Heavenly Vision: Have You Put Your Candle Out? No. 2

Acts 26:16  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
No, it was not to take vengeance on that persecutor that the glory of that light shone on Saul, and eclipsed the mid-day sun. It was not to plunge Saul into everlasting and deserved darkness, that he heard a voice speaking unto him. That voice spoke in tones like heaven's sweetest music. " But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for 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." Oh, precious Jesus, and is it thus Thy will that we should minister to others, and bear witness of the riches of Thy grace, in which Thou hast appeared to us? and also to tell out the grace upon grace, free favor upon free favor, mercy upon mercy, in which Thou wilt and hast appeared unto us? Yes, Lord Jesus; thus Thou takest up the chief of sinners, and thus Thou displayest the abounding of Thy grace!
Now was it not wonderful for the Lord of heaven to come down, as it were, to this earth again, in glory above the brightness of the sun, and thus reveal Himself to this chief enemy? Every true servant of Christ knows something of this direct commission from Christ. And in every true case of conversion it is Jesus speaking direct to the soul, in and by the Spirit. Others may hear a sound, but the word comes direct to the soul of the one saved, as though Jesus -actually was speaking from heaven. Only in this case, Saul was the chosen vessel through whom the Lord revealed the mystery, that every believer now was part of Himself—His body, the assembly—so that he was in great measure converted by this truth, that as a new creature he was what Christ was.
No doubt this was more fully made known to him afterward. He was chosen to be a witness: " Both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee."
What had he seen? Jesus in glory above all creation. He had heard to his amazement that they whom he persecuted were one with the glorified Jesus. This very Lord was Jesus whom he persecuted. He had seen that the despised saints on earth were one with the Lord of heaven; and he was chosen to take that place, and be a witness of it. Amazing grace!
And now he who had been the chief agent of the people of Israel in persecuting the saints, would himself need delivering from them, and from the Gentiles, unto whom he should now be sent. And such was the deep sense of the grace shown to him, that he never questioned the grace and mercy shown to the Gentiles, whom up to that moment he had viewed as dogs. The chief of sinners becomes at once the chief witness of the riches of divine grace. He who had opened his eyes now sends him to Gentiles sunk in wickedness and sin: " To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." It was from darkness to light, from Satan to God. As he says long afterward, Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love." What a light the heavenly vision threw upon this world. Satan is its god, blinding the minds of them that believe not. The chief priests, his late employers, were led blinded by Satan. But he had seen One in glory above the brightness of the sun; He " who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God and our Father." (Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4).) With all their privileges, he had found that the zeal of the chief priests, yea, his and their very religiousness, was the direct slavery of Satan. What a discovery!
Has that same Jesus opened your eyes to see these things? Do you know that this age, from the murder of Jesus to His coming in judgment, is distinctly the age of evil?—that the age in which this world boasts, with all its priests, and all its zeal, and all its religion, is in total blindness and darkness, yea, under the power of darkness; and that it has rejected Christ, and accepted Satan as its god and prince? If you know this, it will explain to you all the misery and wickedness In this world at this time, so near the end of this age of evil, and especially the unparalleled wickedness of what calls itself Christendom.
This is the scene into which the true disciple and servant of Christ is sent, as a lamb in the midst of wolves. If a true Christian in that world, he must suffer with · and be hated with Christ. When Judaism was set aside, its temple destroyed, and its priests slain, Satan did not die. He remained, and he soon had his ministers as angels of righteousness, and himself transformed into an angel of light, and as such he deceives Christendom to this day. He has still his high priest, chief priests, and priests by thousands, all led by him, and his works they do. Oh how soon it could be said, " Where Satan dwells.” (Rev. 2)
Not one in his kingdom has the least idea what that kingdom is, and who are its subjects. Vast numbers think they are doing God's service, as Jesus said it would be during His absence; and so it is. Oh fellow servant of the rejected Jesus, hast thou seen the heavenly vision? Hast thou heard that voice speaking to thee? What is in the heart of that despised and rejected Lord? What sends He thee to do? " To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." And God, who used Saul, can use whom He will; yes, if He please, even thee and me. Oh the riches of His grace! Yes, He who called Saul,, and revealed His Son in him, chief of Pharisees-as he was, can also reveal Christ His Son in us, chief of sinners. From that day Christ was seen in him, and it was Christ, not himself, he preached to the heathen.
