Make Baptism Simple Again

Acts 8 is all about Philip. What’s cool about Philip is that he’s merely a deacon in the church. I don’t mean “merely” as an insult, I just mean it in contrast to being an apostle or some other prominent position.

Whether you have a low position or no position in a church, you can still preach the Gospel. Philip is cool. I look forward to meeting him.

After Philip stirs up things in Samaria, he gets in a conversation with an Ethiopian in a chariot. The Ethiopian Charioteer has questions about Isaiah 53, “Is this about the prophet or someone else?”

What a great lead in to evangelism! If only they were all that easy!

Philip informs him about Jesus Christ. Mr. Ethiopian responds,

“Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Philip and the Ethiopian are apparently the only ones there on a road in a desert.

Why do I bring this up?

Frequently people say that baptism is an outward testimony, it’s “a public profession of faith,” as if that’s all it’s about.

My problem with this is that the Bible never says this once. And, like Acts 8, there is apparently only the baptizer and the baptizee. There is no public display.

I think the church likes to make baptism a display so they can advertise to people how many souls they’ve allegedly converted. And yes, I’m overly cynical. Sue me.

Now, I’m not saying that public baptism is wrong. I am saying be careful not to put the sole emphasis of baptism on something the Bible never once mentions as a part of baptism.

Baptism is between you and the Lord. It also involves the one baptizing you. It’s perfectly fine if they are the only ones aware of it.

I would also go so far as to say that anyone can baptize someone else. We’ve got this notion that only Church Official People can baptize. This thought exists because we’re institutional people and the church likes power. It’s not necessary though.

I think parents can baptize their kids. I think a kid can baptize their parent! I think a friend can baptize you. I do think there should be a relationship there that the person doing the baptism was prominent in helping the one to salvation. I don’t think it should just be some yahoo off the street. “Hey, can you dunk me in water?”

So, anyway, those are some thoughts about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Amazing how many of our practices and understandings have nothing to do with the Bible and quite a bit to do with tradition and institutional power. Be aware of that tendency and fight it!

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