Fred E. Dennis
All Christians are religious, but not all religious people are Christians. We have millions of people in our own beloved country who are deeply and sincerely religious, but who are not Christians. One may be religious, but religiously wrong. We have accounts in the book of Acts of individuals who were very religious, but who were not Christians and, consequently, not saved.
In Acts 8:26-40 we have a rather minute description of a man who was sincere and honest and who was certainly very religious, but he was not a Christian. This man was an officer under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was evidently a Jew or a proselyte to the Jewish religion. In our lesson, we are introduced to him after he had been to Jerusalem to worship and was on his way back to Africa. In other words, he had made a journey of 1,000 miles to worship the God of heaven. He had dropped the heavy duties of his office and had gone to worship God. He had a very lucrative position. In those days Ethiopia was one of the great countries of the world and this man was the queen’s treasurer. But he took time off to go to worship. This man knew nothing but the Old Testament law. He knew that under that law, God had recorded his name in Jerusalem, and that every male in Israel was to go there to worship at the three annual feasts. How sincere he was!
After being at Jerusalem, he was on his way back home. He was going along the road reading the Old Testament. He was reading a hard passage for an unconverted Jew to understand. He was reading this passage from Isaiah 53: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living.” He was pondering on this scripture. He could not understand it. He knew not of whom the prophet spoke.
In this neighborhood there was a gospel preacher by the name of Philip. An angel of the Lord spoke to the preacher. Please note that the angel did not appear to the man who was to be converted. The man who became a Christian knew nothing of the appearance of the angel unless the preacher told him. Even if the angel had made his appearance to the man, he would not have told him what to do to be saved. The Lord has committed the preaching of the gospel into the hands of men (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; 2 Tim. 2:2).
The angel of the Lord told Philip to, “Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” This way was the road the eunuch was traveling. The preacher “arose and went.” The Lord is well pleased with any individual who will thus obey. Of course, when the preacher reached this road, he had done what the angel told him to do. What next? The religious man was passing along the road. Now, the Spirit speaks to the preacher. Please note that the Spirit did not speak to the man who was to be converted.
The Spirit told the preacher to join himself to the chariot. How readily he obeyed! The record says, “And Philip ran thither to him.” How anxious gospel preachers ought to be to “run” to the unsaved! Some of us are much more anxious to “run” to the saved! Philip heard the man reading the passage from Isaiah. The first thing he did was to ask this question: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” Well did Philip know that if the man understood this passage he knew something at least about the Blessed Christ. But he did not understand it! He answered the question by saying, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” He desired someone to teach him. How easy to teach one who wants to be taught! He desired Philip to come up and sit with him.
So we have the beautiful picture of an earnest, humble gospel preacher and a lost soul riding along the highway. What did the preacher preach? This great question can be answered in one word. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” What a religious revolution would be worked if all preachers knew nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified! What this old world needs is Jesus Christ. What you need, my gentle reader, is Jesus Christ. Philip began preaching with a prophetic declaration concerning the Christ. He would come up to His birth, His life, to His vicarious death, His burial, and His resurrection and His ascension and coronation as King on David’s throne. He kept right on until he had told this dear soul what the Lord commanded him to do to be saved.
No preacher is preaching Jesus Christ who does not preach what Christ wants preached. No one can preach Jesus Christ without telling lost souls what Christ would have them do to be saved. No preacher is telling what Jesus says folks must do to be saved unless he tells them plainly that they must be baptized to be saved. This is what Jesus said to preach. Hear Him: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
This is what Philip preached. How did this honest, sincere, religious man receive such preaching? Here is the record: “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Just as soon as he learned what God would have him do, he was ready to do it. May God help us all to be that honest.
Did the preacher have him tell some “religious experience”? No, a thousand times, no! Did he have some church to “vote” on it? Indeed, he did not! What did the preacher say? Here it is: “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Now, note that the man said he believed: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” He did not believe that he was already saved, but he believed that Jesus Christ is God’s Son.
Upon this simple confession of faith he was baptized. “And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”