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Acts 8:34-36 (DRB) And the eunuch answering Philip, said: I beseech thee, of whom doth the prophet speak this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip, opening his mouth, and beginning at this scripture, preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said: See, here is water: what doth hinder me from being baptized?

Imagine the scene: some bigwig (v. 27) sitting calmly reading Isaiah in the cool of the day (v. 28), has Jesus preached to him (v. 35), and almost jumps out of his chariot at the first sign of water. This sounds like someone who believes that "baptism saves you," (1 Peter 3:21) not someone who believes baptism is a nice ceremony to have once you 'have been saved' (in the presence of family or friends, not alone with a stranger, for example).

Question: According to Protestants, why did the eunuch think his baptism was an urgent matter, after having the gospel preached to him, if baptism is not how one appropriates for himself ("puts on", Galatians 3:26-27) the Christ preached—not an intrinsic part of the gospel?

Cf. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; 8:12; 10:48; 22:16.

Thanks in advance.

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    Nothing indicates he thought the act of baptism would save him. He just wanted to get baptised like all the other recent converts. – curiousdannii Dec 4 '18 at 1:13
  • @curiousdannii You can't answer questions in the comments... – Sola Gratia Dec 5 '18 at 16:59
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There is nothing in Luke's account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch to suggest any 'urgency'. The very wording - "here is water, what doth hinder ?" - suggests practicality, not urgency.

But as to the real inquiry - Is baptism itself an act of regeneration or is baptism an outward confession that regeneration has occurred ? - William Huntington (1745-1813) answers it very concisely :

We are washed in regeneration; clean water is sprinkled upon us and we are clean. We are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. All 'baptism' short of this is washing the outside of the cup and platter and amounts to no more than carnal washing.

It is not the washing away the filth of the flesh, but purgation from guilt and a testimony by the Spirit to our justification and adoption, that is the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I Peter 3:21, through whom and by whom the Spirit comes.

The Works of William Huntington

  • That's verbatim the opposite teaching of Peter: "saved by water ... which is a figure of baptism, which now saves you also." Your presented order of 'regenerate/forgiven, then baptism' breaks the order given by Peter again, "repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, *for [εις] the remission of your sins" (Acts 2). But I appreciate your attempt to at least answer the actual question at hand: the seeming urgency on the part of the eunuch to seek baptism after having the gospel preached (or not). I'm marking yours as the answer for now. Thanks. – Sola Gratia Dec 5 '18 at 16:55
  • @SolaGratia Not to labour the point but εις+ accusative is preponderantly translated to, towards, into or unto. See Strong 1519. 'For' is always a dubious rendering of εις. – Nigel J Dec 5 '18 at 17:30
  • Yes, by "for" I meant "unto" or "with the result that you have." As in the εις + accusative in Romans 10:10. Repentance and faith in Jesus is all done εις (for, unto, with the result of, to the end that you might receive) forgiveness of sins, salvation. – Sola Gratia Dec 5 '18 at 17:43
  • @SolaGratia Yes, indeed. Repentance is always (as far as I have ever found) 'unto' remission of sins. A key point in the meaning of aphesis 'remission'. – Nigel J Dec 5 '18 at 17:47
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"According to Protestants" (at least most of them), Baptism is an outward symbol of an inner change and dedication of the life. It is not a sacrament as protestants believe is "Sola Gratia" - nothing we do earns salvation.

That Baptism is NOT essential but symbolic can be seen by the experience of the thief on the cross that was promised salvation without baptism nor any other sacrament.

Consider the family of the Caesarean centurion (Acts 10), who, when they heard Peter preach the Gospel, spoke in tongues before they were baptised. Baptism was then administered as a result of their salvation not to obtain it.

The Ethiopian Eunuch had the same attitude - once he had decided to accept Jesus and thus become a Christian, baptism was requested to mark the event and celebrate it.

If baptism were an act used to obtain salvation it would be invested with almost magical powers that give salvation without a change of life and acceptance of Jesus.

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    Guys this isn't the place for theological debates. Stick to discussing the question. – Matt Gutting Dec 5 '18 at 2:02
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The significance of baptism back then was that it was a physical sign of ones' conversion to Christianity, not as a means of salvation (https://www.equip.org/article/the-importance-of-baptism/).

Other ancient religions also practiced this as a sign of cleansing, rebirth, or initiation (https://owlcation.com/humanities/Which-Religions-Practice-Baptism-Which-Do-Not).

Got Questions (https://www.gotquestions.org/baptism-Acts-2-38.html) elaborates on this further:

The grammatical evidence surrounding this verse and the preposition eis are clear that while both views on this verse are well within the context and the range of possible meanings of the passage, the majority of the evidence is in favor that the best possible definition of the word “for” in this context is either “because of” or “in regard to” and not “in order to get.” Therefore, Acts 2:38, when interpreted correctly, does not teach that baptism is required for salvation.

If you look at the word "eis" as well in Strong's Greek Dictionary (https://biblehub.com/greek/1519.htm), its base definition is "as a result of".

Therefore the eunuch wanted to be baptized as a sign of his faith in Christianity, not as a means to attain salvation.

  • Thanks for answering. This would be much better if it included an argument referenced from a recognized Protestant source. – disciple Dec 4 '18 at 20:49
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    Two more arguments from that passage. 3 other passages with baptism and eis: for repentance, for (or into) his death, for (or into) Moses -- because they already had these things. Grammar, you-all repent and you-all have forgiveness, but each one be baptized. – disciple Dec 5 '18 at 3:39
  • Brilliant! Yes, each one be baptized as a sign of repentance and forgiveness. Grammar can be sooo tricky, yet marvellous when totally understood. – Philip Dec 5 '18 at 3:51
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Question: According to Protestants, why did the eunuch think his baptism was an urgent matter, after having the gospel preached to him, if baptism is not how one appropriates for himself ("puts on", Galatians 3:26-27) the Christ preached—not an intrinsic part of the gospel?

I believe the Eunuch was excited to have an understanding that he didn't have previously about Jesus and after hearing, He wanted to identify with Him. Baptism was historically a way one would identify with another person or message. When Jesus was baptized by John, He wasn't washing His own sins away (He didn't have any). He was publicly claiming, "John's right, I am the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

There are about 3 passages in all of the NT that seem to indicate at first glance that Baptism is a requirement to be saved but then one must ask, "Why do all of the passages in the Bible that talk about salvation, the gospel, and eternal life, omit baptism?"

Note: The last time I counted there were about 14 things people were baptized into. I think theologians have often made the mistake of seeing a generic word like "baptism" and assigned it a super spiritual value when historically the audience would not have had that same understanding.

Small example: For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 1 Cor. 10:1-3)

Second: I think many issues arise when we try to make doctrine out of descriptive passages vs prescriptive passages. Some passages tell us what was said and what happened while others tell us what to do with what happened. In Acts 2:38 a person may think that baptism of required to receive the Holy Spirit, however in Acts 10, they receive the Holy Spirit before they are baptized. The rest of the NT equates the reception of the Holy Spirit with believing the gospel. Jn 7, Eph 1, etc.

Biblical (protestant) summary: When a person believes the gospel (Jesus died and rose for me) they are immediately baptized into God's family and this is the moment they receive the Holy Spirit. Believers should for their rest of their lives publicly identify with Jesus and baptism in water is a great way to start this process.

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