Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” John 20:21
The Book of Acts and the Early Ecclesia—Part Sixteen
You Don’t Need to Have It All to Get Started
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. Acts 8:35-38
Good morning Prayer Team!
In our last reflection we discussed the story of Philip and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. The thrust of that reflection was that there is a need for guidance as we seek to grow in our faith. The eunuch was reading the Scriptures and he didn’t understand what he was reading. Philip was moved by the Holy Spirit to go and minister to the man, to help him understand what he was reading, and ultimately to help him understand who Jesus is.
The eunuch was so enthusiastic about what he had heard that he wanted to be baptized. He saw water, and asked Philip what was to prevent him from being baptized right then and there. Philip asked if the eunuch believed in Jesus. And he said “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37) Then they stopped the chariot and the eunuch was baptized by Philip.
There are two significant lessons in this passage. The first is that one doesn’t need to have a lot of knowledge in order to become a Christian. What they need is desire and faith. This is why the church does not require one to take a test in order to be baptized. Also, if one doesn’t understand a lot about Christ, he or she can jump in at any time and learn.
The second lesson from this passage is how it is related to the way we baptize people in our church now. The prevailing tradition is for infants to be baptized. They have no knowledge of the faith. Yet, the desire of their parents is enough to the child to be baptized. Philip did not tell the eunuch that the baptism was the end of his study. Rather it is implied that his studies would continue, that he would be baptized with little knowledge but would grow in the faith and acquire more knowledge.
Infant baptism presupposes that parents will bring their children and will help them grow in their faith. That is why parents who don’t plan to bring their children up in the church should actually be wary of baptizing them. Baptism shouldn’t just be a “check the box” proposition, but as in the case of the eunuch, should be done with the implied promise of learning more.
The service of baptism in the Orthodox Church is related to this encounter with the eunuch, in that before one is baptized, there is a confession of faith. In the case of the eunuch, it was a simply confession of belief in Jesus Christ. In modern use, that confession is a reciting of the Creed.
In deciding to baptize infants, which was not the original practice of the Church, the Church undoubtedly looked at this story of Philip and the eunuch as tacit approval for baptisms to not require expansive knowledge on the part of the person being baptized. Just as the eunuch went on his way rejoicing at being a Christian, we are also to rejoice in our faith as well.
I will extol Thee, my God and King, and bless Thy name forever and ever. Every day I will bless Thee, and praise Thy name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall laud Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty and on Thy wondrous works I will meditate. Men shall proclaim the might of Thy terrible acts, and I will declare Thy greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of Thy abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His compassion is over all that He has made. All thy works shall give thanks to Thee, O Lord, and all Thy saints shall bless Thee! They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and tell of Thy power, to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of Thy kingdom. Thy Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all His words, and gracious in all His deeds. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to Thee, and Thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest Thy hand, Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The Lord is just in all His ways, and kind in all His doings. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear Him, He also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love Him; but the wicked
He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy name, forever and ever. Psalm 145
Mastery of Christian knowledge is not needed in order to become a Christian. Faith and desire lead the way!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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