Sulam Ya'aqov Messianic Fellowship (The Fellowship Of Jacob's Ladder) LARGE TITLE
Monday, 10 December 2018

The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch

(A study of the key verses)

Key verses: Acts 8:34-38.

NKJV
34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptised?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”[a]
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into
[a] NU-Text and M-Text omit this verse. It is found in Western texts, including the Latin tradition.

KJV
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 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?
37 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.
38 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.

NB. No great differences then between the verses of the NKJV and the KJV although a margin note in the NKJV points out that the whole of verse 37 is not in many of the texts that we have.

Teaching/Comments:
Verse 36.
It is clear from the context that much has happened between verses 34 & 35 and verse 36.

– Philip has preached Jesus…the gospel of salvation has been explained.
– Isaiah 53 is the passage used to proclaim the gospel message. See comments on this passage of at the end of the teaching as a summing up.
– The eunuch has understood the gospel and come to faith in Yeshua’s saving work…and presumably has confessed (at least in his heart) his sin, his need of a redeemer, and has repented of his sin and believes in the efficacy of the atoning blood of Yeshua for his sin.
– Philip has told the eunuch about baptism as a sign of faith in Yeshua and commitment to Him as Lord.
– The eunuch wants to be baptised

So we see that much has happened in between the verses! A miracle of salvation.

Verse 36 – Now as they went down the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptised?”

It is a question that is directly put to Philip, the eunuch sees a body of water and seeks baptism. So, using the grammatical rule of exegesis and the contextual being the first level of rightly dividing the word of truth, we can see that this is a direct question asked of Philip. The eunuch is asking for himself – since it seems quite clear the eunuch is not asking himself ‘should I be baptised?’ He clearly wants to be baptised but the key words are ‘what hinders me?’ He is asking Philip, as a man of God who understands baptism, ‘Is there anything that stops me being baptised?’. It is important to clarify this here – see comments re verse 37 to see why and also the explanation of verse 38 below.
People don’t normally talk to themselves and you obviously cannot just go and baptise yourself it is a public declaration of a personal and inward declaration of the heart, mind and tongue, unless of course you cannot speak. Philip baptises the eunuch and the rest of the entourage would have seen the event take place, so there were witnesses as with all baptisms.
Within this whole story, we see a divine appointment. Salvation is of God, it is He who calls, (foreknowledge, predestination, called, chosen, part of the elect) knowing who will receive and who will reject. Philip has already explained to the Eunuch who Isaiah the prophet was speaking of and about in Isaiah chapter 53:7-8 within the scroll of the Prophets. (Verse 35 – Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Yeshua to him.)
It is now as they draw near to a body of water that the Eunuch asks to be baptised. Here is obedience, his past sins are forgiven and so we must deduce that Philip in verse 35 taught this Ethiopian Eunuch about repentance and being baptised in Yeshua to receive eternal life.
(Verse 35 – Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Yeshua to him.) Philip must have explained the great privilege of baptism, to identify oneself with Messiah – in the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua.
Cf. Romans 6:1-7. Verses 1-2 and 7 are very important. We are not to continue in sin v1 and we are freed or cleared (margin note) from our sin in verse 7.
This body of water was probably a pool, an oasis in the desert area as verse 26 speaks of Philip being instructed by an angel of the Lord to go south from Jerusalem to Gaza and the area was desert or (margin) a deserted place.

Verse 37 – Then Philip said “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Here is an open question posed by the Eunuch towards Philip and is a clear response to what Philip has said! This is important because the Holy Spirit is ensuring that we understand through Philip’s response what is the essential pre-requisite for being baptised! What is clear from the verse is that faith in Yeshua’s saving and redeeming sacrifice is the prime requirement and a confession of that faith. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, confirms this – Romans 10:9-10. ‘That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’

The eunuch gives a declaration of faith and confesses Yeshua HaMashiach hoo Ben Elohim. Philip takes the eunuch at his word without questioning his past, no discipleship programme involved. The eunuch has put Yeshua in charge of his life, to guard, guide and grow him. Sanctification is an on-going process and we are all to – ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and do for His good pleasure.’ Philippians 2:12b-13.

