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Southwest Times news paper articles from the Rena Road Church of Christ

Circumcision Made Without Hands
Written by David Banks

Kind of a sensitive subject for some I know, but the fact is that circumcision has a major emphasis in the Bible, beginning with Abraham and receiving symbolic fulfillment in Christ. God had made a covenant with Abraham that He would make of his descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:1-4). As a sign of this covenant God commanded Abraham saying, “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations…” (Genesis 17:10-12). Circumcision in the Old Testament was a physical act with symbolic application. The removal of the foreskin was a symbolic way for God to separate His people from all other people. The children of Israel (Abraham’s descendants) kept this sign of the covenant throughout their generations.


In addition to the promise that He would make of Abraham a great nation, God also promised that through Abraham’s Seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:4; 22:18; Galatians 3:16). In fulfilling this, God promised Abraham in his old age a son that was to come through his wife Sarah even though she was past childbearing age. Even so Abraham, “believed in the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). But suppose Abraham had reasoned that since he believed in the Lord and God reckoned his faith to him as righteousness and since circumcision was really only a symbolic gesture, and since he was an old man and didn’t want to go through the ordeal and therefore he didn’t feel it was right to force his descendants to go through the ordeal, that he decided that he wouldn’t keep or enforce circumcision as the sign of the covenant. What do you suppose would have happened? God said, “But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people he has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:14).
As you might expect circumcision is also mentioned in the New Testament. In the days of Christ the Jews were still keeping the sign of the covenant even though they had already broken the covenant itself. With the coming of the Christ, God introduced a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The New Covenant is in many ways similar to the Old Covenant but it is in every way superior (read Hebrew 8-10). Many of the commands, ordinances, and institutions of the Old Testament were brought to spiritual fulfillment in the New Testament, for example, the tabernacle, the High priesthood of Aaron, the Levitical priesthood, the Passover, and so on. And not to be excluded from this list is the law of circumcision.


The apostle Paul, writing to primarily Gentile Christians in the city of Colosse, wrote that baptism is a circumcision made without hands. He wrote, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Colossians 2:11-13). By baptism God forgives our transgressions and sets us apart from the world. Like circumcision, baptism is a physical act with spiritual symbolic significance. One cannot refuse with the physical act and still expect to reap the spiritual rewards that come with it. To do so would result in that one who refuses acknowledge the significance of the physical act (baptism) being cut off from God’s spiritual people – the church.
 


Baptism Saves Us
Written by David Banks

Some churches teach that water baptism is not necessary at all. Other churches teach that it is necessary but not for salvation. Many churches teach that by accepting Christ as your Savior and if you will pray and ask God to come into your heart and forgive your sins through the blood of Christ you will be saved. They say, therefore, that since this is God’s plan for salvation and since it takes place before and without baptism, therefore baptism is not necessary for salvation. I must respectfully disagree.


We in the church of Christ have come under fire for many years for our insistence that baptism (i.e. immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins) is essential for salvation. Have you ever wondered why we persist in this inflammatory doctrine? Well, I can tell you that it is not because we enjoy being different or because we enjoy being inflammatory. We teach this doctrine because we believe wholeheartedly that this is what the Bible teaches. Jesus commissioned His apostles to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). On the Day of Pentecost the apostles began the fulfillment of Jesus’ commission. Peter said, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself” (Acts 2:38-39). Notice, Peter commanded baptism “for the forgiveness of sins.” It is sin that separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Forgiveness of sins, therefore, is salvation. This happens in baptism.


The apostle Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4). Paul wrote this to the Roman Christians. He noted that they had died to sin when they were baptized into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It was in death that Christ shed His blood. It is in baptism that we symbolically come in contact with the forgiving blood of Christ.


To Christians in Galatia Paul wrote, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Notice he wrote that the way to get into Christ is by being baptized into Christ. If we are baptized into Christ then before baptism we are outside of Christ. There is no salvation for those who are outside of Christ. If we are not in Christ until after we have been baptized, then why would someone teach that we can be saved before or without baptism?


Peter wrote a comparison between Noah being saved by water and New Testament baptism. He wrote, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but the appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 3:21). Did you notice that Peter specifically wrote that baptism saves us? If the Bible says that baptism saves us, why would anyone teach that it is not necessary for salvation?
 


Christ Did Not Send Me To Baptize
Written by David Banks

When the apostle Paul wrote the letter that we know today as 1Corinthians, the Christians in Corinth were divided and quarrelling. Paul’s main objective in writing to them was to correct this destructive behavior and encourage them to be united in the same mind and judgment (1Corinthians 1:10). In his initial definition of the problem Paul wrote, “Each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius that no man should say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void” (1Corinthians 1:12-17).


