Life is full of questions and sometimes the right answer is difficult to determine. There is no more important question in life that what one must do to be right before his Maker. The fact is that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
"Your iniquities have separated you from God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2)
Now the question is: What do I do to obtain the forgiveness of God for my sin? The examples we have in the book of Acts answer that question for us. In Acts 16, the jailer in Philippi asked Paul and Silas that question (v30). They answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household"(v31), Some religious teachers would say today that all one must do to be saved is believe, and they might site this verse. However we must study all that the Scripture teaches about a subject, such as salvation, to know what to do. It is interesting that later verses tell us that "immediately he and all his family were baptized"
The question, "What must I do?" was also asked of the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. After Peter's sermon convicted the Jews of killing God's Son, the crowd cried out, "Men and Brethren, what shall we do?" The answer was Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" Acts 2:38
In Acts 8, Philip the evangelist was directed by the Holy Spirit to intercept a man who was traveling from Jerusalem back to his home in Ethiopia. He was reading from the Prophet Isaiah the words: "he was led as a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (v32). He didn't understand who the prophet was speaking of, so Philip got up in the man's chariot and preached about Jesus. As they traveled they came to some water, and the man asked Philip, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"(vs36) Philip answered , "If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God," (v37)
The next verse tells us that "he baptized him."(v38) It is obvious from the reading of the text that when Philip "preached Jesus" (v35) to him, he preached the necessity of baptism. Otherwise, how would the man have know he needed to be baptized?
Earlier in Acts 8, Philip had gone to Samaria, the middle region of the land of Palestine, to preach to the people there. The Scripture says, "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized"(v12)
In Acts 16, the apostle Paul and his traveling company came to Philippi and on the Sabbath went out of the city to a place beside a river where a group of women were praying and worshiping. They took occasion to preach to them. Lydia listened to the things preached. Her heart was open to the truth, and the Scripture says that " she and her house were baptized"(16:15) She did the same thing people were told to do on Pentecost in Acts 2
Before Paul became a believer and later an apostle, he was Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of the church. The Scripture records the account of his conversion to Jesus Christ (Acts 9:22). It tells of his journeying to Damascus to persecute Christians and of the Lord's appearance to him on the way. He was blinded by a great light and led into Damascus, having been told to wait there until he was told what to do. After three days a preacher named Ananias came to him and said, "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)
Some have wondered why these people were not told exactly the same thing. The answer seems to be that they were not all at the same point in their spiritual understanding. The Philippian jailer was first told to "believe"because he had not come to believe that Christ was indeed the son of God. The people on Pentecost had already been made to believe that Jesus was God's Son by Peter's sermon; and that's why they asked, 'What must we do?" At this point they needed to repent of their sins. The man of Ethiopia was convinced that Jesus was the Christ by Philip's explanation, and showed sorrow for his sins when he had observed that they had come to some water, and he needed to be baptized. The only thing hindering that was his confession that Jesus was the Son of God.
In every instance of accounts of people's conversion in the book of Acts, it is stated that they were baptized. Baptism is simply the culminating act that puts one into Christ and thus making one a Christian.
Louis B Johns
Christianity Magazine 2/99
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