Religious - But Wrong (No. 4)
We now notice one more case of a religious man who had to chanlye his "religion" in order to please God. Our central figure this time will be the man known by most as the Ethiopian Eunuch. We turn now to the eighth chapter of the book of Acts to read about him.
"And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saving, Arise, and go toward the south unto the wav that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Terusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esalas the prophet." Acts 8:26-28.
At first glance there is not too much in this passage that would seem to tell us much about this man. But look again. He is returning to Ethiopia from Jerusalem. He had gone there to worship the God of Heaven. All are aware that certain feasts of the Jews were to be a'tended by the men of Israel. Here is a man who, having embraced the JEWISH religion, had to come all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalcm for one of these feasts. To emphasize how much this passage brings out his zeal, earnestness and sincerity, take a map of the area and note the distance from Ethiopia to Jerusalem. It was several hundred miles. Now remember that he was not riding on a fast airplane or a luxurious pullman. No not even an old tiresome bus or auto, but a horse drawn carriage. He would have to take days and days just for travel time.
Suppose it was necessary for you to make long distance trips even with our modern means of transportation in order to worship acceptably. How many would he found faithf ul enough to do so? We have great dif f iculty persuading men todav of the need for going just a few blocks in order to worship. This man went hundreds of miles bv ancient means of transportation. He must have been sincere and zealous in what he believe an practiced.
As we continue to read from this passage we find that the man was meditating en a passage in Isaiah which he had not been able to understand. The passage wai a prophecy relating to the trial and crucifixion of Christ but not knowing Christ, the eunuch wondered if Isaiah was talking of himself, or of another. Here again we see a commendable characteristic in this man. He was not so full of prejudice as to be unwilling to seek help and guidance; nor was his pride so great that he thought it shameful to admit he needed help. When Philip said, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" this man replied, "How can 1, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." Verses 30-31.
When the eunuch asked Philip about the passage he was studying "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to he baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both
Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing." Verses 35-39.
In spite of the sincerity and devotion of this mail he was not religiously right. However, his earnestness and sincerity are manifested in his eagerness to do what was necessary to be pleasing to, God. The preacher, Philip, did nw have to, persuade him and be.,z him for a long while to convince him of his need to obey Jesus. It seems that as soon as Jesus was preached unto him he wanted to act. There must have been something in Philip's sermon when he "preached unto him Jesus" about baptism for the remission of sins. As soon as thev came to water the eunuch asked why he could not be baptized. When told that he could be baptized if he believed in his heart, he answered with an affirmation of his faith in Jesus as God's Son. It is the only confession any man has the right to ask of another as a prerequisite for baptism.
There is absolutely no evidence that any excuses were offered against immersion at this time. Today men try every possible way to postpone and refuse immersion for remission of sins. Search for excuses has led men even to deny the inspiration of God's word in this place. There has been some question about some of this text, but there has never been any serious doubt about the portions that mention the water. Yet it is not at all uncommon to hear men say (some of them supposedly wellinformed) there was really no water there for, they say, this was a desert. Their argumerit is based on a word found in verse 26. J. W. McGarvey, in his commentary on Acts say, "The words, 'the same is desert' (whether spoken by the angel, or appended by Luke, is immaterial), were intended to note the singularity of a preacher being sent awav from a populous district to an uninhabited region. The term desert is not here to be understood as meaning a barren waste; for no such waste has ever existed between Jerusalem and Gaza; but as meaning that part of the wav which leads through a comparatively unpopulated district." Commentary On Acts, p. 150.
This same Greek word is used by Matthew, Mark, and John to describe a place where five thousand people were seated on "much grass in the place." Matt. 14:15 and 19; Mk. 6:35 and 39; and Jn. 6:10. All this evidence is in reality beside the point. It would not matter if this event had taken place in the midst of the Sahara Desert. The Spirit of God inspired Luke to say three times that there was water there; enough in fact for two men to go down into, and come up out of, after one of them had buried the other in it.
Even though this eunuch was an earnest religious man, he had to do something else. When he learned of Jesus and what he had done for sinful men he immediately decided to do what Jesus commanded in order to be saved. Many today who are honest and sincere need to realize their need to do what the Lord ccmmands in order to be saved from sin. Have you believed with all your heart in Jesus as God's Son; repented of your sins; confessed Jesus before men; and been immersed into Christ? Could you he religious, but wrong?
Truth Magazine II:3, pp. 16-17