“Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.’
And the eunuch said to Philip, ‘About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:25–40).
While Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, an angel directed Philip to an out of the way place where he met an Ethiopian court official. The man was reading Isaiah and had questions about the text.
Instead of answering the man’s questions, Philip shared Christ with him. Take note, though, that he began with the Scripture the man was reading. The principle we glean is that, while Christ may not appear in every verse, all of Scripture reveals Him. He is the sum and culmination of every text. Also, rather than getting into the weeds, as many people would prefer, the gospel is the most important conversation we can have with anyone.
As they went along, the eunuch spied some kind of water, whether a spring, a pond, or a puddle, we don’t know and it didn’t matter. He asked, “What prevents me from being baptized?” The English Standard Version simply omits v. 37, while the New American Standard adds a footnote that it doesn’t appear in the original manuscripts.
The verse seems to have been added later in an effort to answer the question and, while absent from the original, it does offer some help. So, the King James Version inserts verse 37: “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
In other words, genuine faith in Christ is the only requirement for baptism. Anyone who adequately professes authentic saving faith in Christ is a proper candidate for baptism. No other condition for baptism is placed on anyone in the New Testament than a clear testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.
Was Philip able to guarantee that the eunuch would follow Christ faithfully once he returned to his homeland, culture, and responsibilities? Of course not. Nor can we guarantee that everyone we baptize will walk with Christ faithfully all the days of their lives.
It’s precisely for this reason that the Great Commission commands us to make disciples, “baptizing them and teaching them.” We baptize someone once, but we have an ongoing obligation (whenever possible) to teach them to observe all that Christ commanded.
When Philip had baptized the eunuch, the Spirit lead him away preaching the gospel and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing in the Lord. From which, we can only conclude that the eunuch’s faith in Christ was real and the Lord would lose nothing of all the Father has given Him (John 6:39).
The Lord grant us the discernment to divide between His wisdom and ours and to recognize that it’s Christ’s church He’s building, not ours.