True and False Conversion and Baptism

Acts 8:4-40 – preached on 20 July 2014

This morning I want to introduce you to 2 men recorded in the bible.

One is Simon, the Sorcerer. 

The other is simply called the “Ethiopian Eunuch”. 

There are many similar things about these 2 men. 

Both were mentioned only once in the bible in Acts 8. 

Both had the privilege of hearing the preaching of Philip. 

Both heard about Jesus who came to save sinners.

Both were even baptised by Philip himself. 

But the bible tells us that Simon the Sorcerer was actually an unbeliever. 

In v24, Simon says “pray to the Lord for me……” 

These are the words of an unconverted man. 

As Christians, we often ask people to pray for us – there’s nothing wrong with that. 

But as Christians, we can also pray for ourselves because we have direct access to God through Jesus Christ.

However, Simon had no relationship with God. 

And all he could do was to ask the Apostle to pray for him that he may escape the judgement of God. 

On the other hand, v39 tells us that the Ethiopian Eunuch “….went on his way rejoicing.”

There is a clear sense of internal joy & peace. 

And this can come about only by faith in Jesus Christ. 

This morning, let us learn lessons from the lives of these 2 men recorded in the bible.

And may these lessons help us examine ourselves & see where we stand.

Let us begin by looking at the life of Simon the Sorcerer. 

We are told that Simon the Sorcerer lived in Samaria. 

At that time, the Church at Jerusalem was being persecuted by the Jews. 

And so, the disciples were scattered everywhere. 

But as they were scattered, they preached the gospel wherever they went. 

And v5 tells us that “Philip went to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them”. 

And the result of this preaching was evident in verse 6. 

“…the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip…” 

Philip was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles in Acts 6. 

And through him signs & wonders were done amongst the Samaritans. 

Unclean spirits were cast out of people who were demon possessed. 

Many who were paralyzed & lame were healed. 

And there was great joy in that city of Samaria. 

And amongst those who professed faith in Samaria was Simon the Sorcerer. 

Now, who exactly was this man? 

He was the most famous person in the whole of Samaria.

For V9 tells us that he “astonished the people of Samaria” by his sorcery.  

I don’t know what kind of sorcery he practiced. 

Perhaps black magic, fortune telling, demonic communication, etc. – we are not told. 

But he was so impressive that everyone would say that “this man is the great power of God” – v10. 

So he was the “star”, the household name, famous and taking centre-stage in Samaria. 

And v11 tells us that everyone “..heeded him because he astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.”

Simon was obviously enjoying all these attention. 

Until, Philip came along. 

Philip preached things concerning the kingdom of God & of Jesus Christ. 

The Samaritans who once gave attention to Simon believed the gospel and were baptised. 

And it seemed like Simon was losing his grip on the people. 

He was once enjoying all the attention. 

But now, everyone was forsaking him and turning to the gospel. 

So with his influence declining, Simon joined the crowd in what they did. 

He was amazed at the miracles that Philip did.

So he too believed the gospel and was baptised. 

Let me say that this can happen in any Church as well.

Many come to the Church because they are invited by their friends – praise God for that!

They like what they hear, they enjoy the company & they follow what everyone else would do.

They even learn to use the right language in Church & pray intelligent prayers.

So they are what we call “Christianised” in what they say and do.

And very soon they may even seek to get baptised.

As a Church, we baptise those seeking baptism not because we know they are really Christians.

We baptise them because they demonstrate a credible profession of the Christian faith. 

But only God knows the deeper recesses of our hearts and whether we truly belong to Him. 

We do not doubt that many people believe in their hearts that they are Christians.

And it was probably the same for Simon, the sorcerer.

He liked what he heard.

And he wanted to be associated with everybody and to do what everyone did.

Just follow the crowd – there’s safety in numbers.

But now, whether the faith of Simon was genuine finally got tested.

The Apostles Peter & John were sent to Samaria by the Jerusalem Church – v14.

They came not because there was anything defective in the faith of the Samaritan Church.

The Samaritans could not have believed the gospel without the help of the Holy Spirit. 

I want you to know that at that time in history, the writing of the new testament bible was not yet completed.

Therefore, certain supernatural gifts were necessary so that the Samaritan Church can be instructed spiritually.

Hence, we read in the new testament that the Holy Spirit gave some believers the ability to prophesy.

But this is only for a period of time until the writing of the new testament was completed.

And here in the Samaritan Church, some believers receive this special power of the Holy Spirit. 

And they received this when the Apostles Peter & John laid hands upon them. 

It was an amazing sight!

Power was conveyed through the laying of hands by Peter & John.

And Simon the Sorcerer was just amazed at what Peter & John could do. 

And he wanted to be able to do the same.

He has never been able to do anything like that.

Imagine the crowds he could attract once again if he had this power.

And he longed to be part of that exclusive club with the Apostles.

He wanted to be above everyone else. 

He wanted to be “a somebody” again.

He wanted the opportunity to receive all the attention once again.

And so, he offered Peter & John money so that he could be given this power – v18. 

This was a clear sign that he was not converted. 

There was no change in his life.

He wanted to be what he had always been. 

So, Peter rebukes him sternly in v21 & 22:

“..Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!”

“You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.” 

Repent & pray – perhaps God may forgive you – Peter tells him.

But Simon the Sorcerer did not weep.

He did not own up to his sin.

He did not cry out to God for mercy.

All he did in v24 was to ask Peter to pray for him. 

These are the clear signs that that will show you whether you are a true believer. 

If you want to be what you had always been even when your sin has been exposed – your heart is not right before God!

My dear friends, where do you stand this morning? 

Have you been coming to Church for a long time?

