Can a Religious Experience Save You? - Day 14

One of the reasons that we are reading the Bible for ourselves is to find out what God actually said. There are so many differences in the religious world, especially concerning the topic of salvation, that we cannot take the chance of being misled by someone who just happened to be the one who taught us about salvation. Our very souls depend upon getting this subject of salvation right, so it is well worth our effort to see what we can find out on this doctrine from the only source that cannot be mistaken.


Take the question," Can a religious experience save you?" Many people have revealed to us that they know they are saved because of some unusual event that happened in their own life. In fact, because the event was so out of the ordinary, they are convinced that it came from God to let them know they were saved. Then, relying on people whom they loved and trusted, they were guided to say a prayer that indicated their belief and their desire to have their sins removed. Having said that prayer, they are convinced that they at that very moment had Christ "come into" their life and that they had their sins removed. This is a very popular teaching, and it deserves investigating. For, if it is true, then we all must do it. This is where the New Testament account of Saul of Tarsus helps.


We are introduced to Saul in Acts 7 when the people stoned Stephen. We read in chapter 8 of the persecution of the young church being led by this young Pharisee from the port city of Tarsus. In chapter 9, we read of Saul on his way to Damascus to imprison Christians. He was convinced that Jesus was not the Son of God and he was willing to use any method possible to stop those who did. That's when it happened: Jesus appeared to Saul, blinded him, and told him to go into Damascus where he would be told what to do. Jesus Himself indicated that Saul was praying when He commanded Ananias, a Christian, to go to him. We are told in Acts 9:18 that Saul was baptized after Ananias miraculously restored his sight.


Why was he baptized? Was it an outward sign of some inward manifestation that Saul had experienced, as so many popular teachings suggest? We don't have to wonder, for Saul (who was made an apostle and whose name was changed to Paul) tells us why in Acts 22.


And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'

Acts 22:16, ESV


The apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, says that he was commanded to be baptized in order to have his sins washed away. Let that sink in for a moment. Has anyone ever had a greater religious experience than did Saul? Saul saw Jesus! He was blinded by Jesus. He prayed for three days while waiting to be told what to do. Does anyone doubt that if a man could be saved by a religious experience that this was one of the greatest examples of all time? Does anyone doubt that if a man could invite Jesus into his heart in order to be cleansed of sin and so be saved that Saul would have done it? Yet we see that after the religious experience and after the days of prayer that Saul still had his sin!


How do we know that? Because he was ordered to be baptized and have his sins washed away, while calling on the name of the Lord! Surely if the modern day doctrine that "calling on the name of the Lord" was an invitation for Jesus to come into one's life and save a person while removing all sin, that this would be clearly spelled out in Scripture. It is not! The "calling on the name of the Lord" revealed in the New Testament has always been a confession of belief. It is a clear understanding of just Who is doing the saving - God and Christ - but it is still a confession of belief, not some sort of creative method of inviting Jesus into our heart. If it were, we would have been told. Saul would have been told. Instead he was commanded to wash his sins away through baptism while calling on His name.


Can we do anything less?


The point of all of this is not to continue old religious arguments, nor is it to start new ones. We are reading the New Testament because it reveals the commandments from God of what we must do to be saved. Baptism was just a part of Saul's salvation, and it is just a part of ours. It does not challenge the grace of God or the sacrifice of Christ, nor does it make it any more important than anything else that men are commanded to do in order to have their sins removed. But Acts reveals that it is a vital part of God's plan of salvation. The Bible has no other teaching, why would we? Never forget, we are reading the Word of God in order to find out the will of God so that we can obey the commands of God.


Today's reading is Acts 9-16. It is packed with examples from the new body of Christians, the church, and its lessons contain the very instructions of God that we need for life eternal.