But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”Acts 9:15-17
- Why was Saul a chosen vessel? (9:15)
- What was the basis of selection?
- What does it mean “a vessel to carry My name”?
- Why was Saul destined to suffer? Was it because he persecuted Christians so he had to be repaid?
Wow This is such an amazing insight, Pak Ian! That God made Saul blind and then he became God’s tool to open the eyes of Jewish people as well as the Gentiles. WOW. God is too real to be unreal! From the human point of view we would think Saul was the most unlikely candidate for selection as he was so vehemently opposed to the idea of Jesus being the Messiah. How could it ever be that Saul of Tarsus would become a follower of The Way and a believer in Jesus as Messiah? Impossible you say. Well I know a thing or two about such impossibilities.
I was opposed to Christianity and to Christ. I was a staunch atheist and I would boast that there was no way I was going to become a Christian. I was set on that course as a nine year old. At that time I didn’t use the word atheist. I didn’t know what it meant. But I wanted nothing to do with God. It was all caused by my alcoholic father’s attitudes. He hated religion because on occasions my mother went to church. But then he would play the religious card when it suited him. One particular Saturday night crystallised my stand for me when I was nine. I remember standing behind my bedroom door with my baseball bat in my hand vowing to whack my father over the head as he yelled and screamed at my mother. I was summoning up the resolve and was waiting for him to come past my bedroom door. He came out of the lounge but turned the other way to the bathroom and I lost my resolve and stood shaking behind the door.
The next morning I took my rugby ball and was kicking it in the air and catch it as a sign to my friend across the road to come and play. My father burst out of the front door and yelled at me not to kick the rugby ball in the front yard as it was the Lord’s Day. That moment set me on a collision course with God. I thought I hated God and religion but in reality I hated my father’s hypocrisy. God at the right time pursued me and won me over to Himself. But along the journey on occasions I could be paranoid about religion and the Bible which would bring out my irrational responses. Like thinking that Tania was moving and placing her Bible around her house so I would see it and it bugged me. It wasn’t Tania’s conspiracy it was God pursuing me.
I imagine it was much the same with Saul. Here was a man who had trained in the the religious practices of Judaism and had worked his way to the fringe of the Sanhedrin. He espoused everything they stood for. Then along comes this Galilean upstart preacher and his followers and they are ruining everything. Of course he would oppose it. There was clearly something about Saul’s character which made him lock on to this “false” sect and seek to wipe them off the face of the earth. Rationally there was nothing that Saul would accept about this Jesus being Messiah. It went against all he had been taught, yet everything in the book he loved pointed to this man, only Saul couldn’t see that. Peter preached it and proved it yet Saul wouldn’t accept it. What made him change? Why would God want to pursue someone like that. After all he was a hopeless case.
God knows everything about us. He knows our inner workings and what makes us tick. He knows why we react like we do and furthermore He knows the reason behind the reaction. We all know sometimes misdirected passion and zeal can be turned toward the right direction. When that happens you find a convert (in the strict sense of the word) who becomes zealous for what they once opposed. God knew that about Saul. Saul was not chosen by any human agency or individual, he was chosen by God Himself. All that was required was the right moment and circumstances to occur to turn Saul in the right direction. What better catalyst than a meeting with the One whom he opposed face to face on the road to Damascus? We have looked at the text in detail over preceding Gems and I won’t repeat it all. But simply put, Saul met the One he rejected personally. That changed him forever. The same thing happened to me. How you ask can a dead Jesus meet with Saul? Well there is the crux of the matter. He is not dead, He is alive and comes to personally to you when He chooses. Saul was chosen by God. The risen Christ appeared to him and he was not the same again. The things I do and have done are motivated by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In the words of the song, “He walks with me and talks with me and He tells me I am His own”. ( from the Hymn – In The Garden). That is what happened to Saul and it is what happened to me.
What is the basis of selection? Why does God choose some and not others? Many have debated the mysteries of Divine Appointment, predestination and why some are chosen and others are not with me over the years. Many claim God’s light shines on all and all will be chosen. Others think God selects some and rejects others. Yes God’s selection at times puzzles us. He tells us Jacob I have loved (chosen) and Esau I rejected. (Rom 9:13) The simple truth is that God loves all people He created but He also knows us completely and He knows how we will respond at every turn. He speaks to all of us I am sure but many just don’t hear or don’t choose to hear His voice. We reject Him first and in so doing there comes a time when God seals us in our choice. Pharaoh hardened his heart toward God so in the end God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and sealed his choice. God knew Saul would respond favourably at the end and pursued him beyond that point. When that happened all of Saul’s passion, zeal and commitment was now God’s to use.
The word vessel can mean a container for the Glory or light of God or it can mean an instrument in God hands. Paul often referred to himself as a vessel and we too as broken clay jars which hold (or carry) the glory of God. It seems incongruous but it is a deep spiritual truth. This light of the Gospel, this truth of God’s plan for salvation is carried in frail human flesh. The vessel “to carry His Name” is a word picture of us as emissaries or ambassadors as Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5. We bear the name of Christ as His representatives in this world. In so doing we carry His Authority and His strength and worth to a hurting world. We go in His Name, acting on His behalf and with His authority. Jesus told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matt 28:18-19) This then is the reason, the imprimatur, the basis of your representation of Him. Notice how this all links to thrust and purpose of the Book of Acts. And Yes, the link between the fact that Saul was blinded for three days as a prelude to him being the bearer of the light of the World is highly significant.
As one of you has asked: Why was Saul destined to suffer? Was it because he persecuted Christians so he had to be repaid? Was Saul’s suffering in retribution for what he had done to Christians? No. That is not the way God works. God is full of mercy and grace and willing to forgive you all your wrong doing. All you have to do is confess your sin or simply the fact that you have been trying to live this life in your own strength separate from the God who made you and designed you and choose to live His way and to please Him. Choose to live The Way; the Only Way, His Way and you will find peace. However Christianity is not pie in the sky by and by when you die. Neither is it a life of ease and bliss when you come to know Christ. Following The Way is not for wimps. You will suffer. Because you have done all kinds of evil before you came to Christ so therefore you have to be repaid? No! Simply because – in this world you will have tribulation and suffering. Because you will be persecuted by the world because you are His. If they hated Him they will hate you. Jesus message to us as His followers spells out the nature of the suffering. Read Paul’s letters (especially the letters to the Corinthians) and you will see there is a suffering theme running through them. The suffering is not because of what you have done but because of Whose you are and because of what He has called you to be and to do.
You will be my Witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and outer most parts of the earth. In being a witness you are called to suffering. You are called to take up your cross and follow Him. Still want to pursue that call to mission? Well go or not go you will still suffer. It is inevitable. So don’t choose or reject a call to missions on the basis of whether you want to suffer or not. Best not to choose Christ if you don’t want to suffer. The world, the world system and the devil are opposed to Him. Why do bad things happen to good people? There is an easy answer to that question. You live in a fallen world.
Jesus said he only did what he saw the Father doing. Give us eyes to see what you are doing Father.Ian Vail
Help me to abandon everything within me that resists You.Lavonia Grabau
Everyone has an opinion, few have a reason.Anon
You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.Robin Williams
Buying things you don’t really need or want with $$$$ you don’t have to impress people who really don’t care in the first place to gain status is madness.Anon
The best place to get angry is on your knees, where nobody hears but God.Chuck Swindoll