Sergius Paulus

B. G. Echois
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

One danger involved in religious polemics is putting forth an invalid argument to sustain a scriptural position. It is obvious that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; I Peter 3: 21). In seeking to impress this fact, some have asserted that "baptism is specifically mentioned in every case of conversion in Acts." A popular series of charts contains one which outlines some conversions in Acts and each example selected mentions baptism while faith, repentance and confession are not mentioned.

This chart, coupled with the assertion, makes a powerful impact on someone who has not read Acts. But is it true that baptism is mentioned specifically in every case of conversion in Acts? The case of Sergious Paulus shows the contrary. This Roman proconsul had "sought to hear the word of God" (Acts 13:7), and seeing the miracle performed by Paul "believed, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord" (13:12L Luke wants us to understand that Sergius Paulus was converted and this is the clear import of his words.

To make the argument that there is no mention of baptism, and therefore he was not converted is to assume the point to be proven. For this to carry weight, it would have to be shown that Luke always specifically mentions the baptism of converts. Until that is done, the fact that baptism is not mentioned does not prove the proconsul was not converted.

If this were the only example of baptism not being mentioned, a strong case might be built, but there are others. Crispus of Corinth is said to have believed (Acts 18:8), but his baptism is not specifically mentioned. Paul, r however, baptized him with his hands (I Cor. 1:14t. In Acts 4:4 Luke tells us "Many of them that heard the word believed; and the number of men came to be about five thousand." He does not feel it necessary to say they were baptized, yet these people were converted. Theirs is just as much "a case of conversion" as Acts 2. A similar passage is Acts 5:14.

We need to continue preaching the essentiality of baptism so every alien will know what to do to be saved. Likewise we should defend the truth of the gospel. There are numerous powerful arguments which cannot be answered by anyone who tries to deny the connection between baptism and forgiveness. We need not, however, resort to invalid arguments which only weaken our influence in the minds of those more conversant with the Word.


August 20, 1970