Truly one of the great examples of conversions found in the New Testament is that of Saul of Tarsus. A careful study of this conversion can be very beneficial to those who seek to know God's will concerning how to be saved. First of all, we need to notice that even the vilest of sinners, if they turn to God, can have their sins forgiven.
Paul in I Tim. l:15 states that he was the "chief " of sinners. And in Acts 26, Paul tells how he once put saints in prison, gave his approval for them to be put to death, how he punished them in every synagogue and persecuted them in many cities. In the 15th verse, we find that while persecuting Christians, Paul was persecuting Jesus. In light of all this, it is easy to understand why Paul referred to himself as the "chief" of sinners.
Now let's look into the word of God and see what Saul, who later was known as Paul, did in order to be forgiven of his sins.
There are three references to Saul's conversion found in the book of Acts: chapters 9, 22, and 26. A study of all three accounts will furnish one with all that is said about Saul's conversion. First in chapter 9, while Saul was on the Damascus road, verse 3 says, "and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven" And in verse 4, it says Saul fell to the earth and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"
Right here, let us notice some things Jesus did not say.:
If these words sound familiar it is because so many today teach and preach these very things. But again notice, Jesus did not tell Saul to do any of these things in order to be saved.
What Jesus did tell Saul is recorded in verse 6, when he said, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" . Not what he should do -- but what he "must do".
Now before we go any further, I want to ask a question. Was Saul saved at this point, while on the road to Damascus? I ask this question because so many preachers and teachers are teaching that Saul was saved at this time. But notice verse 9, where it says concerning Saul, "And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink". Does this sound like someone who has just been saved, or someone who has been forgiven of his sins? The truth is, Saul is feeling the burden of guilt of the sins which he has committed and has not yet been told what he must do in order to have them forgiven.
Let's look in Acts chapter 22 now and find out what Saul is told, that he "must do". Ananias, the one sent by God, is the person who told Saul what he must do. This is an important fact because it illustrates that God did not alter His will concerning the salvation of man. Let us note God's will concerning the salvation of man. In Mark 16:15, 16 Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, He that believeth and baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be dammed." Again in I Cor.1:21 Paul said "....it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." It is the will of God that man be saved through the preaching of the gospel. The gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" Rom.1:16. God did not alter His will concerning Saul's salvation; he sent the man, Ananias, to tell him what he must do. Ananias in Acts 22:16 said, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." "Arise and be baptized," is what Saul was told he must do by Jesus in Acts 9:6
Those who teach and preach that Saul was saved on the road to Damascus before he was baptized, face two problems in which they would probably not like to see mentioned here. The reason is that it exposes their error in teaching faith only for salvation. First let us notice, that if Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, then he was saved in his sins because Ananias told him to arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins. The truth is, Saul was not saved on the Damascus road because "the wages of sin is death" Rom.6:23 and he still had those sins. He was not forgiven of his sins, until he obeyed the command to be baptized and wash away his sins, Acts 22:16.
Next, if one teaches Saul was saved on the Damascus road, it is a complete disregard of God's plan of saving man through "the foolishness of preaching". God did not and will not alter his will concerning man's salvation, which is through preaching the gospel and man's obedience to it. Even in the case of Saul, when Jesus had ample opportunity to tell Saul what to do to have his sins forgiven, Jesus sent a man named Ananias, to Saul to tell him what he "must do". Jesus stayed with the plan! Preachers and teachers of "salvation by faith only" have not stayed with God's plan!
Now, what about you? Have you been baptized? If so, were you baptized for the same reason Saul was, to have your sins washed away? Or were you told to be baptized for some other reason? Baptism for the remissions of sins is according to the will of God, and Jesus said in Matt. 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." My friend, if you have not been baptized for the remission of sins, then you have not yet submitted to the will of the Father in this matter. You have not yet obeyed Christ's doctrine or teachings concerning salvation.
In closing, it would be wise to consider the warning in II John vv. 10 and 11. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; For he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds."
Our souls are too valuable and eternity too long for one to be wrong. We all need to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and "search the scriptures daily" in order to find the truth concerning salvation.