“While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,
Damascus. The Damascus Road conversion of Saul is one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible and the story is told no less than three times (Acts 9:3-6, 22:6-11, 26:13-18).
at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.
Brighter than the sun. This was not a metaphorical light but a light bright enough to blind Saul (Acts 22:11). What exactly did Saul see?
Although we can’t prove it, it’s possible that Saul was blinded by the face of Jesus. On a couple of occasions in scripture, Jesus shone like the sun. “He was transfigured before them; and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as light” (Matt 17:2, see also Rev. 1:16). Barnabas told the disciples that Saul “had seen the Lord on the road” (Acts 9:27).
“And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Hebrew dialect. Some Bible translations have the Lord speaking the common language of Aramaic, but the original word here means Hebrew (Hebrais). (Aramaic is not a Hebrew dialect but a separate language.) The Lord spoke to Saul in his native tongue and in the language of the Hebrew Bible. He did not speak to him in Greek.
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.’
(a) Turn from darkness to light. In the new covenant, repentance is often described as a return or turning to God (see entry for Acts 26:20).
(b) Receive forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift to receive, not a wage to be earned.
(c) Forgiveness of sins. All your sins – past, present, and future – were dealt with on the cross (Heb. 9:26). In Christ, you have the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). In him, you are completely and eternally forgiven according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7).
On the night he rose from the dead, Jesus instructed his disciples to preach the good news of the complete forgiveness or remission of all sins (see entry for Luke 24:47). After the cross, the apostles described forgiveness in the past tense and as a gift to receive (see entry for Acts 13:38).
(d) Those who have been sanctified. Throughout scripture, Christians are consistently referred to as sanctified saints (Acts 20:32, 26:18, Rom. 1:7, 12:1, 15:25, 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11, 16:1, 2 Cor. 1:1, Eph. 1:1, Php. 1:1, Col. 1:2, Phm. 1:5, Heb. 2:11, 10:10, 14, 13:24, Jude 1:1).
Christians are holy because Jesus makes them so (Heb. 10:10, 14). Collectively Christians are known as a holy priesthood and a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). The church is both God’s holy temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:21), and the Lord’s radiant and holy bride (Eph. 5:27).
(e) Sanctified. To be sanctified is to be made holy or whole and in Christ you are completely complete (Col. 2:10). Jesus is the Holy One (Mark 8:38), and “if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Rom. 11:16). Christians are holy branches connected to the Holy Vine. See entry for Holiness.
(f) Sanctified by faith. All of God’s blessings, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness and sanctification, come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows. See entry for Eph. 2:8.
but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
Repent and turn to God. In the new covenant, repentance is often described as a return or turning to God (Matt. 13:15, Mark 4:12, Acts 3:19, 9:35, 11:21, 14:15, 20:21, 26:17-18, 20, 2 Cor. 3:16, 1 Th. 1:9).
Many scriptures in the Old Testament link repentance with turning from sin (e.g., 2 Chr. 7:14). In the old covenant, God’s blessings were conditional on you humbling, praying, seeking, and turning. But in the new covenant, all of God’s blessings are poured out on us of the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:3, 7, 2:7).
Because of the change in covenants, it is a mistake to define repentance as turning from sin. Preach “turn from sin or you’re not saved” and you are preaching pure law. You are prescribing sin-rejection as a means for salvation. This false gospel leaves sinners worse off because it empowers the sin that enslaves them while scorning the grace that might otherwise save them (1 Cor. 15:56).
In the old covenant, repentance implied a turning from, as in turn from sin. But in the new, repentance means a turning to, as in turn to God (Acts 20:21). Turning from versus turning to may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s the difference between life and death. Someone who turns to God automatically turns from sin and dead works, but someone who turns from sin does not automatically turn to God. Consider the religious Pharisees. They turned from sin on a daily basis yet they did not recognize the Grace of God even as he came and stood among them.
See entry for Repentance.
(b) Performing deeds appropriate to repentance. Just as faith without works is dead, repentance without works is dead.
Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. They are both nouns that are evidenced by verbs – the things we do. So what are the deeds which are appropriate to repentance? The New Testament lists hundreds of imperative statements but the chief of all is to believe in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is both the will, the work and the commandment of God (John 6:29, 40, 1 John 3:23). See entry for Jas. 2:14.
“So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;
Having obtained help from God. Asking God for help in our time of need is how we receive grace (Heb. 4:16). God is our very great Helper who rides across the heavens to help us (Deu 33:26). He is our very present help in times of trouble (Ps. 46:1). See entry for Heb. 13:6.
(b) Moses said. Moses had a revelation of the coming Christ; see entry for Acts 7:37.
Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
A Christian. A follower of Christ; see entry for Acts 11:26.
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