WHY DID SAUL OF TARSUS NOT REFUSE HIS WATER BAPTISM BY ANANIAS?
by Shawn Brasseaux
On the basis of 1 Corinthians 1:17, we know the Apostle Paul was not commissioned to water baptize: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” Ephesians 4:5, something else Paul wrote, says: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism….” He had also penned in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that that one baptism is not water baptism but the baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Church the Body of Christ. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” Despite these “anti-water-baptism” verses from Paul’s own pen, we find him (then known as Saul of Tarsus) permitting Ananias to water baptize him!
Turning to Acts chapter 9, we read what Doctor Luke wrote as the Holy Spirit moved him: “ And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”
Chapter 22 affirms: “ And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,  Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.  And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.  For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.  And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
If Paul was so opposed to water baptism, then why was he himself water baptized? Was that not hypocritical? If water baptism does not belong in our dispensation, how is it that Paul allowed Ananias to water baptize him? Was Paul a double-talker? “For what saith the Scriptures?” (Opinions and traditions of men do not concern us!)
Just as the Bible is a gradual revelation or unfolding from cover to cover, so individual ministries within the Bible are progressive. For example, the Lord Jesus Christ said that He had more to tell His 12 Apostles but that they could not bear it at that time. Notice John chapter 16: “ I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” He would disclose that information later—the writings of our “New Testament Scriptures” would be the result of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul received direct revelation from the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ Himself for a period of 30 to 35 years. From the very moment of his salvation and commissioning on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was aware that more Divine revelation would be given him. He knew something was different regarding God’s dealings with man—although it took over three decades for him to see all the details of that change. In other words, Paul did not immediately receive everything there was to know about God’s new program. It was an extremely slow and steady unfolding of new dispensational truth.
Acts chapter 26 says to this point: “ And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.  But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;  Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,  To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” During the Acts period, Paul thus wrote: “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1).
One day, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to Paul that water baptism was no longer part of His dealings with man. Paul did not understand that truth at the time of his conversion, and neither did Ananias. Both Ananias and Paul understood that water baptism—up to that time anyway—had played an integral role in the lives of those who trusted Jesus Christ. Water baptism had Old Testament roots (see Exodus 29:4 and Leviticus 8:6), and it related to purification (see John 3:23-25, especially verse 25). Ezekiel 36:25 confirms that water baptism is a ceremonial cleansing: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” Israel’s washing in water symbolizes her being purified of her pagan idol worship.
Thus, John the Baptist came with a ministry to wash Israel from her paganism, to demonstrate her change in mind from worshipping idols to trusting JEHOVAH God (and His Son, Jesus Christ, their Messiah-King). Reading from Matthew chapter 3: “ In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand….  I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:….” (See parallels Mark 1:4,8 and Luke 3:2-3,16.) Other verses about Israel’s water baptism include John 1:26-34, Acts 2:38-40, Mark 16:15-16, John 4:1-2, Acts 10:37, Acts 13:24, and 1 Peter 3:20-21.
Jesus Himself was water baptized, and those who were water baptized were identifying with Him. Read Matthew 3:16: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:….” (Parallels are Mark 1:9-10 and Luke 3:21.) Those who rejected John’s water baptism manifested their unbelief: “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29-30). Now, let us return to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
Paul’s salvation outside the city of Damascus is the first step in starting our Dispensation of Grace. God is still describing His new program. Truths never before revealed are now coming to the forefront. Prophecy is fading, to be resumed later, and mystery is becoming more prominent. That switch did not happen instantaneously. During the Book of Acts (chapters 7–28), that transition lasts for at least 30 years. It is conjectured that Paul’s ministry could have continued another five years after Acts. Throughout those three decades, Paul himself grew in God’s Word. The Body of Christ matured with him as he preached and wrote down those new revelations from the Lord.
During the Acts period, with the transitory nature of spiritual gifts under discussion, Paul remarked in 1 Corinthians chapter 13: “ Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Partial knowledge would be completed one day, Paul wrote. Now, we have that complete knowledge.
It is therefore not appropriate for us to use Paul’s latter ministry to vilify his earlier ministry. With a completed Bible, a full revelation from God, it is possible for us to become ill-minded toward the saints in Scripture who did not have that full picture. We see in entirety what they saw in fragments. They walked in the spiritual light they had, and we need to walk in the light we have. We should not demand they should have walked in the light we have. The last thing Paul ever wrote about baptism was Ephesians 4:5 (which was after Acts). Prior to this time—that is, during Acts—he had water baptized Christians. He himself was water baptized. Later, God revealed water baptism was totally unnecessary in the Dispensation of Grace. What belonged in the old program existed for a time, but passed away once the Acts transitional period was over. What Divine revelation came directly to and through Paul, that will stay with us until the Rapture.
As Paul himself commented in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (quoted earlier), those saints understood that God would bring to a close His revelation of grace doctrine at some point. Christ’s own words to Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus once again: “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16). The point of ultimate revelation was reached when the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write his farewell Book—his second epistle to Timothy.
Indeed, Paul knew that part of his God-given ministry was to bring the Holy Bible to a close. Prophecy had already been revealed (and written down), and now the last installment of God’s plan (mystery) was slowly being exposed (and written down). Once the final part of mystery truth was divulged, the entire counsel of the triune Godhead was discovered. Beloved, consequently, there is no “secret will of God” today. All of God’s will has been revealed through the pages of the Holy Bible, especially with the addition of the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon.
Colossians chapter 1: “… whereof I Paul am made a minister;  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:  Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil [bring to completion] the word of God;  Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:  To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:  Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”
Ephesians 1:8-10: “ Wherein he [Father God] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….” With the penning of each of his 13 epistles, Paul began to see more and more into God’s mind. The Body of Christ, when hearing and reading the Holy Spirit through Paul, began to mature in its understanding (cf. Ephesians 3:1-21).
What about Israel’s believing remnant? The Little Flock developed in their spiritual knowledge as well, although they struggled to understand all the details. Nevertheless, these Circumcision saints at least recognized their prophetic program was temporarily interrupted. If necessary, read the entire third chapter of 2 Peter—especially verses 15-18. We will quote two of the highlight verses: “ And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” You may also consult Acts chapter 15 and Galatians chapter 2, when Pauline doctrine first became apparent to the Apostle Peter and the Jewish Apostles and Elders associated with him.
As noted earlier, all revelation from God to mankind ceased when Paul wrote his goodbye Book, 2 Timothy, which was before A.D. 70. Therefore, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” If we want to know what the Lord God has to say today, we simply open the Holy Bible and read it. We do not go around (like many precious souls do) begging God for wisdom while ignoring the Scriptures. He has already spoken. His words to and about us are Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. We study all the Bible, for it is all God’s Word, but we study all the Bible “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15). All the Bible is for us, but not all the Bible is to us or about us.