35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then 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.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:35–38, NKJV)
Was the Ethiopian saved before he was baptized? Many think so. We know he heard about Jesus, without which he could not learn of his sin and come to Jesus for salvation (Jno. 6:44-45). We know he believed what he heard (that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jno. 8:23-24). Both his belief and his confession of faith were unto (in order to) salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). Although repentance is not mentioned, we infer it (Acts 2:37-38). But, what about baptism? Why did he want to be baptized? Was it because he was already saved? Or, did he believe he was still lost until he was baptized? Mark 16:16 gives the Bible answer to this important question. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Unbelief condemns, but one is saved from condemnation when he “believes and is baptized.” That is what the eunuch heard, learned, and believed when Philip preached Jesus to him. That is why he urgently desired to be baptized – because he knew he wanted to be saved. He rejoiced after he was baptized, not before. Now we understand why, because that is when he was saved. Those who tell you the eunuch was saved before he was baptized contradict Jesus. That is never a good place to be (Jno. 12:48).
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:39-11:1, NKJV)
Faith that saves the soul does not draw back out of fear or neglect. It endures present trials, and by doing so receives the promised salvation (Heb. 10:36-39). This is the faith introduced in Hebrews 11:1 and described throughout that chapter. Faith is the substance of hope. “Substance” is a “setting under,” hence, faith is set under hope, supporting and stabilizing it. But, what supports and assures faith? We are told faith is the “evidence of things unseen.” Faith is conviction formed by the evidence of things that cannot be seen. For example, the swaying of the trees causes us to confidently believe in the wind, although we have never seen the wind itself. Faith concludes that “God is” (though unseen by human eyes) because this existence and order of the visible world announces His unseen presence, eternal power, and Godhood (Heb. 11:3, 6; Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1). Faith that God rewards those who diligently seek Him is shaped by the word of God (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; Mk. 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:10-13). Without accepting the evidence of unseen tings, there is no faith. And without faith, there is no hope. Thanks be to God who gives us evidence of His presence and the revelation of His will, so we can believe He exists and be blessed by diligently seeking Him (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31).
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21–23, NKJV)
Following His resurrection, Jesus Christ commissioned His apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). According to John’s account of this assignment, Jesus sent them into the world even as the Father had sent Him (Jno. 17:18; Heb. 3:1). The Father gave the Son the word of everlasting life to speak (Jno. 12:48-50). His apostles, who were sent into the world with the good news of God’s salvation, were guided by the Holy Spirit “into all truth” (Jno. 16:13). The word which the Holy Spirit revealed to them contained why, how, and when sins are forgiven and retained. The forgiveness and the retention of sins is not arbitrary, but available to all (Acts 10:34-35). A freewill decision to believe and obey must be made upon hearing the good news that Jesus is Christ. Those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins are forgiven (Acts 2:36-41; 3:19). Those who do not believe and obey the gospel call to be saved remain lost in their sins. The gospel saves the lost, yet, many will not believe it and obey it, therefore, their sins are retained. The decision to believe and obey the gospel to be forgiven continues to be the most important decision a person will ever make (Acts 2:21, 37-38, 40-41). Will your sins be forgiven, or retained?
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36, NKJV)
It is unfortunate the King James translators in 1611 used “believeth not” in the second part of this sentence. The New King James version followed suit, using the more modern, “does not believe.” But, the word in the Greek manuscript is apeitheō, which means “disobey” (BDAG), as in Romans 2:8 where the KJV and NKJV translate it, “do not obey” the truth. When the word is thus translated, John 3:36 takes on a whole new meaning: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, ESV, see also, NASB). Obedience is necessary to have everlasting life. Since the one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who does not obey the Son “shall not see life,” we properly conclude that believing in the Son takes more than faith alone. Surely this why Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Believers obey Jesus. Those who reject Him are “disobedient (apeitheō) to the word” (1 Pet. 2:7, 8). Demons believe, but faith alone will not give them eternal life (Jas. 2:19-20). Those who believe in the Son have everlasting life precisely because they trust and obey Him. The disobedient shall not have life, but punishment (Matt. 25:46). Have the faith to obey Jesus, and you will see everlasting life.
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word. 42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39–42, NKJV)
Many emphasize “witnessing” for Jesus, and “giving their personal testimony” of Christ to convince others to believe. But, today’s passage shows a personal testimony did not cause others to believe. It was “His own word” that led many Samaritans (in addition to the woman at the well, Jno. 4:5-26) to believe Jesus is “the Christ, the Savior of the world” (v. 41, 42). They did not believe “because of what (she) said” (v. 42). It is not her word, my word, or your word that produces faith – God’s word does that (Rom. 10:17). The power to convert and save lost souls in Christ is in the gospel. The gospel saves when it is believed and obeyed (Rom. 1:16-17). Personal testimonies focus attention on self (a “personal” experience). The “testimony of the Lord” (the gospel, 2 Tim. 1:8) focuses attention on Jesus Christ, His atoning sacrifice, and His call to believe and obey Him for salvation (Heb. 5:8-9; Mk. 16:15-16; Matt. 11:28-30). Believe because of Christ’s word, and then your faith will be in Him and not in another.
1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1–4, NKJV)
Jesus was preparing His apostles for His impending departure. His crucifixion was just hours away. They would scatter – fearful in the moment, uncertain of the future (Matt. 26:31-35). Asking questions like, “Where are you going?,” and “Why can’t we follow you?,” their souls were unsettled, stirred up, confused (John 13:36-37). In their moment of distress, although He was facing the cross (and their approaching abandonment), Jesus reassured their hearts with a call to believe in Him. Jesus had always told them the truth. The faithful heart is comforted in knowing the Father has many dwelling places in His house. Christ’s death and resurrection would prepare the way for them (and us) to abide in the house of God with the Father (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:19-22). Finally, eternal heavenly dwelling places are prepared for Christ’s disciples. Jesus had said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (Jno. 12:26). Jesus is the way to the Father (Jno. 14:6). In times of spiritual disturbance, the troubled heart is calmed by faith in Jesus and the preparations He has made for the soul.
34 “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:34–35, NKJV)
Not everyone’s words can be trusted, including those who say they are telling us the truth. This is the sad and painful reality of sin. People lie, and by doing so they hurt themselves and others. There are also those whose word is honest and true. The integrity of their words marks them as trustworthy and dependable. Such are the words of Jesus. He is the Word who became flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus had just told his disciples the startling truth of the coming destruction the temple and Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39; 24:1-33). He gave signs of the approaching demise which discerning Judean disciples could understand and “flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:15-18). That generation saw what Jesus predicted when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. We must never doubt the word of Jesus. He always speaks truth. His truth is eternal, unlike heaven and earth, which will pass away (2 Pet. 3:8-12). The certainty of His words compel our trust, without hesitation and reservation. Christ’s word is practical. The Judean saints escaped peril by believing and obeying His word. Like them, we must trust and obey Jesus. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46). Jesus speaks truth. When we believe Him, we obey Him, because our hearts are assured that His word will not pass away.