Spiritual obedience should be a humble, childlike response of simple faith. It’s an attitude we should hunger for, one that God seeks, rewards, and uses.
Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)
The eunuch is mentioned only briefly in the Bible, and only once, but I have no doubt that he returned to Ethiopia a changed man. I also firmly believe that he was a man instrumental in changing others. I believe this because God clearly had an appointment with this man, and He never does anything without purpose. Despite his high standing in the royal Ethiopian court, he displayed the humility and instant spiritual obedience that marks great people of God. The purpose in this meeting between Philip and the eunuch epitomises God’s heart for evangelism. It was far more than simply the salvation and baptism of a single man.
Spiritual obedience defies worldly expectations.
In real world terms, the eunuch had no reason to listen to Philip, let alone obey. From a social perspective, he could be said to ‘outrank’ the evangelist. He held a high position in the court of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, and carried great authority. He was no doubt both feared and respected, could most likely select his companions and avoid mixing with those who could be considered ‘inferior.’ But he carried an inner humility that God used to draw him to the place where spiritual obedience defied worldly expectations.
It is clear that the Spirit had worked in this man’s heart and stirred up a hunger for God. Philip was sent to meet him on his return from Jerusalem, where he had been led to worship. We can only wonder at the apparition of the evangelist appearing out of nowhere – rather like the answer to a prayer – to explain the Scripture. But what is even more astonishing, is that this regal, authoritative man was eager to plunge into a roadside pool and be baptised. This is a beautiful example of instant spiritual obedience we can all learn from.
A humble and truly committed heart is manifest in spiritual obedience.
It’s remarkable, really, when we consider that this man had never met Jesus or the disciples. He heard the truth and responded with simple humility. His commitment wasn’t the kind to wait for tomorrow, or to plan a baptism ceremony, or to do things ‘the right way.’ He could have made it an occasion of pomp and circumstance. He could have made it all about him. Instead, he chose the path of immediate spiritual obedience.
In this moment, the eunuch saw only Jesus. His commitment was such that nothing less than total spiritual obedience would suffice. If he needed to be baptised, then now was the time. He simply accepted the truth and acted on it immediately. I’m reminded that Jesus tells to come to Him as little children, with no doubts or pretensions. When He speaks into the heart, we should simply obey.
Spiritual obedience should be recognised and respected.
What is just as telling in this situation is Philip’s response. He has no long ‘spiritual check-list’ or preparation course. His only question, effectively, was whether the eunuch believed or not. While baptism is a celebration, it’s a personal celebration. It’s wonderful to share it with friends and other believers, but it’s essentially spiritual obedience and is between Jesus and the person being baptised.
All too often, our elaborate rituals and requirements get in the way of simple spiritual obedience. Whether it’s baptism or any other command, the only relevant question is whether we believe. If we do, then we must obey – not tomorrow, next week, or when we’ve met our denominational obligations. Which churches do need order, at the same time, these should never overshadow the critical need to obey when we hear God’s voice. We should never ever put off until tomorrow what can be done right now.
Spiritual obedience requires that we search our hearts.
The eunuch displayed another characteristic that can encourage and embolden every believer. He had no problem in answering the critical question of whether or not he believed. To do this, he had to know his own heart. He had to search within and respond with the truth. Often, emotionally charged services actually prevent people from doing this critical step. They get swept along on the wave of headiness and mass excitement, and the real commitment that empowers spiritual obedience is lost along the way.
To believe with all our hearts requires that we search our hearts, and we do that in the light of Christ. This is faith that is centred in Jesus. It is strong, simple, and unshakeable. It is the kind of faith that stirs us to humility and spiritual obedience. We can do nothing less than obey, even if it means dunking in a muddy roadside pond. Searching our hearts brings us to a place of surrender, where self finds proper perspective and our only desire is to obey.
God seeks out and rewards spiritual obedience.
It’s truly remarkable that God not only commanded Philip to seek the eunuch out but empowered him to run and overtake his chariot, and then scooped him up and carried him instantly away. That’s a lot of effort for a biblical ‘nobody,’ even if he was part of the Ethiopian who’s who. Yet God saw in this man the seed of life-changing spiritual obedience. There can be no doubt that his trip to Jerusalem had already displayed obedience to the Spirit’s leading – why else would a man of authority leave his comfortable seat of power and trek off to worship among the Jews in a foreign land?
This is the nature that God seeks out, rewards, and uses. It’s the nature of a true disciple, servant, and shepherd. Above all, it’s a nature that epitomises faithfulness, no matter what. I have no doubt that the eunuch returned home, and that God used his power, authority, position, and spiritual obedience to bring others into the kingdom.
We must desire spiritual obedience.
The reality is that spiritual obedience is not something that we can work at or achieve in and of ourselves. It is something to be desire, something we should hunger and thirst after. The depth of the eunuch’s hunger and thirst for God is very evident, and he freely admits that he doesn’t have the wisdom and discernment to understand. This should be the humble cry of every believer’s heart. Spiritual obedience looks for opportunities to obey. It spots the water and plunges in without hesitation. Would that we all could be like this simple, remarkable man.
Lord, help us to live like the eunuch, in spiritual obedience. Grant us the grace to humble ourselves before you and acknowledge that we lack wisdom and discernment. Stir up a hunger and a thirst for You, and empower us by Your Spirit as we reach out to You to seek to be obedient, no matter what. Forgive us if we have put things off, and help us to search our hearts in faith.