Many people have professed that since Paul made the statement, “Christ did not send me to baptize…” that this is evidence that Paul did not believe baptism was a requirement for salvation. From the immediate context we can clearly see that that was not the case. If Christ had mandated that Paul was not to baptize then why did he admit to baptizing Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanas? Paul was not objecting to their baptism, he was objecting to their distorted view of devotion to Christ. He was objecting to their pension for denominating themselves. Some of them attached themselves to the name of Paul, others were boasting about their attachment to Apollos, and so on. In anticipation of this problem, when Paul was with them preaching the gospel, with the exceptions of Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas, whenever he instructed any of them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, Paul would step aside and let someone else baptize them so that they could not legitimately claim to have been baptized by Paul or in his name.


Paul’s time spent in Corinth is recorded in Acts 18. There the evidence is clear that in preaching the gospel, Paul preached baptism. Luke recorded, “Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized” (Acts 18:8). Again, if Paul was under a mandate from Christ that was directly against baptism, then why were so many being baptized as a result of his gospel preaching? The answer is that the command to be baptized is an integral part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word gospel means good news. On the day of Pentecost when the people heard about the death, burial, and resurrection they were terrified by this good news. It wasn’t until they heard that they could be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins that they were able to see the good news in the gospel. And it was not until they obeyed the gospel by being baptized that they had reason to rejoice (Acts 2:22-47).


It is my ardent wish that we do not quarrel and be divided over this or any other issues, but that we continue toward becoming united in the same mind and in the same judgment. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). This command was intended to bring all men together, but even Christ knew that it would tear many apart (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 12:49-53). Whether we are united or divided depends upon our willingness to try. – May God bless us all.
 


Grace, Faith, and Works
Written by David Banks

Grace is: deserving punishment but getting forgiveness instead. Faith is: believing in God based on the teachings of His Word (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:6). Works, in the Biblical concept, is: obeying God (Philippians 2:12; James 2:14-26). Without question salvation is all about God’s grace. If God had not so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save us from our sins then of course we would be hopelessly lost, especially since it was because of our sins that we became undeserving of salvation. But thanks be to God that He is rich in mercy. He has given us the opportunity to be saved. The opportunity to be saved is our invitation to enter into God’s grace.
Many people believe that in order to be saved all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and the grace of God will do the rest. This is a mistaken view of salvation by grace that cannot be found in the Bible. For example, on the Day of Pentecost at the establishment of the church Peter preached convicting the Jews of their guilt in the death of their Christ. They were cut to the heart and cried out, “Brethren what shall we do?” Peter responded by saying, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). When the Jews heard, miraculously in their own language, the news about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection they believed it and accepted that Jesus was their Lord and Savior, but they were still terrified. When they asked the apostles what to do, according to modern teaching Peter should have said, “If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior you should now pray and ask Him to come into your heart and God will save you by His grace.” Instead Peter instructed them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. They were told precisely what to do and they responded in obedience. Luke recorded, “Then those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).


If a person’s concept of salvation by grace includes faith and acceptance but excludes works of obedience as a prerequisite for salvation then that person’s concept is wrong. While belief and acceptance is essential, without works of obedience there can be no salvation. James wrote, “What good is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14-17). James went on to illustrate this further with the example of Abraham. He wrote, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working together with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected” (vv. 21-22). Without works faith is dead, useless, imperfect.


God sent His only begotten Son to earth to save us. Jesus was crucified, was buried, and was raised from the dead to offer mankind a way of salvation. This was an incredible offer of God’s grace that we did not and do not deserve. Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16), Faith + Works = Salvation by grace. If you want to be saved by the grace of God then you must believe in and accept Jesus Christ that He is the Lord and Savior and you must be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins in obedience to Christ’s direct command. Then, and only then, will you have fulfilled the requirements for salvation by grace.
 


Into Christ
Written by David Banks

There are two passages in the New Testament that specifically state that we are baptized into Christ. The first one is in the book of Romans. The apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Rome. These were already Christians when Paul wrote to them. They had already met the God given requirements for salvation. Paul made the statement in the context of the commitment they had made as Christians to live their new lives free from sin. Paul asked, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). Paul was stating that at the point that they died to sin they committed to not go on living in sin. And when had they died to sin? They died to sin when they were baptized into Christ. Paul continued, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Before a person is baptized that person is spiritually dead – separated from God because of his sins. When that person is baptized into Christ he dies to sin.
Paul wrote that they had been baptized into Christ. He further explained that they had been baptized into His death, burial, and resurrection. In the physical act of baptism they were symbolically going through the same process as Christ. They were buried with Christ by baptism into death. When Christ rose from the dead He gained victory over sin and death. When they came out of the watery grave their sins were washed away. They were given a fresh start – newness of life. In the same context Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).


