“Be baptized, and wash away your sins”

These words were spoken to Paul after he had seen the Lord on the road to Damascus and after he had fasted for three days.

Paul, who was originally called Saul, was a prominent leader in the Jewish nation. He did not believe in Jesus. He thought Christians were violating the law of Moses.

“As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).

But something amazing happened.

“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:1-9).

Many years later, Paul recounted what happened next: “Then one, Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’” (Acts 22:12-16).

Let us examine this last verse: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Ananias first asked Paul:

“Why are you waiting?”

Paul had seen the Lord. He had fasted. He believed in Jesus and realized that he had been wrong. It was time for action.

Years later, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Many people who believe in Christ and are sorry for their sins, put off being baptized, even though they know it is a command of the Lord. In the book of Acts, which contains many examples of conversion, people were baptized immediately, as soon as they believed in Jesus. They did this because they knew that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) and to become a member of the body of Christ: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and if you want to dedicate your life to God and be saved, “Why are you waiting?”

“Arise and be baptized!”

The word “baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word “BAPTIDZO” which means to immerse or dip. Bible baptism is an immersion in water. Churches that sprinkle or pour a little water on people are not following the Bible. What they do is not baptism, it is not immersion. In reality they do not baptize people at all. Someone who has only received “sprinkling” or “pouring” has not obeyed the command to be “baptized”.

Notice also that it says: “Arise.” A valid baptism must result from a personal decision to repent of sin and follow Jesus. Peter told the crowd in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

To repent means to turn away from sin and dedicate your life to God. A young child has not sinned, so cannot repent. He is innocent. He is not yet lost. How can he be baptized for the remission of sins?

When well-meaning parents have their babies “christened,” and think they are having them baptized, they are being deceived by false traditions that are contrary to the Word of God.

To turn away from sin and dedicate your life to God is something you must do yourself. No one can do this for you.

The Ethiopian eunuch, after hearing the gospel, asked Philip: “‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38).

One may be baptized only if he believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and if he is willing to confess his faith. “For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10). “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized.”

“And wash away your sins!”

Even though Paul saw the Lord on the road to Damascus and believed in Him, even though he had fasted for three days, his sins had not yet been washed away. That happens only when we are baptized into the death of Christ.

Paul explains this in Romans 6:3, 4. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

The blood of Christ is the propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25). Baptism provides access to His blood. By the efficacy of His sacrifice, our sins are washed away at baptism. Baptism, immersion, represents the burial and resurrection of Christ. We are baptized, we are immersed, into His death. Then we rise from the water to walk in newness of life, having been born again by the power of God’s Spirit.

“Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins.”

“Calling on the name of the Lord.”

The substance, water, has no magic power to wash away sins.

The power is from God. We call on the Lord for salvation by being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). “In the name of” means “by the authority of.” To be sanctioned and empowered by God, a baptism must comply with His word.

We appeal to God for salvation when we are baptized. Our parents cannot do this for us.

Baptism is not a cleansing of the body, but a request for a good conscience through the resurrection of Christ. In connection with Noah’s salvation through water, Peter says: “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Baptism is not a meritorious work, but a gift of God that we receive, a “washing of regeneration” that cleanses us and saves us by the blood of Christ: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).

“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord!” Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive