And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.
Acts 22:16 – Scripture of the Day (March 27, 2014)
It amazes me how people who say they follow the Bible can so blatantly deny the necessity of baptism (baptizo, immersion) for salvation and forgiveness of sins. The truth is so plainly stated in so many verses (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 2:38), including today’s Scripture of the Day.
Just looking at this sentence by itself, without considering the context, makes it plain that one’s sins will not be forgiven unless one is baptized. However, that fact is made even more plain when one takes into account the context.
The apostle Paul is recounting his conversion in Damascus as Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1ff). You will recall that he went to Damascus as an enemy of the Way, looking to arrest any followers of Christ (9:1-2). As he approached Damascus, a light from heaven flashed around him and he heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (9:3-4) This voice belonged to Jesus, who told Saul to “rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do” (9:5-6).
A lot of people say that Saul was converted and forgiven on that road when Jesus talked to him and he “saw the light.” However, that is not true. The reason we know it is not true is by reading further into the text. Blinded after the conversation with Jesus, Saul was led by his companions into Damascus and for the next three days he fasted (9:8-9). Meanwhile, a disciple in Damascus named Ananias had a vision in which the Lord told him to visit Saul, lay his hands on him, and miraculously restore his sight (9:10-12). Despite his misgivings, Ananias obeyed the Lord and restored Saul’s sight (9:13-18a).
Notice what happened next. After Saul’s sight was given back to him, what did he do? The text says, “Then he rose and was baptized…” (9:18b). Why?
Years later in chapter 22, Paul tells us why he was baptized. It is because Ananias told him, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (22:16). This is significant for three reasons:
- The Lord had told Saul that he would “be told what you are to do” once he had gone into the city (9:6). Ananias told him what to do: be baptized (22:16).
- Even though it was obvious that Saul believed in Jesus as Lord (9:4-6) and showed signs of repentance via his fasting (9:9), his sins were still not forgiven. Otherwise, why would Ananias talk of them being washed away by his baptism (22:16)? It was only after he was baptized that his sins were washed away. This shows that faith, by itself, does not save, and neither does repentance. Baptism is also necessary.
- Earlier in Acts, Peter quoted Joel as saying, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; cf. Joel 2:32). What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? Obviously more than simply calling him “Lord,” because Jesus said that alone would not be enough (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 6:46). Ananias tells us what calling on the name of the Lord means in Acts 22:16: being baptized. With this in mind, compare Acts 2:21 with Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21.
Have you called upon his name? Have your sins been washed away? Have you been baptized into Christ, into his body which is the church of Christ? (Rom. 6:1-5; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-5; 5:23)