The other passage where Paul specifically stated that we are baptized into Christ is in the book of Galatians. Paul had made his case that the promised Seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18) was Christ (Galatians 3:16). Paul wrote that when Christ died on the cross He redeemed us from the curse of the Law, so that God’s promise to Abraham could be fulfilled by bringing in the Gentiles (Galatians 3:13-14 see also Ephesians 2:11-15). He wrote that the Law of Moses had fulfilled its purpose of bringing us to faith in Christ but the Law could not fulfill the promise to Abraham, so it was taken out of the way (Galatians 3:14-25). Paul therefore wrote, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). To be in Christ is to be clothed with Christ. To be in Christ is to belong to Christ.


So, twice Paul wrote that we are baptized into Christ. How do we get into Christ? We are baptized into Christ. If we are baptized into Christ, where are we before we are baptized? We are outside of Christ. Can a person be saved if he is outside of Christ? No. When you are baptized into Christ you are clothed with Christ. Your life becomes hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Have you been baptized into Christ? Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16). If you have been baptized, did you have this proper understanding of what were participating in? You must be absolutely certain because there is much at stake.
 


Obeying The Gospel
Written by David Banks

Obeying the Gospel is a term used by New Testament writers referring to salvation. Jesus commanded His apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). The Gospel that Jesus commanded His apostles to preach was the good news about His death, burial, and resurrection. The apostle Paul wrote, “I make known to brethren, the Gospel…For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1Corinthians 15:1-4). The death, burial, and resurrection is the Gospel, baptism is how we obey the Gospel.


To Christians in Rome Paul, instructing them about the importance of preaching the Gospel, wrote, “How shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful, are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’ However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’” (Romans 10:15-16). The phrase in verse 16 that the New American Standard Bible rendered “They did not all heed the glad tidings,” is literally translated “They did not all obey the Gospel.” When Paul was in Rome he preached the Gospel. Some heard and obeyed that Gospel (Romans 6:3-4). Those who did not believe did not obey the Gospel.
When Paul wrote to Thessalonica the Christians there were enduring a great persecution. He wrote to commend them for their endurance and to encourage them to continue to endure. He also wrote that there would come a day when those who persecute the church will be severely punished. He wrote, “It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed” (2Thessalonians 1:6-10).


The apostle Peter wrote a letter to some Christians whom he referred to as scattered aliens (1Peter 1:1). These were Christians who like so many others were enduring many forms of persecution. Peter wrote to remind them that they had purified their hearts through their obedience to the truth (1Peter 1:22), and to encourage them to stay faithful. He wrote, “By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God, and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, let all those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1Peter 4:15-19). Paul was telling them that it takes courage and determination to live a faithful Christian life. Today it takes the same courage and determination to obey the Gospel.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ must not only be believed and accepted, it must also be obeyed. In reference to the Gospel Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). Have you obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


What About The Thief on the Cross?
Written by David Banks

When people hear members of the church of Christ say that baptism is essential for salvation there are a few questions we are frequently asked. One of those questions is, “What about the thief on the cross?” Jesus was crucified between two thieves. While they were hanging there, at first, both of the thieves were casting insults at Jesus (Matthew 27:44). Later, however, one of the thieves had a change of heart. The penitent thief rebuked the other thief. He said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” He then turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” When Jesus saw that this man was sincere He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 22:39-43). Many believe that since Jesus died before the thief and since the New Testament went into affect when Jesus died on the cross (Colossians 2:14), and since Jesus did not require this man to be baptized yet indicated that he would be with Him in Paradise (i.e. be saved), that this is proof that Jesus does not in the New Testament require baptism today as prerequisite for salvation.


While it is true that the Old Testament was nailed to the cross, the command to be baptized was not publicly given until the Day of Pentecost when the New Testament church was established. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His apostles and said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing then in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus commissioned the apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). After this it was several days before the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost, to divinely inspiring them to begin commanding baptism as a requirement for all men from that day until the end of time (Acts 2:38-39). The thief on the cross died many days before all the requirements for Christian baptism were completed. He therefore lived and died under a system of God’s law that did not require baptism. Also, since baptism is representative of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, the thief could not have been required to be baptized because he died before Christ rose from the dead. The thief on the cross did not live under a system that required baptism – We do.


Another question we often receive is based on certain hypothetical situations. For example: Someone hears the gospel and intends to be baptized but on the way to being baptized he dies in a car wreck. Is this person lost or saved? Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Holding strictly to what has been revealed to us through God’s holy word, after the resurrection of Christ when He commissioned His apostles, there is no indication anywhere in the New Testament that there will be exceptions made for anyone who does not obey Christ’s command to be baptized. My advice therefore is this: If you have not been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins you should do so immediately in obedience to Christ’s command. And by all means, please drive carefully.


