10. A Baptism Service in the Veld!
We have already come to know the Minister of mance of Ethiopia as a strong person who knew what he wanted. A half done job was not good enough for him.
He had undertaken a purposeful search for the truth. This was the reason for his long journey to Jerusalem. He had also obtained a book of the Bible and studied it attentively.
- He readily admitted openly that he did not understand the Biblical message. That is why he asked for help to understand the meaning of the passage he was reading.
- Once he had heard the good news, he immediately accepted it and confessed his faith in Jesus Christ.
- He longed very much to be baptized. Therefore he acted without hesitation. Listen to what he did:
READ ACTS 8:38
Complete the verse by writing in the missing words from the Bible:
NKJ Acts 8:38 So he commanded the chariot to ________ _________. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the _________, and he _________________ him.
Baptized At His Own Request
The official ordered the carriage to be stopped. From this we can deduce that, as a highly placed official, he was not travelling alone. He had a number of assistants with him.
When the carriage stopped, Philip and the Ethiopian dismounted and went into the water. Philip baptized him on the spot.
Yes, this high offical was not satisfied with a job half done. He wanted to miss nothing! The full blessing of the gospel had to be his. He wished
to make certaln that the message he had now accepted would become part of his life. For him, his religion was a matter of great importance.
Requirement for Baptism
Philip was not hindered by the fact that this man was non-Jewish, a person from a heathen country. There was only one requirement for baptism. That is why he asked: "Do you believe wholeheartedly?" And when he got the correct answer, there
were no problems. The Ethiopian's confession of faith was all that was required.
Only one thing is required for admission to the Kingdom of God, and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If a person believes in Jesus as his Saviour, he can he baptized. No church may add further conditions as requirements for people to become citizens of the kingdom of God.
At Christ's Command
Philip baptizes this believer because Christ Himself commanded it.
LOOK ONCE MORE AT MATTHEW 28:19-20.
Complete the words missing from this verse by filling them in:
NKJ Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make ____________ of all the nations, ____________ them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, ___________ them to observe all things that I have commanded you."
Philip was used by the Lord to make this
particular man a follower of Jesus Christ. Therefore he had to obey the command of his Master. It was part of his responsibilty to baptize this person. Therefore he did it faithfully and with great joy in his heart.
A Wonderful Message
Why did Jesus order his followers to baptize those who accepted salvation? What messoge does baptism convey?
The Bible gives a clear answer. The Lord knows that we are weak people. We do not readily
understand when someone explains somethng new to us. That is why He instituted baptism. He not only wants us to hear, but also to see. The water with which a person is baptized carries an important message. It points to the saving work of Jesus. It tells us of the washing away of our sins. It assures us that this message has value and meaning for each one of us.
It is a glorious privilege to be baptized. A baptized person carries the sign of God's
love on his forehead. All know that he is a person who has been saved and given new life and happiness by Jesus.
It Is The Blood, Not The Water!
However, it is important that we clearly understand that it isn't the water which, in baptism, cleanses us from sins. The water is merely a sign of the blood of the Lord Jesus. So it is wrong to think that it is the baptism which cleanses a person and prepares him for heaven. Parents who try with
might and main to have a dying baby baptized quickly before death, do not understand baptism correctly. It is not the "holy water" that can save a person. It is faith in Jesus Christ.
If people think they can be saved because they are baptized, they become guilty of superstition. It is faith in Jesus Christ which saves people from sin.
How much water?
It is noteworthy that the Bible does not tell us exactly how Philip
baptized the Ethiopian. All that we are told is that both entered the water. We are not told whether Philip immersed the man totally in the water, or whether he scooped up water in his hand and poured it over him or sprinkled it on him.
There is no need to be worried about this. It is not of great importance.
What really is important is that the man was baptized. Baptism is the sign of Christ's saving work. It tells us that He has washed away
our sins with his own blood. It assures us that we have been made a part of the Kingdom of God and have therefore received the new life of happiness.
The amount of water used is not of importance. It is not the water which cleanses us. The water points to the blood of Christ. And the blood of Christ gives complete cleansing from all our sins.
Adults Only, or Children As Well?
Many churches also baptize the children of believing parents. They
point out that baptism is also a sign of the covenant (agreement) which the Lord made with those who follow him in faith. In Genesis 17:7 we read that God said to Abraham: "I will fulfil my covenant between myself and you and your descendants after you, generation after generation, an everlasting covenant, to be your God." Circumcision was the visible sign of this covenant, a tiny operation performed on the sexual organs of male infants.
This covenant continued in the New Testament, but it received a new meaning (Galatians 3:26-29). The sign of the covenant was also altered. Baptism was put in the place of circumcision. This results in the children of believlng parents also being baptized because, just as in the time of the Old Testament, they must be included in this covenant between the Lord and his believing followers.
Why do we read of so many adults being baptized in the New
Testament? These people had not grown up in believing families. Only as adults had they heard of the message of salvation. Therefore they had to he baptized after accepting Jesus as their Saviour. However, we do read in the New Testament of whole families being baptized after the parents had accepted the gospeL It is therefore evident that infants in such families received the sign of baptism on the grounds of their parents' faith.
make a solemn promise at the baptism of their children that they will teach them the gospel. At some stage or other when the children are old enough to understand for themselves what is involved, they themselves must confess their faith in Christ as their Saviour. Then the great message of baptism has become a reality in their lives.
So let us not argue about the details of baptism. The Christian baptism was intended to be a sign of unity, not something to
argue about (Ephesians 4:5). All Christians can rejoice in their unity, no matter how or when they were baptized!
Questions to Answer
1. What is the one condition which one must meet in order to be received into the Kingdom of God?
2. Name one reason why the Lord Jesus commanded that his followers should be baptized.
3. Why can we not say that it is the water at baptism which cleanses us from our sins?
4. Did the covenant God
made with Abraham also mean something for his children? Why do you say so?