Donald P. Ames
In Acts 22:16, Ananias asked Saul this important question that is equally important to many people today: "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." The very question itself carries with it a sense of urgency which, unfortunately, many do not recognize. But, there were several reasons for it to impress Saul-and we hope you too.
The Deity of Christ
Jesus had manifested His deity on many occasions among the Jews, but being blinded by their traditions (they were seeking an earthly, political kingdom), they refused to accept the evidence so abundantly presented (see John 11:48, Acts 4:16). Although Saul was a "young man" (Acts 7:58) at the stoning of Stephen, most scholars believe he was about 26 and familiar with Jesus and His teachings as well. Yet Saul, too, had rejected the evidence that Jesus was the Son of God and had. bitterly fought the early church. Events on the road to Damascus were to open his eyes and convince him of the awesome truth that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.
Some argue that since Saul addressed Jesus as "Lord" (Acts 9:5), he was already saved on the Damascus road, but a closer reading reveals such is not so. In fact, not only was Saul still in his sins when approached by Ananias, but was not yet even aware of whom he was talking to when he asked, "Who art thou, Lord?" (Acts 9:5). Actually, "Lord" is a title of respect used for someone greater (See Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, also Matt. 21:30 "sir," 1 Pet. 3:6). Saul here recognized someone greater than himself was behind the events he saw, but did not know who that person was until Jesus identified Himself, "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest" (Acts 9:5).
If this be Jesus, Saul realized, then He had been resurrected from the dead! If this be Jesus, the apostles had been right all along! If this be Jesus, then He also had to be the Son of God as He claimed! Suddenly the realization of this great truth was brought home to Saul. His forefathers had been wrong. He had been wrong. Jesus was what He claimed to be.
Many claim to believe Jesus is the Son of God, but have never rendered obedience to His will (John 14:15, 1 John 2:4, Lk. 6:46). They acknowledge Him as the only mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), but refuse to obey Him (Heb. 5:89). Saul realized the meaning of Jesus' words in John 12:48-"the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Now, realizing who Jesus was, he wanted to obey Him. Don't you? "Why tarriest thou?"
Since Ananias instructed Saul to "wash away thy sins," we know Saul still had his sins. Despite his praying and fasting for three days, the appearance of the Lord, and his sincerity, he was still in his sins. Sin is a horrible thing that separates one from God (Isa. 59:12) and all of us are guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23). Yet, to Saul, this was a horrifying realization. He had spent his life in fighting Christ and the church (Acts 9:4, 22:4-5, 26:10-11, etc.) and was now painfully aware of the tragic mistake he had made-of the many innocent people he had caused to be killed. The nature of it was such that he came to regard himself as the "chief" of sinners (1 Tim. 1:12-15). Finally, Ananias came with the precious gospel of salvation (Rom. 1:16, Jas. 1:21), the means by which he could be made free from sin (John 8:32, Rom. 6:16-17) and have the blood of Christ wash away his sins (Eph. 1:7). No doubt Ananias saw the tremendous burden of guilt which Saul felt and thus eagerly offered the "rest" found in the yoke of Christ (Matt. 11:29-30).
Are you depressed with the nature of your life? Is your life pleasing to Jesus (2 Cor. 5:10)? Would you like a chance to begin anew, become a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17)-be free of the guilt of your sinful way of life? Regardless of how black your past may have been, the blood of Christ can wash it white as snow (Isa. 1:18). In fact, the worse the sin, the more we need the redeeming love of Christ (Heb. 4:15-16). But one thing is clear: we all need His cleansing blood to get rid of our sins (Rev. 1:5). Knowing this, "Why tarriest thou?"
The Consequences of Sin
Saul could hardly think of his sins without being equally well aware of the consequences of his sins. He was well aware of the resurrection (Acts 24:15), that Christ Himself was to be our Judge (Acts 17:31), and that the wages of sin were death (Rom. 6:23, 2 Thess. 1:7-9). He knew ignorance was no excuse, even if he had been honest and sincere (Acts 23:1, 26:9, Ezek. 3:18-20). Now he was burdened even more with the realization he had been so wrong-so close to being lost for eternity! No wonder Ananias urged his prompt obedience to the will of Christ.
If you have not yet been washed in the blood of Christ, you too need to think seriously about the eternal destiny of your soul. You too are yet in your sins, and your tragic condition is described in Eph. 2:11-12. Are you ready to face your Lord? What could possibly be more important than your soul? Do you really want to be lost for eternity in Hell (Matt. 25:41)? If not, "Why tarriest thou?"
The Time Already Lost
Nearly half of Saul's life had already been wasted-wasted in defending that which was abolished (Col. 2:14) and fighting against the very Son of God Himself. But Saul was fortunate because God had a mission for him now, and thus he had the chance to be saved. God does not desire that any perish (2 Pet. 3:9). James warns us that our life is but a "vapor" (Jas. 4:14), and Peter adds we have already spent sufficient time pursuing the way of the flesh (1 Pet. 4:3-any time so wasted is more than sufficient). Yet, many ignore warning after warning, invitation after invitation, as though they could pick any time they wish. This could be your last admonition! Would you be ready? Time is so important "Why tarriest thou?"
Others To Be Helped
And then there were others. Saul had three days to reflect-to think of all he had influenced, to think of those doing as he had done, to think of the thousands still lost, to think of those who might not get the chance he was getting. It must have run through his mind hundreds of times (Rom. 10:13). There were so many who did not know - Jews and Gentiles alike! There was so much to be done -- and so little time left. No, Saul could not afford to tarry any longer. God wanted him to spread the joy of salvation to others, beginning with his own example of obedience.
Have you thought about the lost -- your own soul and others? Can they afford to wait with their souls too? The souls of your own family, perhaps, still outside of Christ? Friends? Relatives? Do you really feel you can face them in eternity--Lost--and knowing you could have helped if only you had acted sooner? "Why tarriest thou?"
Saul did not quibble about "I don't see why" or "why can't I be saved by faith only." He knew and understood the will of God. There was no need for further delay. He wanted to obey the Lord. He arose and was baptized (Acts 9:14), and began telling others the good news. What about you? If this is God's will, the way He has selected for the blood of Christ to wash away our sins, why not render obedience before it is too late? "Why tarriest thou?" A note of urgency-the time is so short, the stakes so high, the way so simple! Have you rendered obedience? "Why tarriest thou?"
Truth Magazine XIX: 27, pp. 429-430