Daily Archives: May 2, 2013

Why Can’t I Be Baptized?

WHY CAN’T I BE BAPTIZED?

“As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, ‘Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?’ He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. He had what he’d come for and went off down the road as happy as he could be.

“Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at Caesarea.” Acts 8:36-40 (The Message).

Mission accomplished! The seed of God’s word was sown in the heart of an African man who came to Jerusalem seeking the Lord. He was on his way home, with his feet firmly planted on “The Way” and the joy of the Lord spilling out of him.

Although Philip did not mention baptism, why did the eunuch seem to know what to do to seal his new-found faith in the Lord Jesus? If he was one of people the Book of Acts called “God-fearers”, he would have understood the ritual of baptism in the Jewish faith.

Baptism was a common practice in Judaism. It was a ritual washing (mikvah) in running or “living” water to initiate someone into a new office, e.g., into the priestly office, or into a new phase of his life or identity with a new leader, e.g., the baptism of John. Both John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples baptized people regularly, according to John 4:1. No doubt this man, being a Gentile, had been baptized into Judaism at some time in his life as a sign that he had embraced the Jewish faith.

Just as He had done with the Passover meal, i.e. revealed its fulfilment in Himself as the Passover Lamb, so Jesus had also infused baptism with a new meaning – His resurrection. When we eat the bread and drink the wine which symbolize His broken body and shed blood, we are expressing our faith in His sacrifice which redeemed us from slavery in “Egypt”.

Likewise, when we are “baptized”, we are immersed in a watery grave as a symbol of our identity with Him in His death and we “rise” to a new life with and in Him. This is a clear and visible statement that we have died to our old way and have risen to a new life of identity with Jesus.

“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus 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.” Romans 6:2-4 (NIV)

The implication of baptism is much more than a ritual initiation into Christianity. It is a public confession of our identity with Jesus in His death and resurrection and a symbol of our cleansing from sin and embracing our new life in him.

“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3 (NIV).

Perhaps at this stage the eunuch did not understand all the implications of his baptism, but at least he knew that his life had changed direction. He was now on course to follow Jesus and be identified with Him and with all those who had become a part of “The Way”.

He Preached Jesus

HE PREACHED JESUS – Acts 8:31-35

“The passage he was reading was this:

“As a sheep led to slaughter,
and quiet as a lamb being sheared,
He was silent, saying nothing.
He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.
But who can count His kin since He’s been taken from the earth?”

“The eunuch said, ‘Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?’ Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.” Acts 8:31-35 (The Message).

What a golden moment? Just Philip and the eunuch, riding along in an open chariot, far from anywhere, engrossed in the Scriptures together. Philip was in his element, unfazed by colour, culture, race and language differences, sharing the precious truth about Jesus. The eunuch’s heart was wide open to receive the truth and respond with life-changing faith in the Master.

What did Philip say to the man? He preached Jesus. What does that mean? No doubt his theme was the prophecy of Isaiah and prophecy about Jesus in general. What better way to present Jesus to this man than that He was the focus and pinnacle of Old Testament prophecy!

It was Peter’s theme on the Day of Pentecost. “These people are not drunk. This is the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy,” he thundered to thousands of curious onlookers. It was Jesus’ theme on resurrection day when He joined the grieving pair on their way home from Jerusalem. It was Matthew’s theme when he unfolded the fascinating story of Messiah, tracing every stage of His life back to the words of the prophets so that his own people, the Jews, would be convinced that Jesus was their Messiah, the king of the Jews.

Why is this such a vital theme in our faith in Jesus as the Son of God? Prophecy is God’s trump card. There is no religion on earth that can point to prophecy to authenticate its message. No one can stop people from making outrageous claims but to prove those claims to be true is another matter.

Such is the foolish gullibility of man that people swallow the most ridiculous beliefs ever spawned by human imagination without questioning their source or their authority. Can people in their right mind, for example, really believe that an image carved out of wood or stone has any power or influence in their lives? What about the random powers of nature? Do they have any intelligence or desire to affect human beings for their good?

All these false systems are an attempt to evade the truth that there is only one authentic and authoritative God. He gave us a detailed written record of His dealings with a people He chose to be His channel and through whom He came in person to show us what God is like. Even more amazing, He wrote the whole story before it happened so that we would know that it’s true.

When Philip told the eunuch the story of Jesus, it was no thumb-suck for entertainment; it was the poignant story of a God who cares. How much does He care? He cared enough to humble Himself to the level of a human baby, to live the same struggle-filled lives as ours and to be so misunderstood because His people wouldn’t consult the prophetic record, that they murdered Him as a lying imposter.

But the story didn’t end there. The prophets wrote the end of the book too. He came back again, just as He said He would, because He was not the fraud they said He was. Who proved to be telling the truth? He did, because He is alive and still doing through His people what He did when He was here in the flesh.

So who and what are you believing; the nonsense passed down to you just because you forefathers believed it, or the truth because Jesus proved it by fulfilling it to the letter?