Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Acts 9:6-9 – Saul of Tarsus discovers Jesus

In answer to Saul’s question about who he is speaking to, the unknown God says that he is Jesus whom Saul is persecuting. Obviously the details in the answer would be a great shock to Saul and it is noteworthy that Jesus gives Saul time to take it all in. Instead of explaining everything at once, Jesus tells Saul that he would receive gradual information in Damascus.
The words of Jesus highlight a couple of details that are part of a conversion process. Saul has to know who Jesus is and he has to understand what Christ’s cause is. When Jesus said, ‘I am Jesus,’ it was a command to Saul to think about Jesus; when he said, ‘whom you are persecuting,’ Jesus told Saul that he had been attacking Christ’s cause. What lessons does this statement by Jesus have for us?
First, this self-description is a reminder that although Jesus has been glorified, and the light shining on Saul indicated this great reality, he is still the same Jesus who lived here on earth, interacting with sinners and giving spiritual blessings to them. Similar to how he had forgiven others, he was now willing to forgive Saul of Tarsus. Although Jesus has changed locations from earth to heaven, and although he has been exalted, there is a sense in which he is still the same. This was a very gentle way for Jesus to deal with a cruel enemy of his cause. And that is how he normally deals with us. He does not wound us in the way a soldier tries to kill an enemy; instead he wounds like a surgeon opening up a person in order to root out the disease.
Second, this self-description reminds us that we cannot separate the risen Christ from his people. True, they have no contribution in the act of salvation. Yet when we join ourselves to Jesus we inevitably join his church. And we join a church for which Jesus cares and feels and helps. Indeed the church is like a school in which we not only learn truths about Jesus but see his manner of dealings with our fellow-pupils – his pardon, his restoration, his giving of spiritual benefits and many other blessings. And we realise that what he gives to them he also gives to us.

The third lesson from this incident is that we should never conclude that a powerful, intelligent, extremely hostile enemy of Christ cannot be changed by him into a servant. Saul of Tarsus met a higher power when he met the risen Jesus and experienced his pardoning love.

This was the beginning of a relationship with Jesus that would never end for Saul. He had little concept at that moment of what was involved, although he did discover a great deal throughout his remaining years on earth as he served his new Master. And he went eventually to be with the risen Jesus in heaven where the once-hostile enemy continues to discover the spiritual treasures that are found in his Saviour, the eternal fountain of grace and glory.

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