By Ron Bartanen
The treasurer of Candace, queen of Ethiopia, had traveled over 1000 miles “to worship” at a religious festival in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 8:26-39. As he was riding home in his chariot, he was reading from what we would identify as the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. He was met by a stranger, a deacon named Philip, who asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Acknowledging the fact that he didn’t understand, he was then willing to be taught. Philip, using this scripture as the foundation, “preached unto him Jesus.” Isaiah’s prophecy, given over 700 years prior to this time, was of the coming of one who would be rejected by His people, but would be as the sacrificial lamb, taking upon Himself the burden of man’s iniquities. After foretelling His vicarious death, Isaiah was inspired to affirm the unheard of—the prolonging of His life in His resurrection. This Ethiopian official was learning the identity of the One who on man’s behalf has “poured out his soul unto death” and thus “bare the sin of many. ” A religious man was enabled to have his heart opened to a message of hope. Condemned by God’s Law, the light of the Gospel now breaks through any clouds of despair.
When the Ethiopian nobleman heard the Good News, something Philip had preached made him aware that he needed to be baptized. When they had come to a body of water, he asked, “What would hinder me from being baptized.” Upon being told, “If you believe with all your heart, you may,” he confessed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Stopping the chariot, both Philip and the Ethiopian “went down into the water”, where Philip baptized him. It was then written of him, “He went on his way rejoicing.” Though previously religious, he would no longer be in doubt as to his acceptance with God. He had passed from being lost into a state of salvation in Christ.
What this Ethiopian needed is what is still needed today—a knowledge of the fact that the Son of God has come, and that He has taken care of the sin-problem, taking upon Himself our guilt upon the cross, being buried, and rising triumphant from the tomb as the Victor over death. Man today needs the same Good News that Philip preached. Man today needs to respond to that Gospel as did the treasurer—confession of faith and baptism. The promise of Jesus for that day is unchanged today: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). No “sinner’s prayer” will suffice. No voting of eligibility by a congregation would be required. What will be required for any to go on his way rejoicing today would be to identify with the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection in being “buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). When you have believed what this religious man believed, and have done what he did, you will have become what he became—a follower of Christ, a Christian—nothing less and nothing more.