The Ethiopian Eunuch - A Reply
Elder O. B. Mink
Now In Glory
“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 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. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” (Acts 8:26-40)
I prosecute this work with the knowledge that it is rarely possible to refute all that an opposing view may offer, and it is not my purpose to relegate all you have said on the subject to oblivion. Nay, it is my purpose to be constructive in dealing with your objections, hoping thereby to establish a basis for further consideration by you of what is said herein, whether they be so or not. If this much is accomplished, my exposition will not be altogether vain.
I believe you have listed your objections according to the order of importance to you, and I will consider them as chronologically listed in your letter. Hence:
1.) Collective voting by a church as relates to water baptism, and the reception of members into the official church. You state, “If we believe that baptism is into the local church, we must do one of two things:
A. Postpone baptism until we can have a vote of the church (which I saw in the GARBC and rejected as unscriptural).
B. Baptize into the membership without a church vote (which is equally unscriptural and destructive of Bible polity).”
Your dilemma as stated above is unwarranted. It is not imperative in every case of baptism to have the collective membership present at the site and time of baptism. This being true, it necessitates that a duly appointed agent be vested with authority to represent the collective body of the church, and act for the church in administering the ordinance of baptism.
The church can only baptize through its appointed agent, usually the Pastor. Paul and Barnabas were sent out as missionaries from the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-4), and it is evident from Scripture (Acts 16:33; 19:5; 1 Corinthians 1:16) that Paul was given authority to act for the church at Antioch in administering the baptismal ordinance whenever, wherever, and upon whomever he deemed a proper candidate. In (Acts 14:26-27), Paul and Barnabas give a detailed report to the church at Antioch of their missionary labors, wherein they “rehearsed all that God had done with them.” A constituent and essential part of the vote of a New Testament church in sending forth a missionary is the empowerment of him to baptize for his home church, and to organize churches whenever and wherever possible.
When the missionary acts, the church that officially sent him out acts in de-facto by, or in the missionary. By this divinely ordained method, the vote or authority of the home church is ever present with the missionary, and there is no need to postpone baptism of a proper candidate. New Testament Baptist missionaries realize that baptism of a candidate into the home church is not an end in itself, but rather a necessary step in realizing their hope of a church being organized in their respective field of labor. This truth is attested to by the many churches organized by Paul and his missionary co-workers.
In taking exception to the Landmark Baptist contention that Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch into the church at Jerusalem, you say: “This strikes me as being contrary to other doctrine. Hebrews 10:25 tells us that there is to be a constant gathering of the church. How could he attend the church of Jerusalem? And certainly there was no church in Ethiopia. He was under no discipline either (at least that was practical.) ”
Be it far from me to minimize the importance of church attendance. I consistently decry the dilatoriness of God’s people as respects this essential duty. However, there are exceptional cases where absence from the corporate worship services of the church cannot be prevented. Let me cite a few examples which I hope will not diminish your zeal for the Lord’s house, but which I believe will show there is no force in your argument against the contention that the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized into the church at Jerusalem. Following are some providential examples:
1.) Prolonged critical illness.
2.) Military duty. Two of our young men served in Viet Nam and did not attend a New Testament Baptist worship service for over a year. Thank God, they both are with us now, and seldom miss a service. I am persuaded that Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10 & 11) was baptized into the church at Jerusalem, but I am caused to wonder where his military duty took him after his baptism.
3.) Incarceration. This was all too often the experience of Paul, as well as the other apostles. Our glorious history is replete with the bitter incarceration of our Baptist forebears.
4.) Exile or banishment. Does not the word “exile” bring to mind the isle of Patmos, and the aged, but faithful Apostle John, who for the preaching of Christ; was sent to that barren island in the Aegean sea. John was absent from the official worship services of his church during his banishment, but he never ceased to worship God during this time (Revelation 1:10).
5.) Many Bible scholars believe that Paul spent his first three post-regenerate years alone with God in the Arabian Desert. These same scholars believe that Paul, during these three years restudied the Old Testament Scriptures from a Christological view point which centered in Jesus of Nazareth. If these scholars are correct, then Paul was irregular in church attendance the first three years of his apostleship, but he was all the while preparing for a life of dedication to Christ, which as yet is unsurpassed by any man.
