Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 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?” (Acts 8:35-36)
Preaching Jesus Is Preaching Baptism
The providence of God to spread the gospel throughout the whole world is found in the stories that fill the Acts of the Apostles. Luke is the preeminent historian who paints the infant church’s picture growing from three thousand souls to multitudes throughout the Roman Empire. The Holy Spirit was instrumental in facilitating the preaching of the gospel through inspiration and instruction. Philip is directed by the Spirit to go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza and he would find a man to share the gospel with. A man from Ethiopia had been to Jerusalem to worship and was returning to his native land. A man of political influence and a notable leader of Ethiopia, the eunuch obtained a copy of the book of Isaiah and was reading the scroll out loud. As Philip approached the Ethiopian, he asked if the man understood what he was reading. The eunuch asked Philip to join him and explain a passage from the prophet Isaiah.
Philip began at the passage where the Ethiopian was reading, and he preached Jesus to him. There were no copies of the New Testament as the canon was being formulated to be assembled later. Philip began at the passage of Isaiah 53 and took the Ethiopian through the prophet and showed him the story of Jesus of Christ. Luke does not detail any of the words used by Philip, but whatever he told the eunuch, he preached Jesus Christ. After some time, it was not Philip who posed the question, but the Ethiopian who asked Philip a very important question. Philip and the eunuch had traveled together in the chariot, talking about Jesus Christ and examining the scriptures when the Ethiopian saw a body of water. It is necessary to point out the question is being asked by the student, not the teacher. The eunuch shows Philip the body of water and asks the evangelist why he could not be baptized. Philip tells him that if he believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God, there is no reason the eunuch cannot be baptized. The Ethiopian commands the chariot to stop and he and Philip go down into the water, where Philip baptized the eunuch in the name of Jesus Christ.
Luke does not tell what Philip said when he began at Isaiah 53 but that he preached Jesus. The Ethiopian is the one who responded with the question about baptism. It is necessary to conclude that whatever Philip was preaching about Jesus involved at some point the question of baptism and the need for salvation. Philip did not tell the eunuch to accept Christ as his personal Savior. Preaching would include the subject of grace and mercy, but the Ethiopian did not believe in salvation by grace alone. There is a straight line of divine connection between preaching Jesus and baptism. Reading the book of Isaiah, there is no doubt Philip showed the necessity of faith, grace, and love. Putting the book of Isaiah in context shows the powerful message of God’s forgiveness to sinful man. At some point in preaching Jesus, Philip had the Ethiopian understand the necessity, the requirement, and the obligation to be baptized. There was no doubt in the mind of the eunuch.
Many (if not most) in the religious community deny baptism is necessary for salvation. Some accept it as an outward sign of inward grace, but salvation is not dependent on immersion in Christ. If modern-day preachers were in the chariot of the Ethiopian, they could not preach Jesus because they deny the need for immersion. It is uncertain what conclusion the eunuch would have come to after hearing the “faith only,” “salvation by grace alone,” dogmas of modern-day religion but it would not have been, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” The Ethiopian would not have gone on his way rejoicing because he would have gone home lost in his sin and facing the wrath of God.
Baptism (immersion) is necessary for salvation and the Ethiopian eunuch understood that after examining the prophet Isaiah. Maybe it would help those who deny the importance of immersion begin their studies with Isaiah and learn about the true Christ. Thousands of souls are being led to believe they are Christians based on faith only and the utterance of a ‘sinners prayer’ when the sad reality is they have never put on Christ like the Ethiopian. The Bible teaches that baptism saves. Every example of conversion in the book of Acts emphasizes the necessity of baptism. The New Testament writers affirm the pattern of salvation through baptism. There can be no salvation and no joy if a man rejects the teaching of baptism. It is impossible to preach Jesus and not teach baptism. To deny baptism is to deny Jesus Christ.
The Ethiopian eunuch did not ask about baptism as a convenient thing to do and something he thought would be good for others to see him do. He believed with all his heart that he could not be saved without immersion. He went down into the water and Philip immersed him in the water for the remission of his sins. Like Saul of Tarsus, the Ethiopian had his sins washed away in the water of baptism. He believed Jesus and obeyed the word of Jesus. Preaching Jesus is preaching baptism. Have you been baptized for the remission of your sins?