The book of Acts is wonderful for teaching the history of the church as well as providing examples of how people became Christians. From the first gospel sermon (Acts 2), baptism is central and essential to God’s plan of salvation. The emphasis is even found through facts implied from these statements and examples. Consider some facts deduced about baptism from the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch.
First, baptism is part of preaching Jesus. In Acts 8:35, Philip began with the eunuch from the passage the eunuch had been reading (Isaiah 53), and “he preached Jesus to him.” Consequently, the eunuch, when they came past a body of water, said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Why would this man ask such a question unless preaching Jesus included preaching the necessity of baptism?
Second, baptism is part of believing (Acts 8:37). Philip ties his request for baptism to the essentiality of faith preceding baptism. The eunuch confesses belief “that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Jesus had sent His disciples with this understanding, that “he who has believed and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16a).
Third, baptism involves urgency (Acts 8:38). The eunuch ordered the chariot to stop. Why? Why not wait until he was back in Africa? Why not wait until Philip collected several others and then have a baptismal service for them all at once? When the Eunuch saw water, for some reason he wanted to submit to baptism right then and there.
Fourth, baptism involves immersion (Acts 8:39). We primarily know this because the word “baptism” means “strictly dip, immerse in water (Friberg & Miller, 87). However, the fact that Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water indicates that baptism must involve more than sprinkling or even pouring. This man (and Philip) went to the trouble of getting wet by going down into the water.
Fifth, baptism produces rejoicing (Acts 8:39). The first evidence of joy comes after the eunuch comes up out of the water, not when Philip preached Jesus or when the eunuch confessed belief in Jesus. There was something important and necessary about the act of baptism.
Despite a religious world filled with groups who resist, argue against, and deny the importance of baptism, that one example (and there are several others–Acts 2:36-47; 8:12-13; 9:18+22:16; 16:15; 16:30-33; etc.) leaves no doubt about the indispensable part baptism plays in God’s plan to redeem humanity. Thank God for this conversion example in Acts 8. May our hearts be open to accept what the Word says to us (Luke 8:15).
There are some things about social media that are extremely irritating—click baiting, pot-stirring, fight-picking, self-pitying, and the like. But there are a great many positives in that medium, too. Of all of them, I believe that posts of baptisms have to be my favorite. I do not appear to be alone in that estimation. Judging from post reactions and comments, a great many others do as well. We love it when there are pictures. We love the “back story.” We love knowing that our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members have good, honest hearts softened by the power of Divine Revelation. We love knowing they have a clean slate and a fresh start, and are poised to begin their walk on Narrow Road.
All of this leads me to several random observations:
True good news needs no hype, trumping, manufacturing, or baiting.
It is New Testament thinking to rejoice at such good news (Acts 8:39; 15:3).
What a confirmation the obedience of others to the gospel is to our own decision to do so.
It restores our faith in the potential of humanity and the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12).
It builds our confidence in the Bible to see people imitate the examples of the New Testament, doing what they did the way they did it (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:13, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15; 31-33; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 5:26; Col. 2:12; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:18-21).
The average Christian wants what is best for others, which is just one reason Christians are the best people on earth.
We want good news to travel fast, far and wide.
We know it pleases the Lord when a person comes to Him in obedient faith (see Luke 15).
There are doubtless many more observations we could make, but these are enough for me to thank God for His people and those who daily make the decision to become His people. It builds my faith and hope in my fellow human beings and my trust in heaven’s plan of salvation. Thank you for finding joy in the right and best things! And let’s keep striving to perpetuate that joy through leading souls to the Savior.
On September 16, 1991, the space shuttle Discovery dodged a chunk of a Soviet Cosmos rocket. It came within 10 miles of the van-sized debris. If Discovery had not changed its orbit, it would have been so close a call that it would have been yet another tragedy for our then active space program. Mission commander John Creighton said it was “very simple” to maneuver, but absolutely vital to ensure the crew’s survival.
When I mention “conversion” in a spiritual context, what do you think about? Following his mention of Elijah’s exemplary prayer life, James ends with a big dose of encouragement. James uses the word translated “convert” or “bring back.” It is an active word, meaning we cause one to change his or her belief or course of conduct, with a focus on that one then turning in the right direction. The end result, conversion, is the state of their having done that.
To me, it is a blessing to see somebody back in attendance and being involved after they have been away from the Lord and His church. It would be better for a brother or sister to never fall away, but it is definitely a joy to see one have the determination and courage to come back home.
Doesn’t heaven view it the same way? Jesus says in one of the “lost parables,” “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). In conversion, one is changing what their life is orbiting. It is no longer sin and self, but God. What a blessing to see someone go from a path of destruction to the way of life! May this perspective drive our actions in reaching out to our “erring brethren.”
If you did not know the source of this quote already, you might be hard-pressed to guess it. This was said by Stanley “Tookie” Williams, two weeks before he was executed in California in 2005 for four 1979 murders he committed while the apparent leader of The Crips gang in Los Angeles. Though he vehemently proclaimed his innocence in these deaths to the very end, he freely admitted that drugs, robbery, gang- violence and other crimes were very much a part of his life before prison. Redemption, as he understood it, “is not predicated on color or race or social stratum or one’s religious background. It’s accessible for everybody. That’s the beauty about it” (interview with Amy Goodman, WBAI). Williams, who became a prolific author of anti-gang books while on death row, has left behind enough writing to indicate he did not have a biblical understanding of redemption, which is truly tragic because the ideas quoted are certainly biblical.
The word “wretched” is used “of a person in a very unhappy or unfortunate state” (New Oxford American Dictionary, online). The New Testament uses the word twice. Interestingly, the first time it is used by one who was all-too-aware of his wretchedness, but who rejoiced at the possibility of redemption (Rom. 7:24-25). The second time it is used by a church, Laodicea, who didn’t know they were wretched but were told by Christ they were (Rev. 3:17). A form of the word is also used in another place, where Christians struggling with worldliness are told to be wretched over their sinful lifestyle (Jas. 4:9, see ESV). The common thread between these verses is that wretchedness is related to redemption. One must recognize their unfortunate state if they hope to be redeemed.
One of the great ironies of life is that so many are racked with guilt but are also skilled in justifying and defending the very behavior that produces it. Many others rest in their confident belief that they are, overall, good and moral people who don’t really need redemption. To deny or rationalize the sin in our life will cause our most imposing problem to remain unresolved. To humble ourselves and admit our wretchedness apart from Christ can lead us to redemption. It doesn’t matter your race, color, income level, or background. Redemption is tailor-made for the wretched!
Pollards love singing and music. A few (and they usually are those who marry into the family) actually know a few things about either or both. We are thankful that “joyful noise” does not mean “pleasant melody.”
David was probably quite the songster. The “sweet psalmist” wrote the Jewish hymn book, songs used by God’s people over the course of two covenants and hundreds and hundreds of years. We still sing songs inspired by his inspired psalms, and some songs are derived, verbatim, from the sacred text. In Psalm 40:3, David declares, “He has put a new song in my mouth.”
Isn’t that true? Maybe, you used to sing “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” or “Am I Blue?” Now, we sing, “I’m Happy Today” and “I’m Redeemed.” Our favorite song might have been “Let’s Talk About Me.” Now, our anthem is, “Make Me A Servant” and “In The Service Of My King.” It used to be that our theme song was “We Are Living In A Material World” but now it’s “This World Is Not My Home.” Maybe, we used to sing “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” but now we can sing “God’s Family.”
The difference Jesus makes to us hits every facet of our lives. It impacts the very songs in our hearts. Not only will we sing the new song in heaven some day, we have a new song now.
It is said that when Dorothy opened the door to Oz and the movie’s colors went from sepia to Technicolor the audience gasped and that many stood up and applauded. Moviegoers had never seen a movie in color before. We take color movies for granted, but 75 years ago it was new.
Can you remember how excited you were to be able to surf the internet in the early 1990s. A page would load in mere minutes. Dial-up was such an innovation. Smartphone, tablet, and laptop users scoff, nay cringe, at the thought of such primitivity today. We are creatures cultivated by conditioning. What was once fresh and new can all too quickly become stale and old.
Did you grow up in the church or did you come to Christ through your own investigation or someone’s love and concern? Perhaps you can boast of being a third, fourth, fifth, or more generation Christian. You were raised knowing God’s plan of salvation, will for worship, and pattern for daily living. Perhaps it can at times seem like “old hat” and cause us to take the great blessing of salvation for granted.
One who came to Christ as a teenager or an adult may often have a special, intense appreciation for their “new” discovery. Over the course of time (and even generations), we may have to fight apathy and complacency. We can forget the joy and excitement of forgiveness or the feelings of peace and hope. If we “inherited” our faith, we may have to work harder at understanding just what a blessing we had handed to us by our parents and strive to appreciate what we may be taking for granted.
Understand that the blessing of salvation is more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Nothing new or better can follow that. The challenge is always for us to maintain appropriate appreciation for such atonement! Is it still new or do you maybe need to renew?