Summary: There's a lot of confusion in the religious world regarding baptism. In this lesson, we'll survey the NT teaching on the ancient practice and learn the why's behind doing it.
The words of Ananias in Acts 22:16 are simple to understand. There’s nothing complicated about them. Nothing complex or ambiguous; “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” And yet the religious world of today, has taken baptism and they have twisted it and made it into something that is so confusing. One group says that baptism is the pouring on of water. While another says, it’s just sprinkling with water. While a third says it’s immersion into water.
If arguing about the mode of baptism isn’t enough then there’s the whole debate about why a person needs to be baptized. One group says that you don’t have to be baptized. While another says it’s to join a certain church organization. While a third says you have to be baptized to be saved.
What’s a person to do? Where are they to turn to find the answers to their questions about baptism? The best place to find answers to your Bible questions is the Bible itself. Let’s allow the Bible to provide the answers to our questions concerning baptism by looking at Acts 22:16.
URGENCY – The need to be baptized is of an urgent matter. Paul was asked, “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized.” Paul didn’t wait to be baptized. We learn in Acts 9:18 (another account of this same event) that as soon as Paul received his sight he arose and was baptized.
In the Bible there was no baptism services, there was no waiting weeks after one was saved to be baptized. Baptism was so important to the believer’s salvation they didn’t want to wait. Looking at the conversion accounts of Acts, you can see that baptism was something that a believer urgently wanted to submit to: (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 8:38-39, 10:44-48, 16:14-15, 16:30-34, 18:8, 19:15). Why this sense of urgency? Because the act of believing is not complete until a person is baptized (Mark 16:15-16).
MODE – As Paul arose to be baptized he was not sprinkled, nor was water poured on him from a pitcher or cup. Rather, he was immersed in water. How do we know that? The Greek word translated baptized is baptizo which means to dip, immerse or submerge (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Since baptism is complete immersion, Paul would later relate baptism to being buried with Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).
With the proper understanding of the meaning of the word baptism Acts 22:16 reads this way, ““And now why are you waiting? Arise and be immersed [buried with Christ], and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Doesn't that make is much easier to see that baptism is immersion?
WHY – Why was he baptized? It wasn’t because he was joining the church at Damascus; nor was it because he was already saved. For the answer let’s look at our verse again, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Paul was baptized so his sins could be washed away. As Paul went down into the waters of baptism he went down into them as a dead man, full of sin; but as he came up from those waters his sins were washed away (he was forgiven) and he was made alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13). Paul also said, "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:5-6). It is only through baptism that the believer's sins will be taken away.
We’ve seen that Paul was urgent in his being baptized. His baptism was administered by being immersed into water as if being buried. He was baptized so that his sins would be washed away. But what part did faith play in his baptism? Was it in himself and his baptism or was it in the Lord and what the Lord was doing through the baptism?
FAITH – Paul did not put his faith in the man who baptized him to save him, or the water that he was buried in to purify him. Instead, Paul put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by “calling on the name of the Lord.” For Paul to call on the name of the Lord at his baptism meant he was putting his faith in the Lord and not in himself (Titus 3:5), recognize his baptism as a working of the Lord (Colossians 2:12), and he was confessing his belief that Jesus is Lord and Son of God (Acts 10:20; cf. Mark 16:16, Acts 8:37).