An Open Conversion
Ramon A. Madrigal
The Book of Acts is a book of conversions. It contains that which the Lord wants us to know about that vital subject. Just before He left His disciples to return to His Father, Jesus gave what is called the "Great Commission" (Matt. 28), and every case of conversion in the Acts of the Apostles was accomplished according to the terms of that commission. While it can be clearly demonstrated that each example of conversion followed th is, pattern, the case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39) is the most lucid and celebrated. It is the purpose of this study to discern what was necessary for this man to be regenerated to Christ. Let us notice:
An Open Book
In verse 28 of the narrative Luke informs us that this highly religious individual was reading a portion of Isaiah the prophet. Notice that before any valuable religious discussion can occur, there must be an open book, namely the Bible. Many people often engage in futile religious debate because their Bibles are not open. The eunuch had his scroll open, and although he did not understand the Suffering Servant passage completely, he knew that it was the veritable Word of God. He rightly perceived that "all scripture is inspired of God" (2 Tim. 3:16), and that if he would be free he must seek the Truth there.
An Open Mind
Although this man did have, in fact, and open Book at his disposal, he needed desperately to understand its contents. When Philip the evangelist asked him if he understood what he was reading he admitted that he did not know (vv. 30-3 1). How hard it is for some to admit ignorance or error. But this was the very grave matter of eternal salvation, and the eunuch had no time for vanity or pride. He quickly invited Philip to teach him more about Jesus. This Ethiopian was open and receptive to Truth and thus anticipated the noble tradition of the Bereans (see Acts 17:11). While it is sad that so many Bibles merely collect dust and flower petals, it is equally pathetic for people to open their Bibles and close their minds. This is unfortunate, yet quite common. The eunuch, however, was hungry and thirsty for righteousness (cf. Matt. 5:6). Jesus promised that if we only "ask" it will be "given"; if we would but "seek" we will "find"; if we simply "knock" it will be "opened" for us. The eunuch was seeking. Surely he would find!
An Open Mouth
In verse 35 we notice that Philip "opened his mouth and . . . preached Jesus." This is yet another important element in the process of conversion, the preaching of the Gospel. While it is certainly possible for anyone with an open Bible and an open mind to discern truth, a teacher definitely helps. The Apostle Paul had this in mind when he queried, "How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" (Rom. 10: 11- 14). Yes, there is a great need for zealous preaching and teaching of the Word. Brethren, are we preaching "in season and out of season"? Are we sending and being sent? Philip was sent and being spent.
Another Open Mouth
"As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."(1) Notice that it wasn't only Philip who opened his mouth on this occasion. The Ethiopian also spoke. He made the good confession concerning the deity of Jesus. Christ both warned and promised that "Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 10:32). When Jesus questioned His early disciples about His identity, Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" (see also Jn. 11:27 and 20:28). Certainly we can see the need for a public(2) acknowledgment of Christ before men. This is to be done not only as a pre-baptismal "rite" but throughout the life of the Christian (cf. Heb. 3:1 in ASV, RSV, NIV). We must never be ashamed of who Jesus is (Christ) and who we are (Christians).
An Open Water
Read verses 36-38 again. Do you wonder why the eunuch made this request after Philip "preached unto him Jesus"? Obviously, Philip taught the eunuch from Ethiopia the necessity of baptism for salvation. That was part of the "Good News" (Matt. 28:19, Mark 16:16). When Peter preached on Pentecost, he. commanded his audience to "repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ unto (for, eis in Greek) the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). In Romans 6:3-4 the Apostle Paul talks a out the symbolism of baptism. It represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. " This is the very center of the Gospel message.
Notice also in verses 38-39 how both Philip and the eunuch 'went down into the water, and came up out of the water." Does that sound like sprinkling or pouring to you? Certainly not! Like all other instances of baptism in the New Testament, immersion is the course of action. Indeed, it is the only action inherent in the Greek word bapfidzo.(3)
As the narrative progresses to a close, we find a happy and triumphant eunuch. Indeed, after his encounter with the evangelist, the Ethiopian "went on his way rejoicing." Why? Because he had obeyed the Gospel call and was saved. He Was on the way to heaven in the presence of God Himself. Notice that he became very emotional. But when did his emotions come into play? It was not before or during his salvation, but after responding to facts with reason.
Jesus did promise that whoever knocks, it would be opened unto him. Here, the noble Ethiopian was knocking. He opened the Scriptures and his mind to its teachings. Philip opened his mouth in preaching and the eunuch opened his mouth in confession and was then baptized in open water. As a citizen of the Kingdom he had open access to the throne of grace.
Have you opened your mind and your heart to this message from God's Holy Book? Why not respond as did this man of old and you, too, can go on your way rejoicing?
1. Verse 37 of Acts 8 is missing in the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts of the NT. That is why most modern translations do not include this verse in the text (see ASV, RSV, NASB, and NIV). The reason that the KJV included this verse is because these reliable manuscripts were not discovered until after 1611.
2. Yet note that the eunuch made his confession before only one man.
3. see Thayer, Vine, Ardnt & Gingrich, etc.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 2, pp. 50-51