Aug 17, 2009

Rebuttal on Acts 22:16

Acts 22: 16 - Paul's condition before baptism

Before addressing the particular words of Annanias to Saul, cited by my opponent to prove that Paul was still lost and unclean before he arose and was baptized, presumably by Annanias, I would like to say a word about a rule in Bible interpretation. No single text of scripture is to be interpreted out of context, and this includes the entirety of scripture. No scripture is of any private interpretation, wrote Peter. Paul said we should prophesy according to the analogy of faith and to compare spiritual things with spiritual, or scripture with scripture. No scripture is to be interpretated in isololation from the totality of scripture. Practically speaking, a singular and obscure verse is to be subservient to to multiple and clear verses, and not vice versa. For instance, if we find one verse, like Mark 16: 16 that seem to teach that baptism is required for salvation, but then have ten other verses that teach it is not essential, are we to allow the odd verse to alter the clear meaning of the many? No.

The question concerning us is this - In what sense was Paul yet unwashed or unclean? Related to this is the question as to the state of Paul prior to his baptism in water. What if Paul had died during the three day interval between his confession of faith in Christ, on the Damascus Road, and his water baptism? My opponent will argue that the words of Annanias regarding the washing away of Paul's sins in water baptism prove that Paul was yet unclean and unforgiven of his sins. I, however, do not believe that Paul was lost, dead in tresspasses and sins, or unclean and unforgiven during those three days. I believe he was saved, washed and cleansed by the blood of Christ, when he, on the Damascus Road, came to faith in Christ, when he called upon his name and changed his mind about Jesus, and when he confessed him as his Lord. And, if I can prove this to be Paul's condition, prior to his baptism, then the words of Annanias cannot be interpreted to mean or to indicate that Paul was still lost, so that had he died, prior to his baptism, he would have gone to hell.

Reasons why Paul was saved before baptism

1) He was already a believer. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. (I John 5: 1)

2) He was already changed in his mind about himself and the gospel. Those who repent (change their minds about Christ) are justified.

3) He had already confessed Christ as Lord and called upon his name. These are assured of salvation in scripture.

4) He had already received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9: 17)

Water baptism brought no change to the heart and mind of Paul. All inner change had already occurred prior to his water baptism.

I argued that Paul, like the cleansed leper of Mark 1: 44 was to "offer for his (ceremonial) cleansing" his own body (Rom. 12: 1) "for a testimony" of what the Lord had done for him. I further argued that "calling upon the name of the Lord" did not refer to the act of baptism but is what Annanias required as a prerequisite for baptism. This was

1) Because all God-sent evangelists required a change of heart and a salvation experience prior to baptism (John the Baptist required fruit of faith and repentance first, so did Philip with the Eunuch) and Annanias is acting in that tradition.

2) The Greek aorist participle, epikalesamenos, properly translated means "having called" on the name of the Lord. Paul’s calling on Christ’s name for salvation preceded his water baptism. It is absurd to think that Paul had not yet called upon the name of the Lord and that water baptism is all the same as calling on the name of the Lord.

I also argued throughout that this "washing away of sin" in water baptism was only "formal" or symbolic, as Alexander Campbell had said in the McCalla debate. It did not refer to the washing of the soul. This occurred three days earlier when he came to faith in Christ.

John argued that no one was required to call upon the Lord for salvation prior to Christ's death. He said men did not do it. Yet, I showed, in the gospels, where many called upon the name of the Lord. I argued that the thief on the cross "called upon the name of the Lord."

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