Perhaps you exhibit all the external signs that give no shadow of doubt that you are a Christian. 

But when God puts your faith to the test, does it come forth like gold purified by fire?

Has your heart changed or are you still what you had always been? 

Let us examine our hearts to see where we stand.

And if God is calling you to repentance, flee to Him immediately.

For He says, “return to me and I will return to you.”

Now, notice how different it was for the Ethiopian Eunuch.

He did not want to be what he was.

He was man of great authority.

He was the finance minister serving the queen of Ethiopia. 

He was from a pagan country.

He had seen all the corruption.

He had seen all the idolatry. 

He did not want any more of these things.

And so he travelled hundreds of miles to Jerusalem. 

That’s where he heard that the true God was being worshipped. 

He came hungry for the truth and for God. 

He had the scriptures in his hands. 

This man was reading the bible while riding on his chariot! 

What do you do when you are travelling in a car, train or bus? 

Play games on your mobile devices? 

Facebook? Whatsapp? Youtube?

But this Ethiopian Eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53.

And he was intensely trying to understand what he was reading. 

He was really hungry for God to speak to him!

And the passage spoke about sin.

It spoke about sheep that have gone astray.

It spoke about a suffering Servant. 

It spoke about a mysterious person who puts right what was wrong.

This mysterious Person reconciles people to God.

And the Ethiopian Eunuch was captivated by the message. 

He wanted to know who this Person is.

He wanted to know this Person who saves sinners by His death.

He didn’t want to be what he was anymore.

He wanted to be reconciled to God.

And he wanted to know this Man that Isaiah wrote about, who can reconcile him to God.

And by a miraculous act, God “teleported” (I can’t find another word for this) Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch. 

And Philip asked him whether he understood what he was reading.

Oh yes, he wanted to understand!

Because he did not want to be what he was anymore!

And he asked Philip “…of whom does the prophet say this – of himself or of some other man?” –v34

And Philip “…beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” – v35

The Ethiopian Eunuch listens as one hungering & thirsting for spiritual truth. 

And Philip speaks about the Cross.

Philip speaks about the Saviour.

Philip speaks about repentance.

And Philip speaks about baptism. 

Philip speaks about the good news that sinners can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

And then they see water! – v36

And the Ethiopian Eunuch asked “..what hinders me from being baptised?” 

Philip says “if you believe with all your heart, you may” – v37.

And the Ethiopian Eunuch says “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

And Philip baptises him.

And the Ethiopian Eunuch gets immersed into the water, identifying himself with Jesus who died for him.

And by this, he is saying that his previous life is dead.

He doesn’t want to be what he was any longer.

He comes out of the water identifying himself with Jesus who rose from the dead.

And he starts a new life in union with Jesus Christ. 

And he is doing it not because there was something in it for him. 

He is doing it because he is overcome with guilt and he must get right with God. 

He is dissatisfied with everything he knew until now. 

For now he knows God through the suffering servant Jesus Christ. 

And he comes out of the water assured and filled with peace. 

And he goes on his way rejoicing. 

Ladies & Gentlemen, boys & girls. 

Like I have said, these 2 men heard the same preacher. 

They heard the same message. 

They were both baptised. 

But one was never a Christian. 

And the other was evidently saved. 

The great difference was that one wanted to remain as what he had always been. 

There was no change in his heart, no repentance & therefore, no peace with God. 

But the other could not stand the thought of his old-self. 

One wanted all attention to be centred on him. 

The other was more interested in giving attention to Jesus Christ. 

One never wept over his sin. 

The other sought earnestly for a cure and pardon for his sin. 

The Ethiopian Eunuch was a gentile. 

There was no place for such people in Israel. 

But God accepted him in Jesus Christ. 

He didn’t see any miracles. 

He simply heard the word & believed it with all his heart. 

There are some people who say that the Church is not powerful because we don’t display any signs and wonders. 

Let me remind you that Simon the Sorcerer was in a Church where he witnessed true signs and wonders. 

But these signs & wonders did not convert him because he wanted to remain as what he had always been. 

He was only “Christianised”. 

And he went forth as an unconverted man – still miserable & lost. 

My dear friends, you are now in Christian Church. 

You sing Christian hymns, you interact with Christians, you read the bible & you utter prayers. 

It would be so sad if you are not experiencing the joy & peace that Jesus Christ gives. 

No one is excluded from the call of the gospel. 

In these last days, God speaks to us by His Son Jesus Christ.  

And Jesus Christ can be found in the word of God because He is the word. 

And God says in Jer 29:13 “ And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” 

Jesus died for sinners & rose to save them. 

Do you believe that? 

The Ethiopian Eunuch repented of his sins, hungered and believed God’s word. 

And he obeyed God’s instruction to be baptised. 

My friends, would you say in your heart that “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”? 

If you do, just like the Ethiopian Eunuch, you will go on your way rejoicing. 

Today, we are happy that 2 of our sisters (WenTing & Kezia) believe that Jesus is the Son of God. 

Ebenezer Church has examined them and we accept their profession of faith in Jesus Christ. 

Today, they are publicly declaring their association with Jesus by seeking to be baptised. 

At East Coast beach later on, we shall be immersing them into water for their baptism. 

And by that act, these sisters are declaring that their previous life is dead. 

When they come out of water, they are identifying themselves with Jesus who rose from the dead. 

And they start a new life in union with Jesus Christ. 

We praise God that His Spirit has worked in their hearts. 

If you have been invited by them to witness their baptism, I believe it is also their desire that you hear the gospel that has changed them. 

So please speak to our Pastor or myself later so that we can clarify any doubts you have regarding the Christian faith. 

Let us pray. 

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