From Darkness to Light

Acts 26  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
(Read acts 26)
A very remarkable man is introduced to us in this chapter; and, still more remarkable, a heavenly vision was given to that man.
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself." Thus we have the man's own account of himself and of the heavenly vision. He stood in the presence also of those who knew him well. u My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews... that after the most straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee." He was well known as a well educated and strictly religious young man when in Jerusalem, a disciple of one of their venerable doctors. He was a great ritualist, and had carefully observed every ceremony prescribed in the law of God—" Touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless." Here was a very model of a ritualist, a blameless ritualist. No man can have a greater right to trust in that religion of the flesh than he had, as he shows in the third chapter of Philippians.
Yet this strictly religious ritualist was the greatest possible enemy of Christ. He was, even by his own account, filled with madness. He says, "I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth; which things I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison.... and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."
Is not this a striking lesson? A man may be strictly religious as to all outward observances of ritual and ceremony, and his moral walk be blameless. The early dawn may find him at the mass, or holy communion, every ceremony of his church may be scrupulously observed, every prayer in his prayer-book constantly repeated; he may be a highly polished, well-educated student of the greatest religious doctor; and yet from this lesson we learn, he may still be filled with madness against the true saints of God; and a thoroughly blind rejecter of the great salvation of God.
There can be no mistake about it, for this is the account which Paul gives of himself. He was in this very state of mind as he went that day to Damascus. He says, " At midday, Ο king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me." He heard a voice speaking unto him, " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' Yes, the strictly religious Pharisee is a persecutor of Jehovah-Jesus. What a discovery to him! He said, " Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." He does not say, Why persecutest thou my saints? But He owns them as part of Himself. What perfect identification! What was done to them, was done to Him. Who could have thought that this blameless ritualist could be the mad murderer of the saints of God, the direct enemy of Christ! How many such have there been since that day? How many would be such, even now, had they the power!
Other chapters of the Acts tell us of the amazement of this man, and the three days of deep exercise of soul, as he passed from darkness to light. Let us note this well. The highly educated, strictly religious man, until he passes from darkness unto light, is in darkness, and the very power of Satan.
Jesus, in the heavenly vision, now speaks to this man: "But rise, and stand upon thy feet." This very man is the chosen witness—His servant; and He sends him to the people, and to the Gentiles, "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 ate sanctified, by faith that is in me." He who had thus been in darkness is the chosen instrument to turn others from darkness to light. Henceforth, at whatever cost, this was his service and joy.
" Whereupon, Ο king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision: but showed, first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." What a witness! What a ministry! What a revolution had now taken place in the mad persecutor! Yesterday he hated the name and doctrine of that Man who had been nailed to a gibbet; to-day he had seen him in brightness above the sun. Yesterday he was the zealous champion of ritualism; to-day he has learned that the ritualists of Jerusalem are in the greatest possible darkness and ignorance of God. He must now go forth the witness of a risen and glorified Christ. He is a poor weak vessel, but he receives his commission from the Lord, and he obeys the heavenly vision. Nothing but the power of God could sustain a man in such a position. The whole world against him; the whole world in darkness, and opposed to God—none more so, nay, none so much so, as the priests and Pharisees. Is it so now? We shall see.
What were all his teachers and companions in darkness doing? He tells us. He says they sought not righteousness by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." (Rom. 9:32; 10:3, 432Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (Romans 9:32)
3For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:3‑4)
.) Is it not a deplorable fact that this is still the condition of thousands around us, seeking and hoping to be righteous before God some day by religious observances and works?
Let us now notice two things which follow, or are the result of being turned from darkness to light. "That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." It is not that they may hope at last to obtain forgiveness of sins, but receive forgiveness of sins. If merely hoping for it, I am still in darkness. If in the light, I have it. This is very distinctly put in John 1:77The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. (John 1:7). " If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.'' This does not say if we sin, we have a fresh application of the blood to cleanse us from that sin. No, the effect of being in the light is to give our souls the blessed certainty that the blood of Christ has once and forever put all our sins judicially out of the sight of God. Have we fellowship in the light in this blessed fact? Those in darkness never can know it. It can only be known, and is known, by those turned from darkness to light. It is one thing to write, or read, this. But do you and we know this blessed fact true of every child of God? "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." (1 John 2:1212I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. (1 John 2:12).) Yes, surely those who are turned from darkness unto light "receive forgiveness of sins." If you cannot therefore say you have received forgiveness of sins, is it not certain that you are yet in the dark?
If you trace in the Acts how Paul obeyed this heavenly vision, you will find he preached this very forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Christ; and declared in the clearest terms that all who believe are justified from all things. (Acts 13:3838Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: (Acts 13:38).) And mark, this is not through any works, or sacraments, or observances, but through Jesus. If forgiveness of sins is preached through penance, repentance, or works of any kind that we have to do, when may we expect to obtain it? But if preached through a work already finished; through Jesus who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification, then the moment we believe God we are forgiven, we are justified, we have peace with God. This is just the point of truth so important. Repentance there must be; turning to God there must be from dumb idols, from a wicked world. But is this in order that the ransom may be paid?
Did we ever ask God to send His Son to die for our sins, the Just for the unjust? Such a thought never entered the mind of man—it was wholly of God. It was pure grace, unmerited favor.
If you were a slave, as we have before said, and the person you had avoided as an enemy paid the price of your redemption, and sent a messenger with the good news; should that messenger tell you, that if you would repent, and be sorry for your conduct, then he who had sent him would pay the price of your redemption, and set you free? This would alter the whole thing. It would deny that the ransom had been paid; would it not? The very opposite was how Paul acted. He says, "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness.... not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Oh, think of the ransom paid first—think of the redemption accomplished first. This the apostle preached, and then commanded men to repent. I do not repent that Christ may die for me, but because He has.
If turned from darkness to light, not only have we received forgiveness, but inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me. In the light, and made meet for the inheritance with saints in light, we can therefore give thanks to the Father who hath made us meet. Those who are in the dark will hope by effort and works to make themselves meet. We can also give thanks to Him " who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." If in the dark, you are hoping to do your utmost to deliver yourself from the power of Satan, or darkness; and you hope you may, after the day of judgment, be in the kingdom of His Son. If in the light, you know Him u In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." If in the dark, you are like the poor slave who rejects the kindness of the friend who has paid the full price of his redemption from slavery, and says, I must do my utmost to purchase my redemption.
How truly blessed thus to give thanks! May it be the happy portion of every reader of this paper. C. S.