By Joseph Ametepe
"Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? And he said, Who are You, Lord? And he said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do?'" (Acts 9:1-6).
The story of Saul's dramatic conversion is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament. Not because it is a story filled with high drama, but more importantly because of the many spiritual lessons preserved in it. I would like to share one of these lessons with you. The lesson is this:Jesus, the Risen Lord, is in full control of the affairs of His church. This principle is vividly and powerfully illustrated in this story. Often times, believers think that the "out of sight, out of mind" proverbial saying applies to God too. Yes, it is true among men that if you do not hear about or see someone or something for a period of time, you stop thinking about them. But that is not the case with the Lord Jesus. After rising from the dead and appearing to chosen witnesses, He was taken up into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Some years had passed after His ascension into heaven. During this time, the church had experienced growth despite attempts by the religious leaders to shut it down. In other words, it went through some growing pains. It had to deal with internal external and internal conflicts over this period. If the disciples were wondering about Jesus' control of the church, this story puts that concern to rest. Why? Even though the Lord Jesus had been out of sight, yet the care and control of His church was not out of His mind. This story shows how deeply invested and involved the Risen Savior is in the affairs of His church.
No doubt, for a long time, Saul had had his way in Jerusalem in persecuting believers in Jesus Christ. Later in life, he himself gave a fuller account of his determined efforts of persecuting Christians when he was giving his testimony before king Agrippa and Governor Festus. "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock many of the saints in prisons...but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities" (Acts 26:9-11). Having achieved great "success" in his work of persecuting believers in Jerusalem, Saul now sets his eyes beyond the borders of Israel. Having been given the full backing of the religious leaders of Israel, he set out for Damascus. His purpose was very clear. Bring believers, men and women, bound to Jerusalem, which is the headquarters of his "persecution business." Saul was so focused on pursuing and persecuting Christians. This was his sole objective at this stage of his life. It seemed there was no stopping of Saul. But the question is, is there someone to show Saul that He is in control of the affairs of the church? Is there someone to stop him in his tracks? Is there someone to bring Saul to submission to His authority as Lord and Head of the church? Yes, there is. He is Jesus, the Risen Lord! Not the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
Please notice, it was Jesus, the Risen Lord, who confronted Saul on his way to Damascus, not the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. It was Jesus, the Risen Lord, who converted Saul, not the apostles. It was Jesus, the Risen and Glorified Lord, who called Saul, not the Jerusalem apostles. It was Jesus, the Risen King, who commissioned Paul into His service, not the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. It was Jesus, the Risen Savior, who changed Saul's heart to submit to Him and His will, not the apostles. All this is to say that Jesus is indeed in full control of the affairs of His church. Yes, He is out of sight, but the care, concern and control of the affairs of His church is not out of His mind. He is in charge of the church's life. He is in command of the church's advance in the world. He has not left the control of the affairs of the church in the hands of feeble and frail men.
"Oh my Jesus, the Risen Lord, I thank You that You are in full control of the affairs of Your church. No matter how determined the enemies are in their desire to topple Your church, and thwart its advance in the world, they will not succeed. You have already defeated them and You will silence them. You will stop them even as You stopped Saul on the road to Damascus. You will strike them with Your hand of judgment. Blessed be Your name both now and forevermore. Amen."