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 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
This is the biblical account of how a very religious man was saved.
That may seem odd to read. I mean, isn’t being religious a big part of being saved? It does seem strange to think of a person being very religious and yet also lost. Yet, believe it or not, the Bible talks quite a lot about religious folks who aren’t saved.
Take Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Sounds like Jesus is talking about some pretty religious folks here. They were so religious that they were doing quite a lot of good things, supposedly all for him. And yet in the end he denied them heaven…why? Because they didn’t do the will of his Father in heaven (Hebrews 5:8-9).
This brings us back to the eunuch and Philip. This eunuch was obviously a very religious man, considering that he traveled all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship and was reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah when Philip met him (Acts 8:26-30). Yet he apparently knew nothing about Jesus, considering that Philip had to explain to him that he was reading a Messianic prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah and, starting with that Scripture, told him all about Jesus (Acts 8:30-35). Jesus said that faith in him is a necessity to be saved (John 3:16; 8:24). The eunuch didn’t even know of Jesus before he met Philip. So here you have a religious man who still had yet to be saved.
Apparently telling someone the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35) requires telling them about baptism, because as soon as they came to some water the eunuch wanted to be baptized (v. 36). This is because Jesus also said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Philip himself had likely been converted to Christianity by Peter, who had joined his Master in teaching the need for repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; cf. 1 Peter 3:21). So it is of little wonder that the Ethiopian wanted to be baptized the moment water became available. This is another reason why we are reading the account of a religious man who had yet to be saved in spite of being religious. He had yet to be saved because he had yet to do what God had commanded him to do.
Praise God that this particular religious man had the heart of humility and faith necessary to simply obey what God through Philip told him to do! Philip told him that if he believed in Christ with all his heart, he could be baptized. The eunuch immediately confessed his faith, and Philip immediately baptized him. The next verse records the Ethiopian rejoicing (v. 39), and with good reason. He had just been saved by God’s grace through his own faith (Ephesians 2:8), his faith shown to be real through his humble obedience to Christ’s command to be baptized (James 2:14-26). He went from a lost religious man to a saved religious man!
If you’re reading this, you’re likely religious. What kind of religious person are you, though? Are you like the poor souls of Matthew 7:21-23, or are you like the eunuch?