Why The Eunuch Rejoiced After Baptism
We hear much about salvation before and apart from baptism from those who insist that this plain and positive command of God is non-essential. And this despite the fact that hardly any other subject is treated more fully or stressed more forcefully in all of God's word. In fact, the honest enquirer soon realizes that in the light of Bible teaching, baptism is a "must" in order to obtain the salvation from past sins.
In this brief paper we want to examine the subject in a slightly different light from the usual. We re-word the subject, putting it in the form of a question, and then finding the answer to that question in God's word. The question is: Why did the eunuch rejoice, not before, but after he was baptized?
First, we suggest that the rejoicing by the eunuch was after, rather than before baptism because, for the first time in his life, he had received something truly wonderful to rejoice about — namely salvation from past sins. Not only is he now freed from the guilt and inevitable penalty from those past sins, sins which otherwise would have brought him eternal punishment, but is now a Christian, a child of the most high God, with the hope of heaven burning brightly in his heart. Truly now he has something to rejoice about!
But notice the point, the time element, of his rejoicing. It came not back there when he first believed, nor yet at the moment when he confessed with his mouth his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God; but his rejoicing came only AFTER he had come up out of the waters of baptism. (Acts 8:38, 39.) This rejoicing after baptism is in complete harmony with those multiplied passages in God's word which teach that God has placed forgiveness of past sins at the point of obedience. It comes at the moment when we "were buried therefore with him through baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4.) Jesus had taught, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." (Mark 16:16.) Men have repeatedly tried to change this to read: "He that believeth shall be saved, and then at some later time (if he desires it) he may be baptized."
On that memorable Pentecost, when the church began, Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to answer the question of honest hearts who desired to know the truth. He said, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins." (Acts 2:36-38.) This teaching is in exact harmony with the same instruction given some years later by the inspired Ananias to a penitent believer. Paul relates the story of that event in his speech before the Jewish mob in Jerusalem, "And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt there, came unto me, and standing by me said unto me, "Brother Saul, receive thy sight .... And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." (Acts 22:12-16.)
This was the teaching that caused the eunuch to rejoice AFTER, not before, his baptism. The positive assurance from the gospel of Christ that forgiveness would come at the point of obedience, that obedience being his baptism into Christ, was enough to fill his heart to overflowing with happiness. He rejoiced "after" baptism for the same reason that a man cured of a terrible malady will rejoice "after" his cure, and not before. He rejoiced after baptism because he was now "in Christ." and had also "put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27.) He is now a part of the Lord's body, a member in the Lord's church. (Eph. 1:22,23.) He had been "baptized into his death"; and since his blood was shed in death, by being baptized into his death, the eunuch could partake of all the benefits and blessings made possible by the shedding of that blood.
These are only a few of the great number of passages which might be cited to show why the rejoicing came after, not before, baptism. We may not know all that Philip said to the eunuch, but some things from the record are very clear: he "preached Jesus" unto this honest searcher for truth. The preaching of "Jesus" must have included some teaching as to who Jesus is (for the eunuch confessed his faith that he was the Son of God); it certainly included teaching as to what Jesus did (for the very passage from which the sermon began dealt with the sacrificial death of Christ); and we can be very certain it dealt with God's commands for men (for at the very first opportunity the eunuch earnestly desired to obey one of those commandments which he had not hitherto obeyed). Having obeyed that command, the eunuch rejoiced. He knew from the teaching he had received that he is now saved from his past sins, freed from the burden of guilt, a member of the Lord's body, a child of God! That is enough to make any sincere soul "go on his way rejoicing."