Brief Thoughts on 1 Timothy 1:15 and 2 Timothy 4:6-8: Part 2

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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What a difference between Saul of Tarsus as he left Jerusalem, and the same Saul as he entered Damascus! He left Jerusalem breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples, he entered Damascus a blind helpless man, led by his companions, and his physical condition emblematical of his mental, his rage and his purpose completely overthrown. He was a changed—a converted man, though he might not have had any peace or joy till Ananias came three days after, during which he neither ate nor drank. Not until the scales fell from his eyes could he rejoice in full salvation. Then he arose and washed away his sins, and his baptism was just the symbol of his new standing before God.
The Lord Jesus met him on the way and takes him captive, he was the most jealous, and the fiercest, and the leader, of that band of persecutors; such is the one that the Lord takes, and the great enemy cannot prevent it. The chief of sinners, of persecutors, becomes the chief of disciples. The leader of the band, armed with authority to bind and slay all the disciples whom he could seize, becomes the leader of the band that bowed to the Name of Jesus. What an instance of the converting power of the grace of God as manifested in Christ! The glory of God appearing causes Saul to exclaim, Who art Thou, Lord? The voice out of the glory could be no other than the voice of Jehovah; yet that voice said, Why persecutest thou Me? Saul thought he was doing God service (John 16:22They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2)) and is astonished and confounded to find himself fighting against God; he finds himself as a criminal caught red-handed in his crime. He is overcome, fettered hand and foot, henceforth to be the Lord's bondman. The Lord Jesus appeared. Saul saw and heard, and at once says, Lord!
Who can tell the thoughts and feelings of Saul who, when cast to the earth, heard the words, “I am Jesus?” What was the visible effect on him? The discovery that he had been fighting against God prevented his taking food for three days. But afterward the revelation of the Son in him (Gal. 1:1616To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:16)) filled him with zeal and energy to announce the glad tidings, yea, far more than the zeal and energy he had shown in opposition to the disciples; for he had been as he says, exceedingly mad against them.
The words, “I am Jesus,” and the remembrance of the bright and heavenly vision, were always dominant in Paul's mind; as he said, he was no: disobedient to the heavenly vision; in his Epistle he takes his stand as an apostle upon this ground, a called apostle, by the will of God, not appointed by man. It was the Lord Who appointed him, He Who speaks and calls from heaven (Heb. 12:2525See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: (Hebrews 12:25)). And it is from heaven that He has sent the Holy Spirit to call and form His church. So that now emphatically every sinner is called by the word of the Son of God, every saint is called to be a member of the church of God, and every servant is called, as it were, by a mandate from heaven, after the pattern of the call of Saul of Tarsus. not by the Lord appearing in the glory of heaven, but by His own voice to the heart. It was a similar display on the day of Pentecost, when the power of the Lord was made manifest in the cloven tongues of fire. Although there be not such visible manifestations now, the power and the reality is essentially the same and ever abides; and He still calls and adds to the church and will until it is complete. The voice of one crying in the wilderness called Israel to repentance. It is the voice of the Son of God from heaven that quickens dead souls and calls them to sit in heavenly places. His voice from the glory Saul heard, and it changed him from a bitter enemy into a devoted and loving servant. If the called ones now are destined for heavenly glory, what more fitting or better way than the calling them out from among Jews and Gentiles by His own voice?
Here it is not Jesus saying, I am Jehovah. Impossible for Saul to doubt that it must be Jehovah's voice out of that vision of brightness. But is Jehovah saying, I am Jesus? Both essentially and divinely true; but the latter may be the wore emphatic form. Assuredly it was the exact and perfectly suited way to reach the conscience and heart of Saul. It was in this way that the Son was revealed in him, in this way was he prepared for becoming the great apostle of the church. That “God was manifest in flesh,” and that Jesus is the Son of the living God, are the two forms of truth as above, that is, Jesus saying, I am Jehovah, and Jehovah saying, I am Jesus. Upon this the church is built.
