, the Ethiopian noticed an oasis or stream near the road and said, “Look, here is water. What could stand in the way of my being baptized?” (v. 36).
An Eager Response
What a great attitude! After hearing the truth about Christ, the Ethiopian didn’t hesitate. He wanted to know, “Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” not, “Why do I have to be baptized?”
Why shouldn’t I be baptized, since Jesus included it as part of becoming his disciple? (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism is the only biblical edict specifically commanded to be carried out “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Why shouldn’t I be baptized, and by doing so express my repentance and my faith in Christ? Philip must have explained the gospel to the Ethiopian the same way Peter did on the Day of Pentecost when those who heard about Jesus “were cut to the heart” and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “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” (Acts 2:37, 38).
Why shouldn’t I follow the pattern of believers’ baptism practiced by the early church? In Samaria, “when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (8:12).
Why shouldn’t I be baptized, since immersion in water pictures the death and burial of my sinful life and my resurrection to new life in Christ? (Romans 6:1-5; Colossians 2:12).
Why shouldn’t I welcome the joy that results from being at peace with God? Baptism is “the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21). When the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized, they experienced great joy because of their new faith in God (Acts 16:34). After the Ethiopian was baptized by Philip, he “went on his way rejoicing” (8:39).
A Gracious Privilege
Some question whether we must be baptized, but the Ethiopian’s attitude models a better approach: We get to be baptized.
My own baptism took place nearly half a century ago, but I remember it with joy. I consider it a privilege that I could embrace God’s grace through a humble act of faith authorized by Christ himself and practiced by generations of Christians since the first century. Why wouldn’t anyone want to do that?
1. How would you explain why someone should be baptized?
2. What does your church teach about the meaning of baptism?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for January 19, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Genesis 32, 33
Genesis 34, 35
Genesis 37, 38
Genesis 39, 40
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