By Dennis C. Abernathy
I know of no subject of more importance than that of conversion. By conversion, I simply mean, the way an alien sinner (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) changes his relationship with Almighty God, whom he has sinned against (Isa. 59:1-2). What is involved in this? Is it the same for everyone, or does God have one way to save you and another way to save me? Must I do anything, or nothing at all?
Now let me say just here, that we care nothing at all for some human scheme or some modern day account of conversion (?) that someone has concocted. Preachers today tell of all kinds of modern day conversions. You can hear death-bed tales, hair-raising experiences, etc. But, dear friend, we must make our choice. We must choose between these modern cases of conversion or the cases we read of in the Book of books. The salvation of our soul is really what the Bible is all about. That is why Christ came to this lowly estate and suffered, bled, and died. In view of this fact it is no surprise to us that we have examples of how we may appropriate this great deed that was done in our behalf. In fact, we have a whole book of examples (of course, that being the book of Acts). To that book, chapter 8:26-39 we now invite your close attention.
In this reading we are introduced to a man who occupied a position of great authority and trust. Verse 27 tells us that this man was “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, and was in charge of all her treasure.” We find this man on his way home from Jerusalem where he had gone “for to worship.” It is clear that he had a zeal for God, as indicated by his traveling this long distance to worship. It was important to him (which is more than can be said for a lot of Christians today if their actions are indicative of their allegiance).
In verse 26, we meet the preacher on this occasion. His name is Philip. These two are brought together and this Ethiopian man is reading the Scripture (the prophet Isaiah) out loud. Verse 30 tells us that Philip heard him reading. This is another thing that is commendable about this man. Now, it is no uncommon thing today for folks to read when they travel, but it is becoming uncommon to find very many reading the Word of God. Would it not be a good thing if all of us would “give attendance or attention to reading the Scripture” as the apostle Paul directed (1 Tim. 4:13)? But another very important thing we must understand is, for our reading to be profitable unto us, we must understand what we read. This man did not! Philip did not beat around the bush, but just came right out and asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian did not become offended by that question, but answered, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me” (verse 31). He then invited Philip to sit with him and guide him. Listen! The sincere person, looking for the truth will accept all the help he can get. This man wanted to know, what the Scripture said and he sought help at Philip’s hand. Is it a disgraceful thing for you and me to seek guidance in a proper understanding of the Word of God?
This brings us to his question of who was spoken of in Isaiah 53. Philip then proceeded to tell him that it was talking about Jesus. He preached unto him Jesus. When you and I understand the Scripture, it will be because Jesus has been preached because He is the central theme of the Bible. That must have really been a sermon! We do not know how long he preached (I doubt, though, it being a sermonette). There is a lot involved in “preaching Jesus.” His birth, family, teaching, death, burial, resurrection, His commission, ascension back to heaven, etc. One thing we know Philip preached (and evidently stressed upon this man’s mind) was baptism. I know this is so because when they came to some water, the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Is this a fine attitude? Repentance is to be understood here. Philip answered his question and said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” This good man was quick to answer, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (,vs. 37-38). This is in harmony with what Paul said in Romans, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:910). Is this not teaching that we should confess with our mouths what we believe in our hearts? I think so. To leave the confession out here (as many do) is to have a complete break in the narrative (a completely unanswered question).
Next the record says they stopped the chariot and Philip baptized (immersed) him. Note that they both went down into the water (Philip baptized him) and then they came out of the water. No sprinkling or pouring a little water on his head is mentioned here, is there? After the Ethiopian was baptized, he went on his way home rejoicing. Was this man rejoicing before he was baptized? No! Why the rejoicing now? Because his sins were forgiven! Can you think of anything more to rejoice about than “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), “washing away of our sins” (Acts 22:16), or “being saved” (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21)? No man ever rejoiced over sins forgiven before baptism under the great commission because until a man is baptized he is still in his sins!
Do you understand this simple case of Bible conversion? You must have the attitude of this Ethiopian man. You must “gladly receive the word” (Acts 2:41) and render obedience to “that form of doctrine” which has been delivered unto you (Rom. 6:17). Remember, if we do what this man did, we will receive what he received. If you have done something other than this you need to change it.
Truth Magazine XXII: 14, p. 226
April 6, 1978