The Book of Acts is a book of conversions, and contains what the Lord wants us to know about it. Just before Jesus left His disciples to return to His heavenly Father, He gave what is called the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20 f; Mk 16:15,16), 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 this pattern, the case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39) is the most lucid and celebrated.
OPEN UP THE BIBLE
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.
OPEN UP YOUR HEART & MIND
Although this man did have an 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 understand (v. 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 (Acts 17:11). While it is sad that so many Bibles merely collect dust, 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 (Matt. 5:6). Jesus promised that if we only “ask” it will be “given”; if we would but “seek” we will “find”; if we “knock” it will be “opened” for us. The eunuch was seeking. Surely he would find!
OPEN YOUR MOUTH
In verse 35 we notice that Philip “opened his mouth and . . . preached Jesus.” This is yet another imperative 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. Preachers must preach “in season and out of season”. Philip was sent and he instructed to the eunuch the gospel of Christ.
“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.”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!” (Jn. 11:27 cf; 20:28). Certainly we can see the need for a public acknowledgment of Christ before men. This is to be done not only as a pre-baptismal “rite” but throughout the life of the Christian (Heb. 3:1). We must never be ashamed of who Jesus is (the Christ) and who we are (Christians).
BAPTISM OPENS UP
Do you wonder why the eunuch made this request after Philip “preached unto him Jesus”? Obviously, Philip taught the eunuch the necessity of baptism for salvation. That was part of the “Good News” (Matt. 28:19 f; 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 for 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.
It is not until one has believed with their heart and confessed with their mouth that Jesus is the Christ that baptism is made available (opens up). One has to believe, confess and then repent of their sin before they are allowed to be baptized. 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! Neither does it sound like infant baptism, for a child cannot believe, confess, or repent, which must precede baptism. Like all other instances of baptism in the New Testament, immersion is the course of action.
HEAVEN’S OPPORTUNITY OPENS UP
In the end, 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 now on the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.
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. He obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was once delivered to the saints (Rom 1:17 f; Jude 3). Philip opened his mouth in preaching, and the eunuch opened his mouth in confession, and was then baptized (Rom 10:9,10). As a citizen of the Kingdom he had open access to the throne of grace.
THE BOOK OF LIFE OPENS UP
Have you opened your mind and your heart to this message from God’s Holy Book? Whenever you die, another book will open up whether you have obeyed the gospel of Christ and remained faithful or not. If you name is not written in the book of life, you will be lost and cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15). “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev 22:14). Why not respond as did this man of old, and you too can go on your way rejoicing knowing your name will be written in the Lamb’s book of life?