A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, October 20, 1878, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *1/3/2013
Who are you, Lord? … What will you have me to do? [Ac 9:5,6]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 709, “Kicking Against the Pricks” 700]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1520, “Pressing Questions of an Awakened Mind” 1520]
Exposition on Ac 9:1-22 22:1-16 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3205, “Scales Taken from the Eyes” 3206 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ac 9:1-22 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3515, “Fruits of Grace, The” 3517 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ac 9:1-31 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3084, “Paul’s Parenthesis” 3085 @@ "Exposition"]
1. Paul fell to the ground overcome by the brightness of the light which outshone the midday sun, and as he lay there he cried, “Who are you, Lord?” After receiving an answer to his first question, he humbly asked another, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”
2. This morning I spent all my strength, and I scarcely have any remaining for this evening, but the subject was well worthy of the greatest exhaustion. [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1439, “Receiving the Kingdom of God as a Little Child” 1430] I tried to show that we must receive the kingdom of heaven as little children, or else we could not in any way enter into it. I wanted, if I could, to add a kind of practical conclusion to that subject, something that would enable me, even more fully, to explain the childlike spirit which comes at conversion, and which is absolutely necessary as one of the first signs and results of the work of the Spirit of God upon the heart. I cannot find a better illustration of the childlike spirit than this one which is now before us.
3. Paul was a great man, and on the way to Damascus I have no doubt he rode a very high horse. He truly thought that he was doing God service. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and had a very high opinion of his own character; and now that he carried letters from the high priest, he felt himself to be armed with great power, and to be no lowly man. He would let those poor Christians in Damascus know! He would worry them out of their fanaticism. He would take care to let them see that Saul of Tarsus was greater than Jesus of Nazareth. But a few seconds sufficed for the Lord to alter the man. How soon he brought him down! The revelation of Jesus Christ himself from heaven soon subdued the great man into a little child, for the two questions which are now before us are extremely childlike. He enquires, with sacred curiosity, “Who are you, Lord?” and then he surrenders at discretion, crying, “What will you have me to do?” He seems to cry, “I give up my weapons. I submit I only ask to be taught what I am to do, and I am ready to do it, you have conquered me. Behold, I lie at your feet; only raise me up and give me something to do in your service, for I will gladly undertake it.” We must all come to this spirit if we are to be saved. We must come to think of Jesus so much as to desire to know him; and then we must reverence Jesus so much as to be willing to obey his will in all things. I am going to speak upon those two points with a measure of brevity tonight.
4. Our first object of thought will be — the earnest enquirer seeking to know his Lord; and the second will be the obedient disciple requesting directions.
5. I. First, then, if any one of us would be saved he must be brought by divine grace to be AN EARNEST ENQUIRER AFTER THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST. He must ask the question, “Who are you, Lord?”
6. Notice that he is willing to be taught. He lies there with the Christ above him, and he asks him a question. He is not only willing to learn, but he is eager to be taught. “Who are you, Lord?” is the utterance of his innermost soul. He wants to know. And do you not want to know, my hearer? There is only one name given under heaven by which you must be saved. Do you not wish to know something about him whose name it is? Are you indifferent to your soul’s affairs, careless about what shall become of your immortal soul? Did Jesus die, and is it nothing to you? Do you pass by his cross as though it were the market cross [a] of a village? Do you hear of his death as though it were some commonplace event in history to be once read and then forgotten? I trust it may not be so with you. But since you must either be lost or saved eternally, come and ask with deep anxiety, “Who are you, Lord? Who are you by whom I am to be saved? What right, what power do you have to save? What claim do you have upon my faith? Oh, tell me, for I long to know.” Lack of thought ruins half of mankind. If men were only anxious to understand the truth they would soon learn about it and receive it. If like the Bereans they would search the Scriptures to find the truth, or if like Lydia their hearts were opened to receive it, they would soon know the Lord. Like Paul, we must be willing to learn.
7. And, next, observe the subject that he wished to be instructed upon. “Who are you, Lord?” You have heard that Christ is the Saviour, let your ambition be to know all about him. I will tell you one thing: saints on earth, and even saints in heaven, are always wanting to have this question more fully answered for them, — “Who are you, Lord?” Those who know him best will tell you that there is something about him which still surpasses all their knowledge; and I suppose that even when we see him face-to-face there will remain a mystery in his matchless love, and an unsearchable depth in his divine person, into which even then we shall not be able to dive. “Who are you, Lord?” may well be the question of a soul that is seeking salvation, since it is still the question of those who have found it.
8. “Who are you, Lord?” What is your person? What is your nature? How is it that you are able to save? Learn well that he is divine, yet human; the Son of Mary, and yet the Son of God. He is man, your brother, touched with the feeling of your infirmities, yet he is God eternal, infinite, full of all power and majesty, assuredly divine. Learn this if you wish to be saved, and regard the Lord Jesus as God over all, blessed for ever, yet clothed in the form of a servant, and made in the likeness of sinful flesh. Learn that.
9. “Who are you, Lord?” What are your offices? If my eye could see you I would ask you, “What titles do you bear? What offices do you sustain?” He is a prophet; you must be instructed by him, and believe his teaching. He is a priest; you must be washed by his blood, and he must offer sacrifice for you; indeed, rather, he has offered it, and you must accept it as being for you and on your behalf. He is a king, too, and if you will be saved by him you must let him govern you. You must yield yourself to him and be his subject, and take up his cross and bear his easy yoke, which is no burden for the neck. He sustains the offices of prophet, priest, king, and a thousand other besides. Ask, you craving sinner, ask, “Who are you, Lord?” until you shall discover something about him that exactly suits you, and then your faith shall alight upon it and your heart shall cry, “He is all my salvation, and all my desire.”
