Before we return to the teaching of Saul's conversion, I want to thank the VanHoutan family for the books, and the picture. I tried e-mailing you, but it got rejected, and I could think of no other forum to say thank you than this. So, thank you.
Acts 9:6, “So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
I realize full well I may offend or otherwise alienate some with the following comment, but it must be said. Butterflies in his stomach do not precede the true beginning of repentance in the heart of a man, a sense of calm or a surreal feeling of euphoria does not precede it; true repentance is preceded by trembling and astonishment. When one sees their fallen condition for what it is, when one acknowledges just how deep and dark the pit of sin has become in his or her life, there can be no other reaction but trembling and astonishment. Those who tremble in the beginning will not tremble at the end.
This verse, and Saul’s reaction to the light and the voice, as well as the inward searching of his own heart has made me question the legitimacy of many so called dedications at crusades or church meetings. True repentance is a profound experience in a person’s life, not taken lightly or accomplished by the wave of a hand amidst a sea of people. True repentance brings out the tears and the emotions, and it produces the groaning of the soul.
One encounter with Christ forever changed not only the course of Saul’s life, but his entire way of thinking. Christ, the fire of truth burned out all the rubble, all the notions, all the formulated theories, and preconceived ideas that Saul might have had, making him ready for the infilling that would soon come upon him.
Christ reveals Himself to those seeking truth, dependent on their natures, and temperaments alike. There isn’t just one way by which Christ reveals himself to men, although He is the only way. The experience Cornelius had was different than that of Jacob, whose experience was different than that of Moses, whose experience was different than that of Saul.
Christ revealed Himself to Saul of Tarsus in such a manner, that it struck fear in him, transforming him in the span of a few moments from enflamed persecutor, to fiery defender, a man who would change the course of human history.
Saul’s heart was for the truth, but the spirit that had led him thus far was not the Spirit of truth. When Christ intervened, when the light shone, and the truth was made known to him, everything changed, and now everything Saul was sure of, became a mystery to him. He had to learn anew those things, which he believed had been established, and with trembling and astonishment asked his second question of this encounter, ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’
In this question we see clearly that Saul was now a man willing to obey, a man willing to do anything that God would command or require of him. At this specific juncture, Saul is the perfect portrait of a sinner who desires to know God, who is experiencing repentance, and who is willing to deny himself that truth may be revealed in him.
If up until his journey toward Damascus Saul had been certain of everything, now, stripped of self, stripped of pride, he was certain of nothing, and humbling himself asked, ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’ It is the second time Saul uses the term ‘Lord’ in the context of this conversation.
Although I have already made this point, it bears repeating, Saul was a man sincere in his convictions, and sincere in his fight against those he perceived a threat to the status quo. Saul believed he was serving God, and considered his struggle against those of the Way, a worthwhile endeavor, perhaps even virtuous. The omniscient and omnipotent Father knew young Saul’s qualities, and knew that it was out of the darkness of ignorance that he was persecuting the Church, and chose to meet him on the road to Damascus in such a dramatic way that it would change Saul’s life from its very foundation.
On the surface Saul’s response seems simple and straightforward enough, asking Lord what do You want me to do, but it speaks volumes coming from a once self assured and controlling man. He no longer desired to lean on his own understanding, to do what he thought was right, but submit himself to the will of God, and simply obey.
Saul’s first question was, ‘who are you Lord?’ His second question, ‘Lord what do You want me to do?’ This is the essence of how a new life in Christ begins. Only those who know Christ by faith and repentance can ask, ‘Lord what do You want me to do?’
Saul the Pharisee had been broken and shattered on the way to Damascus. The haughty exaltations of al life once considered pleasing in the eyes of God had ceased, the prideful boastings of accomplishments and sacrifices, abandoned. No one had hated Christ as Saul had, and no one was as furiously opposed to the Church of Christ he, until that instance when the truth had been revealed to him. There was no longer mention of his good conduct while he was under the law, no self-glorying remarks found on his lips. From the hollow husk of a man who once believed he knew it all a cry rings out, ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’ This is the first sign of humble submission before God. With these words his own will had been conquered and overcome, and now Saul desired to know the will of God. It is often out of inward brokenness that the most beautiful moments in our lives arise, like a phoenix from the ashes.
Those who have experienced such moments in their lives know the trembling and astonishment that Saul felt. These are things that can only be perceived if they have been personally experienced.
There is no better way to begin every day, every journey, every endeavor, and every ministry than to first and foremost ask what the Lord would have us do. If we place His will first and foremost in our lives, if we make our decisions based on God’s guidance, we will not err, we will not be overcome, for we will walk in the light and perfect will of our heavenly Father.
To some Christ’s answer to Saul’s query might seem strange. Why didn’t Jesus just tell him to raise his hand and say the sinner’s prayer? Why didn’t He just give Saul the three-step plan to achieving enlightenment? Why rather than tell him directly the things he must do, did Christ say, ‘arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do?’
In order to understand why Christ sent Saul into the city, rather than convey the things he must do directly, one must first understand they mystery that is the bond of brotherly love, and the true importance of the body of Christ.
If someone enters the body of Christ, that person will be taught to live and labor by the laws of the Spirit through the lives of those already existing within the body. The spiritual implications of being told to go into the city, cannot be overlooked in this instance, for even though Christ was telling Saul to physically go into Damascus, He was also telling him to spiritually enter in, to become part of the body of believers.
Revelation 21:2-3, “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice form heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God, is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”
Hebrews 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
Once Saul entered in, all would be made known, he would perceive, and understand all that he must do. Since no man can be in two places at once, when we enter the city of God, we must come out of every earthly city. A divided heart cannot stand before the righteousness of God. God not only frowns upon, but also wholly rejects the idea of dual citizenship, compelling us to choose whether we desire to be citizens of heaven, or citizens of earth.
If we still possess divided hearts, may we do as Christ said, and arise from our uncertainty, duality, and halfhearted worship, may we arise and go into the city of God, that church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, and submit wholly to His will. If one never enters in, one will never understand, and due to lack of understanding will be easily swayed from one teaching to another, from one doctrine to another all the days of his or her life. Truth, life, and the path we must walk are not found in the teachings or testimonies of men, but within the pages of God’s holy Word. May we endeavor to put first things first, to prioritize our lives and give God His rightful place, being diligent to study the Word thereby receiving the necessary wisdom and understanding that will carry us through, comfort us, and protect us from the ungodly and unscriptural practices of so many today.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.