By Lewis Willis
In the book of Acts, there are three accounts of the conversion of the Apostle Paul. You find these in chapters 9, 22 and 26. I want to focus on one of these, and Dote the charge or mission Jesus assigned to him.
After Paul was captured by the Jews, he appeared before Felix, Festus and Agrippa in his own defense. In his appearances before these magistrates he was defending himself against many grievous complaints which the Jews were unable to prove. His answer was that he had done nothing against the Law of Moses, the Temple or against Caesar (Acts 25:7-8). These charges could have brought death upon him, so his answer was crucial. In his defense before Agrippa, he recounted his conversion, telling what had happened when Jesus appeared to him and what Jesus had said. He said he heard a voice which identified itself as Jesus. When Jesus appeared, he gave to Paul his charge for Paul’s life.
But arise, 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; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 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 (Acts 26:16-18).
Consider with me this responsibility assigned by Jesus to Paul. I will number the points I have underscored above.
1. To open their eyes. in Matthew 13:14-15, Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9 to the effect that some close their eyes to the truth. To the Ephesians, Paul argued that their understanding was darkened (4:18) and that the eyes of their understanding should be enlightened (1: 18). Paul was to lead in bringing the Gentiles to see the Truth.
2. To turn them from darkness to light. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (5:8). When these people pursued a life of sin, they groped in darkness. Paul was going to turn them from that darkness to light. Jesus had said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). Thus, Paul’s charge was to bring men out of sin, presenting them to Jesus, the light.
3. To turn them from the power of Satan unto God. Paul commended the Thessalonians saying, “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). On another occasion he said the Gentiles were “carried away unto these dumb idols” (1 Cor. 12:2). Idolatry was one of the devices of Satan to deceive and condemn humanity. Satan exerted power over the minds of men through the sins he induced men to commit (Eph. 6:12). Paul’s mission was to turn them from Satan’s power unto God.
4. That they may receive forgiveness of sins. Peter and the Apostles argued that Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, “for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:29-31). What Jesus did for the Jews, he also did for the Gentiles. In setting forth the supremacy of Jesus to the Ephesians, one of the things Paul argued was that in him “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). He repeats this same statement in Colossians 1:14.
5. That they may receive inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith. Again, he discharged this responsibility when he argued that in Christ “we have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:11). To the elders of this church, he said he commended them to God “and to the Word of his grace which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Peter affirms that we have been begotten unto a lively hope, “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). The inheritance is ours when we have that comprehensive faith that accepts that Jesus is Lord, and that leads us to obey his commandments.
Paul executed the charge that Jesus gave to him. He did so by teaching the Gospel. However, we must understand that his work was to be perpetuated. He said, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Thus, and this is important, we serve under that same charge today! A lost world awaits our fulfillment of our charge. The blessings of eternity are to be enjoyed by those we reach by fulfilling our mission. What are you doing to reach the lost?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 17, p. 531
September 6, 1990