Look! Water!

The apostle Peter was there when our Lord gave the commission to preach to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20), so he understood very well what was inherently involved in “making disciples.” Peter preached exactly what he was supposed to have preached, as a Christian and not as a Jew alone, and baptism was always the outcome. Consider Acts 2:14-38, in which Peter begins his discourse by saying, “You men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words…” It is at this point that he preaches Christ and Him crucified, with the result that those listening are “pricked to the heart” and ask Peter and the brethren what needs to be done. In response to this inquiry; “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). That day, 3,000 souls were added to the church.

The question that we must ask ourselves is what we need to do! When we consider our own sins, and the cruel nature of Christ’s death upon a cross, which one of us will not be pricked in the heart? Which one of us will not bow his head and feel the deep regret that accompanies the guilt of sin? Contrasted so starkly with the individuals on the day of Pentecost is Felix, the governor who sat and listened to Paul preach the Gospel “quite often” but never took the necessary steps to ensure his salvation (Acts 24:24-27).

Philip is another preacher of the Word who understood the details of baptism, because on more than one occasion he was instrumental in convincing others to get baptized. For example, Acts 8:12 reads, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” One point that we can make is that men and women are both welcomed into the church, and baptism applies to both. Everybody, whether man or woman, must be baptized to be saved. Galatians 3:28 states that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free man, neither male nor female…” Second, part of preaching the “good news about the kingdom of God” included preaching about baptism. Otherwise, why would these people want to respond to his speech by requesting baptism? One cannot separate baptism from the kingdom!

In later verses, Philip is found preaching to a eunuch from Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-39), who questions him about a verse from Isaiah 53. Begin with that prophecy, Philip “preached Jesus to him.” By preaching Jesus and discussing the prophecy of Isaiah, the preacher convinced the eunuch to get baptized. Inherent in “preaching Jesus” is preaching baptism. Once again, they cannot be separated. Notice a few other things about this text: the eunuch was baptized as soon as possible, in the least likely of all places. He did not wait until he found a more appropriate time and place for baptism; if this act is not necessary, then why the rush? “They both went down into the water…” We all must be baptized by somebody, and there must be a witness around to attest to the action. We cannot baptize ourselves. Obviously, the baptism was full immersion in the water, because they both needed to get out of the chariot and descend into the pool. If the baptism were simply sprinkling, then why not just baptize the eunuch right there in the chariot? Finally, the eunuch did not “go on his way rejoicing” until after the baptism had taken place. If this Ethiopian received salvation by faith alone, then why did he not rejoice right there in the chariot before his baptism?