And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Acts 8: 36 (KJV)
What doth hinder me – What’s going on here? We have an Ethiopian man reading the scroll of Isaiah. First, he’s a Gentile. Second, he’s a eunuch. According to Jewish law at that time, he’s got two strikes against him. But God encourages Philip to go and speak to him.
In the first century, Gentiles had to jump through a number of hoops before becoming a Jew as I’ve outlined here (strike 1). In addition to this, a eunuch isn’t allowed to join the congregation of Israel according to Deuteronomy 23:1 (strike 2). Well by now, it should be obvious that no law of God can be changed by anyone in the New Testament. So if a eunuch isn’t allowed to join, why now? Let’s take a tangent, and review that law in light of the understanding at the time. According to the Talmud…
…God’s community meaning, he shall not be considered as one of God ’s community for purposes of marriage to an Israelite woman [Qiddushin 72b–73a]. The same applies to an Ammonite (but not an Ammonitess), and a Moabite (but not a Moabitess ).
So a eunuch could always join the community, but not for purpose of marriage. That’s the difference. Okay, so again, no law of God being changed here. Back to the story.
Philip is called by God to go to this eunuch and help him. This eunuch is desiring to understand the prophecy in Isaiah and wants to know who it’s referring to. Philip uses the scroll of Isaiah to preach Yeshua, right where the eunuch left off reading. As they are traveling they come upon some water. Certainly the conversation must have lead to the topic of joining Israel as God’s chosen nation. Philip must have explained to the eunuch the process of baptism and its Jewish importance (priests had to immerse themselves daily, and all people had to immerse themselves prior to entry into the Temple). On top of these requirements, it was also an Oral Law to immerse any Gentile that wanted to become an Israelite. Upon seeing some water, the eunuch’s desire to be obedient overcomes him, and he submits himself to the process of baptism.
The eunuch’s desire of obedience should be a lesson for us today.
Instead, we look at the law of God and make excuses not to submit ourselves to God’s will. Or we might go further and spiritualize the law so that there is no physical meaning to it. This way we can conform God’s word to our own lifestyle.
The eunuch vocalized his belief that Yeshua is the Son of God, and then submitted himself to the physical activity of the law, and the process for becoming an Israelite. This was Paul’s hope as well. The people are now a part of Israel by faith. Pull them into the fold, and teach them the laws every Sabbath (Acts 15:21). As the people learn, they will willingly submit themselves in obedience to God’s commandments. People who truly love God with all their heart will learn about the laws and endeavor to keep them. If they aren’t circumcised, they will desire to become circumcised. If they aren’t eating clean meats, they will desire to eat clean meats. If they aren’t wearing tzitzit, they will desire to wear them. etc.
This is how Yeshua knows that we love him… if we keep His commandments.