“Guided to Christ”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons

In this congregation, we are committed to imitating the simple faith and the simple practices of the church of the first century.  There are some things that distinguish our time from theirs.  For instance, none of us have miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.  However, the essentials of our faith remain unchanged.  The same gospel that saved them still saves us, and it operates on the human heart in the same way.

There are many passages in the New Testament that illustrate this timeless truth.  Today, however, we’ll be examining a text from this week’s Bible reading.  It is Acts 8:26-39, and it tells the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. 

There is a miracle in this narrative, but interestingly, it happens after the eunuch obeys the gospel and has nothing to do with his decision to do so.  Everything that Philip did to bring the eunuch to the Lord is something that we can do too.  This morning, then, let’s see how we can learn to be more effective personal workers as we consider how the eunuch was guided to Christ.

There are three main elements in this story that lead to the eunuch’s salvation.  The first of these is AN OBEDIENT DISCIPLE.  We see the obedience of Philip described in Acts 8:26-29.  The Holy Spirit tells him to go hiking out into the desert.  He does.  The Spirit tells him to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.  He does that too.

We might read this story and think that personal work would be a whole lot easier if we too got instructions from the Holy Spirit.  Of course, the thing is that we have received instructions about evangelism from the Spirit!  Just as Philip had to obey if he wanted to save the eunuch’s soul, we have to obey our instructions if we want to save the souls of those around us.

The first of these, according to 1 Peter 3:15, is that we have to be ready at any time to give a defense of the hope that is within us.  In some ways, this is easier for us than ever before.  As long as we’ve got our phone with us, we’ve got a Bible with us too. 

The question is whether we can use the word of God to teach others how to please God.  If we go out to eat after services, and somebody recognizes that we came out of church and asks us to explain the Bible to us, would we be able to do that?  Could we show them book, chapter, and verse that explains who Jesus is, what His death means, and how people can be saved from their sins through Him?  Brethren, if we can’t do that right now, we aren’t ready, and we need to study, study, study until we are ready.

Second, we have to be opportunistic.  As Colossians 4:3 shows, we have to pray for opportunities and have the love for others and zeal for the Lord to walk through those doors when they open.  Everywhere Paul went, he found opportunities to teach because he was looking for them.  If we have a heart like his, we will find opportunities too.

Our second main element in the salvation of the eunuch is AN EAGER SEEKER.  Let’s keep reading, in Acts 8:30-35.  Both in this section and in the context preceding it, the eunuch comes across as a stand-up guy.  He has several characteristics that add up to him being open to the gospel.

The first of these, and something that always will be present in those who come to the Lord, is zeal for God.  When the text tells us that the eunuch came from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship, we read right through that, but it’s actually really impressive. 

Anybody know how far it is from the capital of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia to Jerusalem?  I didn’t either, so I looked it up on Google Maps, and it’s a little over 2000 miles, about the same distance as from Nashville to LA.  This is long before the days of planes, trains, and automobiles, too, so we’re looking at something like a month of hard, dangerous travel, one way.  The eunuch did all this to worship at Jerusalem, even though they wouldn’t even let him in the temple because he was a eunuch!  As if that weren’t enough, we see him spending his time on the journey back by reading from Isaiah.

Equal to his zeal, though, was his humility.  Despite his zeal, he doesn’t act like he’s got it all figured out.  Instead, he knows what he doesn’t know, he’s willing to ask Philip for help, and he doesn’t dismiss the truth about Jesus because of his preconceptions.

Now, this might seem like a fairy-tale prospect, but let me tell you—the vast majority of the people I’ve brought to the Lord have been like this.  They cared enough to learn, and they were humble enough to learn.  If either one of these attributes is absent, we aren’t going to get anywhere. 

The final element of our conversion story is IMMERSION IN WATER.  Let’s finish up our reading for the morning with Acts 8:36-39.  The first thing that strikes me about this story is that as Luke tells it, the one who introduces the subject of baptism is the eunuch.  Somehow, somebody who didn’t understand that Isaiah 53 was about Jesus now knows that he has to be immersed in water.  How’d he figure that out?

Once we ask the question, the answer is obvious.  In the course of preaching Jesus to him, Philip also tells him about baptism.  From this, we must conclude that it’s impossible to preach Jesus without preaching baptism, and that somebody who doesn’t preach baptism isn’t preaching Jesus.

Second, this passage is vital to our understanding of the nature of Bible baptism.  The eunuch is traveling through the desert.  It’s safe to assume that he had water with him.  If not, he’s not going to make it back to Ethiopia!  Nonetheless, in order to be baptized, he waits until he sees a body of water by the side of the road, goes down into the water with Philip, and comes back out of the water.  Despite the misuse of the word “baptism” today, that doesn’t fit with sprinkling or pouring.  It only fits with immersion, burial with Christ under the water.

Now, I’m sure that many of you have heard, as I have, that you can prove that Bible baptism is immersion by looking at the Greek word for “to baptize”, which is baptiz┼Ź, and means “to immerse”.  That’s true, but I don’t like using that argument, just as I don’t care for proving any point by arguing from the Greek.

Let me explain why.  None of us are ever going to study with a non-Christian who is fluent in koiné Greek.  As a result, they have no way to determine whether we’re telling them the truth or not.  Even if they believe us, their faith will be in us and in our Greek dictionary instead of in the Bible. 

However, we can take them to Acts 8 and show them the eunuch going down into the water and coming up out of the water, and they can understand that for themselves.  When we teach them that way, we’re not only teaching them the truth.  We’re teaching them how to find the truth in the word of God.