Chapter Eight of the Acts of the Apostles contains the story of the apostle Phillip who converts the Eunuch from Ethiopia. What is a eunuch? A eunuch is one who is castrated because they are to serve the queen. They are men who dedicate their lives to serve the queen of any given country. This eunuch serves the Queen of Ethiopia. Eunuchs are typically very smart and well read. They serve as a sort of ambassador for the queen. They can handle all the money or property, be a legal consultant, or do other tasks that require complete trust. This particular man is in charge of the entire treasury of the queen (8:27). Notice, this eunuch is well read because he is, in fact, reading (8:28).
Phillip comes up to him and asks if he understands what he is reading. Notice the Eunuchs response, “How can I, unless someone instructs me” (8:31). Even a very intelligent eunuch does not presume to understand and have knowledge. He has to have someone instruct him. He recognizes that Phillip is one who has the authority to help him understand the sacred scripture. Phillip instructs him. He starts to see the benefit of listening to his instructor. By verse 36 he is excited to see a puddle of water because he already knows about baptism and wants to be baptized.
This event begs the question about the importance of Baptism. Why is that eunuch so intent on being baptized? Why is it that Baptism is the very first thing the eunuch wants? No theology here. He just wants to baptized as soon as possible. The Bible does not say why, but Catholic Tradition teaches it. Baptism is when we literally become children of God. It is then that we are offered eternal salvation (1 Peter 3:21). The actions of the first Christians support our Catholic faith. So the Eunuch recognizes two aspects of the Church: First the authority of one of our first bishops in Phillip and his authority to preach authentically the true faith that Jesus taught. Second, that Baptism, as a sacrament of the Church, is necessary for salvation.
Chapter 9 focuses mostly on Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion. Notice a pattern here. Paul is also baptized in verse 18. Immediately after the scales fall from his eyes, he gets baptized. Already, almost ten chapters into Acts of the Apostles, and nobody simply proclaims Jesus as “Lord and Savior” for their salvation. Saul cannot save himself; he needs another to baptize him.
After his Baptism, Paul totally changes his life. He completely repents of his sins. What do the first Christians do? At first, they are wary, but then they accept him because they realize his calling. People can change. For most people, it can take quite a while. Paul even struggled with change (Romans 7:15). Paul realized the gift that Baptism was for him personally. Grace was finally entering into his life. It is this grace that allowed him to even be open to change. Even Paul, who is knocked down, recognizes in this Jesus a helper. Jesus is there to help in the grace of Baptism won for us on the cross. He helped Paul, and is there to help you.
As we go through the Acts of the Apostles, pay attention to this Baptism thing. How many people are baptized right away and how many that proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior are saved? What does the Bible actually say?