In our study today Paul gives his most detailed account of the Words of Jesus during his conversion yet. We have read it twice before in the Scriptures, but it is a story that never grows old or lacks to speak the message that God uses even the most hard-hearted to His glory.
Acts 26:12 "Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,"
Paul begins by letting king Agrippa know that these very men who were accusing him of wrong-doing were the ones who paid his wage to persecute and wrongfully put to death those who dared oppose them. They had not changed, but this appearance of Jesus to Paul when he was still known as Saul of Tarsus completely changed him.
13 "At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
Before this encounter Jesus was just a notion to Paul. He was the ghost of a dead man that people foolishly continued to follow. Even today those who have not had an encounter with the Son of God continue to believe Him to be just a superstition; the foolish notion of people who are weak.
Paul describes the "light from heaven" that shone around him. In an earlier account he put the time at about noonday when the sun was at its brightest; but the sun was no match for the light of the Shekinah glory of God. The "voice" is that of our Lord and should be in red letters! (You would not believe how that irritates me not to be able to share it in red ink!) Jesus asks Saul emphatically as noted by repeating his name "Saul, Saul". Perhaps Saul never saw it as persecuting Jesus Himself when he terrorized the Christians, but we know that we are the body of Christ and He feels our troubles within Himself. The "pricks" were actually goads or long, sharply pointed sticks used to poke a service animal into action. He is telling Saul that all he is going to get from kicking against Jesus is a sore foot!
15 "And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest."
Jesus introduces Himself to Saul. I cannot imagine what went through Saul's head at this time! Jesus knew very well who Saul was and what he had been doing. What Saul considered a foolish superstition just spoke to him.
Interesting side note: (that I just learned a few days ago while studying the names given to God in Scripture) The times that the Bible refers to God as LORD in all capitals means just that; it is the name of God. When the Scripture reads Lord with only a capital L it is referring to the word Master, a reference to Jesus. So finally to me the Psalm 110 makes sense to me. Psalm 110:1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. Therefore God "YHWH" is speaking to Jesus as "Adonai" meaning Master. Never stop learning!
16 "But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."
Notice that Jesus said that Paul will be a "minister" or servant for the cause of Christ. He is to "stand upon" his feet and go out to where the people are. Jesus gave Saul his commission to go and preach the Gospel and message of grace to the Gentile people, "To open their eyes" to the spiritual truth of Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the entire world. Notice too the results that will follow. The people will be delivered "from darkness to light", "from the power of Satan unto God", from "sins" to "forgiveness" and from a lost people to children "sanctified" to receive an "inheritance" from God the Father.
19 "Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."
Here is why Paul was successful in his mission for Jesus; he was "not disobedient", he repented of his own sins, and he preached "repentance" to the people. The vessel first had to be cleansed in order to carry the message!
21 "For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me."
This is the reason the "Jews caught me" and sought to "kill me". What Satan does not understand, he seeks to destroy. Satan knows nothing of love or forgiveness; that is why the term antichrist is so fitting for him. He is everything that Jesus is not.
22 "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: 23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles."
Everything that Paul taught came directly from God to the "prophets and Moses" before him. Every prophecy of the coming Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus and had been recorded in the Scriptures that the Jews held as perfect truth, yet they could not see it. Because of their rejection of Jesus, the Scriptures tell us that they were blinded, or given spiritual eyes that cannot see the truth.
Romans 11:25 "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
God blinded them spiritual so that in His mercy and grace, He could count them as innocent of their unbelief so that His promise of saving them as His people could stand. Paul's next statement in Romans says it all: 33 "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"
What an awesome God we serve!
Have a blessed weekend!