RISE AND STAND
Paul was under arrest and standing before Festus and King Agrippa to give his defense against the charges that had been brought against him by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. As he was making his defense he declared the vision he had received while on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians. He said “I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are you Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:12-18 NKJ) He goes on to say that he “was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” (v. 19) Let us look at the words of Jesus to Saul, later known as Paul, and see how they may pertain to us. IDENTITY
Jesus started by telling Paul who He was and being very specific. He didn’t simply say I am Jesus, but also that He was the one whom Paul was persecuting. Notice Jesus also said that it was hard for Paul to “kick against the goads.” This is the rod or pole that they used to prod oxen along. It speaks of the fact that Paul may have realized what he was hearing about these Christians and their Messiah may have been true. It implies that the Holy Spirit was whispering truth to Paul, but he was kicking against what God was speaking to him. Paul understood the scriptures and God was evidently using that knowledge both to reveal Himself to Paul and to show how he was going against all that God was revealing to him from his knowledge of the Word. There are a lot of individuals like that today. They know what is right and what they should do, but they go against the Holy Spirit as He tries to guide them into what they instinctively know to be true by choosing to follow something else; possibly a tradition or what their peers or the world says or even some type of pleasure. This also speaks of how the Holy Spirit whispers to us today about what is right and wrong and to an unsaved person about accepting Jesus as their Savior. Perhaps the Lord is revealing something new in the Scripture that you or others don’t want to accept just as Paul didn’t. It is easy to ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit and do what seems right at the time or just continue doing what we have always done. The Holy Spirit is prompting us to move out in the gifts and operations of the Spirit on a daily basis to see lives changed by the power of the Spirit, including our own. Hopefully we can become sensitive to the Holy Spirit on a daily basis where He won’t have to shine a light brighter than the sun to get our attention. RISE AND STAND ON YOUR FEET After acknowledging who He was Jesus tells Paul to rise and stand on his feet. In the natural Paul and his fellow companions had fallen to the ground and Jesus was telling him to rise and stand. Too often Christians allow things to discourage them and keep them from becoming what God created them to be and thus fulfill the destiny God has for them. Jesus is telling us to rise and stand against the attacks of the enemy and the world and not allow them to put us down spiritually nor become discouraged. In Ephesians 6:11 Paul says to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Then in verse 13 he says to take up the whole armor of God that we are able to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Instead of allowing the attacks of the devil to keep us down we are to put on our armor and stand against all the evil that comes our way. Instead of lying down and allowing the world and the devil to do whatever they desire, we are to rise up and stand on our feet and withstand the evil. How do we do this? We do this by putting on the armor of God and by “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5 KJV). This is not the time in our history to give in to the works of the world or the enemy. It is the time to rise and stand and see the salvation of God come to ourselves, our families, friends, neighborhoods and nation. FOR THIS PURPOSE After telling Paul to rise and stand on his feet Jesus tells Paul why He has revealed Himself. He says “I have appeared to you for this purpose.” The Holy Spirit has revealed the Lord Jesus to each of us and even to many that aren’t following Him at this time and He has done so for a purpose. Each of us has a purpose in God and it isn’t to sit in a church and support a pastor as he ministers. That is something we should do but that isn’t our ultimate purpose in life. That isn’t why Jesus died and redeemed us from sin. Generally speaking our purpose is to bring glory and honor to Jesus in everything we do, not just in the church service. It is to fulfill our destiny before God by fulfilling our God-given responsibility at home, work and in society. Everyone’s purpose is different just as every person is different. It is important that each one find the purpose of God for their individual life. For Paul it was to make him a minister and a witness especially to the Gentiles. For some today it may also be public ministry. For others it is revealing the nature of Christ in business and for each one of us it is to reveal the nature of Jesus in the home and the marketplace. We are to witness and reveal the nature of Christ wherever we are and whatever we are doing. That doesn’t mean to only speak of Jesus and what He has done for us but to live a life that reflects the glory of God and His presence at all times. This is not always easy and it may be the reason we are being told to rise and stand, but it is always worthwhile. It is important that each one of us be able to state our God ordained purpose and be working toward that purpose. Remember that Paul ended his defense before King Agrippa by stating that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. In other words, he fulfilled his purpose. We also must know our purpose and be working to fulfill that purpose here on earth and at this time. Too often people accept that they are saved and ready to go to heaven but don’t realize what they are to do while still on this earth. We have a purpose for being saved and going to heaven is a benefit, but not the purpose. SEEN AND REVEALED Jesus didn’t reveal Himself simply to make Paul a minister and a witness. He also told Paul what he would be a witness of and to whom. He said he was to be a minister and a witness of things he had seen and things that God would later reveal to him. This is one reason why I think that when Jesus said it was hard for Paul to kick against the goad He was referring to the urging of the Holy Spirit to understand the truth hidden in the Scriptures. Imagine Paul on the road to Damascus with Scriptures going through his mind. He knew the Scriptures and understood what he had been taught. Yet, things begin to suddenly take on new meaning and he is struggling with the possibility of those new meanings. The great light, brighter