I am aware that the examples I have referred to are extraordinary cases, but I also realize the case of the Eunuch is amazingly unique. However, Hebrews 10:25 is a law of Christ, and is to be tenaciously adhered to by all members of each respective church, apart from providential hindrance, and God knows the difference between His own providence, and that conjured up by a lazy church member.
Now, back to Philip and the eunuch. It is reasonable to presume that the eunuch was a Jew or a proselyte to the Jewish faith. This is borne out by the fact that he had been up to Jerusalem to worship. He was not only a worshipper, but he was also a devout religionist, making the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Temple as the law demanded (Exodus 13:10). His honesty and integrity is manifested by the eminent position he held in the court of Candice, Queen of Ethiopia. It is specifically stated that Philip preached Jesus unto the eunuch from Isaiah 53, and in the course of preaching, declared that baptism was a graphic picture of the gospel of Isaiah’s Lamb, whereupon the eunuch petitions Philip for baptism (Acts 8:37-38). It was from Philip the eunuch first learned of the baptism Jesus had ordained, and placed in His church unto the end of the age (Matthew 28: 19-20). Freelance baptism is spurious, and a mockery of the authority God has vested in his churches.
It is seen from Scripture that the eunuch was faithful to his Jewish religion, and that he was anxious to learn about the God of Israel. Being a eunuch or emasculated person he was debarred from entering the Jewish court, and deprived of the privilege of mingling with the Jewish congregation, yet we see his determination to worship God, even if he was limited to the court of the Gentiles. (Deuteronomy 23:1). The court of the Gentiles included men of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, clean and unclean, but all were encouraged to worship God, and to send in sacrifices with the assurance that they would be accepted (Isaiah 56:1-8). Moreover, a man so intensely religious, vainly worshipping, cannot be expected to be less religious after he is gloriously saved, and brought to the truth of salvation by grace.
A Baptist of such character will no doubt be a great influence for God and truth. The eunuch’s former religion and his secular vocation demanded that he be a self disciplinarian, and it would be a grievous error on our part to conclude that the truth of free grace, while nullifying law works, makes it easier on the flesh; whereby a believer may alter his lifestyle, so as to be less consistent in the faith of God’s elect. This is precisely the damning heresy of antinomianism, but it is seen from Scripture that the eunuch was religiously zealous, rather than slothful.
It is not certain whether the Ethiopian eunuch was a Hellenistic or a foreign born Jew, or a proselyte from heathenism to the Jews religion, but we know for sure he is now (Acts 8) a rejoicing Christian whose eyes have been opened so as to understand the Christ of the Old Testament, and it is reasonable to conclude that a man of his character will discipline himself so as not to reproach his loving and gracious Lord.
While the eunuch knew nothing about Hebrews 10:25, he did know his beloved Mosaic institution had been set aside, that his deception regarding it had been removed, and that he had been saved and added to the Lord’s church by baptism. Then too, we know the Holy Spirit, an angel, and the church were all directly involved in the salvation and baptism of the eunuch.
Philip was not only a Deacon (Acts 6:5) in the first Baptist church of Jerusalem, but he was also an Evangelist, and did much preaching, the fruition of which was the salvation of many and the baptizing of the same into the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:5, 12). There is no record in the New Testament of a self authorized Evangelist, the simple reason being, the writers of the New Testament knew the office authoritatively belonged to and in the local church (Ephesians 1:11).
Then too, it is seen that the account of the baptizing of the eunuch was reported to the church at Jerusalem, from whom Luke got his account (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1) of Philip’s evangelistic labors, and it is from Luke’s divinely inspired pen that we are blessed with the Christ exalting and church edifying report. So, let us be consistent and hold fast to the divinely decreed order (Acts 2:41-42) of preaching the gospel by the authority of one of the Lord’s churches, and baptizing converts into the church, that they may grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).
While the Scriptures reveal nothing of the post-redemptive life of the eunuch, it would not be unwise to conclude that all of the supernatural forces used of God in the conversion of the eunuch point to further providential direction of him. In any event, we have no basis whatsoever to assume he was unfaithful in his profession to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4; 7:6).
(The Baptist Herald - February, 1993)
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