Was Saul Saved on the Road to Damascus?

Many insist that Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, yet there is nothing in the three accounts of his conversion that indicate such (Acts 9, 22, 26). From all three accounts, two questions that Saul asked are recorded. His first question was immediately after he and those with him saw the great light which was brighter than the noonday sun. These men fell to the earth and then Saul head a voice which said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4; 22:7). He responded to that question by asking, “Who art thou, Lord?” (Acts 9:5). Yes, Saul addressed the heavenly Being as “Lord”, but his question indicated he did not know it was Jesus who spoke to him. He called the speaker “Lord” because though he did not know whom he was, he knew the voice belonged to one much higher than he, thus “Lord”. Then Jesus said, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:5). Now notice Saul’s question in response to Jesus identifying Himself as the voice which had spoken to him, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). Carefully notice Jesus’s answer: “Go into the city and it will be told there the things which thou must do” (Acts 9:6). Jesus revealed to Saul the work He planned for him, and that a man named Ananias would lay hands on him and restore his sight (Acts 9:12). He would also tell him everything he must do (Acts 9:6).

Saul did exactly what the voice commanded. He went into the city and waited for Ananias to come. He was blind for three days. He ate nothing. For three days he prayed. Such is the action of a man greatly disturbed and anxious, not the behavior of one who has just been forgiven of his sins (Acts 8:6, 8; 8:39; 16:34). After three anxious days, Ananias did come to him. He laid hands on Saul and restored his sight, then he said to Saul, “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 passage gives a separating line between Paul being a “lost man” and a “saved man” — when he was baptized. Clearly, Saul could not be baptized to wash away sins which already had been forgiven or “washed away”.

Some years later Paul wrote the Romans about the significance of both his and their baptism, pointing to this exact moment of which Ananias spoke (Acts 22:16). He wrote, “Or, are ye ignorant that all WE (he and the Romans) who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? WE (Saul and the Romans) were buried therefore with him through baptism into death so that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so WE (Saul and the Romans) might rise to walk in newness of God. For if WE (Saul and the Romans) have become united with him in the likeness of his death, WE (Saul and the Romans) shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this that OUR (Saul and the Romans) old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so WE (Saul and the Romans) should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin” (Romans 7:3-7).

Question: “When is one justified from sin?” Paul’s answer, “He that hath died is dead to sin”. Question: “When did Saul die to sin?” Paul’s answer, “We were buried with him through baptism into death”. One dies to sin when one is buried into the death of Christ.

Zealous advocates of the doctrine “salvation by faith before baptism” offer Saul’s encounter with the Lord on the Damascus road as an example of the doctrine. A careful reading of the text shows no hint of such a doctrine.

Saul was not saved on the Damascus road. He was saved when he obeyed God’s command uttered to him through Ananias, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16; Acts 2:21). Yes, baptism is essential to salvation.

Jim McDonald