" That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified, by faith that is in me." Such is the good pleasure of Him who speaks to us from the glory above the brightness of the sun. Saul believed, and he said, " Whereupon, Ο king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision." He received his commission direct from the risen and glorified Jesus. What could man add to this? What would human ordination be worth to him? What the value of apostolic succession to him? Not worth a straw, as he carefully shows in Gal. 1 and ii. How many thousands have, as they think, this, and are in Satan's darkness and Satan's service, ever, so far as they have power, and in all places doing the works of their father.
Oh what light the heavenly vision throws on present things. But who treads in the steps of Paul? Who? He said he " showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." Of course they sought to kill him. There are many who think they are called of the same Christ; but only to preach to the unconverted. But Paul began with the religious world, and then the Gentiles. Who obeys the heavenly vision, as to the awful religious world of this day? Who has courage to declare (with eyes opened by the glory of the risen Christ) to the religious world that they must repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance? Do not the priests of this day need to change their minds, as much as the Jews did then? Do they not need to turn to God, from their imitation Judaism—from trusting in their masses and sacraments, and worship and prayers to saints and angels and the blessed virgin, and their opposition and persecutions? Oh that a voice might proclaim, like a trumpet, to Romanist, and Greek, and Protestant, Repent and turn to God from all these vanities. No doubt they will seek to kill the faithful servant who obeys the heavenly vision. It was so then; it will be so now. Neither Satan nor his children are altered at all. It is most sad that he deceives the children of God even, so as to be yoked with his abominations. The Lord grant that those that are His may awake from sleep and obey the heavenly vision. Surely this vision was needed by the mad persecutor; and it characterized his preaching to the end of his service.
It is a very interesting inquiry, What did Paul preach in order to produce this repentance, both to the religious world (the Jews) and also to the Gentiles? This will throw great light on what the servant of Christ is to preach now, both to the professing world, and also to the unconverted.
Before we look at this, for lie distinctly tells us, we will remind the reader that we said there had been two men, perhaps the greatest Pharisees that ever lived, and both converted directly by the Lord speaking from heaven, revealing to each of them that every saint on earth, or believer during this present period of His rejection, is part of Himself, the risen and glorified Christ. We have seen the one, Saul the Pharisee, the blameless religionist. (Phil, iii.) He was at the beginning. He it was whom the Lord used to reveal the mystery of the joint body—the one body of Christ, the church, or assembly of God.
A little more than fifty years ago, when Pusey and Keble and others were talking about salvation by sacraments and ritual and fasting, &c. a young man might have been seen practicing what they talked and wrote. He was described to the writer by one who knew him well, as a walking skeleton on two crutches, covered with big old clothes, living in an old cabin, worn near to death with fastings and watchings and labors for salvation, on the mountains of Wicklow. He fasted four days a week, and on the others ate very little more than a few potatoes. He was sincere and blameless, kind and charitable to a degree; but as yet a stranger to the grace about to be revealed to him. He had never yet seen the heavenly vision: he had never yet heard " a voice speaking to me."
Well does the writer remember him saying, “I was walking in (I think it was) Stephens Green, Dublin, when suddenly the scriptures came to my mind: ' There is one body,' ' We are-members of his body,' &c." This was the voice from heaven to him. "What," he said, "am I then a member of His body? Then I must be what He, the Head, is." He was dead with Christ and risen with Him—what Christ was—part of Himself. Peace flowed from the glorified Christ in heaven into his soul—peace that never could be lost, that never varied or failed until the day of his departure a very few years ago. It was the restoration of the long-lost truth of what the church is as the body of Christ.
In the first case it was the beginning of 'the revelation of what the church is, and to Paul was given the blessed ministry of the revelation of the mystery. In the latter case, the Lord gave the blessed ministry of the restoration of that long lost truth. In both cases their peculiar conversion characterized the whole of their lives and ministry. Great are our privileges, and responsibilities, since the restoration of the truth of the church—the body of Christ.
(To he continued, if the Lord will.)