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 baptized?"
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."
Our local church is preparing to have a believers' baptism soon in a nearby river. We try to schedule one every summer for our small congregation, both to welcome our congregation's youth who have matured enough in their faith to make a decision for Christ, and to welcome new adult believers into the body of Christ. After we announced that next baptism at church today, it occurred to me that my own children were probably near that age and level of faith when they could choose to make Christ their Savior and Lord. So I had a little discussion with my teenage daughter about getting baptized, and during the conversation, this pair of verses came to mind as a great illustration of how to judge when someone is ready to take the next step in their walk of faith.
To be perfectly honest, I sometimes think that I was this Ethiopian eunuch: someone who served another, someone who studied but did not understand Scripture, and yet someone who, once the gospel had been laid before him, became passionate about accepting and serving Christ. So this whole passage--Acts 8:26-39--is somewhat of a favorite of mine. It speaks to me about how we can look and look for answers in the Word of God, but until the Holy Spirit brings us the right teacher, we will likely completely miss the point. And so the eunuch understood that the passage he was reading was important, but he did not see how a man could take upon Himself the sins of God's people.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
"Who is this 'lamb'?" the eunuch must have been asking himself. "How could He allow Himself to be led to His death with nary a word? How could His death pay for the transgressions of God's people?" The answer to those questions is the thing upon which hangs all of the gospel, and it is the thing of which the prophets spoke from the very beginning of the Scriptures. And this is the answer:
16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Only the only begotten Son of God could possibly save the world from its own sin. And so, as the eunuch came to understand the Scriptures under Philip's tutelage, he came to know who Jesus truly was and is. And knowing that such a Savior lives at the right hand of God, how could he not choose to accept Him?
I really love that the eunuch was so insistent about being baptized right away. He didn't wait until they got to a river or a lake. He didn't ask Philip to travel along with him to the next town so they could find a place to be baptized. Riding along, he saw some water--not a river, not a lake, not even a pond, and more likely just a puddle--and he asked to be baptized right then and there.
However, while part of him understood that the baptism itself involved water, he also understood that it really could not be so simple as just getting wet, that something more was required: "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"
In answer, Philip presented the eunuch with the most important decision of his life: "If you believe with all your heart, you may." Moses and Joshua gave the Israelites a similar choice:
19 "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;
20 "that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
14 "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!
15 "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
"Choose life," said Moses. As Jesus put it:
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
This Jesus is the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of God's people. This Jesus is the Bread of Life, broken for us. This Jesus is the sinless Son of God, who humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross so that God might be glorified and we might live.
What then is required of us to be baptized? We must choose Jesus and believe in Him with all our heart. Let us look quickly at the gospel itself:
1 Corinthians 15:3-5
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
That is the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ: that He died for our sin "according to the Scriptures." And who do the Scriptures say He is? Who did Jesus Himself say He is? He is none other than the Son of God, slain for us and risen again so that He might reign in our lives.
And so, when presented with the choice to believe with all his heart, the eunuch simply stated what is the center of the matter: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." No prophet, no lawgiver, no priest, no Pharisee, no Sadducee, no evangelist, no healer, no mere man or woman could ever give us the life we require. No one could ever pay for all our sins but ourselves--no one, that is, but God Himself stepping in and giving His only Son to redeem us. And having done that, now, as my daughter rightly said to me today, we are able to be reborn into new life. Baptism is the outward action that symbolizes our rebirth and solemnizes our commitment to live a new life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
"What hinders me from being baptized?"
The only thing that hinders us from any action on behalf of God is our faith in Jesus Christ as the true and only Son of God. If we love God with all our heart and mind and soul, then we will wholeheartedly believe that His Son became the very lamb led silently to the slaughter. We will believe that He is the light we must seek in our lives, the Lord who must reign in our lives, the choice we must make daily in our lives. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak, and so, we must choose life every day, living lives of integrity and godliness to the glory of God the Father.
If you have not been baptized as a believer, ask yourself:
• Do you believe with all your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? (Acts 8:37)
• Do you believe that Jesus is the sole way to God? (John 14:6)
• Do you believe that He died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day? (Isaiah 53:5-6, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
• Do you believe that in Jesus we will be resurrected and have eternal life? (John 11:25)
• Do you love God "with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind"? (Luke 10:27, from Deuteronomy 6:5)
"If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized]."
If you have already made a decision for Christ, then I pray that you have been or soon will be baptized. If you are not sure if you are ready, allow God to provide a teacher to open the Scriptures to you, so that you may discover for yourself the amazing love of the Lord our God in Christ Jesus His Son. It's a tough decision to make, and it is not made lightly, but when you are ready to be baptized, you can be certain that God will provide the puddle for you.
Heavenly Father, I praise and thank You that You continue to guide more men and women to Your Son, that the time of Your abundant mercy is still here, allowing many to come to repentance and faith. Holy Lord, help us to guide more to Your Son Jesus, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Help us to guide our sons and daughters, our siblings, our parents, our friends and enemies alike, so that one day they may each ask to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.