Bible Question:

In reading your Bible answer about baptism, I noticed that directly after referring to Philip's baptism of the eunuch you mentioned your opposition to non-public baptism. My feeling when reading this passage was that Phillip and the eunuch were in a desert and no other people were present. This was not a public baptism in any way. It is presented more as a ceremony between the eunuch, Phillip, and Christ.

Bible Answer:

Acts 8:26-40 is the passage that records the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27). The eunuch was a high official in the Ethiopian government. When Philip saw him, he was riding in a chariot and reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip offered to explain the passage in Isaiah that the eunuch was reading. The scripture passage was about a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ. Philip told the eunuch about Jesus Christ, and the eunuch responded by believing that Jesus Christ was God and his Savior. The eunuch wanted to be baptized and so Philip baptized him.

And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. (NASB) Acts 8:38

This passage states that both men went down into the water in order to be baptized. That is all that we know. We do not know anything about the surrounding area. We do not know anything about the geography, how many people lived there, or who might have been present. The eunuch could have been baptized in the presence of a crowd, a few people, or alone. But it is clear that they were not alone, since Acts 8:38 indicates that the eunuch ordered the chariot to stop. The Greek word translated as “ordered” is the aorist indicative form of KELEUO. The Greek word is defined as, “to state with force and/or authority what others must do.” That is, it means that the eunuch commanded someone other than himself to stop the chariot. In fact, it is unlikely that a high ranking official in the Ethiopian government would be traveling alone. Who else was present, and how many people were present? We do not know, but Philip and the eunuch were not alone.

My comments about private baptisms in the Bible were not related to the eunuch’s baptism, but to baptisms in general. The question that you read was “What type of baptismal ceremony is right?” Water baptism is a statement or testimony of an inward change of heart. If water baptism becomes a private affair, then there is no public display to anyone that the person had a life changing event – that he or she believes in Jesus and wants God to change him or her.

Conclusion:

Water baptism is a symbolic demonstration of a change of mind and an inward change of heart. It symbolizes a person’s death to himself or herself and a new life in Jesus. It also symbolizes the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the person’s life. Water baptism does not save us. There is no spiritual benefit or efficacy for the person being baptized other than the benefit of obeying God. Why should anyone be water baptized? The answer is that water baptism is the Christian’s first act of obedience. Water baptism is a pubic statement before God and others that a heart was changed – the person is now following Jesus Christ.

Reference Links:

Baptism of Jesus
Baptism & Salvation
Is baptism (immersion) essential for salvation?
Is baptism symbolic?
What type of baptismal ceremony is right?