The text for this lesson is Acts 9:10–22.
- Through Baptism, God removes our sin. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live as God’s children.
- Law: I sinfully deny Baptism’s ability to change hearts and lives.
- Gospel: Through Baptism, I receive complete forgiveness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Far from leaving Saul (later known as Paul) on the side of the road following his dramatic encounter, Jesus delivers the apostle to the house of Judas on Straight Street. Nevertheless, Saul is far from ready to embrace God’s calling. He is shaken, weakened, and blinded. God encourages Saul with a vision that a man named Ananias will visit him and serve as the Lord’s instrument to restore the apostle’s sight.
Consider this from Ananias’s perspective. He loves the Lord and is ready to serve. However, he has heard reports of Saul, how previously he persecuted the Christians, even taking part in the stoning of Stephen. Now, the Lord has called him to take Saul in, to care for him, and to restore his sight! Ananias has reason to fear. Perhaps this is a ruse designed to deliver Ananias and other Christians into Saul’s hands. On the other hand, even if Saul really is in need, will Ananias run the risk of suspicion and rejection from other Christians if he helps Saul?
Trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit in Saul’s life, Ananias obeys the Lord’s charge. Ananias goes to the house on Straight Street and finds things just as the Lord said he would. We give thanks to the Lord that Ananias reacted as he did, for certainly he could have indulged his doubts and rejected the Lord’s charge, obeying fear and self-preservation over the Lord’s work. Through Ananias, the Lord restored Saul, His chosen instrument to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles and Israelites.
Often the most daunting challenge in the Christian life is not false doctrine, persistent sin, or spiritual oppression. It’s the daily grind of struggling with sin and the process of Confession and Absolution that follows it. Christians, especially those who are new to Christ, often wonder, If I am a Christian, God’s child, why do I continue to sin? I thought it would stop altogether. Or, If I have been baptized, and that covers all my sins, why do I need to continually confess my sins and ask for God’s forgiveness?
We remember that even after Baptism, the sinful nature remains. Christ does free us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. However, there is still the sinner part of us that wishes to reject the Holy Spirit, spurn Jesus’ forgiveness, and reassert our own will for the direction of life. Until the Lord takes us to heaven, we will struggle with both natures—the sinful nature and the righteous nature in Christ.
But Baptism prepares us for heaven. In the waters of Baptism, we have been buried and raised with Christ and have God’s forgiveness for His sake. We are as righteous as we need to be. Therefore, we should continually resist the old Adam in us. We do this by daily contrition and repentance, until he is drowned and dies with all sins and evil desires once and for all when we die. What’s more, through Baptism, the Holy Spirit empowers us to resist the temptation of sin and instead to embrace a God-pleasing life. He enables us to give free rein to the new man until he rises in final victory on the Last Day.
What’s vital is to remove ourselves from the center of this process and instead allow God to do His work. When I trust in my own power, I am bound to end in frustration and failure. I look to my performance in life and see sin. Therefore, I doubt my Baptism. I trust in my own merits for assurance of salvation. Therefore, I doubt my salvation. But Jesus lived perfectly in my place and died innocently to make full payment for my transgressions. Nothing more is needed for my salvation. God redeems me in Christ. He creates saving faith through water and His Word. He empowers me to live as His child through Baptism.