Conversion: The Conversion of the Eunuch

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Last week we set out to study a few of the cases of conversion recorded in the book of Acts to see how they coincide precisely with the commandments we have seen to be enjoined upon us by the direct commands of the Lord. We want to see that those of whom the Bible speaks as having obeyed the Lord did the same things that we must do to be saved. We have studied the themes of faith, repentance and baptism now for quite some time, and at the present we are devoting ourselves to a study of some cases of conversion to see that these individuals did believe, repent and were baptized.

Last week we studied the conversion of Saul the persecutor, later called Paul the Apostle. It was seen that he did exactly the same things that you and I are to do. He believed, repented and was baptized.

Now we want to consider the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, as recorded in the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Inasmuch as the Eunuch lived under the same law as that under which you and I live, and will be judged by the same authority as will you and I, when we notice the things that he did by divine sanction, then we may learn those things that you and I must do.

The Background

"But an angel of the Lord spake unto Philip saying, arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza: the same is desert. And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship; and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet, Isaiah" (Acts 8:20-28). For one to understand exactly what was happening in the Scriptural account of this man's conversion, it would. be best for him to know just a little about the geographical background of the lesson. In the first part of the eighth chapter of Acts, Luke tells us about the terrible persecution that was wrought upon the church in Jerusalem. So great was this persecution, that it was necessary for all the people, except the apostles, to leave the city of Jerusalem. But the marvelous part about this tragedy of the persecution and dispersion of this great church in Jerusalem is that they turned what seemed to be tragedy into good. Rather than being discouraged by their scattering, they went everywhere preaching the word.

One of the members of this congregation at the time of this scattering because of persecution, went to a town about thirty-six miles to the north of Jerusalem, called Samaria. The Scriptures say, "And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ" (Acts 8:5). This preacher, Philip, is the same one who told the Ethiopian eunuch what to do to be saved. He was preaching in Samaria at the time that the angel appeared to him and told him to go to the south, unto the road that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

The eunuch had been to Jerusalem to worship according to the law of Moses, and was returning to his native land, which was quite a distance south of Palestine, even south of Egypt. On his return home, he was riding on the road that went from Jerusalem to Gaza. The angel appeared to Philip and told him to go down to this road. Gaza was a small seacoast town, somewhat to the southwest of Jerusalem, So as the eunuch made his journey back home, God sent this preacher, Philip, and had him intersect the eunuch on this Jerusalem-Gaza road, and there teach him what he must do. The merciful providence and wisdom of God is seen in that even though. the preacher arid the sinner were quite a distance separated, yet they were brought together, in order that the eunuch might be taught..

The idea of many denominationalists is that all that one had to do to be saved is to be a religious person, but one sees that the eunuch was obviously very devoted to that which be thought to be right. It was no easy matter for one to make the long, slow journey from Ethiopia. to Jerusalem to worship God, but his sincerity motivated him to be on his way. But in spite of his sincerity and his religious life, still there was much that be needed. This man was living as though Moses' law was the one by which he was to be judged, unconscious of its replacement by the law of Christ. He was a religious man, but religiously wrong, in spite of the contentions of so many today that would say that any religious life will save one.

Furthermore, in the conversion of this sinner, it should be noticed that there, was a miracle wrought in connection with this man's salvation. But there was a vast difference in the purpose of the miracle performed in connection with his salvation, than in the purpose that men would have us believe miracles are for today. What was the miracle? It was simply the divine appearance of the angel to Philip to tell him to go unto the south, unto the way that goetb down from Jerusalem to Gaza, and preach to the eunuch. Upon whom was the miracle performed? It was performed upon the preacher instead of upon the sinner. God did not perform any miracle upon the sinner to save him, or to show him that he had been saved, but the miracle done in connection with his salvation was to show Philip where to go to preach to this man. The plan was the same. Paul says that, "It pleased God through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe" (1Cor, 1:21). So the miracle was to bring the preacher to the sinner, in order that by the preaching, the eunuch might believe, obey and be saved by it.

But to go back to !he text to see what the eunuch did to be saved: "And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? and he said, How can I, except some one shall guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before his shearer is, so he openeth not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: His generation who shall declare? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other? And Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this scripture, preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:28-35).

The Message

One thing that we readily learn from this passage of scripture is the value of using the Old Testament passages to establish the fundamental faiths of the system of Christianity. When Philip sought to preach Jesus to this man, he began by pointing back to the prophecies written centuries before which looked forward to the Messiah. The Old Testament prophecies are the strongest proofs, to my mind, of the deity of Christ, and when linked with the resurrection of Christ from the dead, these historical proofs prove without doubt that Jesus Christ was not man, but was God in the flesh.

