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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Saul of Tarsus Part 9

We come to the conclusion of our journey as it pertains to Saul of Tarsus. My prayer is that these teachings have helped strengthen your faith, mature your spirit, and grow your wisdom.
Acts 9:17, “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
God’s plan had been put into motion, from the second Saul saw the light shining around him from heaven, and now it was about to reach its rightful conclusion. No longer conflicted, having laid his fears aside Ananias went his way, and entered the house of Judas, where Saul was. I often wonder what Ananias’s reaction was at seeing a blind and helpless Saul, waiting there powerless, and defenseless. So many stories had circulated, so much fear had taken root in the hearts of believers concerning Saul of Tarsus, that to see him now, as he truly was must have been a shock for Ananias.
Often what seem like the greatest of obstacles from afar, become minimal at best when analyzed up close. For fear of the booming roar, no one dares look over the fence to see that it was a puppy making all the noise. The myth of Saul, and the reality of Saul had collided, and Ananias was now able to see, that even the greatest enemies of Christ, can readily be brought to the point of helplessness.
As Ananias approached Saul, and laid hands on him, he said, ‘brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’
It is worthy of note that Ananias called Saul his brother. The only means by which he could come to this conclusion, was a spiritual one, for his eyes of flesh only saw a blind man, helplessly waiting for something to occur. Ananias discerned that Saul had been converted, that he was no longer the persecutor to be feared, but a fellow brother in Christ, who had seen the light and had been transformed by the power of God.
When one begins to contemplate the grace of God in all its facets, he or she begins to understand just how beautiful a thing it is. God’s grace goes wherever it is needed, and enters every heart that is found open and willing to receive it. It is due to man’s rejection of this blessed grace that so many still stumble in the darkness, that so many are still lost, that so many are still hopeless, blind, and absent of peace. It is not God’s fault, it is man’s.
Once the grace of God is welcomed into a heart, it begins the work or renewal and regeneration, it begins to clean out the cobwebs and filth of ignorance and sin, preparing said heart for the infilling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy spirit cannot reside in a heart wherein grace has not first done its good work, and cleaned it, washed it in the blood of Christ and made it ready to receive.
God had shown Saul His great mercy, had bestowed His grace upon him, had cleansed him through and through, to the deepest recesses of his inner man, and now as Ananias laid hands on him, Saul was ready to receive the Holy Spirit.
Every man who is truly sent of Christ, who is called to minister to his contemporaries, is commissioned to perform these two tasks, to give sight, and to fill with the Spirit of truth. When men send men, it is inevitable that their arrival will lead to confusion, darkness, and doubting souls. I realize I have stressed this point before, but it is of such paramount importance that whenever the context allows, I will repeat it, if you are sent, be certain you are sent of God. Only then will the fruit of your labors be evident to all, only then will you see the Lord going before you, opening doors that no man could open, and reaching hearts that mere words could never reach.
Because Ananias had been sent by God, and did not venture out on his own, when he laid hands on Saul, and said he had been sent that Saul may receive sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit, it was so.
Saul had received new sight, the spiritual sight that comes from knowing the fullness of God’s grace, and became blind to his old ways, his old beliefs, and his old ideas.
Whenever I read the Word, especially when it comes to interactions between two individuals, I often contemplate what both parties felt on a basic level. What were they thinking? What was going through their mind? I do this because it better helps me understand the context of the situation, and also the full magnitude of what their experiences meant for them as individuals, human beings, men of flesh and bone.
Having considered Ananias’s reaction to seeing a helpless and blind Saul, it is only fair that we consider Saul’s thought process as he felt two hands being laid upon him, and the voice of a stranger speaking to him with love and tenderness. This salutation, of a man calling him brother, and laying hands on him was most likely not one Saul was expecting. Taking into account, that only a few short days prior he had been on his way to Damascus, to exterminate men like Ananias, and those of his kind, it must have been a surprise, dare I say even a shock to Saul, to hear Ananias’s greeting.
