How does one become a Christian? Does one become a Christian so
gradually and imperceptibly that you do not know it occurred?
Are you a Christian merely because you were born in a "Christian
nation" and to a "Christian family?" Is there anything
to do to become a Christian, a saved person?
The answers are found in the Word of God. Numerous examples in
Acts reveal how Christ saves us. Let us consider one of these
- Paul (Saul), whose story of how to become a Christian is written
in Acts chapters 9, 22, 26. The latter two chapters are in Paul's
What Did Paul Do to Become a Christian?
The Bible gives a clear, simple, and uncomplicated reply. It is
not mysterious and confusing. First, he believed in Jesus
as his Savior. He quickly changed from unbelief and the posture
of persecution of Christ to acceptance (Acts 9:12). His
questions are indicative of his belief and confession of Jesus
when he asked, "Who art thou, Lord?" (Acts 9:5). His
second question filled with humility was, "Lord, what wilt
thou have me do?" (Acts 9:6).
He demonstrated much sorrow and repentance by fasting and prayer
for three days while waiting for someone to tell what he "must
do." "And he was three days without sight, and neither
did eat nor drink ... And the Lord said unto him (Ananias, a disciple
at Damascus), Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight,
and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus:
for, behold, he prayeth" (Acts 9:9, 11).
After Ananias came to him and taught him what God required, he
was baptized. "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized,
and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord"
(Acts 22:16). "And immediately there fell from his eyes as
it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose,
and was baptized" (Acts 9:18).
Definitely he was immersed for Paul wrote to the Romans. "We
(included himself) are buried with Christ in baptism" (Rom.
6:34). At the time of his baptism he still had sins because
he was commanded to be immersed "to wash away sins."
It is plain that one's sins cannot be removed by the blood of
Christ without baptism. Saul could not become a Christian without
baptism, and neither can we.
Baptism was so urgent and essential that Ananias asked, "Why
tarriest?" As soon as one understands that Christ conditions
our forgiveness on belief in him, repentance, confession of our
belief in him, and baptism for salvation, one should wait no longer.
Saul had to wait for three days before he learned his duty, but
one should not delay obedience as soon as the truth is understood.
Paul was not saved in ways popular today in religious circles.
It is common to hear exhortations of "accept Jesus as your
personal Savior," or "make a decision for Christ,"
as if one can be saved by belief only without further obedience.
Saul's question of "Lord, what will thou have me to do"
is evidence he believed in Jesus but it is certain he was not
saved at that point because he was told to go into Damascus to
be told what to do. "And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And
the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there
it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee
to do" (Acts 22:10). It is a certainty he was not saved as
many modernday preachers proclaim when he saw a "light"
and "on the old dusty road to Damascus."
Significantly Jesus did not tell Saul what to do, nor did he assure
him of salvation when he appeared to him. This would have been
an opportune time to do as some teachers claim, but such a procedure
was not God's plan of salvation. It was necessary to obey the
Neither was he saved by prayer (Acts 9:11). Even though he had
prayed for three days he was still unsaved. If prayer is God's
plan of salvation, why was not Saul saved before Ananias arrived?
Millions are misled at an altar for prayer being assured that
God will forgive them. No alien sinner was ever commanded in the
New Testament to pray for pardon.
Before becoming a Christian, Saul was most religious. His zeal
and devotion exceed his fellows yet this did not save him. "Though
I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh
that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised
the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning
zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which
is in the law, blameless" (Phil. 3:46). We appreciate
devout and sincere people, but Saul's case shows more is required.
Sincerity is not enough.
Prior to becoming a Christian, Saul had a "good conscience"
even when he persecuted Stephen and other Christians even to death.
"And Paul, earnestly beholding the council said, Men and
brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until
this day" (Acts 23:1). "I verily thought with myself,
that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of
Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). One may reason, "I don't feel
guilty; my conscience does not hurt," but Saul shows one
can be seriously wrong without having a bad conscience. One should
educate the conscience by the Word of God.
Paul was a strict adherent to the law of Moses (Old Testament)
(Gal. 1:1314; Acts 26:5). If anyone could be saved by following
the Old Testament, Paul could have argued that if one can be saved
by the law of Moses, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21; 3:20).
If one can be saved by observing Old Testament practices as keeping
a Saturday sabbath, incense burning, circumcision, instrumental
music, and infant membership, then it was unnecessary for Jesus
to come to earth and give a new plan of salvation.
Saul's question, "Lord, what will thou have me do" causes
one to conclude he understood he must do something. He could not
save himself by his wisdom and superior education (Acts 22:3).
It was not salvation "by grace only" for he knew and
learned that he must be obedient to be saved by grace.
How is Paul an example? He declares that he is a "pattern"
on how to be saved. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy,
that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering,
for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to
life everlasting" (1 Tim. 1:16). If one follows his example
of how he was saved, this person will not be misled. By doing
as he did one will also be forgiven, become a Christian and a
member of the church. One will belong to Christ and be in his
No better example can be found to show that a sincere seeker of
truth and right will be found. Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall
be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be
opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). Honesty will lead to obedience.
Saul changed his religion, which shows it can be and must be done
when it is evident that error has been accepted and the truth
is now apparent.
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews'
religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God,
and wasted it: and profited in the Jews' religion above many my
equals in mine own nation, being more exceeding zealous of the
traditions of my father. But when it pleased God. who separated
me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal
his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately
I conferred not with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:1316).
Truth may be rejected by reasoning, "I have a great tradition
in this denomination for many generations." Saul could have
so reasoned but because he was honest with himself and God, he
changed from an old religion to a new religion (church). Let it
be observed Saul is not an example to encourage changing from
the Lord's church of the New Testament to a denomination unknown
in the Bible. The change in religion must be based on truth rather
than compromise. One should change from error to truth, but not
from truth to error.
As expected, Paul was zealous in the law of Moses before becoming
a Christian, and was exceedingly zealous for the Lord immediately
when he was saved (Gal. 1:14; Acts 9:20).
Who was this great man who has taught us God's plan of salvation?
He was of the city of Tarsus in Cilicia (now Turkey), and he was
born a Roman citizen. It is estimated at the age of thirteen he
began studies to be a religious leader in Jerusalem under the
learned Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Likely, he never saw Jesus until
he saw him on the road to Damascus. He was not married and he
had a thorn in the flesh - an unknown malady. He was probably a
member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. His occupation
was a tentmaker. This remarkable man was a preacher, missionary,
and writer of renown and of extraordinary talent.
Paul was obedient when it was shown to him his duty (Acts 26:19).
To claim the blessing of Christ, salvation, the church, and the
hope of heaven, a sincere person will obey God in the way he commands
just as did Saul. The consequences for not obeying the gospel
are serious as Paul describes. "And to you who are troubled
rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven
with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them
that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus
Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from
the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power"
(2 Thess. 1:79).