The above question is one asked by a devoted, dedicated, zealous and conscientious man of the Jewish religion. It was Saul of Tarsus, the very man that would later be known as the apostle Paul (Acts 9:6; Acts 13:9; Rom. 1:1). Though Saul was already devoted to serving God, he found that he was in error concerning how to serve God. He was a devout Jew, not a Christian. However, his desire to know the truth and his readiness to immediately make whatever changes were needed, serve as an inspired example of the attitude every man or woman must have in order to please God and ultimately obtain the coveted celestial home of the eternal soul, heaven.
Often it is easy to read into the text things one already believes. Often we hear of how Saul was saved between the time he fell off the horse and the time he hit the ground. First, there is no horse in the text for him to fall off of. It may well be true that he was riding a horse, but one is not mentioned. Secondly, there is no salvation mentioned while he is still on that road to Damascus. As we shall see, Saul was still in his sins when he went into Damascus. After realizing he was not in harmony with the will of God he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” For Saul, the answer to what the Lord would have him to do was answered by instruction in becoming a child of God, a Christian. He was first told to go into the city of Damascus and he would there be told what he needed to do. In Damascus the Lord sent a disciple to teach Saul what he had to do. It has always been God’s way and still is, for His word to be taught and those who obey it will be saved and those who refuse will be lost (Mark 16:15-16). Saul was already a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he already was penitent of his sins and he had already recognized Jesus as Lord. So what did the preacher tell him to do? “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Obviously, Saul’s sins had not yet been remitted. Peter had told the multitudes on Pentecost to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). Saul had to do the same thing.
Often, people point to the conversion of the Philippian jailer found in Acts sixteen and say, “See, the jailer was told that all he had to do was believe”. But, let’s look at the text and see. The jailer did indeed ask much the same question. He asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). And, he was told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). However, the text doesn’t end there. It follows that Paul and Silas then taught him, and the others of his house, the word of God (Acts 16:32). This is in harmony with the way it is always done. He was then baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins (Acts 16:33), just as those on the day of Pentecost and just as Saul of Tarsus. It was after his obedience to the word of God that he was able to rejoice, “believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:34).
In like manner, when Phillip was sent by an angel of the Lord to teach the Ethiopian treasurer, Philip taught him the word of God. Following the teaching the Ethiopian said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” And the treasurer said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (verse 37). He was baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins and then went on his way rejoicing (verses 38-39).
In every example of conversion in the book of Acts, we find the same basic answer to the question of what the Lord would have one to do. It is to hear and believe His word (Mark 16:15-16), repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:37) and be baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27).
One more thing needs to be considered before we close. We need to be concerned with, “Lord, what would thou have me to do” after becoming a child of God. It needs to be our daily wake-up call, the central point in our daily lives and the goal of our daily life. The conversion process is pictured as a “new birth” (John 3:3-5) and those who are born “again” are pictured as babes in Christ (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). The New Testament is replete with instructions for us “as Christians” (II Tim. 3:16-17). “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). We have a life to live as Christians! The only way to live such a life in a God pleasing way is to constantly ask the question, “Lord, what will thou have me to do today?” You can find the answers in the instruction manual for Christians, the New Testament.
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org