Ananias had done as the Lord had commanded, and laying hands on Saul was one of the things he had been told he must do, and so did with joy. The miracle occurred, Saul received his sight, and also the infilling of the Holy Spirit, after which he was baptized.
Before we continue I would be remiss if I did not point something out, even at the risk of alienating some of you, or making you angry with me. Saul became a brother, and was filled with the Holy Spirit, before he experienced water baptism, because his old man had already been crucified, and Christ had renewed his mind.
Being baptized in water, was not a prerequisite to receiving the Holy Spirit, but Saul did proceed to get baptized in water, after this experience. I mention this, only because I have heard some overzealous brothers condemn and put down the experience of some new believers, when they say they have been filled with the Holy Spirit, because they had not yet been baptized in water.
If there is a biblical precedent, then there is no room for debate. To me, it is that simple. Saul received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized in water, however he did pursue water baptism as soon as he was able.
Acts 9:18, “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he rose and was baptized.”
The entirety of the work Ananias performed, was a work of faith, rooted in the Word spoken by Christ. It is only such work that is followed by both blessing and evident spiritual fruit.
Ananias was God’s chosen vessel, which He used to confirm the transformation that had taken place in the heart of Saul, to the brethren of Damascus. Although this was necessary for Saul, it is not the same with all believers. God works in different ways, employing different means, but his goal is always the same.
Before they come to know the love of God, ever man and woman has scales on their eyes. They are unable to see the truth that is before them, they are unable to come to rightful conclusions even when they have all the facts they need to reach said conclusion. Only when the scales fall from our eyes, are we able to see truth. Only then are we able to discern, to know, to grow, to mature spiritually, and walk in the light of God’s truth.
It is difficult to imagine the joy that Saul felt the moment the scales fell from his eyes and he was able to see, and the first face he saw, was that of brother Ananias, the man the Lord had used to introduce a new member to the ever-growing body of believers.
Only after we see are we able to make good decisions. Only after we see, are we able to discern light from darkness, truth from lie, and the narrow path from the wide path.
Once Saul received his sight, he rose. When the Spirit of God searches us, we rise from our indecision, we rise from our complacency, we rise from our indifference, we rise from our fear, we rise from our doubt, and do what God has commanded us to do. The Holy Spirit searches the hearts of those who do not place conditions upon Him, who do not demand an experience with God only if it is on their terms, but who sincerely yearn to know truth.
Saul was baptized, because he knew that water baptism was a visible confession of an invisible inward work, the visible proof of obedience toward God, and submission toward His word.
Much can be written concerning Saul’s baptism, but what struck me most about it, as he retells the event in Acts 22:16, is the sheer simplicity with which it was done. The church of Damascus was not gathered together, there were no guest speakers, no pomposity or grandeur. Saul was instructed to arise and be baptized, and in the next verse, it merely states, “Then it happened.”
When the desire of our hearts is the will of God, we are unconcerned with how many men are witnessing the event, who the big name speaker is at our baptism, what manner of garment we wear, or a hundred other things that clutter our minds and hearts, keeping us from fully realizing what is taking place.
Ananias baptized Saul, and those of Judas’s house were present, but even though Saul had received his sight, at that moment in time he saw no one but Christ, and Christ crucified.
Saul was now a new man, with a new name, a name that is synonymous with faith, obedience, steadfastness, humility, and wisdom. Above all else however, Paul, the man who once was Saul, will forever be remembered for his limitless love for Christ, and the immeasurable gratitude and thankfulness he carried in his heart the rest of his days for the grace he was shown, the forgiveness he received, and the redemption that was freely given him. May we as wise servants, do likewise, and perpetually thank our heavenly Father for His love, His grace, His mercy, and His Son.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

