- We have been witnessing the conversions of various individuals to the Lord in the first century. The conversion of the Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch showed us the necessity of baptism. Baptism was not optional to any person but was necessary for salvation. The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch also showed us the form of baptism, as both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water. Philip immersed the eunuch and they both came up out of the water.
- As we have mentioned a few times in this study, if we can determine how people were saved and received the grace of God in the first century, then we have a pattern set for us so that we also can know what to do to be saved. This morning we will look for the pattern that answers the question, "when am I saved?" If we can see when people in the first century were saved from their sins, then we also can know at what point our sins are removed and we are saved. While we are in Acts 9 in our study, Paul recounts his conversion process in two other places in this book, Acts 22 and Acts 26. We will refer to the Acts 22 account repeatedly, so have that place ready in our Bibles so that you can look at Paul’s words there also.
I. Saul the Destroyer
A. The background
- In Acts 9:1 we read that Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. Saul admits this to be true in Acts 22:4, "I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison." Saul did not accept Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and worked to overthrow any teaching that claimed Jesus to be the Messiah. Listen to Saul’s words again, "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them" (Acts 26:9-11). Saul was as much of an unbeliever, skeptic, and fighter against Jesus than any person you can imagine.
- Saul is on his way to Damascus to find men and women who belonged to the Way and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem to stand trial. Along the way to Damascus something amazing happens. A bright light from heaven flashed around Saul and he falls to the ground. A voice said, "Saul, Saul, why do your persecute me?" Saul asks who it is and the response is that it is Jesus, whom Saul is persecuting. Saul’s companions saw the light and heard the voice, but they did not understand what the voice was saying. His companions take him to Damascus, being led by the hand because the light had blinded Saul. While in this condition, Saul is fasting and praying for three days.
B. God calls Ananias
- The Lord comes to Ananias and tells him to go to the house of Judas on the street called Straight and ask for Saul of Tarsus. Saul has had a vision that a man named Ananias would come to him and restore his sight. We are told in this passage what Ananias’ purpose was: to restore the sight of Saul.
- Ananias is rightly fearful to go to Saul because he is well known throughout the area as a persecutor of the saints in Jerusalem. Further, Ananias is aware that Saul has come with the authority to arrest all of those who follow Jesus. But the Lord explains that God has chosen Saul to be his instrument to take the name of the Lord to the Gentiles and to the people of Israel.
C. Saul and Ananias
- Ananias goes to where Saul is staying. Placing his hands on Saul, Ananias said to him, "Brother Saul, receive your sight" (Acts 22:13). Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again.
- Ananias then preaches to Saul about what has taken place, the account of which we read in Acts 22:14-16. Ananias explains to Saul that God has chosen Saul to know God’s will, to see the Righteous One and to hear the words from his mouth. Saul is told he will be God’s witness to all men concerning what had happened to him.
- Ananias concluded his lesson, "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on the name of the Lord." Saul needed to be baptized. Now let us examine some important things that happen in Saul’s conversion and see what the pattern is that we learn for ourselves today.
II. When Am I Saved?
A. When was Saul saved?
- As you read this story, ask yourself the question: when was Saul saved? I would like for you to consider all that happened to Saul. If you saw a bright light shine down from heaven and Jesus spoke to you, would you think you were saved? If you were told by Jesus to go to a city and wait for instructions, would you think you were saved? If this message from Jesus was only directed to you and no one else could understand the words of Jesus, would you think you were saved? If during the time of your blindness you fasted and prayed to God without ceasing for three days, would you think you were saved? If someone came to you, laid hands on you, and healed you of your blindness, would you think you were saved? What if all of these happened to you like these things happened to Saul, would you think you were saved?
- I will offer a challenge to you: go to any denominational church and tell them that you were had been blinded by the Lord, heard the voice of the Lord, fasted and prayed to the Lord and then were healed of the blindness. See if they think you had been saved during any of those events. I am sure they would and in fact they teach that Saul was already saved once Ananias lays his hands on Saul. I have the books to prove this is their belief system.
- If all we need to do for salvation is put our trust in God, Saul certainly did that when he obeyed the Lord’s command to go to Damascus and wait for Ananias. If all we must do for the forgiveness of sins is pray a prayer to the Lord, we see Saul had been doing such for three days. Further, Saul had been fasting with his prayers, showing the earnestness of his petitions to God. If all I must do to be saved is believe in Jesus, we know that Saul believed in Jesus because he spoke directly to him on the road to Damascus.
- So was not Saul saved already? Carefully read Acts 22:16, "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on the name of the Lord." Ananias tells Saul that he must still wash away his sins. If Saul was already saved, why would Ananias tell Saul that he needed to have his sins washed away? If Saul was already a disciple when he was healed, why is Ananias telling Saul to get up and wash away his sins? There was more that needed to be done.
- Even though Saul had been healed of blindness, Saul still needed to wash away his sins. Even though Saul had spoken with Jesus, he still needed to wash away his sins. Even though Saul had been fasting and praying earnestly for three days, he still needed to wash his sins away. Saul was still not saved even though his heart was obedient to the words of the Lord.
B. Baptism washes away sins
- What was Saul told to do to wash away his sins? Was Saul told to pray? Was Saul told to recite the sinner’s prayer, as many denominations teach today? Was Saul told to only confess Jesus as Lord to wash away his sins? What was Saul lacking? Saul was lacking baptism. Ananias tells Saul that baptism will wash away his sins and will call on the name of the Lord.
- We mentioned last time that many people think they have been baptized because water has been sprinkled or poured upon them. But we noticed that baptism is immersion in water while believing that sins are being taken away. Any other action besides immersion in water is not baptism according to the scriptural pattern. In the same vain, there are many who have been baptized but they thought they were already saved when baptized. This is not according to the scriptural pattern either. We need to believe that baptism is washing our sins away, just as Ananias described, otherwise we did not understand what we were doing and did not properly believe in what was taking place. We may have been immersed in water, but we must know what we are doing it for. Otherwise, we have done nothing more than taken a bath. Faith with baptism is the key for our sins to be washed away. We must believe that we are being united in the death of Christ when we are baptized. We must believe that our sins are being removed from us as we rise up from the water to live a life as new people.
- "Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized?" (Romans 6:3). We are not joined to Christ and are not disciples of Christ with forgiven sins until we have become baptized! This is exactly what Peter and the apostles were preaching for the forgiveness of sins. "Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ of the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). This is why everyone is getting baptized in the book of Acts: they want their sins washed away.
- Everyone teaches that all that a person needs to do to be saved is call on the name of the Lord. This is their teaching and we agree with this. Everyone must call on the name of the Lord to be saved (Acts 2:21). But no one is asking how the scriptures tell us we call on the name of the Lord to be saved! The answer is in Acts 22:16: we call on the name of the Lord by getting up and being baptized to wash away our sins.
- This is all one must do to be saved. This is all that God asks of us to have our sins taken away, to have His grace applied to our lives. We do not have to know more about the Bible before we are baptized. We do not have to take any tests before we are baptized? We do not have to talk to a preacher, priest, or ask permission of anyone else. Are you wanting to serve the Lord? Do you love God? Do you want to be in eternal paradise with the Lord and not eternal suffering? Do you want to be forgiven for all you have done in your past? Then get up, be baptized and wash away your sins today!