To understand what is going on in this portion, we need to go back to Acts 21:15 where we see that the Apostle Paul entered Jerusalem and was gladly received by fellow believers. However, he was warned by James that some of the Jews were against him and his teachings. Seeing Paul at the temple, we read in verses 27-28, “…the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.” Acts 22:1-21 is Paul’s defense against the charges that had been made against him. Paul’s defense was his account of his salvation and the work the Lord gave him to do.

Now, let’s look at the verse in question. As part of the testimony of his salvation, Paul declared the words of Ananias to him in Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” This is, undoubtedly a difficult saying. Does baptism have a part in our salvation? Can we wash away our sins by being baptized? Scripture is very clear that it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone that can save us and take away our sins. Let’s look at a few verses that expressly tell us how we can be saved.

  • Acts 16:31, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
  • Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

You’ll notice that baptism is not mentioned in these verses. While baptism is important, it is not an instrument of salvation. Baptism does not save. Baptism does not have a part in our salvation. Baptism is an act of faith and obedience by one who is already saved.

Paul’s baptism was an act that was EXPRESSIVE of the washing away of sins. It cannot be proposed that the external act of baptism was sufficient to wash away our sins, but that it was an ordinance divinely appointed as EXPRESSIVE OF THE WASHING AWAY OF SINS, or of purifying the heart. Consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:14, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius.” Certainly if baptism could wash away our sins, Paul would have baptized everyone he could.

What does wash away our sins? It is only the SHED BLOOD of the Lord Jesus Christ that has the power to remove our sins from us and make us righteous. 1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” We read in Revelation 5:9, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast REDEEMED US TO GOD BY THY BLOOD out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

Baptism is an expression of that washing, so Paul was told to be baptized. Acts 9:6 tells us concerning Paul, “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” It was at this point, when Paul acknowledges Christ as His Lord and submits himself into the Lord’s hands, that Paul was saved. Acts 9:17-18 says, “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” He calls Saul his brother. This, in itself, shows us that at this point, Saul (Paul) was already saved when Ananias came to him. Baptism had no part in Paul’s salvation. (250.8)