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).
“And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,” (Acts 5:14, NKJV)
Believers were added to the Lord. What does it mean to be “added to the Lord?” Is belief in Jesus the only thing needed to be “added to the Lord?” First, being added to the Lord describes a new relationship one has with Christ. Acts 11:21 says “a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” So, this shows believing is distinct from turning to the Lord. (The text goes on to say many others were added to the Lord, Acts 11:24). One can believe and not turn to the Lord. For instance, demons believe, but obviously they are not added to the Lord (Jas. 2:19). Many believed in Jesus but they loved the praise of men more that pleasing God, and so they did not confess faith in Jesus (Jno. 12:42-43). They were not added to the Lord. The person with an obedient faith who repents of sin, confesses faith and is baptized into Christ is added to Christ (Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:37-38, 40; Rom. 10:9-10). These are saved and added to the body of Christ, His church (Acts 2:47). To be added to the Lord is equivalent to being saved, to being “in Christ,” and to being added to the church. Have the faith to obey Jesus, and be added to the Lord.
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?
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, NKJV)
God is willing to forgive us even after we have been unfaithful to Him (Jas. 4:4-5). His intent is not to see us perish, but that we should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Oh, what love! And yet, we must understand this calls on us to abandon our sins against God and turn to Him for grace. (When we do, He gives it.) This takes humility, which is at the heart of repentance. Indiana Jones famously said, “Only the penitent man will pass.” Harrison Ford’s character also said, “The penitent man is humble before God,” and he “kneels before God.” Indeed, only the humble person repents. Pride prevents us from admitting our sin, changing our heart, and turning to the only One who is willing and able to save us from sin’s pain and punishment (Rom. 6:23). We must understand that God dispenses His grace according to His will, not ours. The “gospel of the grace of God” teaches us to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 20:24; 2:38). It teaches Christians to repent and pray God’s forgiveness when we sin (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9). God’s grace is greater than sin, but we cannot continue to sin and expect grace to abound (Rom. 6:1-2). That is pride, and God resists the proud. To be saved by God’s grace we must have the faith to humbly repent and submit to “the word of His grace” (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 20:32).
“then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
We all need rescuing from the powerful surge of sin that sweeps souls away from God into eternal punishment. God delivers sinners from sin’s bondage and death through the gospel of His Son (Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18; 6:23). God also knows how to deliver godly ones from the trials and temptations they face from “the unjust.” God both delivers the godly while reserving the ungodly for punishment. God “did not spare the angels who sinned,” but cast them into the abyss awaiting judgment (2 Pet. 2:4). God punished the ancient world with a flood while saving Noah and his family (2 Pet. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). God turned Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes because they “gave themselves over to sexual immorality” and had “gone after strange flesh” (2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7). In that moment of judgment God delivered righteous Lot from being “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7-8). These examples serve to boost and secure our faith in moments of doubt and spiritual struggle. God does not abandon the righteous, nor does He forget the wicked (2 Thess. 1:4-10). The Lord’s day of judgment is coming when the unjust will reap their just punishment. The gospel call from God is to repent while you have the time and the ability to do so. Do not harden your heart. God does not want you to perish, He wants you to repent and obey Him to be delivered from sin’s terrible penalty of eternal death (2 Pet. 3:9).
15 For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, 16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”— Therefore you shall flee! And, “We will ride on swift horses”— Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!” (Isaiah 30:15–16, NKJV)
God extended the blessings of repentance to Israel in spite of being “a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord” (Isa. 30:9). Even though they told God’s prophets, “Do not speak to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:10), God was willing to save them if only they would repent. Yet, they sought alliances with Egypt instead of reliance upon the Lord (Isa. 30:1-7). We are also tempted to rely on the strength of human alliances instead of relying on the Lord’s word and way. Human wisdom is accepted over the pure gospel of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:18-25). Human philosophies are heeded instead of divine directives (Col. 2:2-3, 8-9, 20-23). Human doctrines and practices are clung to instead of a “thus saith the Lord” (Col. 3:16-17). Human pride is followed instead of humbly submitting to the Lord’s word (Jas. 4:6-10). Like Israel, salvation will be ours if only we will repent. Truly, God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Flee to the Lord for His salvation, not to the false hopes of men that will never save you from sin and will never secure your fellowship with God.
1 Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. 2 Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?” 3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:1–3, NKJV)
The sovereignty of Yahweh (the “eternally-existing One,” Exo. 3:14-15) evokes, demands, and prompts us to praise and magnify His grandeur and power. In contrast to giving honor to God, the sin of idolatry is rooted in glorifying men instead (Psa. 115:4-8; Exo. 20:1-6). Idolatry is a lie that corrupts the nature of God and the lives of those exchange the truth of God for the lie (Rom. 1:21-25). We honor and praise the true and living God because of His mercy and truth. These are hallmarks of God’s sovereign dealings with humanity. Paul succinctly noted that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Thus, the sovereignty of God is not arbitrary (saving and condemning on a divine whim). Neither does it rob humanity of freewill, for we must “come” to the knowledge of the truth (Matt. 11:28-30). We are responsible before God to seek His mercy according to His truth. In His mercy, God has given His Son to be our Savior. In His truth, He calls sinners to believe the gospel of His Son, repent, and be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38). God’s mercy and truth brings the sinners to salvation, saved by grace through faith. To Your name we give glory, O Lord, God of mercy and of truth.