5 comments:

Bonny said...

I will just say 'Amen' and thank you to that.

suefromcentralpa said...

Michael,
Beautiful series on Paul. Thank you for spending your time teaching your brothers and sisters around the world. I always learn a lot from your writings. You are a blessing to many.... Thank you again!
Sue

deannaslater said...

Hi Mike, that is how it also happened with me, I was filled with the Holy Spirit, then water baptized within the same year, yes and thank god for His Love, His Grace, His Mercy, and Jesus his son. Blessings

Anonymous said...

I was illuminated by the Holy Spirit, baptized in water a week or two later, then 3 days after that baptized in the Holy Spirit. I didn't know what was happening to me as I was saved when I was alone and the illumination and baptism of the Holy Spirit happened without me even knowing what it was until after the case. That was 19 years ago. In mid May I received my ministry, which is a prophetic ministry, and I didn't know what that was either until after the fact. This seems to be a hallmark of my walk, I experience the events then someone has to explain to me what has happened afterwards.

God has been dealing with me about Paul since my call. I came to your web page to read about the office of a prophet/prophetess, followed the link to your blog only to find you talking about Paul. I'll try to find time to read all of your blogs about him.

As far as your return to your homeland, I understand your heart. I don't live in a foreign country but I have a longing of my own. As for now, this is my post. In the movie "Dances With Wolves" he was sent to a remote post on the frontier. When the man tried to get him to return to the camp he explained to him twice "this is my post". He wasn't thrilled with it, it wasn't glamorous, but this was his post. He stayed and as a result was used to take a very important message to Washington. It was his destiny. This is our post. We have to stay until the commander gives us new orders, though we long for home in our hearts. Sometimes though, soldiers do get to return home.

Mitzi
greenpilgrim50@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Michael,

I came across your article this morning (July 9, 2009) because I've been dealing just the last few days with the issue of water baptism.

A little about my sitation - I grew up in church, going to a Christian school, having Christian parents, etc. I was always saturated in Christianity.

I was baptized when I was twelve because I thought it was the "neat" thing to do. I was baptized again when I was 18 for the sole purpose of attention from a guy at church that I had a crush on.

Around 2002, I felt that I needed to get serious with God & find out exactly who He was. I didn't know it at the time, but this was the Holy Spirit convicting me. I was baptized again when I was around 22 years old. This time, I had an inkling of what it meant, but still, I was searching and I don't know if I had full faith when I was baptized.

In between all of this, I was having severe anxiety attacks that I wasn't saved. That everything was useless, I was stupid for "trying," and every other lie satan could hurl at me. A big problem for me is that when I get an idea in my head, I run with it.

I went back into the world in 2005. It was a slow fade, but I was back out there in full force. In November of 2008, I was reading this booklet called, "Born of God." I can't remember who puts it out and I don't remember where I got it. But, I thought, "I'm not where I need to be..." and started seeking God, again.

I think it's important to note that up until the Spirit started calling me in 2002, I had never experienced an anxiety attack. They were severe - to the point of being physically ill. And when I backslid, I didn't have a single one during the time I was in the world. But, when I decided to seek after the Truth again, the panic attacks came back.

Like I said about taking an idea and running with it...A few months ago, I was certain I had blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Then, I was certain that the Reformed Calvinists were right and that God had possibly predestined me for Hell. Now, it's water baptism.

I came across the verse in Mark 16:16 where Jesus said, "He who believes and it baptized shall be saved. He who does not believe shall be damned." I started thinking about my baptism "experiences," and started panicking. "Oh no...did I believe "right" when I was baptized?" Or was I just scared? I know fear can motivate you, but I didn't know where my FAITH was.

So, I came across this article...I think it was gospelway.com. And they were an ardent baptism is essential for salvation website. They said that faith includes all aspects of the Gospel...and that baptism is included in the Gospel, so if you don't believe that baptism is part of salvation, then you can't be saved because you don't believe the Gospel.

And I'll admit that the Bible seems confusing on this subject, because of verses like Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:19-21, and then there are verses like John 5:24, John 3:26. And I know the Bible doesn't contradict itself, so there must me faulty thinking on man's part.

So I thought, "Okay...maybe baptism IS essential for salvation." I thought, well, I've been baptized three times...surely that's enough...and then I came across an article saying that if you were baptized thinking that baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change, then you were baptised under the wrong doctrine. And of course, THAT freaked me out.

I guess my question is...why does the Bible say somtimes that faith, confession and repentance are what's necessary for salvation, yet you have Jesus Himself saying, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved...?"

If you have any insight, or have gone thorugh anything like this before, please feel free to contact me at cold_virginia_rain@yahoo.com

Erica