What did follow all this? The eunuch, being a high ranking official, would have returned back to his land – where there were many religions (including Judaism) – and in working in such a high position this eunuch may well have required the same understanding, of the restrictions of a ‘Christian’ working in a culture of idolatry, such as that which Elijah shows to Naaman (2 Kings 5:18-19). However, as we know today, what followed was the growth of Christianity in Ethiopia; such that it may lay claim to being the first nation to have Christianity as its state religion; even today it is about 60% Christian. Amazing – all beginning with this eunuch and his baptism! Glory to God.

Verse 38 – So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
Philip immersed this new believer and those in the caravan would have seen and witnessed that the eunuch had professed faith in Yeshua as his personal Saviour. This eunuch had gone to worship in Jerusalem – verse 27. Presumably as a proselyte as eunuchs were barred from first class citizenship in Judaism. Cf. Deuteronomy 23:1. They were limited to the status of being a proselyte of the gate! Now no longer under the Law he was a fully forgiven and baptised member of the Church, the household of God and part of the Commonwealth of Israel. Hallelujah.

Notes from The Applied New Testament Commentary by Thomas Hale M.D. F.A.C.S.

Verses 36-38. (Page 484-485). When he had finished telling the eunuch about Jesus Christ, Philip baptised him. The eunuch did not have to wait a long time. Philip did not say: “I can’t baptise you now. You need more teaching. Come back another time.” Philip did not say: “Before I can baptise you, I need proof that your faith is genuine.” No, Philip didn’t say these things. Rather, as soon as Philip had finished explaining the Gospel and the eunuch had believed, Philip baptised him. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that a person must wait a long time and receive extensive teaching before he can be baptised. Nowhere is it written that a person must first prove that his faith is genuine before being baptised. These ideas do not come from the New Testament. If any person, after hearing the Gospel, believes in Jesus Christ and asks for baptism, he should be baptised at the first suitable occasion and not be made to wait. Only God knows whether a person has truly believed from his heart or not. We men cannot know for sure. Therefore, even though we cannot be absolutely sure of a person’s faith, we must not refuse him if he asks for baptism; otherwise we will be disobeying the New Testament. Yes, it’s possible that a few will be baptised who do not have true faith; but it is God’s business to judge them, not ours.

Concluding Remarks – Isaiah 53:1-12.
Isaiah chapter 53 points the reader to Messiah.
Its points us to our sinfulness – our going astray, and turning to our own ways.
Consequently, it points us to Him bearing our sin – He has borne our grief, carried our sorrows. The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.
It points us to His suffering for our sins – Smitten, afflicted, bruised for our iniquities
It points us to His death and the consequence of our sin – Being cut off from the land of the living as a sin offering.
It points us to His glorious resurrection in power and splendour (which is our hope) – He is the Strong Arm of the Lord and He will see His seed, and the labour of His soul and be satisfied. He will receive a portion with the great. It points us to our healing, through Him.
My point is that Isaiah 53 is not a missive on holiness of life – but rather a focus on the suffering servant who bore our sins. This is Whom and what we are identifying with in baptism, and the newness of life we now have in Him.
The practical application of newness of life has begun through the profession of faith and the desire to be baptised. The sanctifying work of the Spirit is then a life long journey. Amen.

Baptisms in the Book of Acts.
Acts 2:41 – about 3,000 were immediately baptised after repenting in the name of Jesus.
Acts 8:38. The eunuch is immediately baptised after confessing Jesus as the Son of God.
Acts 9:18. Saul receives his sight and is immediately baptised after receiving the Holy Spirit.
Acts 10:47-48. Many Gentiles are immediately baptised after receiving the Holy Spirit.
Acts 16:13-15. Lydia is immediately baptised after hearing the way of salvation from Paul.
Acts 16:33. The jailor and his family are immediately baptised after believing Jesus is Lord.
Acts 19:1-7. Twelve men taught by Paul are then immediately baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.
From these 7 accounts, we can see that baptism took place the same day after people believed in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. It was an outward sign of their inward belief and confession.
May this teaching be used to the edification of many who wish to see what is written for us.

JG/MH/JY.

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