Acts 8:38
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
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(38) They went down both into the water.—The Greek preposition might mean simply “unto the water,” but the universality of immersion in the practice of the early Church supports the English version. The eunuch would lay aside his garments, descend chest-deep into the water, and be plunged under it “in the name of the Lord Jesus;” the only formula recognised in the Acts. (See Note on Acts 2:38.) So it was, in the half-playful language in which many of the Fathers delighted, that “the Ethiopian changed his skin” (Jeremiah 13:23).

Acts 8:38. And he commanded the chariot to stand still — Namely, upon Philip’s declaring his satisfaction in this profession of his faith in Christ, and subjection to him, and readily consenting to receive him as a fellow Christian. And they went down both — Namely, out of the chariot; into the water — Or rather, to the water, as εις τω υδωρ literally signifies. For it is not certain that he was baptized by immersion. This text neither affirms nor intimates it. And he baptized him — Though Philip had very lately been deceived in Simon Magus, and had admitted him to baptism, though he afterward appeared to be no true convert, yet he did not therefore scruple to baptize the eunuch immediately upon his profession of faith, without putting him upon a longer trial than was usual. If some hypocrites, who afterward prove a grief and scandal to us, crowd into the church, yet we must not therefore make the door of admission any straiter than Christ has made it; they shall answer for their hypocrisy, and not we.8:26-40 Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes God opens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikely places. We should study to do good to those we come into company with by travelling. We should not be so shy of all strangers as some affect to be. As to those of whom we know nothing else, we know this, that they have souls. It is wisdom for men of business to redeem time for holy duties; to fill up every minute with something which will turn to a good account. In reading the word of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and of what the sacred writers spake; but especially our thoughts should be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian was convinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exact fulfilment of the Scripture, was made to understand the nature of the Messiah's kingdom and salvation, and desired to be numbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek the truth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, will be sure to reap advantages. The avowal of the Ethiopian must be understood as expressing simple reliance on Christ for salvation, and unreserved devotion to Him. Let us not be satisfied till we get faith, as the Ethiopian did, by diligent study of the Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Spirit of God; let us not be satisfied till we get it fixed as a principle in our hearts. As soon as he was baptized, the Spirit of God took Philip from him, so that he saw him no more; but this tended to confirm his faith. When the inquirer after salvation becomes acquainted with Jesus and his gospel, he will go on his way rejoicing, and will fill up his station in society, and discharge his duties, from other motives, and in another manner than heretofore. Though baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with water, it is not enough without the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Lord, grant this to every one of us; then shall we go on our way rejoicing.And they went down both into the water - This passage has been made the subject of much discussion on the subject of baptism. It has been adduced in proof of the necessity of immersion. It is not proposed to enter into that subject here (see the Editors' Notes at Matthew 3:6, Matthew 3:16). It may be remarked here that the preposition εἰς eis, translated "into," does not of necessity mean that they went "into" the water. Its meaning would be as well expressed by "to" or "unto," or as we should say, "they went "to" the water," without meaning to determine whether they went "into" it or not. Out of "twenty-six" significations which Schleusner has given the word, this is one, and one which frequently occurs: John 11:38, "Jesus, therefore, groaning in himself, cometh to εἰς eis the grave" - assuredly not "into" the grave; Luke 11:49, "I send them prophets," Greek, "I send to εἰς eis them prophets" - "to" them, not "into" them, compare Romans 2:4, 1 Corinthians 14:36; Matthew 12:41, "They repented at εἰς eis the preaching of Jonas" - not into his preaching; John 4:5, "Then cometh he "to" εἰς eis a city of Samaria," that is, "near to it," for the context shows that he had not yet entered "into" it, compare Acts 7:6, Acts 7:8; John 21:4, "Jesus stood "on" εἰς eis the shore," that is, not "in," but "near" the shore. These passages show:

(1) That the word does not necessarily mean that they entered "into" the water. But,

(2) If it did, it does not necessarily follow that the eunuch was immersed. There might be various ways of baptizing, even after they were "in" the water, besides immersing. Sprinkling or pouring might be performed there as well as elsewhere. The most solemn act of baptism that I ever saw performed was, when I was a boy, in the river on the banks of which I was born, where the minister and the candidate went both of them "into" the Myer, and, when near to the middle of the river, the candidate kneeled down in the water, and the minister with a bowl "poured" water on his head. Yet if the fact had been stated, in reference to this case, that "they went both down "into" the water, and came up out of the water," and it had been hence inferred that the man was "immersed," it would have been wholly a false inference. No such immersion occurred, and there is, from the narrative here, no more evidence that it occurred in the case of the eunuch. See βαπτίζω baptizō.

