“But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:16-18).
Today’s passage has a lot to offer for Christian theology. It speaks about God’s working nature, how He goes about dealing with the people He wants, what He requires of His chosen ones, the things He offers so they can always trust Him, and not the least, the course to become His servant according to His heart.
It is very clear that God calls with a purpose. As we go on understanding today’s passage we come to see it. A number of people get bogged down by the Lord’s appearance to Paul. But it was only one of His choices and it was acceptable to Him to employ it again. Only here it was quite evidently Jesus Himself. Paul did not see Him, but heard Him. To hear Him is in fact unearthing. To the same extent we hear Him from the Word by and of the Spirit. It is how wisdom befalls; all else acquired by other means is knowledge. The Hebrew writer in his prologue says God now “has spoken” to us through His Son meaning the Lord put His wisdom concerning everything relating to us in the Word and reveals it when He wishes to disclose Himself to us or when we inquire Him. This is strengthened by the writer’s words in 4:3 saying His works were finished from the foundation of the world. To say a replica of Paul’s experience alone suffices is missing the point.
A key aspect is our Lord designating Paul as a minister and a witness and nothing else. So, Paul was not an apostle first, but a minister and a witness. What this encouragingly tells us is God does not call anyone as an apostle (viz. the disciples) but certainly a minister and a witness (of the manner of his or her conversion). And no one must be compelled to see Paul’s conversion as a one-off thing to set it aside, but embrace Christ’s diverse working manners. What follows from the work of a minister and a witness could eventually lead to further entitling. The work is also from the Lord which is the next point to grasp. The Lord will personally take us down a specific path where we will see things and then face His preferred things to appear to us in them. This road decides our ministry and any entitling as per His justification. However, we will always be His ministers and witnesses from the time of His calling. He yet adds to His provision, something that comes as a promise. It is rescuing us from the hands of all kinds of enemies regardless of the places we must go to or stay. Perhaps this is something many church-goers miss sight of and so, partially obey Him and waver in ministering to Him.
Once the Lord is accomplishing His provision in us His objective for us takes shape and momentum. Albeit not at a pace we assume or desire. [Paul too had to go to Arabia first (Gal. 1:15-17). At times he was slowed down as in by imprisonment in Jerusalem for a few years before going to Rome]. Nevertheless, throughout our ministering and witnessing to the Lord we open the eyes of the sightless. Whatever road the Lord takes us on the objective is always two-fold– to turn people from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to the dominion of God and offering forgiveness of sins, inheritance among the sanctified.
The first objective has two parts, though they seem similar. The light refers to wisdom and everything relating to it even as in choosing between things, desires, ways, places and people. Its main aim is to overcome temptations, Satan’s ploys, to avoid loss, shame and foolishness. The second refers to salvation, coming into God’s jurisdiction and away from the sway of Satan.
The second objective too has two branches, but with a prerequisite. The first objective hinges on the execution of the second. Unless forgiveness of sins and inheritance is received, darkness and Satan cannot be overcome. With those two in hand God defends our eternity. The modus operandi to it is forgiveness of sins and sanctification by faith in Jesus Christ alone; no works sustain, not even those commanded to mark a difference.
Adhering to what Jesus spoke to Paul made him a minister of Christ as we know him. The same can be true of us.