Scripture tells us the details about a number of New Testament believers who were baptized after coming to faith in Jesus. The Ethiopian eunuch is one of them. Read the story of his conversion in Acts 8:25-40.
Ethiopian’s Conversion and Baptism
- What prompted Philip to take the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (v. 26)?
(The road was in the “desert,” meaning it was rarely used or went through an unpopulated area.)
- Candace was probably a title rather than a given name, much like Pharaoh of Egypt or Caesar of Rome. Describe the rank or position of the Ethiopian under this ruler (v. 27).
The official in this passage may not have been a literal eunuch. The term was also used of anyone in a high governmental office. In Genesis 39, Potiphar is described as a eunuch, although we know he had a wife.
The Law forbade literal eunuchs from worshipping God with other Jewish men (Deut. 23:1). By reaching out to this man in such a deliberate way, the Lord indicated His desire to offer salvation to everyone, regardless of race or physical deformity.
The Ethiopian was probably a Gentile proselyte, or convert, to Judaism. In his devotion to the one true God, he had traveled about 1,500 miles from his homeland to attend one or more of the season’s Jewish feasts: Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles.
- Who or what prompts Philip to “join” the chariot (v. 29)?
- When Philip asks the Ethiopian if he understands the passage of Scripture, the official’s answer sounds almost sarcastic to modern readers. How do we know it was not meant that way (v. 31)?
- Isaiah 53 predicted a suffering servant who would bear the sins of humanity. Today we recognize this passage as prophecy about Jesus. Explain how the details in Isaiah 53:7-8 (also Acts 8:32-33) correspond with the historical facts about our Lord’s trial and crucifixion. (For help, see Matthew 27:12-14; Luke 22:63-65 and 23:32; John 1:29; Revelation 5:6.)
Either from hearing the apostles’ preaching during his visit to Jerusalem or through Philip’s gospel presentation, the Ethiopian realized that once a person believed in Jesus as the Messiah, he should be baptized (v. 36).
In verse 37, Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized],” and the Ethiopian answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Although this verse is not found in the oldest manuscripts, its principle is repeated over and over in the New Testament: first comes belief, then baptism.
- Name the person or group of people baptized after salvation in each of the following passages:
Baptism was an old Jewish custom given new meaning in Christ. Under Mosaic law, Jews bathed in water as part of ritual cleansing. They had also adopted baptism as a step in a Gentile’s conversion to Judaism. In both of these rituals, the person was submerged under water, so that’s likely what happened here, rather than baptism by sprinkling or pouring. Scripture says the two men “went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him” (v. 38).
- What supernatural event occurs after the Ethiopian’s baptism (v. 39)?
- Why do you think the Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing”?
Using the Jewish Scriptures, Philip explained the gospel to the Ethiopian (v. 34).
- Could you show someone Old Testament messianic prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus?
- Using verses from the New Testament, could you share the plan of salvation?
- If you answered no to either of the previous questions, how could you be more prepared to “give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)?
- Have you ever sensed the Spirit’s leading regarding evangelism and, like Philip, been given the perfect opportunity to share your faith? If so, describe what happened.
Baptism should be one of the first steps of obedience we take after trusting in Christ for salvation.
- If you have been baptized according to Scripture, describe your experience.
- How does witnessing the baptism of new believers affect you?
- If you are saved but were never baptized, or you were not baptized by immersion, what hinders you from following Jesus’ example as described in the Bible?
Prayer: Father, thank You for giving us baptism as a symbol of the new beginning we have in Christ. I pray that, like Philip, I would be sensitive to Your Spirit’s guidance in leading others into a relationship with You. Please give me divine appointments with those who are eager to hear about the path to salvation. Amen.