than the sun, has him on his face and he hears a voice identifying the very One he has been persecuting and telling him he has a purpose in life that he didn’t understand. That purpose was more than to be a strict Pharisee obeying the letter of the law. It was to be a witness of the One speaking to him and revealing the things he has seen. What has he seen? He has seen a revelation of Jesus and of the Word of God concerning Jesus in the very law that he had so vigorously defended. He has seen a new revelation out of the very Scriptures that he was violently defending. Acts 9:10-22 gives us the account of what happened after he arrived in Damascus. Ananias went and spoke to Paul and prayed for him and he received his sight once again. Verse 19 says that after eating some food he was strengthened and he spent some days with the disciples in Damascus. Yet, verse 20 says: “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.” So Paul’s new understanding of the Scriptures enabled him to immediately begin to convince others of the reality of Jesus being the Messiah that the Jews had longed for. This brought amazement to many. Paul preached what he saw in the Scriptures, what he had seen as the Holy Spirit was prompting him as he walked toward Damascus and as he meditated while waiting for Ananias. Yet, that wasn’t all that Jesus said he would be a witness of. Jesus also said he would be a witness of things that the Holy Spirit would reveal to him; things that he still hadn’t seen or understood. This tells us that no matter how much we know the Scriptures and think we understand the Word, there is still more to know and understand. Proverbs 25:2 says: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” (KJV) God has concealed things in His Word and it is up to us to search those things out; to realize the meaning. As an example the Hebrews looked at the Tabernacle of Moses and later the Temple with all the offerings, the garments of the High Priest, the Levitical feasts and the laws concerning worship as rituals to obey. (Gal. 3:24) Yet, they are the very things that God gave to them to try to open their eyes to the principles of God and what He would accomplish. As we search the Scriptures we can also find things that are hidden as the Holy Spirit guides us. This does not mean anything we think of is a new revelation and should be accepted as from God. Every revelation should be confirmed by other Scriptures and other people of God through careful examination. (1 John 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Thes. 5:21) PROBLEMS WILL ARISE Paul’s preaching caused many to accept Jesus but it also caused others to be filled with anger. Acts 9:23 says “after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.” This was the beginning of the fulfillment of Acts 26:17. Jesus told Paul in the vision that He would protect him from both the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul understood that that meant both groups would attack him in various ways but that the Holy Spirit would protect him as he ministered to others. It also meant that though the words he taught would be rejected by many the Lord would help him to stand strong in the faith and revelation of Jesus Christ. It is much like what God said to Jeremiah when he was called of God. "As for me, today I'm making you a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land. They'll fight against you, but they won't prevail against you, because I am with you," declares the LORD, "to deliver you."” (Jer. 1:18-19 KJV) It also brings us to the ultimate purpose for Paul to be a minister and a witness of what he has seen and what will be revealed.
PURPOSE Verse 18 gives us the final purpose for the revelation given to Paul. That is: “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” The ultimate purpose was to open the eyes of others to that which God had revealed to him. This is so those that do hear him might receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance. This is the same purpose for which God has revealed Himself to us. We are to open the eyes of others to see the reality of Jesus Christ and be able to receive an inheritance in Christ. We are to reveal the reality of salvation through the blood of Jesus, but also the understanding that Jesus died to give us an inheritance. That inheritance is more than being with Him in heaven when we die. That is an amazing benefit but what about an inheritance for today? The first thing we inherit is forgiveness of sin and the peace of God that comforts us. Jesus said He would send us a Comforter and that is the Holy Spirit. As we receive salvation we also receive the Holy Spirit that begins to indwell our lives guiding us into all truth. He also helps us to live a life that is pleasing to the Father revealing His glory and honor by enabling us to live above sin and condemnation. We begin to understand how to live in such a way as to honor God and others. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, He brings gifts that begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit. These gifts are those things that enable us to live a life that is pleasing to the Father by doing the works of Jesus. We are to use these gifts, (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) in our daily activities whether at work, home or in the marketplace. The gifts of the Spirit are the tools that draw the presence of God into our life situations and the life situations of others as we use them. These gifts are vital for us today. They are not there for our benefit to give us goosebumps etc. The gifts are a manifestation of the Spirit “given to each one for the profit of all.” (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:26, 31) We need to be using them daily to build up the Body of Christ and to see others come to know Jesus as their personal Savior. These gifts bring a manifestation of the Holy Spirit to bring life to others and validate who we serve. They will also help us to know and understand Scripture and the application of that Scripture. We must allow the Holy Spirit to work within us by teaching us all things, revealing Scriptures and giving us new insight into all that God is doing in the earth today as well as what He is planning to do. The gifts of the Holy Spirit can keep us from trouble and deliver us from trouble. These will also bring others to an awareness of the presence of God and to a decision about following Him. Let us become able ministers and witnesses of the things we have seen. And be open to the Holy Spirit as He prods us along into greater understanding of what God has hidden in the Word. Then as Paul, we can say we were not disobedient to our heavenly vision.
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