The scripture we just cited says that Philip began from this passage in Isaiah and preached unto him Jesus. Here we have a chance to learn what it means to preach Jesus. We may learn what it includes and what it excludes; what it involves and what it omits. So many times we hear people say, "I wish that preacher would preach Jesus, and leave this or that alone." Frequently, they say that one should not preach about the church, but should just preach Jesus, or they should not preach so much about the name, for after all, there is nothing in a name. Or they will say, "I wish he would just preach Christ and quit preaching on baptism." The trouble with these people is that they do not know what preaching Christ means.

What does it mean to preach Christ? In this same eighth chapter of Acts, we find a record of where this same preacher, Philip, went down to the city of Samaria, and "proclaimed unto them the Christ" (Acts 8:5). Now Philip preached what everybody thinks that a preacher ought to preach today, and so it is. We should preach Christ. But what did Philip preach? The Scripture leaves us without doubt as to what he preached, for it tells us exactly: "But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12), What does it mean to preach Christ? It means to preach about the kingdom or the church; to preach the name of Christ to the exclusion of all others; and to preach baptism.

As Philip answered the inquiry of the eunuch as to whom the prophet Isaiah referred when he pictured the suffering Messiah in Isaiah 53, Philip stated that he was speaking of Christ? This Old Testament prophecy was the starting point that Philip used to preach to the man the Christ. But what did he preach to him, when he preached to him the Christ? This is a very easy question to answer, for we know what the eunuch did after Philip preached unto him. Certainly he did what Philip told him to do, and Philip had only told him those things that were included in preaching Christ. What did the eunuch do? He was baptized; "And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:35-39).

The Scripture says that Philip preached unto the eunuch Jesus, and then immediately after he had preached to him, the eunuch upon arriving at water, asked what hindered him to be baptized. So to preach Jesus is to preach baptism.

The Baptism

But let us also notice how this man's baptism occurred. The Scripture says that they came unto a certain water, they both went down into the water, and Philip baptized him, then they both came up out of the water. Is this the way that your baptism occurred? If not, it follows that you just have not been baptized. Many people come to a bowl of water, and have some church official sprinkle a few drops of water on them, and then they call that baptism. In the light of this passage, and of all other passages in the New Testament, sprinkling or pouring cannot be baptism.

As they were riding along in the chariot, they approached, came Dear, or came unto this certain water, then they commanded the chariot to stand still, Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water (it would be rather absurd and ridiculous to see the preacher and the candidate try to go down into the amount of water that those who sprinkle and pour for baptism use). and while in the water, Philip baptized the eunuch.

Denominational preachers for many years made the argument that Philip could not have baptized, or immersed, the eunuch, for the Bible itself says that they were in a desert, and there could not have been enough water to immerse a man in a desert. But there is just one thing wrong with this argument. The Bible does not say they were in a desert. It says that they were on the road that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert. It was the city of Gaza that was desert, or deserted, and not the whole country.

But regardless of the geographical data, to those who honor and respect the Bible as authentic, Philip and the eunuch came unto a certain water great enough for both of them to go down into it, and to baptized, or immerse the eunuch in it. In fact the Bible states that they did precisely that. It takes an unbeliever in the Bible to make an argument stating that they could not have come to enough water to baptize a man, for the Bible says that they did.

The action of baptism should be definitely determined after reading this passage, They came unto, went down into, and came up out of the water, Can you say this of sprinkling? Or of pouring? Do you come unto the water, go down into the water, and then come up out of it? If not, then you have not been baptized according to New Testament authority.

The "New Creature"

But notice furthermore flow the Scriptures describe the eunuch after he had been baptized. It says that he went on his way rejoicing. He had every reason to rejoice. Now he could know that he had done what God would have him do. In the sixteenth chapter of Acts we have the record of the conversion of the Philippian jailer. He believed, repented and was baptized. The scripture says that after he had done these three acts that he rejoiced, just as did the eunuch. The Bible says of him, "And he took them (that is Paul and Silas) the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately. And he brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God" (Acts 16:33,34). Paul, whose conversion we studied last week, was blinded and fasted from the time that the Lord appeared to him, until Ananias came to him and told him what to do to be saved. After arising, and being baptized, he took food. He rejoiced. It is altogether fitting and proper that one rejoice as did these individuals after they obey the gospel, for they then know that they have obeyed the Lord.


What did the eunuch do to be saved? He heard the gospel preached to him. He believed it, and obeyed it. He believed, repented, or changed his mind about living under the law, and was baptized for the remission of his sin. You can be saved the very same way, and in no other way. We plead with you to accept the invitation of the Lord, and obey these commandments.

Truth Magazine XX: 44, pp. 691-694
November 4, 1976