If baptism is for the remission of sins, why did Ananias call Saul "brother" previous to his baptism? This objection is sometimes raised regarding Saul's conversion. Acts 22:16 does point out that Saul was baptized to wash away his sins. However, the response of the objector would be that Saul was called "brother" by Ananias (Acts 9:17) prior to his baptism, and thus Saul was saved prior to baptism. The objector would then conclude that baptism is not necessary for salvation.

In considering this argument, we need to first examine the use of the word "brother." It is used in the Bible at times to refer to one who is a Christian. However, it has another use in the Bible as it is also used in the sense of "nationality," i.e., speaking of one who is a fellow Jew. Stephen's defense before the Sanhedrin council is one such example. In Acts 7, we learn that although these people were not Christian, Stephen addressed them as "brethren" (v. 1). On another occasion, Paul addressed certain Jews who opposed Christianity as "brethren" when he told them of his conversion to Christ (Acts 22:1). In both cases, the terms are used in the sense of "nationality" (a fellow countryman) and are not used in any spiritual sense (note also Acts 2:29, Acts 28:17).

Since the term "brother" can be used in both ways, how then is it used in our text (Acts 9:17)? It must have been used in a national sense. This can be concluded by what the other passages teach about the purpose of baptism. However, it can especially be seen in light of what Paul was told that his baptism was for. Again, recall Acts 22:16 where he was told, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." The Bible teaches that one must believe (Heb. 11:6, Jn. 3:16); repent (Acts 2:38, 17:30-31); confess Christ (Rom. 10:10, Acts 8:36-37); be baptized (Acts 2:38, 22:16; I Pet. 3:21) to be saved.

By Mike Johnson

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