Read Acts 8
The book of Acts reads like a Quentin Tarantino script. Different plot lines weave in and out of each other to make one unified story. Chapter 8 is no exception to that multi-narrative structure. We begin with the aftermath of Stephen’s death, then Philip goes to Samaria, Peter and John make a brief cameo with a magician named Simon, and we return to Philip’s adventures with foreign government officials. At first glance, you might not see the thread connecting one narrative scene to the next, but Luke, the author of Acts, is a better writer than that.
For our purposes here, we’re going to focus on the role of baptism in this narrative. There are three kinds of people who all receive baptism but react differently. First, the Samaritans believed Philip’s preaching about the gospel, and received baptism in Jesus’ name. Simon also believed and was baptized, and he closely followed Philip and his ministry. Then an Ethiopian treasurer in his motorcade was baptized right before Philip teleported out. (Why Tarantino hasn’t picked this up for a script yet is beyond me.)
Part of what Luke is doing here is establishing what baptism is and isn’t. He establishes baptism is a normal response to believing Christ’s gospel. Everyone who enters into the Church goes through the waters of baptism. But Luke also establishes baptism isn’t a magic formula to be saved. Simon believed, Simon was baptized, and Simon even closely followed an apostle! But Simon still had a false view of God’s power and how God works. Contrast that with the experience of the Ethiopian eunuch. He was hungry for the truth and, despite his position, humbly received Philip’s teaching and sought opportunities to be obedient. Simon sought to gain position through works and bribes, while the eunuch sought to humble himself through the sacrament of baptism. The sacrament of baptism (and communion, which we’ll look at tomorrow) is not a path to power, it’s a call to obedience and humility.
Pray for the humility to realize where God’s power truly lies and how you can humbly receive it.