To Israel it was prophesied that to them a child should be born, a son given, and one of His glorious names should be the mighty God. This was their hope and expectation (i.e. of the righteous remnant) in the darkest time. And they spake often one to another, they feared Jehovah, they hoped and expected; and the Mighty God will come and make up His jewels, and these godly ones shall be numbered among them (Mal. 3:1616Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. (Malachi 3:16)). But Messiah on the earth is the hope of Israel. The hope of the church is to be with the Lord Jesus in the heavenly glory. When the Lord Jesus was here on the earth and presented to the Jew (to Israel) as their promised Messiah, His words and His works constantly asserted and proved that He was the Son foretold by the prophet, and that He was the Mighty God. What greater proof than the healing of the palsied man (Matt. 9:66But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. (Matthew 9:6))? No greater assertion of divine power, or of His Godhead during His life and ministry. It was the same power that healed the paralytic, as raised the dead Lazarus. His own resurrection is the greatest of all, and is declared by God as that which declares Him to be the Son of God. But this was after the Jew had rejected Him. The proof that He was the mighty God, had been sufficiently given before in His mighty works.
Moreover He said, “If ye believe not that I am” (the incommunicable name), “ye shall die in your sins.” The blind unbelief of the Jew is attested by the disciples, for when the Lord asked them, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” some said, John the Baptist, some Elias, some Jeremias, or one of the prophets: any name but the true one. None confessed Him to be the Son of the living God, but he to whom the Father had revealed it (Matt. 16:14-1614And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:14‑16)). It is this truth which is the special foundation on which the church is built, which gives stability to it, so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. That Messiah must be the Mighty God is as necessary for His Messianic glory, as that, for the calling and formation of the assembly of God, Jehovah should be Jesus. There could be no church, no restoration for Israel without Him. This was the proclaimed truth of both, during the Lord's life and ministry here below. He the Messiah, manifesting His Godhead, was the Jewish aspect of it. Met by unbelief then, but when He appears to them, they will shout, “this is our God, we have waited for Him” (Isa. 25:99And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:9)). For the church, it was the Son of man delivered to earth, and then to rise again for heavenly glory, the Son of the living God withal.
For, now, we are not called to know Christ after the flesh (2 Cor. 5) but as the risen Lord in heaven. In the first three Gospels it is Jesus the Messiah presenting irrefragable proofs by His teaching and by His miracles that He was the promised Son, the Mighty God, Whom the chosen few heard and believed. To Saul and through him to the church, it is the Mighty God saying, I am Jesus. The special point for Israel is to believe their Messiah is God. For the church it is to know that God was in Him, that He Who in the beginning was with God and was God did also become flesh and dwell among men, the First-born of all creation, but yet more, as risen the First-born from the dead to be Head of the Church. The one truth is the converse of the other. Both together, what a Divine reality, both for the glory of God, and for the salvation of man!
How blessed, yet how divine and unsearchable the truth: on earth His humanity asserts His Deity; from heaven His Deity proclaims His humanity.
Saul was conscious, in measure, Who it was that appeared to him, and he refers to it when giving the Galatians the account of his call to the apostleship. It was neither from nor through man, but direct and immediate from the Lord. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen” (Gal. 1:15, 1615But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:15‑16)). It was truly the revelation of the Son in him, sudden, effectual, and eternal. From that moment every opposing thought was cast down, and there was the absolute and unconditional surrender of himself to the Lord for His service; and he says, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? He had been following his own will in going to Damascus; now if the Lord bid him return to Jerusalem, he is ready, but it must be what the Lord would have him do. Saul of Tarsus was slain, and there arose, soon to be developed, instead of him, the apostle Paul. The Lord no doubt tells him what he must do, but His word is (Acts 9:1616For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (Acts 9:16)) “suffer.” He both did (26:15-19), and suffered, beyond any other man.
(To be continued)