The Christian Church has consistently taught baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sin. Other Christ-honoring churches have relegated baptism to a secondary or tertiary role in the disciple’s life. A short study of the chronology of baptism is helpful in determining its purpose.
In the fall of AD 57 Paul appeared before a Jewish audience in Jerusalem, an event revealed in Acts 22:6-16. In relating the purpose of baptism, however, he referred to an event in Damascus about AD 35, some 22 years earlier. A Jewish Christian named Ananias came to the blind Saul of Tarsus and told him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”
Seeing the events chronologically clarifies baptism’s purpose. In AD 35 Ananias administered it to forgive the sins of a repentant Saul. In AD 57 the Apostle Paul still believed it had been administered 22 years before to forgive his sins, even though he believed in Jesus and had repented of his sins.
Keep those words in mind as you read Romans 10:5-11, a passage often used to prove baptism’s irrelevance. Paul wrote Romans in the spring of AD 57. In the fall of AD 57 he referred to AD 35, 22 years previous, to explain why he needed to be baptized after having faith in Jesus, after repenting of his sins, after confessing Jesus as God’s Son, verses used by many to prove baptism has no role in conversion.
While faith, repentance and confession led him to forgiveness, only baptism finalized forgiveness. If Paul remembered baptism’s purpose from 22 years before, it’s unreasonable to think he would have changed his doctrine between spring and fall of AD 57!
Since Ananias and Paul both considered him a sinner before being baptized, how can people now claim they’re forgiven before being immersed? If Paul joined faith, repentance and confession with baptism, will we dare separate them?