Water Immersion For The Forgiveness of Sins
By David Banks

The apostle Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Paul declared and the New Testament authorizes only one baptism. This is an interesting statement considering that there are many baptisms mentioned in the New Testament.


When John the Baptist was preparing the way for Christ, he went about preaching a water baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:4). We know that John’s baptism is no longer valid today because it was replaced by Christ’s baptism (Acts 19:1-5). John also spoke of a time when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). We know that the promise of Holy Spirit baptism was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-8), and for the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:44-46; 11:15-18). Still other baptisms are recorded in the New Testament (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 10:38), but remember that when Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus he declared only one baptism. But what is that one baptism?


Water immersion is a command given in the New Testament that was to be continued for all time until the Lord’s return. Peter said, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39). We know that this baptism of which Peter spoke was not Holy Spirit baptism because Peter said that it was for the forgiveness of sins. Holy Spirit baptism was not for the forgiveness of sins. Furthermore, baptism in the Holy Spirit was not something that you could consciously do but rather something that was poured out upon you. We also know that miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit (with the exceptions of: the apostles – Acts 2:1-8, and those in Cornelius’ house – Acts 10:44-46) could only be imparted to Christians by the laying on of the hands of Christ’s chosen apostles (Acts 2:43; 8:14-18; Acts 19:6; Romans 1:11). Holy Spirit baptism is clearly not the one baptism Paul referred to in Ephesians 4:5.


When Philip had preached the Gospel of Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), the Bible says, “And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (v.36). We do not have recorded the exact words Philip used when he taught the Ethiopian, but we do know that he taught him about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and that he told him that he needed to be immersed in water. We can safely conclude that he preached the same Gospel to the Ethiopian that he had preached a few days earlier to the people of Samaria (Acts 8:4-13). We can further safely conclude that the Gospel he preached was the same as Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-41). So, upon hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian eunuch understood that he needed to be baptized (immersed) in water, and so he was (vv.38-39).


It should be clearly seen by all that the one baptism, that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:5, refers to water immersion that is to be done in the name of (i.e. by the authority of) Jesus Christ, and is for the forgiveness of sins. This is the same baptism that was preached by the apostles and others in the first century and it is the same baptism that we are commanded to obey today.
 


Why Do You Delay?
Written by David Banks

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus (later the apostle Paul) is recorded in Acts 9. We first read of Saul in Acts 7 when he is giving consent to the execution of Steven, a Christian who had spoken out publicly against the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin. Following this event Saul began a severe persecution of the church that resulted in the Christians being scattered throughout all the regions of Judea and Samaria. Saul went to the high priest and requested letters to the synagogues in Damascus to extend his persecution to that city as well. On the road to Damascus, however, a bright light from heaven shown down on Saul and Jesus spoke to him. Jesus told Saul to go into Damascus and wait for instructions about what he must do. Saul had to be led into Damascus because he had been blinded by the light. Saul was three days in Damascus without sight and spent his time fasting and praying. During that time he saw in a vision a man named Ananias coming to him to lay hands on him so that he could receive his sight.


The Lord spoke to Ananias and commanded him to go to the place where Saul was staying and lay hands on him. Ananias had heard of Saul and of his persecution and he was afraid. Jesus assured Ananias that Saul was his chosen instrument to bear His name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. Ananias went to Saul and laid his hands on him and said to him, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). Immediately Saul received his sight and he arose and was baptized.


There are many today who believe that Saul was saved before he was baptized, either on the road to Damascus, or at some point during the three days of fasting and praying, or when Ananias laid hands on him. I submit that if Saul was saved before he was baptized he was saved before his sins were washed away, and before he called on the name of the Lord. When the apostle Paul (as he had come to be called) went to Jerusalem many years later he told a mob of angry Jews about his own conversion. He told them about talking with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He told them about being blinded and having to be led by the hand into Damascus. He told them about Ananias coming to him to restore his sight. He also gave the specific words that Ananias said to him. He said, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:14-16 see also Romans 10:13). The evidence is clear, my friends, baptism washes away our sins through the blood, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; 1Peter 3:21). Saul’s sins were not forgiven until he was baptized and calling on the name of the Lord is inseparably connected to baptism (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46). Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). We cannot be saved, redeemed, sanctified until our sins are washed away, remitted, forgiven.
My friends, if you have not been baptized, or if you were baptized for the wrong reason, or if you have had the wrong understanding of what baptism is about and for then you need to be baptized as soon as possible into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Why do you delay? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
 


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