Why shouldn’t I be baptised Acts 8:26-40

Acts 8:26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Here was an important man, the Ethiopian chancellor of the Exchequer. This man was not a Christian. Nor was he a Jew – because Jewish Law said that a eunuch was not allowed to become a Jew. But this Ethiopian was a God-fearing man. He had been to Jerusalem to worship. He was searching for God. And he may well have heard stories about Jesus. He may have heard about Jesus’s teaching and His miracles. He may have heard about Jesus’s crucifixion, and maybe even about Jesus’s resurrection. The Ethiopian was serious enough in his search for God to be reading his Bible, what we know as the Old Testament, in the chariot on the way home. And he was asking questions. He wanted answers.

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This Ethiopian Official was desperate to get to know God. He was so keen to understand what the Bible meant that he invited a complete stranger Philip to join him in his chariot and explain the Bible to him!

CAN YOU UNDERSTAND? Philip asked. HOW CAN I UNDERSTAND unless somebody guides me?

32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

The good news about Jesus. The Ethiopian was reading the book of the prophet Isaiah 53 verse 7 which says this.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Philip will have explained that Isaiah was not talking about himself, but was looking forward to what would happen to the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who had been oppressed and afflicted, Jesus who had been arrested and falsely convicted in a travesty of a trial. Jesus who had been mocked with a crown of thorns on his head and flogged to within an inch of His life. Jesus who had been nailed to a cross like a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter, Jesus who had been called the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Philip will then have pointed the Ethiopian to the preceding verses in Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53:5-6
5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Philip will have explained to the Ethiopian how when God made the world, it was perfect. But then human beings rebelled against their Creator and disobeyed His laws so now we all face judgement of the holy and Righteous God.
But then Philip will have explained from Isaiah 53 how Jesus the Son of God came and took the place of sinful human beings. How Jesus on the cross took upon himself the punishment for sin we all should pay. How Jesus dying for us offers us forgiveness and gives us new life.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

So knowing Jesus changes us from God’s enemies into God’s friends, and even more than that, into God’s beloved children. So we can come back to God again.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood—
Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!
MY LORD, WHAT LOVE IS THIS That pays so dearly?
That I, the guilty one, May go free!
Amazing love, O what sacrifice, The Son of God given for me.
My debt He pays, and my death He dies, That I might live, that I might live.

That is the good news about Jesus which Philip explained to the Ethiopian Official from the Book of Isaiah. The good news of forgiveness and eternal life which God offers to everybody who puts their trust in Jesus Christ. And Philip must have said much more because next we read this.

36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptised?”

Then the verse that comes next in the story doesn’t appear in our translation of the Bible. That is because it isn’t found in the earliest versions of the manuscripts. But very early on the Early Church added two more sentences to the Book of Acts. The Ethiopian asked, “Why shouldn’t I be baptised,” and Acts 8:37 tells us, “Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Luke only records the decision to be baptized. Baptism implied a number of other things. But saying `baptism’ was enough. Philip had obviously explained what we have to do to receive God’s wonderful free gift of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve God’s love. All we can do is simply to put our trust in Jesus and accept what God offers us. And then the way that all those first Christians showed that they did believe in Jesus was to be baptised. Which is why the Ethiopian had asked, “Why shouldn’t I be baptised?” He did believe in Jesus. He declared his faith. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And the New Testament way of demonstrating that faith was in the act of believer’s baptism. That is the pattern throughout the Book of Acts.

We saw it before the summer when we looked earlier in Acts chapter 8 at the story of how Philip had preached the gospel in Samaria. Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women

Whenever people were saved in Acts, whenever people believed the good news about Jesus, they showed their faith by being baptised. This happened after the very first sermon Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. He preached the gospel and then made this appeal.

In Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptised, 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.”

When a person is saved, when a person becomes a Christian we can see that event from the human point of view. The person repents and believes the good news. At the same time we can see what happens from God’s side. God forgives our sins and gives the gift of eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And always the outward sign of these inward realities will be baptism.

So it was on the day of Pentecost thousands of people responded to Peter’s preaching.
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
This is the pattern everywhere in the New Testament. Baptism was not an optional extra for Christians in the Early Church. Baptism was an essential expression of faith at the start of the Christian life for every Christian.

38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

In the Bible and the Early Church baptism marks the beginning of discipleship. In Acts 8 the baptism of the Ethiopian was relatively private action. Just Philip, the Ethiopian Official and his entourage, because a person as important as that would not have been travelling alone. Baptism is a sign between each individual believer and God. Even though God who searches all our hearts knew that man’s faith and repentance were genuine, the outward sign of baptism was still required. And on both occasions when Jesus commanded his disciples to go and preach the gospel He also commanded believer’s baptism.

Matthew 28:19 … go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Mark 16:16 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.

We read in Act 8, They went down into the water . . . they came up out of the water:
Clearly, Philip immersed the Ethiopian in water. This was not sprinkling, but immersion. And in just the same way Shilpi will be baptized today. .

And also the Ethiopian’s baptism was baptism as a believer. The Ethiopian believed the good news about Jesus as Philip had explained it to him. He believed that Jesus really was the Son of God, God born as a human being. He believed that Jesus had died on the cross in his place so that he could be forgiven, as Isaiah 53 explains. He believed that Jesus has risen from the dead – that Jesus was alive again! He believed, so he wanted to be baptized to make his faith in Jesus public.

Baptism usually comes near the beginning of the Christian life. It marks a new birth, not just turning over a new leaf but starting a new life. Sometimes people get baptized immediately when they become a Christian. For a variety of reasons, other people wait a while before they are baptized. I had been a Christian for almost ten years before I was baptized as a believer. Shilpi has been a Christian for many years, but she is getting baptized today to demonstrate to everybody that she loves Jesus and she is going to follow him.

“Baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality” Baptism is like a wedding ring; they both symbolize things that have happened. A wedding ring symbolizes a marriage which has taken place. Baptism symbolizes salvation which has been received. Wearing a wedding ring does not make a person married any more than being baptized makes anybody saved. But still today most women and many men choose to wear a wedding ring to show to the world that they are married. And Christians show they want to follow Jesus by doing what He said and being baptised as believers.

“Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptised?”

I am sure there are some people here today who are at the place the Ethiopian Official was at the beginning of the story. He was looking for God but he needed somebody to explain the good news about Jesus to him. If anybody wants to know more about what it means to follow Jesus and become a Christian, please do just ask.

Other people may believe in Jesus but have never got round to telling anybody that they are His followers. They like to keep their discipleship a secret. The reality is that you can’t be a secret disciple of Jesus. Either the secret will kill the discipleship or the discipleship will kill the secret. The Ethiopian Official had believed the good news about Jesus. He had accepted God’s free gift of eternal life and he wanted everybody to know that he was a Christian. So he asked, “Why shouldn’t I be baptised?” There may be some Christians here who have not made their faith public. They may not have been baptised as believers. If that is you, again, please just ask.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This is the Good News about Jesus!

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