Vol. 3, No. 3
The apostle Paul, also known in Scripture as Saul of Tarsus, wrote several New Testament books and he is a prominent character in the Book of Acts. Once an unbelieving Jew and a great persecutor of the church, after his conversion, Paul became an apostle and a tireless servant of Jesus Christ. Details about his obedience to the Gospel are recorded in Acts chapters 9, 22 and 26. This information is useful today to learn how to receive the forgiveness of sins.
Paul was an unbelieving Jew as he neared the city of Damascus. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had given him authority to capture and imprison Christians. Paul was already famous for his capture and imprisonment of other Christian men and women, some of whom were executed with his approval.
Jesus Christ caused a bright light to blind Paul. Jesus then convicted Paul of his sins against the church of Christ. Paul was sincere and obviously believed in the Christ whose church he was before trying to destroy. "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" (Acts 9:6).
Paul's question is evidence that he was not yet saved. Our Lord's reply is further evidence that Paul was still lost. However, Jesus assured Paul that in Damascus he would be told what he must do to be saved. Paul, then, was not saved on the road to Damascus. Neither was he saved by faith alone, since in the city Paul would be told what he must do to be saved.
After Paul prayed and fasted three days in Damascus, a Christian named Ananias was sent to him by Jesus Christ. Ananias said, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). This was the must do of which Jesus spoke three days earlier on the road to Damascus.
Prayer and fasting was unable to take away Paul's sins. However, his sins were washed away when he was baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Even the sin of killing Christians was taken away at baptism.
Sins are forgiven in the same way today. Paul was taught the Gospel truth (by Jesus Christ and Ananias). Obviously, Paul believed what he was taught and repented or changed. Then, Paul washed away his sins in baptism. By his words and actions, Paul never stopped telling the world about Jesus.
Other people whose conversions are recorded in the Book of Acts were saved in the same way Paul was saved. They all were taught the Word of God, believed, repented, professed Christ and were baptized. You, too, can be saved like Paul! There is no other way anyone truly can be saved. Have your sins been washed away in baptism?
Without intending to demean any of God's Word, still, there appear to be several especially outstanding chapters in the Bible. A whole series of lectures or articles could easily be presented from such biblical narratives; doubtless Isaiah 2, Isaiah 53, Daniel 2, Joel 2, Proverbs 31, Acts 2 and Hebrews 11 deserve inclusion in a list of great chapters of the Bible. Chapters like the ones cited virtually jump off the pages, are filled to overflowing with activity or grasp the reader by the heart with piercing power.
Additionally, Acts Chapter Two is a pivotal chapter, center and critical to God's redemptive plan for humanity. Sometimes called the "hub of the Bible," around Acts Chapter Two revolves the truths on which Christianity depends for its existence. Without Acts Two, the Old Testament is reduced in a moment to mere vanity and the New Testament is only an empty mirage.
An overview of Acts Two unfolds the following themes: vss. 1-4, baptism in the Holy Spirit; vss. 5-11, biblical definition of 'speaking in tongues'; vs. 12, purpose of miracles; vs. 13, there will always be scoffers in spite of indisputable evidence; vss. 14-15, rebuttals to false accusations--defense of the truth; vss. 16-21, quotation of Old Testament Messianic prophecy and announcement of its fulfillment; vss. 22-36, explanation of Old Testament Messianic prophecy and its fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth; vs. 37, the apparent faith and repentance of many souls among the multitude present then; vss. 38-39, terms of pardon declared and scope of the Gospel reiterated; vs. 40, further exhortation; vs. 41, about 3,000 Jews and proselytes obey the Gospel; vss. 42-46, dramatic change of life and alteration of conduct owing to conversion; and vs. 47, in consequence of the foregoing, Jesus Christ adds the saved to his church.
Striking observations from these verses include: (1) The 'birthday of the church' is chronicled in Acts Two; (2) Here appears the first recorded Gospel sermon; (3) A strong emphasis is found herein on Old Testament Scripture, especially relating to prophecy and fulfillment; (4) There is an equally strong emphasis in Acts Two upon verbal communication of God's revelation to mankind (vss. 4, 6, 8, 11, 14, 22, 29, 37-38, 40), indicative of man's agency and definitive words employed by God in the proclamation of the Gospel; (5) Speaking in tongues was merely miracle-assisted preaching in the language of the people who comprised the audience; speaking in tongues occurs today through study of foreign languages instead of through the use of miracles (vss. 4-11); (6) Christianity is a knowledgeable religion (vs. 36); (7) Miracles served to authenticate new revelation, Jesus as Christ and the miracle workers; (8) Christianity has a resurrected, living and powerful Savior; (9) The Gospel is for all men (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:39); (10) Only the apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit since the manifestation of this baptism was limited to Galilaeans (vs. 7; see also Acts 1:26-2:4); (11) True unity results from bona fide Christianity, which unity pervades all earthly activity (vss. 42-46); (12) The death of Christ, his subsequent resurrection and the establishment of the church was according to the eternal purpose of God (vs. 23); (13) Jesus was resurrected to sit on a throne; therefore, he is now reigning as King (vss. 30, 33-34); (14) Jesus is presently reigning, however temporarily--until the last enemy is conquered (vs. 35); (15) Mankind has a role in his own salvation (vss. 37-38, 40-41); and (16) The Acts Two converts practiced day-long-daily Christianity (vs. 46).
The chief jewel of Acts Two must derive from "this is that" regarding the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy pertaining to the establishment of the kingdom, through which salvation is afforded to mankind (vss. 16-21). Complementary to this is: (1) vs. 38a in which God's conditional redemptive plan is declared and (2) vss. 38b and 39 where others additional to the apostles in the first century were to share in miraculous power (vss. 17-18) and beneficiaries beyond the 3,000 can personally enjoy the redemptive quality of the Gospel.
Acts Chapter Two is replete with essential information which, though corroborated throughout the testaments, were other biblical references unavailable one could still learn numerous cardinal doctrines of Christianity. The treatment of Acts Two here has been a shallow demonstration compared to the bumper crop of discernible truths embedded in this passage. Acts Two promises an even greater yield of spiritual wealth for the careful and industrious Bible student.