Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Acts 8: 36-38

Summary retelling of Acts 8: 36-38:

As they were going along, experiencing life while talking about faith, the eunuch sees some water and asks if he can be baptized.  Philip agreed, so the chariot was stopped and the eunuch was baptized.

Thoughts for Today:
First Thought:
Here is a case where baptism doesn’t come before the reception of the Holy Spirit.  At one time, I used to think this was a case of “near simultaneous” baptisms (receiving the Holy Spirit and being water baptized right away).  The more I think about it, the more I think this is an example of a case where the Holy Spirit was present in the eunuch for a good while before the baptism occurred – even before the eunuch met Philip.  After all, the eunuch was on his way back from Jerusalem already having worshipped.  One doesn’t travel to Jerusalem from Ethiopia on a chariot unless one is already interested in the Jewish faith! 

On the other hand, it is possible that the eunuch had the working of the Holy Spirit within him for a while but just recently committed to listening to the Holy Spirit and following Christ.  In this case, it would be as if the eunuch trusted in God and then at approximately the same time was baptized.  Either way, this eunuch was being moved by the Holy Spirit, heard the truth about Jesus Christ, and then responded in baptism.  What is important is that the eunuch responded to the leading of the Lord.

I’ve asked this question many different ways over the last few days, but it is important: how good are you at responding to the Lord?

Second Thought:
I love the fact that Philip baptizes the eunuch right then and there.  He doesn’t need to get approval from some board or committee.  He doesn’t need to run back to Jerusalem and get one of the original twelve disciples to do it for him.  He senses the Holy Spirit leading him and the eunuch and he listens to the Holy Spirit.  This is what it means to be free in Christ.  We don’t have license to do whatever we want.  But we do have license to do what God tells us that we should be doing.  If Christ is leading you, do it!

Do you often find yourself deferring to “more theologically trained people” more than you should?  What is the danger in thinking that you have to meet certain qualifications before being allowed to act out in faith?

Third Thought:
Depending on your translation that you are reading, you may have noticed that your Bible went from verse 36 straight to verse 38.  No, this isn’t an error.  A few Bibles (The NASB, to name one) does contain a verse 37.  Some Bibles, like the ESV, add the verse at the bottom as a footnote.  Here’s what verse 37 says: “And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”  Certainly there is nothing wrong with this verse.  It presents great theology.  However, as we have done more and more archaeology and found earlier copies of the original Greek texts, we are discovering that the earliest copies just don’t include this verse.  This means that somewhere along the line, some scribe or some theologian added verse 37 to help flesh out the story.  Since it isn’t in most of the ancient historical copies in the Greek, most modern translations have left it out (or include it but put it in brackets as the NASB does).

How does it make you feel to know that there are some Bibles out there that include this verse while others don’t?  Does it affect how you see the Bible?

Passage for Tomorrow: Acts 8:39-40
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