Acts 22:16

Does Acts 22:16 teach that (water) baptism is necessary for salvation?

Question: Does Acts 22:16 teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation?

Answer: The Churches of Christ often read into the text Acts 22:16 to explain why Paul is told to go into the city "to find out what he must do."

Here, the Churches of Christ often make the assumption that he is going to be told what he must do (and add the words) “to be saved.” In other words notice that "to be saved" is not in the text.

However, looking back over the 3 accounts given in Acts that tell about Paul’s conversion, the context of "what Paul must do” was that he was chosen to be an instrument to carry the Lord’s name ‘to the Gentiles and to their kings and before the people of Israel’.

In other words, to be consistent with the Church of Christ pretext, Paul must be water baptized and be a minister to the Gentiles in order to be saved.

However, Paul tells us in Galatians 1:11-12 that he did not hear the gospel from Ananias, but rather that he heard it directly through a revelation from Jesus Christ:

“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

So Paul heard the gospel on the road to Damascus, which was before Ananias came to pray for him to receive his sight (Acts 9:17).

In regards to Acts 22:16, after Ananias tells Paul that he will be a witness to all men of what he has seen and heard, he says:

“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.”

Here, at least looking at the first part of the sentence, the passage does seem to say that water baptism will wash away Paul’s sins. However, we need to consider the rest of the sentence which says, “calling on His name.”

Paul uses this same phrase in Romans 10:13 to describe someone receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And notice that nowhere in Romans 10 is water baptism even mentioned.

Here it should be pointed out that in Acts 22:1 the “calling” used in this passage is a aorist participle in the Greek, which means that its action (the action of “calling on the name of the Lord”) precedes the action of the main verb in the sentence of “be baptized.”

In other words, a literal translation of the verse is, “Arise, get yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling on His name.”

The point is that we get our sins washed away by calling on the name of Jesus Christ, not by water baptism. Once again, “water” baptism is a sign or symbol that follows the salvation of the believer, not causes it. 

Answers For Other Baptism Passages: