What does Acts 22:16 mean?Paul is recounting the story of how he came to faith in Christ; this verse is a retelling of Acts 9:18. Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and accepted Him as Lord with the help of a Jesus-follower named Ananias. Ananias called Paul to make his decision official by being baptized in Jesus' name.
The language of baptism in the Bible can be confusing to a modern reader; some passages seem to suggest that we cannot be saved without it. The truth requires a deeper dive into the culture. In the first century, Judaism had several sects, including Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. To publicly show alignment, a new convert would be baptized into that sect. This is why people were baptized "Into John's [the Baptist] baptism" (Acts 19:3): to publicly align with his message of repentance of sins. In Judaism, baptism followed such a decision immediately. In the professional American football leagues, players selected in yearly drafts put on a hat from that team when they are selected. In a similar sense, baptism in that era was an external, overt sign that one had just then and there become a member of that group.
The Greek of this passage was translated by Charles C. Ryrie as: "Having arisen, be baptized; and wash away your sins, having called on the name of the Lord." "His name" means, of course, Jesus' name. Jesus' name is more than the sounds or letters we use to identify Him; it refers to His character, person, reputation, teaching, deeds, and everything about Him. To be baptized in His name means to accept everything about Him and agree to orient one's life around Him.
Some people struggle with the wording here compared to Jesus' words in the Great Commission when He says, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). Believers should be baptized in the name of all three Persons of the Trinity; here, however, Paul is specifically talking about Jesus of Nazareth and how He led Paul to spread His offer of salvation to the Gentiles.