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Author: Ron Graham


When Are Sins Washed Away?
—What Ananias said (Acts 22:16).

Saul of Tarsus, who was to become Paul the Apostle, was on his way to Damascus to persecute and kill Christians. Jesus appeared to him from Heaven, and Saul was made blind. Having got Saul’s attention, Jesus commanded him to go into the city where he would be told what to do.

God chose a disciple called Ananias to go to Saul. What Ananias said to Saul is the focus of our attention in this lesson.

1 Paul’s Story

Saul, now called Paul, gives his own account of events in Damascus, including what Ananias said to him. Here is the text:

Acts 22:4-16

¶“4I persecuted this way of Jesus to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5To this the high priest and all the council of the elders can testify. I received letters from them to the brethren, and went to Damascus to find followers there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem in order to have them punished.' ” (Acts 22:1-5).

¶“6'On my journey, as I neared Damascus about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. 7I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 8And I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?' And he said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.' 9Those who were with me saw the light and were afraid; but they did not hear the voice of him who spoke to me. 10And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise, and go into Damascus; there you will be told everything appointed for you to do.' 11I was made blind by the glory of that light, and my companions had to lead me by the hand. Thus I came into Damascus.' ” (Acts 22:7-11).

¶“12'I was visited by a man named Ananias. He is a devout man according to the law with a good reputation among all the Jews living in Damascus. 13Ananias came and stood before me. He said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' At that moment I looked up and could see him. 14He said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One, and hear words from his mouth. 15For to all people you shall be his witness and tell what you have seen and heard. 16And now why do you wait? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.' ' ” (Acts 22:12-16).

(More detail is added to this story in Acts 9)

2 Ananias’s Words

Paul acknowledged the credentials of Ananias: "He is a devout man according to the law with a good reputation among all the Jews living in Damascus." (Acts 22:12). Besides his reputation, Ananias confirmed that he was speaking for Jesus, because he undid the blindness that Jesus has caused when he appeared to Paul. What's more, earlier Saul saw a vision of a man named Ananias laying hands on him and healing his eyes.

So we, like Saul, should give the utmost respect to what Ananias said. After telling Paul the mission Jesus had appointed for him, Ananias spoke the words we are going to examine carefully...

“And now why do you wait? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16).

What do these words mean, and what do they tell us about having our sins washed away?

3 A Proper Analysis (Acts 22:16)

We are not going to explain away what Ananias said, we are hardly even going to explain it at all because it is not at all difficult to understand. Our main aim is to see how it instructs us regarding when Jesus Christ washes away sin.

Ananias’s words fall into three elements: priority, promise, and power.

1Note:— Not Baptism Alone. You may wonder why Ananias made no mention of hearing the gospel (Romans 10:14), or faith (Hebrews 11:6), or repentance (Acts 2:38), or verbal confession of Christ (Romans 10:10). Ananias did not give baptism priority over these. He did not mention them because Saul already had them. He would have heard the message of the Way that he persecuted. He had been given cause to believe it, repent, and confess Christ as Lord. So he was ready and needed to be baptised without delay.

When Were Saul’s Sins Washed Away?

Everything we have said so far is intended to guide your thinking down to the lesson’s question: When are sins washed away? Let me place Ananias’s word in front of you again:

“Saul, your sins are washed away. And now why do you wait? Arise, and be baptized, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). ERROR

No, no, that is how many people read it, but that is not the order of Ananias’s words. He said...

“And now why do you wait? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16).

Ananias put the PRIORITY element (be baptized) before the PROMISE element (wash away sins). We should leave this order alone and not reverse it. It is a divine order. When you are baptised in the name of the Lord, then and there do you wash away your sins by the power of Christ and in his blood.

When believers repent, confess Christ, and obey the command to be baptised, then and there, and not before, do they wash away their sins. If this you deny, then you have to change the order of Ananias’s words to Saul. I wouldn't counsel that.

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