Dear Student of the Word,
I am not sure how much time I will have next week while I am here in Kenya, so I thought I would send along this next study for you to review, study and hopefully learn from. I am in Kenya with a busy ministry schedule, but while here I wrote part seven of this seven-part study:
Study Thirty-One, Part Seven
12 "On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,’ Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' 15 "Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' "'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied.
26:12 – Perhaps Saul had been an “evangelist” to the Gentiles as a Pharisee. He was already comfortable with going to the Gentiles—or at least as comfortable as a Jew could be.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15).
The Jews were only too happy to send Saul to Damascus, since they were unwilling to go and become unclean due to the contact with Gentiles. Saul was only to happy to go in his obsession to wipe out the followers of The Way.
26:13 – It must have been a bright light indeed that was able to outshine the noonday sun. That is the kind of light God is able to use to reveal your purpose in life. Of course, the companions saw the light and knew something supernatural was happening. As far as we know, however, they never gave any testimony that would assist Saul’s testimony. It’s just as well, however, for the Jews would not have received it!
What light has God shed on your life, your reason for living? If you don’t know, perhaps it’s because the light is so bright that you are blinded. Perhaps you are so familiar with yourself and what you do is so second-nature, that you can’t see it—it isn’t very special to you. Ask God today to shine this kind of light on who you are and what you do and then be open to see yourself in a “whole new light.”
26:14 – God speaks every language; He is a great communicator. Saul had no problem hearing His voice or understanding what He was saying. Notice that they all fell to the ground. There are many who are intrigued and even offended by people falling to the ground. It’s surprising more people don’t fall to the ground when they have an encounter with God. Even a group of Roman soldiers fell to the ground as recorded in John’s gospel:
"I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground (John 18:5-6).
26:15 – Jesus told Saul that he was in actuality persecuting Jesus and not His followers. How the followers feel about that?! It sure felt to them like they were being persecuted. Saul’s hatred at that point was really for Jesus; he was expressing it toward the followers. Paul later wrote:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:3-4).
You are now in Christ. For something to get to you, it must get through Him. So when someone is persecuting you, God has allowed it to happen, for it must through Him first. Since Jesus is the point of “first contact,” the persecutor is actually persecuting Jesus. Paul also wrote:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
How can someone persecute you, when “you” are dead and it’s Christ living in your place? Don’t take persecution or hard times personally. It’s not about you; it’s all about Him! Rejoice in your persecutions and accept them as part of being in Christ. Be strengthened in that knowledge and serve the Lord, just like Paul did.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the unpublished volume of The Faith Files.