(3) it is incumbent on those who maintain that "immersion" is the only valid mode of baptism to prove that this passage cannot possibly mean anything else, and that there was no other mode practiced by the apostles.

(4) it would still be incumbent to show that if this were the common and even the only mode then, in a warm climate, that it is indispensable that this mode should be practiced everywhere else. No such positive command can be adduced. And it follows, therefore, that it cannot be proved that immersion is the only lawful mode of baptism. See the Editors' Notes at Matthew 3:6, Matthew 3:16.

38. they went down both into the water, and he baptized him, &c.—probably laving the water upon him, though the precise mode is neither certain nor of any consequence. In hot countries this was usual, to baptize by dipping the body in the water; and to this the apostle alludes, when he tells the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 6:1, that they are washed: but God will have mercy, and not sacrifice; sprinkling being as effectual as washing, and as significative also, representing the sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb, of which we read, Exodus 12:3, which presignified the sprinkling the blood of Jesus, that Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world; and our hearts must by it be sprinkled from an evil conscience, Hebrews 10:22. It is not the more or the less of the outward element which makes the sacraments effectual; but they are effectual only as they are God’s appointments, and attended upon according to his will. And he commanded the chariot to stand still,.... That is, the eunuch ordered his chariot driver to stop; for to him it better agrees to give this order than to Philip; though otherwise the words are so placed, that it would be difficult to say who gave the command.

And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him: upon which Calvin has this note;

"hence we see what was the manner of baptizing with the ancients, for they plunged the whole body into water.''

And indeed, other mode had been practised then, as sprinkling or pouring of water, there would have been no necessity of their going out of the chariot, and much less of their going down into the water; and as for change of apparel, it cannot be reasonably thought that so great a man should take so long a journey without it. In like manner the Jewish ablutions and purifications, which were performed by immersion, and therefore called baptisms, Hebrews 9:10 are spoken of in the same sort of language as here: so a profluvious person, and a woman that had lain in, were obliged , "to go down and dip" (k).

"It is a tradition of the Rabbins (l), that he that sees any nocturnal pollution on the day of atonement, , "goes down and dips himself".--And so all that are obliged to dipping, dip according to their custom on the day of atonement; the profluvious person, man or woman, the leprous person, man or woman, the husband of a menstruous woman, and one defiled with the dead, dip according to their custom on the day of atonement.''

(k) T. Bab. Nidda, fol. 42. 1. & 43. 1.((l) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 88. 1.

And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Acts 8:38. εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ: even if the words are rendered “unto the water” (Plumptre), the context ἀνέβησαν ἐκ indicates that the baptism was by immersion, and there can be no doubt that this was the custom in the early Church. St. Paul’s symbolic language in Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12, certainly seems to presuppose that such was the case, as also such types as the Flood, the passage of the Red Sea, the dipping of Naaman in Jordan. But the Didaché is fairly quoted to show that at an early period immersion could not have been regarded as essential, cf. Acts 7:3. See also “Teaching of the Apostles,” iv., 807, in Dict. of Christ. Biog. (Smith & Wace), “Apostellehre” in Real-Encyclopädie für protestant. Theol. und Kirche (Hauck), p. 712; “Baptism” in B.D.2. “Mutavit Æthiops pellem suam” is the comment of Bede, “id est sorde peccatorum abluta, de lavacro Jesu dealbatus ascendit.”38. And he commanded the chariot to stand still] i.e. he ordered the chariot-driver to stop, and of course the whole retinue would see what took place, and they may certainly be regarded as the nucleus of a congregation to be established in Ethiopia. Tradition tells us that the eunuch laboured to evangelize his countrymen, and none were more likely to be influenced by his teaching than those who were present at his baptism and were, with him, witnesses of the way in which Philip was taken from them.

and they went down both into the water] As was the custom among the Jews. Thus John baptized his followers in the Jordan.Acts 8:38. Ἀμφότεροι, both) It is not recorded what became of the attendants of the Eunuch.—Φίλιππος, Philip) He is put in the first place; for he was greater, as the baptizer, than the Eunuch, who was being baptized.Verse 38. - Both went down for went down both, A.V. Nothing can be more graphic than the simple narrative of this interesting and important baptism. Surely Luke must have heard it from Philip's own mouth (see Acts 21:8-10).
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