by Richard Mansel
When we read the writings of people in the religious world, they discuss the writings of Paul and often completely dismiss some passages while trumpeting others. This curious phenomenon must have an explanation. Why would Paul be right and wrong on certain doctrines in inspired Scripture?
These authors will write about salvation and quickly turn to Ephesians 2:9,10 and Romans 10:9,10 and proclaim these passages as the wellsprings of salvation. Meanwhile, they fail to account for the remainder of Paul’s writings and experiences. When bundled, these passages paint a fuller picture of salvation.
Paul, when he was known as Saul, persecutor of Christians, headed down the road to Damascus, Christ appears to him and soon leads Ananias to say, “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; NKJV). Paul was baptized for the remission of his sins and entered into Christ, the church (Ephesians 1:22,23).
Those who ignore Acts 22:16 in the larger scheme of Paul’s teachings on salvation see an incomplete picture. For Paul to forget his immersion for the remission of sins would mean that either he or the Holy Spirit had problems with their memory. If he remembered it and yet renounced it, then where is his real salvation story? Why would he persist in giving accounts of his error as evidence of his veracity?
Paul knew that the foundation of salvation was the shedding of the blood of Christ and the gift of grace (Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:8,9). However, he still knew that sins were remitted in baptism (Acts 22:16).
He knew that while faith was indispensable to salvation (Acts 16:31), it was not the moment at which sins were remitted (Acts 22:16). Paul knew that confession was the extension of a vibrant faith (Romans 10:9,10). Yet, it works with, not repudiates, baptism.
Ananias’ plea for Saul’s immersion for the remission of sins, added the “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Interestingly, the same context that provides Romans 10:9,10 also says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Did Paul forget that this accompanied baptism and that the remission of sins came after baptism? Did the Holy Spirit forget? If not, then why did they not correct the error? The only choice is that Paul was commanding them to do the same thing that he had been commanded to do by God. No evidence exists that Paul had multiple personalities or dementia.
The difference between Paul’s writings and many interpreters is that Paul is not confused about grace and works. Great throngs of people cannot grasp the complete picture of what Paul is teaching on salvation because they have believed all or part of the doctrine of depravity that says that man is too sinful to understand or pursue Christ. That if we must act at all in our salvation that it becomes salvation by works.
Paul knew that we have no hope of salvation on our own and that the blood of Christ cleanses us from our sins./1 However, he also knew that baptism is for the remission of sins. Obviously, the doctrines of baptism for the remission of sins and salvation by grace through faith are not contradictory in the mind of Paul. Baptism is not meriting salvation because we submit to God to allow him to cleanse us so we can glorify Christ. Such a selfless act cannot be for our own glory and thus cannot be meritorious. Besides, if baptizing is meriting salvation, then Paul is not saved, because he believed his sins were remitted at baptism.
by Richard Mansel