Paul's Heavenly Vision Shows Pattern of Purpose for Heaven-Sent Preachers
By the late Rosco Brong, Former Dean
Lexington Baptist College (KY)
"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)
Our text, taken from Paul's answer before Agrippa, quotes the Lord Jesus as declaring His purpose for Paul personally and His purpose for Paul's ministry. We can find no higher purpose for ourselves, and surely we should be satisfied with no lower motivation. If most evangelistic and missionary endeavor today is so far removed from apostolic example, it may be because we have never seen the vision of apostolic purpose.
As to the preacher, Paul found himself by divine appointment a personal minister and witness of the risen Christ - and that not only in things he had already seen but also in things to be revealed to him in the future. His ministry and testimony were to grow with his growing knowledge of His Lord. Moreover, he received the promise of personal deliverance from all adversaries, whether Jew or Gentile. And finally, he was charged with an immediate and urgent mission: "unto whom now I send thee."
But Christ's purpose for His minister has in view a greater purpose for his ministry, and it is this that I wish now to consider.
TO OPEN THEIR EYESAccording to the Bible, lost sinners are spiritually blind. Their eyes are closed to spiritual truth. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch. Paul was physically blinded for a while that the eyes of his soul might be opened to the heavenly vision. Every lost sinner must have his eyes opened to eternal truth or forever perish in everlasting destruction.
Of course, only the power of God can give sight to the blind, but the great Physician is pleased to use instruments of His own choosing in performing His spiritual operations. Every true minister and witness of Jesus Christ is called upon by the written word of God to take part in this operation of opening the spiritual eyes of sinners blinded by Satan.
Let no recalcitrant rebel reply that this is beyond his power and therefore cannot be his responsibility. It is our responsibility to do what Jesus commands. Paul was obedient to the heavenly vision, and so must we be to fulfill our Master's purpose.
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHTBut what is the use of opening eyes if they remain in darkness? True preachers are called to hold up the light of God's word and persuade all who can see to walk in that light. As Jesus said, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." (John 12:46).
Blind sinners cannot see it, but true servants of God, having spiritual eye-sight, find that "the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." (Proverbs 6:23.)
No, it is not enough to get eyes opened; those eyes must be taught to turn from darkness to light, that God's children may fulfill the scripture: "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Proverbs 4:18.)
FROM SATAN TO GODSinners are under the power of Satan. "The whole world lieth in wickedness." (I John 5:19). Having eyes to see and light to show the way, we are still but wretched slaves of sin until we turn "from the power of Satan unto God."
Only in this experience do we have genuine conversion, and so a most vital part of Christ's purpose in the ministry of His word is to turn sinners "from the power of Satan unto God." Genuine Christian experience is NOT merely a reformation of conduct or character. God and Satan are opposing personalities, and the sinner must personally turn from the authority of Satan to God.
Christians are called to spiritual warfare against antichristian spirits under the dominion of Satan, "the gods of this world." Only of those who have really turned from the authority of Satan to God can it be said: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (I John 4:4).
FORGIVENESS OF SINSNote here a most important fact: the opening of eyes, the turn from darkness to light, and the turning from the authority of Satan to God are all linked to the purpose "that they may receive forgiveness of sins."
Compromising preachers may hold forth the false hope of the forgiveness of sins apart from a genuine experience of Holy Ghost conviction, regeneration, and personal surrender to the will of God, but such false hopes are not in accord with the purpose of God
Surely every sinner desperately needs the forgiveness of sins, but it is cruelly misleading to pretend that God will forgive unrepentant, unbelieving, unregenerate sinners. In current slang, this is a package deal: salvation most be accepted or rejected as a whole; there can be ao forgiveness of sins without the rest of the salvation experience.
INHERITANCEThe same souls that obtain the forgiveness of sins also will receive an inheritance. Being in a spiritual sense Abraham's seed, they are "heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 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." (I Peter 1:3-5).
AMONG THE SANCTIFIEDChrist's purpose in Paul's ministry was not limited to Paul's converts. They were to receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance "among them which are sanctified." In Bible language, this means among all the redeemed.
Souls are saved one by one in individual experience, but we ought not to forget or neglect the fellowship of the saints in our common relationship to Christ
BY FAITH IN CHRISTJesus spoke of those "which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Let no one therefore pretend to sanctification who disbelieves Him.
It is by faith in Christ, and only by faith in Christ, that men are set apart from the world, set apart from their sins, and set apart to the loving service of God. This is the only sainthood of the Bible, and the only sainthood worth having.
Are we - are you - fulfilling Christ's purpose in the ministry of His faithful servants? Are your eyes open? Have you turned from darkness to light? From the power of Satan unto God? Have you received forgiveness of sins? Can you claim the promised inheritance? Are you among the sanctified? Have you this faith in Christ? And if so, are you seeking to lead others into a kindred experience?
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist newspaper, November 10, 1972, pp. 1 & 3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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