In the eighth chapter of the book of Acts, we read the first recorded account of the conversion of an individual to Christianity. The individual in question was an Ethiopian Jew, a eunech in the employ of the queen of Ethiopia; he had journeyed to Jerusalem in order to worship and, as we meet him in the text, he is on his way home. (cf. Acts 8:26ff)
To this individual, God sent a preacher named Philip, a man full of the Spirit of Christ, and experienced in sharing the Gospel. Philip had been preaching among the Samaritans, and had enjoyed great success there, but now God wanted the Gospel to go into Africa also, and so it was providentially arranged for the preacher to meet the eunech.
When Philip met the eunech, the latter was in his chariot, being driven south, and he was studying the Bible. Specifically, the text tells us that the eunech was studying the prophet Isaiah. (cf. Acts 8:30-34; Isaiah 53:7-8) The text, specifically, was that which spoke of the Messiah being led like a lamb to the slaughter.
When Philip asked the eunech if he understood what he was reading, the eunech confessed his puzzlement and asked if Philip could explain it. Beginning at the spot, the Bible says, Philip preached Jesus to him. (cf. Acts 8:35)
Following this lesson, the Eunech saw a body of water and asked if it was possible for him to be baptized. Philip affirmed that it was, and the two went down into the water, the eunech was baptized, and then after, he went on his way rejoicing, having received the forgiveness of his sins, and the salvation of his soul (cf. Acts 8:36-40; 2:38)
Such a simple phrase, but full of meaning.
The eunech was a religious man. But being religious was not enough. There was something he yet needed. He needed a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the only path to God (John 14:6). Religion, without Christ, is not enough to get one to the Father.
When the apostle Peter preached to the crowd on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), he was preaching to a crowd filled with religious people, assembled for the worship of God. But their religion was not enough. They needed Jesus.
Saul of Tarsus was a very religious man, and in his religious zeal he persecuted the church of God. (cf. Acts 9:1ff) But it was not enough. He needed Jesus.
Philip preached Jesus because Jesus was the message the eunech needed to hear for the salvation of his soul. The world today still needs to hear the message of Jesus preached. There is no other name given under heaven by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12).
We can also discern, from the text, that preaching Jesus involves more than just telling men about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Philip began with the theme of the sacrifice of Jesus, the same theme we see in the sermons recorded for us in Acts 2 and 3. But just knowing about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is not enough. When Philip preached Jesus to the eunech, we can also deduce he preached faith and baptism. He taught the eunech that the death of Christ demanded a response.
Why else, when the eunech spotted a water would he ask about baptism. Obviously Philip had taught him about the need to be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins.
Preaching Jesus is not just preaching about what Jesus has done for us, it is preaching about the response that Jesus demands of us. It is telling people that it was Jesus who said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16) It is teaching people that it was Jesus who said, “Unless you repent you will surely perish.” (Luke 13:3)
The world needs to hear Jesus preached. And when Jesus is preached, each of us should have the enthusiasm of the eunech in responding to the message.
The church of Christ invites you to join us in worship and study and to hear Jesus preached, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.