Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 13, 1951

Why Tarriest Thou?

Charles L. Heron, Arlington, Texas

"...And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

To the student of the Bible, this passage reminds one of Paul's experience when approached by the minister of God. Paul, who had before this time, been known as Saul of Tarsus, had given his time and energies to persecuting the church. He has, however, had the unusual experience of encountering the Lord on the road and has come to Damascus to learn what he MUST do in order to be saved.

The question in this text extracts our attention in more than one matter. In this study, we wish to notice three things, namely: 1. The implications of the text, 2. The questions arising because of the text, and 3. Why this question was asked of Saul. We give our attention now to the first of these:

1. Implications of the text. This text first implies the necessity of baptism. There are a good many in our day who scoff at the idea that Christian baptism is necessary to salvation. To the honest reader, there can be no doubt as to its importance. Jesus taught the necessity of baptism and all unbiased believers submit to it. It is implied here, also, that any reluctance relative to being baptized is foolish. "And why tarriest thou"? This expression suggests that it's foolish indeed, to hesitate when we are considering obedience to the Lord. It is also implied, however, what it means to call on the name of the Lord. Jesus said (Matt. 7:21), "Not everyone 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." Also, in Rom. 10:14, Paul said, "For whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." But he asks further, "How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher"? We see from this text that more is involved in calling on the name of the Lord than simply a calling on His name. Again, in Matt. 15: 8-10, Jesus said that even though a man honored Him with his mouth and lips, his religion was in vain for his heart was not in it. Another implication is revealed in this, in that Paul was not saved on the road to Damascus nor prior to his being baptized. Had salvation already been his, then surely he would not have been told to be baptized.

2. Questions arising because of the text. First, is every person a subject for baptism? Some seem to think so. This is evidenced by a good many parents, in all honesty, taking their children, even infants, and having them baptized. It is a truth that Christ wants all saved. (Matt. 11:28; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:1-4) It is also true that man cannot be saved without Christian baptism. (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:6; Acts 2:38) But in the face of this, the text does not imply that every person is a subject for baptism. No it is even sinful to attempt to baptize some. For instance, if I endeavor to baptize someone "into my or our church," or if I attempt to baptize an infant, who has no sin, I'm doing a thing in which I can have no faith and whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. (Rom. 14:23 cf.)

3. Why, then, was the question asked of Paul? The answer is; first, Ananias knew about Paul—God had told him. He knew he was a penitent man. Paul had heard on the road to Damascus. He had BELIEVED as evidenced by his doing what he was told on the road and he was even now in a penitent state. The only thing he needed to complete his primary obedience was to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. Perhaps we shall not know, ever, what was Saul's answer to that question. It is evidenced, however, that he did not tarry for, as he said, "I was not disobedient. I conferred not with flesh or blood, but I went Straight way..." He tells us also that we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:27) and that WE were buried with Him in baptism. (Rom. 6:3-5) Paul's using the pronoun "we" is evidence that he did not tarry but immediately obeyed the voice of the Lord in the matter of baptism.

So, we ask you the same question, "Why tarriest thou"? It is not at all difficult to know the truth on the subject of baptism; that is, it's not difficult if we study the truth in God's Word. God's Word points out to us the necessity of being baptized. It also points out that baptism is the only way to get INTO Christ where all spiritual blessings are. See Eph. 1:31.