Acts 22:16 is part of Paul’s first extended address following his famous arrest in the Jerusalem temple, because some Jews from the province of Asia thought that he was defiling the temple with Greeks (Acts 21:27-36). Acts 22:16 has been used by some as a prooftext for baptismal regeneration or something of that nature:
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (TNIV)
The issue now has been one of punctuation among Bible translators: 1. How do we punctuate the verse so that it doesn’t support baptismal regeneration? 2. Do we actually need to re-punctuate the verse? 3. Is this approach legitimate?
Well, here are a few translations on the verse:
~ What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord. (NLT)
~ And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (KJV)
~ And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name. (HCSB)
~ And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name. (ESV)
~ And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name. (NET)
~ Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name. (NASB)
As you’ve noticed from the various translations, this verse wasn’t an easy one for the translators to handle. Here’s professor Bock’s take on the verse:
“The response of faith is described as calling on the name of the Lord… Such a faith invocation of God washes away sin with the cleansing symbolized in water baptism (Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 6:11; Gal 3:27). (Acts, pp. 662-63)
In a footnote FF Bruce adds:
His invocation [epikalesamenos to onoma autou] of the name of Jesus meant that he was baptized “in the name” (or “with the name”) of Jesus in the sense of 2:38; 10:48. (Acts, p. 418, fn. 23)
In his exceptional grammar, Richard A. Young treats the aorist participle epikalesamenos, “calling on,” as one of means, so we have “wash away your sins by calling on his name” (Intermediate New Testament Greek, p. 154).
So which punctuation do we go with? The one that supports baptismal regeneration, where sins are only washed away in the waters of baptism, or the one that suggests Paul’s sins were washed away by calling on the name of the Lord but symbolized in baptism?