In the world of today’s there are many thoughts and theories in the various religious bodies concerning what it takes to obtain salvation and a home with God after this life is over.
These theories include:
• Faith only saves.
• Accepting Jesus into your heart saves.
• Belief only in Jesus saves.
• Sinner’s Prayer saves.
• Predestination saves. (God picks people and people have no say so in their own salvation)
• The laying on of hands saves.
• The Holy Spirit saves.
• Baptism saves.
Is it probable that all of these theories are correct?
Is it more likely that only one of these theories is correct?
What does the biblical example of Paul’s personal conversion to Christ tell us?
In this study, we will take an in depth look at the road to salvation of the Apostle Paul.
The Apostle Paul is considered as the most influential, effective, and spiritual of the Apostle’s. He authored the majority of the book contained in the New Testament.
Our two biblical texts for this study are:
• (Acts 9:1-19) “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. 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?” Then 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?” Then 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. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. “And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. “And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.” (NKJV)
• Acts 22:1-16 “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, “as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ “So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. “So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’ “And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. “Then a certain 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.” (NKJV)
First, let us look at the history of Paul’s conversion recorded in Acts chapter 9 by Luke.
In verses 1 and 2 we see the type of man Paul was before his conversion. He was a hater of anything and everything concerning Jesus as Lord and Savior. We can surmise from these two verses that Paul did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God and born in the flesh to reconcile a lost world back to God.
Paul, before his conversion, fit the definition of the Antichrist given by John. We read in John’s own words exactly who the Antichrist is. Consider the follow scriptures:
• 1 John 2:22 “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.” (NKJV)
• 1 John 4:3 “and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (NKJV)
• 2 John 1:7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” (NKJV)
According to the first two verses of Acts 9, Paul denied Jesus was the Son of God. Paul denied Jesus was the Christ born of human flesh. Paul would not confess that Jesus was the Messiah come in the flesh. Therefore, Paul meets the definition of the antichrist as defined by the Apostle John.
So according to John, Paul was eternally lost before his conversion to the Lord.
We read in Acts 9, verses 5 and 6 that Paul confessed Jesus as Lord. Was Paul then saved when he confessed through faith as many of the world’s religions teach? The answer is no he was not. We know this by the context of verse 6 when Paul asks what he must do. Jesus tells Paul that he has to go into the city to learn the answer to his question. This implies that something more than a mere “confession of faith” is required for salvation. This text shows clearly that “faith only” and/or “accepting Jesus” is not enough for salvation.
We further read in verse 6 that Paul finally believed in Jesus. Was Paul’s belief in Jesus enough for his salvation? The answer is again no. remember that Jesus told Paul that he had to go into the city to learn how to be saved. Therefore, mere “belief only” in Jesus is also not enough for salvation.
Next, we read in verses 8 and 9 that Paul obeys Jesus and goes into the city where he spends three days in earnest pray. Was Paul than saved because of his three days of earnest prayer? The answer to that question is no. We know he was not saved at this point in his conversion because of what happens next. In verses 11 and 12, while Paul is praying, Jesus tells Ananias that Paul is praying and that Paul is waiting for Ananias to come to him so that he can be told what he most do to be healed. Ananias has yet to speak to Paul. Therefore, “prayer of a sinner” does not save.
Jesus told Ananias in verse 15 that Paul was a chosen vessel of His. Was Paul saved at the moment Jesus picked Paul to do His will on earth? No because Jesus told Paul, that Paul would have to do something. As of this moment in Paul’s conversion he has not been told anything to do yet. Therefore, just “being chosen by the Lord” does not save.
Continuing further in this text of scripture, verse 17, we discover that Paul does receive his sight back once Ananias talks to him. Was Paul saved at that moment Ananias placed his hands on Paul? No because Ananias has yet to tell Paul what he must do. Remember is verse 6 Jesus tells Paul that he will be told what he most do. Therefore the “laying of hands” on a person does not save them.
Did Paul receive the Holy Spirit at the time Ananias placed his hands on Paul? No because Ananias merely told Paul that he is to be filled with the Holy Spirit not that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. We have already been told in scripture by the Apostle Peter at what moment in the process of salvation the Holy Spirit fills a person. We can read in Acts 2:38, precisely what must be done to receive the Holy Spirit. Paul has not yet complied with Peter’s directions of Acts 2:38. Therefore, “the Holy Spirit” alone does not save.
Finally, we read what Paul was told he must do. In verse 18 was see the results of what Ananias told Paul to do. We know this because Paul finally responds exactly how Peter directed people to be saved in Acts 2:38. Scripture tells us that Paul got up and was baptized after Ananias spoke to him. Remember that in verse 6 Jesus told Paul that he would be told what he must to do. The only thing Paul did after talking with Ananias was to be baptized. It is safe then to believe that Paul was told to be baptized by Ananias and that “baptism” is what Jesus wants people to do for their own salvation.
Now, let us look at the history of Paul’s conversion as described by Paul and recorded in Acts chapter 22 by Luke.
In verse 3 Paul confessed that he was a Jew taught by the man Gamaliel, according to the strictness of the law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. Paul in fact is saying he was a Pharisee. The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, and the Son of God in human form. Paul by his own testimony is saying that he was once an antichrist as defined by the Apostle John.
Paul than starts to share about his personal conversion to Jesus as Lord in verses 7 and 8.
Verse 8 shows that Paul finally believed in Jesus. We know that Paul did not believe that he was saved at the point he believed in Jesus, because Paul says he ask Jesus what to do in verse 10. Jesus answers Paul by saying everything he has to do will be told to him in the city of Damascus. By Paul’s own words, he was not saved by merely “believing in Jesus.”
Not until verse 16 do we hear from Paul exactly what Ananias tells Paul he must do for salvation. Ananias told Paul to be baptized. Not only does Ananias tell Paul to be baptized but infers that the baptism is where sins are forgiven. The final part of what Ananias told Paul was that the baptism was to be in the name of Jesus. Therefore, by Paul’s own testimony salvation comes at the point of baptism. Not before by any other means. Paul confirms in his own testimony what the Apostle Peter directed and commanded in Acts 2:38
• (Acts 2:38) “Then Peter said to them, “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.” (NKJV)
Conclusion: Only baptism saves a person from their sins and brings salvation.
Thursday, May 13, 2010