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The Conversion of the Ethiopian

By Mike Johnson

The conversion case of the eunuch from Ethiopia is one of the more familiar conversion cases in the Bible. We know that the facts are accurate because they come from the inspired Word of God (1 Timothy 3:16-17).
The conversion is recorded in Acts 8. The account takes a natural division. First, verses 26-29 tell us about the bringing together of the preacher and the sinner. Next, verses 30-35 reveal Philip "preaching Jesus" to the Ethiopian, and then verses 36-39 tell of the response of the eunuch. Consider the following lessons.

1.      The importance of the individual is seen. Philip, according to Acts 8:5-25, had been preaching in the area of Samaria. This was a populated area and was a place where Philip had much success. Yet, an angel of God spoke to Philip and told him to go to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. There he met the eunuch and preached to him. Thus, Philip was sent from a populated area to preach to one person. This shows us that God views each individual as important. He wants salvation for everyone (1 Peter 3:9).

2.      A religious man needed to be saved. The eunuch was a religious man. He had been to Jerusalem to worship God (v. 27). Nevertheless, he still needed to hear the truth and obey Christ so that he might be saved. Such was also the case with Cornelius who was a God-fearing man (Acts 10:2,22) but was an unsaved man (Acts 11:14). It takes more than being a religious person to be saved.

3.      Preaching Jesus meant preaching baptism. Verse 35 says that Philip "...preached unto him Jesus." After hearing "Jesus preached" they came to a certain water, and the eunuch said, "See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" This helps us to see that preaching Jesus involves preaching baptism. The Bible tells us that baptism is necessary for salvation (Acts 2:38). Many claim to "preach Jesus," and yet they hardly ever mention the subject of baptism.

4.      The proper mode of baptism is seen. The Bible teaches that baptism is a "burial" (Romans 6:4, Col. 2:12). The word translated baptism means "immersion." The case of the eunuch (Acts 8) is in perfect accord with the rest of the Bible's teaching that baptism is a burial or immersion. They came "unto a certain water" (v. 36), they "went down both into the water" (v. 38), and they "came up out of the water" (v. 39). The language is quite clear if immersion is being described. However, it is difficult to understand if sprinkling or pouring water is under consideration. Sprinkling or pouring water on a person's head is not baptism at all. The Bible teaches that baptism is immersion or burial.

5.      He confessed Christ. The eunuch was not required to confess and memorise various articles of faith or to pledge allegiance to a denomination before he was baptized. No, he simply confessed Christ (note Romans 10:10). Many are guilty of adding conditions before baptism that the Lord does not require.

6.      He was baptized immediately. The eunuch did not have to wait for the church to vote on him before he could be baptized. He did not have to wait for others to decide to be baptized so that they could have a big baptising day. He did not have to tell his experience. He simply responded to God's Word and became a Christian. He was baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4, Gal. 3:27). Have you ever read in the Bible where one had to be "voted on" before he could be baptized?

The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch serves as a pattern for us today. Each individual is important to God and worthy of our teaching. Our teaching must centre on Christ and baptism cannot be ignored in salvation. Most important, we must follow God's will explicitly and not take it upon ourselves to change His will for our convenience.

Presented by the Cape Rd Church of Christ.

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