Sermon on Acts 8:26-40

This sermon was delivered by Brother Alan Parry on 19/7/2015. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Brother Alan said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

Baptism. Many pastors and preachers give interesting sermons on why you should undertake this step of obedience as a Christian. We’re going to look at a passage today and I’m going to take a slightly different approach. I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t get baptised.

In today’s passage, we see the Ethiopian version of Joe Hockey (the current Federal Treasurer in Australia) returning from worship in Israel, sitting in his chariot and reading Isaiah the prophet. He was most likely in quite a procession with a contingent of professional soldiers guarding him. As it would have been hard for him to read in a little chariot standing up, we can surmise that he was probably in something much larger and more salubrious. It is interesting to reflect that our Lord quoted many books during his earthly ministry but the only book He ever read publicly was Isaiah – the book the eunuch was also reading.

Verse 29 of Acts 8 reads: “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” From this we can learn that it is important to be attentive when the Spirit says to do something – the person has been gotten ready by His activity and is waiting for you to close the deal. In earlier verses we have learned that the Ethiopian would have been quite limited in how he could worship at Jerusalem, as he would only have been allowed access to the outer court of the Gentiles within the temple. He would not have been able to worship quite as he wanted to. He clearly knew much about the Word of God and the truth of God but he hadn’t quite figured it all out. The passage he was reflecting on before Philip joined him was Isaiah 53:1-12:

1 Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him;
he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

In Acts 8:34 the eunuch asks an insightful question of Philip, saying effectively, “Is the prophet speaking of himself or someone else?” If he’d asked a rabbi this, he would most likely have been directed to Isaiah 49:3: “…Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” In other words, he would have been told that Isaiah 53 referred to the nation of Israel, to the righteous ones in that land. But the Ethiopian would soon have realised that this didn’t fit. How do the righteous redeem the unrighteous, or suffer for them?

In verse 35 of the same passage Philip solved the Ethiopian’s dilemma by simply preaching Jesus to him. In other words he said, “This is the One who fits the picture. In Isaiah 53:2 the beating He suffered at the hands of the Romans disfigured Him, so He had no beauty to inspire sympathy from others. He was rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3) and crucified on a cross so that most who witnessed this assumed that He’d been cursed (Isaiah 53:4). Isaiah 53:6 reveals that He suffered for our sins while Isaiah 53:9 tells us that He died with the wicked yet was buried with the rich. The tenth verse shows that all this was done by the express plan of God, satisfying His requirements for holiness and justice.”

In verse 36 on Acts 8, the eunuch says, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” It is interesting to note that the words “here is” (italicised in the King James version) are not in the original Greek. They’ve been put in afterwards to make the passage read a little better grammatically. In the original verse the eunuch would simply have said, “Look – water! Why can’t I be baptised?”, which brings us to the first reason we will consider as to why this shouldn’t be done. And that is, if you don’t believe that Jesus was prophesied about in the Old Testament, that He died for your soul, then don’t get baptised. It’s the wrong thing to do.

How did the Ethiopian fare in this first spiritual test? Verse 37 of Acts 8 clearly shows that he passed with flying colours, declaring Jesus to be “the Son of God.”

Which brings us to the next reason why a person shouldn’t undergo this step of obedience: if there’s not enough water, don’t get baptised. At this point some may object, asking, “Does it really matter how much water you use?” Well, Baptists didn’t invent baptism. Other Christian denominations didn’t either. John 3:22-23 tells us that John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner, baptised by immersion, using “much water”: “…And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.” Mark 1:1-5 also gives us a picture of John’s baptisms, stating that he did so in the “river of Jordan.” What was John doing? He was calling the people to a baptism of repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He was getting people ready spiritually for the Messiah when He came. And he was doing this as proof of a change of heart (repentance) that had already happened within the people who came to him to be baptised. The practice of full immersion baptism went back further than this, however. In rabbinical teachings priests were to wash themselves before they taught the people. And anyone who became Jewish was baptised fully in a large font of water. So John didn’t invent baptism either. The concept of full immersion in water as a ceremony was already well understood by the Jewish people of Jesus’ time.

So what are we doing when we baptise people in Christian churches today? We’re giving it a special symbolic meaning, effectively showing everyone that you’re serious about God. Baptism is an object lesson for a Christian as Romans 6:3-5 declares:

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

A picture makes the lesson easy to understand, as God well knew when He caused it to be written down for us in His Word. The passage above begins with the words, “Know ye not…” This is Paul’s way of saying, “Haven’t I already taught you this and you’ve forgotten?” So baptism then is an object lesson. As Christ died literally, so believers in Him will die figuratively. As He was buried, so are we – though symbolically. As He was raised, so we are too as we are lifted from full immersion in the baptismal font. You can’t do this with a mere sprinkle of water as there’s no picture there. It just isn’t right.

What about infant baptism, which is practiced by many churches in Christendom? Babies can’t understand the gospel therefore they fail the first test of baptism and should not undergo this rite. At this point some may direct us to Acts 16:25-33, where it states that a jailer’s whole house were baptised with him when he believed. A closer look at this passage shows that yes, the whole house was baptised by nowhere is there any mention of children. The phrase “he and all his” most likely refers to all his servants, both free and bond. All of these people heard the Word of God, believed, and were baptised accordingly.

Now for a final look at Philip in Acts 8. Was he an Apostle? No, he was not, though Acts 6 reveals that he was chosen by them with six other men to minister to people while they preached the Word of God. Did he have a title? No. This shows that the church can delegate the rite of baptism to anyone it wants to. The important thing is the heart and soul of the person being baptised, not the status of the one baptising them. Which underscores the importance of the first reason for undergoing this step in your Christian walk: if you’re heart’s not right, don’t do it.

We are now at the point where we can reveal the answer to the Ethiopian’s question in today’s passage: “what doth hinder me to be baptized?”

  • If you don’t believe
  • If there’s not enough water

However, if you fulfill the requirements above, then nothing hinders you from making this beautiful step of obedience and we’re going to see this done with five new believers today.

God bless you.

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