“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.”
So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 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?” 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.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”
Acts 8:26-38 NKJV
In this Scripture, we see that a believer, Philip, was led by the Holy Spirit to go speak to an Ethiopian eunuch and shared the Gospel (the Good News) with him. As a result, when they came to a dam or river, the Ethiopian asked if there was anything preventing him from being baptised immediately. Firstly, this showed that the Gospel that Philip shared must have included something about baptism. This reveals the importance of baptism. Another interesting point is made here: the Ethiopian was from a distant country and was on a long journey, so he certainly had a water bottle (canteen of water) with him. Philip could have said “give me your canteen” and sprinkled him as a baptism, but he didn’t. When the Ethiopian saw a mass of water he asked if he could be baptised. Then Philip and the Ethiopian “went down into the water”. This shows that the concept of baptism, as understood by both Philip and the Ethiopian, wasn’t a sprinkle but an immersion in water.
By definition, the word “baptise” means “to make fully wet” and “to immerse”. By definition then, baptism is when you go completely underwater and get completely wet. The Ethiopian said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptised?”. Philip answered: “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
Here we see that baptism is for the believer: someone who already believes in Jesus. You have to believe, and then you can be baptized.
The Ethiopian confirmed the belief in his heart by saying, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”. And then he was baptised. (Note that NIV and some other translations exclude verse 37, and include it as a footnote).
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward faith in Jesus. It is a declaration to the witnesses (friends, family, God, the angels and demons) that you have put (past tense) your faith in Christ for salvation. Baptism is an expression of faith. Without faith, you’re just getting wet and the act of baptism is meaningless.
At the birth of the church (the day of Pentecost), 3,000 people responded to the Gospel and were born again. The Word says that they were baptised that same day! (Acts 3:41)
An interesting side note: If the 12 apostles baptised everyone, taking 2 minutes to baptise each person, they would have taken 8.5 hours to baptise everyone. They would have baptised people until about 19h00! If baptism was important enough for the apostles to take 8.5 hours to fulfil it on the first day of the church, then it’s important enough for us today.
Throughout the book of Acts we see that it was commonly practiced and understood that as soon as someone believed and became a Christian, they should be baptised in water. Let’s look at a few scriptures together:
Acts 2:41. What happened to those who accepted Peter’s message?
Acts 8:12. What did the men and women who believed Philip’s message do?
Acts 8:35, 36. After hearing the Good News of the Grace of Jesus, what did the Eunuch desire to do?
Matthew 28:19, 20. Jesus told His disciples to go make disciples of all nations. What two things did He tell them to do with those disciples?
We also see in Matthew 3:13-17 that Jesus was baptised. When Jesus came to John for baptism, John protested saying “I need to be baptised by you, why do you come to me?”. Jesus responded by saying, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness”. At Jesus’ baptism, before He performed any miracle or preached to any crowds, God the Father declared over Him:
“and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:17 ESV
The Father expressed His approval and pleasure of Jesus at His baptism – long before He did anything that the world would consider “great”. God is pleased with us before we do anything great for Him. He delights in us because we are His children. At baptism, we declare the Father’s love for us and His pleasure in us.
There are two pictures of baptism:
(1) Burial and Resurrection
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
Romans 6:3-14 ESV
We are identifying with Christ’s death (going into the water), and with His resurrection (coming up out of the water). In baptism, we are declaring that we are in Christ, and we declare what happened to us when we received Jesus and got born again.
When He died, we died and now we are dead to sin. Sin no longer has any hold on us (Romans 6:6, 7). Baptism declares this. In baptism, we declare that when He was raised to life, we were raised to life. We declare our new life in Christ (Romans 6:4) and that we were also raised up to sit with Christ in a place of authority (Ephesians 1:19-23).
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
Colossians 2:11-12 ESV
When Paul speaks of circumcision in this verse he is speaking about “putting off” or “cutting off” or “doing away with completely”. Paul said that when we receive Christ is like a spiritual circumcision (cutting off) done by Christ. Baptism is a declaration of what happened when you got saved. Baptism declares that the sinful nature has been cut off completely.
Salvation is a free gift. You are saved by grace through faith, and not by water baptism. Baptism is an expression of faith. Baptism without faith in Christ for your salvation would be a meaningless act.
“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
James 2:17 ESV
Faith is dead when people are unwilling to express it. Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone. Faith always expresses itself in action. Baptism is a way of expressing one’s faith.
Questions for personal study and reflection:
- Read Acts 10:43 & Ephesians 2:8-9. Do you need to be baptised to go to heaven, or to be saved?
- Read Acts 10:44-48. Can you be saved without water baptism?
- Read Acts 8:36-37.
- What is the requirement for water baptism?
- Can a baby believe? ________________________________________________________
- Have you been baptised in water? ________________________________________________________
- If not, what prevents you from being baptised now? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
If you would like to be baptised in water, please contact us so we can make arrangements for it.