MARVIN L. WEIR
The Book of Acts is not only a book of history, but also a book of conversions. If one genuinely wants to know what to do to be saved, he can read the book of Acts and find the Biblical answer. Although this study will focus on the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Paul), let us first consider eight examples of conversions found in the Book of Acts. The following chart will enable one to clearly see what these people did to be saved.
The student of Godís Word will note that teaching or preaching occurred in each instance of salvation recorded above. It is true that "belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). The astute student will also note the fact that baptism is mentioned in every case of conversion. Man-made denominations insist that baptism is not required for one to be saved, but the Word of God declares that the act of baptism is indeed a perquisite in every case of conversion.
Let us now study the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul). In studying an incident or subject, let us always remember to read all the verses that pertain to said incident or subject. Thus, in studying Acts 9:1-20, we must not forget the apostleís inspired comments about the matter in Acts 22 and 26.
PAUL Ė A RELIGIOUS MAN WHO WAS LOST
It may surprise some to learn that a person can be very religious and yet very lost! To the Galatians Paul said, "For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it: and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Gal. 1:13-14). Although very sincere and very religious, Paul spent his early years "breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the LordÖ" (Acts 9:1). At one point in his life, Paul thought he was right regarding his former religious convictions.
People today can be very religious and yet lost. Many today say, "I just know that I am saved." How do they know? The only way to know if you are saved is to let the Bible tell you. It really matters not what I may "think" or "feel" about my soulís salvation. Paul "felt" that he was doing a great service for God during the time that he was committed to the Jewís religion. The truth of the matter is that God said Paul was persecuting Him and making havoc of the Lordís church.
The Lord and Savior addressed this very matter in saying, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:21-23). Only those who obey the Lord will be accepted into that eternal home.
Multitudes today work fervently in man-made churches but in that day the Lord will say, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Luke 6:46)? It is indeed sad to see so many zealously calling upon the name of the Lord while refusing to obey His commands. People must realize who the authority is in religion. It is not man Ė but God! If we truly love Christ, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).
Paul had to change his religious convictions to save his soul. Dear reader, could it be that your religious convictions are not founded upon the Word of God? Can the church of which you are a member be found in the Bible? Does the plan of salvation you obeyed agree or disagree with the one in the above chart? Just remember that the devil doesnít mind religious people who are wrong in their beliefs because he knows they are lost. Would you like to study what the Bible has to say about the gospel plan of salvation and the church that Christ purchased with His blood? Paul knew that his soul was too important to not change his beliefs once he realized he was wrong.
PAUL HAD THE APPROVAL OF HIS PEERS
Paul made it clear that "if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless" (Phil. 3:4-6). Paul continues to speak of himself a being "a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as ye all are this day." He had the approval of the high priest, the elders, and the brethren (Acts 22:5), but God said that Paul was wrong.
Many today believe themselves to be right religiously because they have the approval of their peers. But it is Christ, not our peers, that will judge us in that day (John 12:48). One has the responsibility to "not follow a multitude to do evil" (Exo. 23:2), or the broad way that lead to destruction (Matt. 7:13).
SINCERE PRAYER IS NOT THE MEANS OF ONEíS SALVATION
Some today are convinced that if one will pray long enough and hard enough that he will be saved. Let it be clear that we do not make light of the sincere prayer of anyone, but the act of prayer is not the means of salvation for the alien sinner. One is saved only when he obeys Godís plan of salvation. The gospel states that before one can be saved he must believe (Heb. 11:6), repent of his sins (Luke 13:3), confess Christ (Rom. 10:9-10) and be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38). All the prayers in the world will not take the place of obeying Christís commands.
It will not do for one today to say that he was fervently praying and the Lord spoke to him and saved him. Where does the Bible teach that this is the divine formula for salvation? Go back and study the chart that was given above to see how people were saved and added to the Lordís church. Instead of doing what men say that we must do to be saved, let us resolve to do what God desires that we do to be saved. If we really honor God and love Him, we will make sure we are in the God pleasing business instead of the man pleasing business!
BELIEF ALONE IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO SAVE ONEíS SOUL
The false message of "belief only" is proclaimed to millions each week. People are told to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts and believe on Him and be saved. If you ask most of those who profess to be preachers, they will tell you that the act of baptism is not required for one to become a New Testament Christian. And, yet, the Bible chart that was given at the beginning of this article clearly shows that every person who was converted was baptized immediately, straightway, or the same hour of the night.
A believer must always act upon the Word of God. This principle can even be seen in the Old Testament. Naaman was a leper, and desperately wanted to be healed of this terrible disease. Elisha, a prophet of God, "sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper" (2 Kings 5:10-11).
Naaman was told what God wanted him to do. All the believing in the world would be to no avail until Naaman washed seven times in the Jordan River. No other river would suffice. There can be no compromising with Godís plan of salvation. It can also be said that Naaman did not truly believe until he did what the messenger of God said to do. It is truly faith plus obedience that equals the benefits of what God has promised!
A CLOSER LOOK AT PAULíS CONVERSION TO CHRIST
In the account in Acts 9 Paul was carried into the city of Damascus and was without sight, food or drink for three days (v. 9). Ananias was sent to Paul to restore his sight (miracles were worked during the early church as revelation was not yet complete). The Scriptures declare that when his sight was restored "he arose and was baptized" (v. 18). The emphasis is not on belief or repentance or confession but on baptism. This does not mean Paul was not a believer Ė he was! It does not mean he did not repent Ė he did! But neither can it be overlooked or denied that Paul was baptized!
Why was Paul baptized? Was it because he was already saved, or was the act of baptism for the remission of his sins? Do we have to guess or can we know for sure? We can know what the act of baptism was for because the Bible tells us.
In Acts 26 as Paul defends himself before King Agrippa, he tells of his being struck down on the way to Damascus and the Lord saying, "But arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee" (v. 16). One might think from reading this account that Paul was saved simply by believing in the Lord and letting Him come into his heart.
In Acts 22 Paul again tells of his conversion as he defends himself before his brethren at Jerusalem. He tells of Ananias restoring his sight and then saying, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). If Ananias was saved at the point of belief, why did he still have his sins? It is very clear to one who does not have a prejudiced mind that the act of baptism washed away Paulís sins.
It is an "un-get-aroundable" and "un-get-overable" fact that without being baptized Paul would not have had his sins washed away. Think about it! Belief does not wash away oneís sins, but genuine belief will motivate one to do the entire will of God. The man-made false doctrine of salvation by belief only would have Paul being saved while still in his sins! False doctrine never does make logical or reasonable sense.
We have seen that God deemed baptism to be a part of manís salvation, and that baptism is mentioned in every case of conversion in the Book of Acts. It must also be remembered that baptism is a burial Ė not a sprinkling (Rom. 6:4)! One river was not as good as another to cure Naamanís leprosy, and neither will just any method of contacting water suffice for Bible baptism. The word means to dip, to plunge, to put under, and it required sufficient water (John 3:23). Baptism is simply the final obedient act that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:27). One must be baptized to be saved because Godís Word says so!
If you have been sincere but wrong regarding your religious
convictions, will you not do as Paul did and correct matters so that you
might save your soul?
Please e-mail me (Marvin L. Weir) if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
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