10. “Who are you, Lord?” It is a question you may ask about his relationships. Who is he? The Son of the Highest, and yet the brother of the lowest. Who is he? King of angels and King of kings, and yet the friend of sinners and the helper of the most humble who will come to him. He stands as the head over all things to the church: his church’s husband and the world’s ruler, master of providence, sovereign of heaven, conqueror of hell itself. All power is in his hands. The Father has committed it to him, and now he stands in such relationship to us that if we believe in him he gives us eternal life, and guards us from all harm, for he has said, “I give to my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hands.” Oh beloved hearer, if you wish to be saved, study deeply that question, “Who are you, Lord?” and do not be satisfied until you know Christ and are known by him — until there is a mutual knowledge between you and himself, for it is only in this way can you be saved. An unknown Christ is no Christ for you. A Saviour whom you do not know is a Saviour who will not know you in the day of his appearing.
11. “Who are you, Lord?” Now, that question, as I have said, concerning Christ should be asked by all of us, but it is not at all a speculative question. It is a question of the utmost practical importance for every man, and in proportion as a man knows the answer to that question he will receive its practical result. Listen and perceive this. “Who are you, Lord?” What will be the first result of having this question answered?
Why, when Paul knew that he whose face had shone upon him brighter
than the sun was Jesus of Nazareth, he was seized with the deepest
possible contrition. “What!” he seemed to say, “have I persecuted
the Lord? When I was hunting down those poor people was I hunting
down the Messiah? Was I fighting against the Christ of God?” He had
not known that before, but when he knew who the Lord was then his
heart was broken within him with a deep sense of sin. Come now,
some of you; you have been living for years refusing true religion,
and despising it, but have you ever thought that you were refusing
Jesus Christ the Son of God, and despising the Beloved of God who
condescended to come into the world to suffer for love’s sake? When
they put Jesus to death he was, as our sweet poet puts it —
“Found guilty of excess of love.”
It was all that could be laid to his dear charge; but for excess of love he died. And you have refused him. You have now for these twenty years and more refused that thorn-crowned head, that brow so marred, those wounded hands, that gashed and wounded side! You have refused the matchless Saviour, without whom you are undone for ever! Have you known this? Have you done it wilfully? I hope you can reply, “But I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” Therefore he winks at your bad manners, and he invites you now to come to him and he will gladly receive you. He will in no wise cast you out.
13. To know Christ, then, is a practical knowledge, because it leads to repentance. When Christ is unknown we can go on refusing and even persecuting him; but when we clearly perceive that it is the Son of God and the bleeding Lamb whom we have refused and persecuted, then our hearts melt; we beg for his forgiveness, and cast ourselves at his feet.
14. A second practical result is that then our hope is encouraged; for though Paul at the sight of the Lord Jesus must have been full of bitter anguish, it was by that same sight that he was afterwards cheered and comforted. What! Are you in heaven brighter than the sun? Are you the man of Nazareth whom I have persecuted? Are you he who was despised and rejected? Oh you bright and shining one, are you that same Christ to whom the tax collectors and prostitutes drew near? Are you he who came to seek and to save those who were lost? Are you exalted on high to give repentance to Israel and remission for sins? Then there is hope for me. It is the sinner’s Christ that is in heaven, the same person who took the little children and said, “Permit them to come to me.” Oh, then, I will trust him. I feel I may, I can, I must. I yield myself to him because I know him now. I did not before. How practical is this knowledge!
15. And it had another effect upon Paul. It led him to complete submission. He said, “Is this Christ whom I have rejected Lord of all? Then it is indeed hard for me to kick against the pricks. I will not do so any longer. Resist him? That I dare not do! If all power is in his hands, then to oppose him is as hopeless as it is wicked. Behold, I surrender at your discretion. Oh Lord Jesus, be my king. Accept me as your subject. I oppose you no longer.” How I wish that Jesus would make some here know him who have never known him before — so that they may at this very hour yield to him; because if once they knew him it would fire them with ardour in his service. There never was a man yet who did really know Christ whom Christ did not fill with an inward flame, so that he felt he could live or die for him. Some human leaders have had such extraordinary influence over their soldiers that they have commanded and have been cheerfully obeyed, even at the cost of life. The Christ of God has a superlative power over all the hearts that know him. See how Paul felt his influence, and scoured the world to win Christ’s lost ones. Perils of robbers; perils of rivers, the deep sea itself, scourging, stoning; all these were nothing to the apostle from the day when he knew Christ. He had been extremely hot against him, but now he burns and blazes with zeal for him. And so it will be with all who know Jesus. Very practical, then, is the question, “Who are you, Lord?” Oh that the Spirit of God would lead everyone to ask that question for himself.
16. Only once more and I leave the question. It is this. While Paul was willing to learn, and his subject was important, for he wished to learn about Christ, and extremely practical, for it moved him to every good thing, it is worthy of remark that he sought for instruction from the best possible Master; for, my brethren, who else can tell us who Christ is except Christ himself? Here is his book. Read it. It is the mirror. Jesus is there, and he looks into this book, and if you look into it with well-washed eyes, you may see his reflected image in this mirror; dimly, however, at the best. So, too, when you hear his faithful servants preach you may see something of Christ; but let me tell you there is no sight of Christ like what comes personally to your own soul by the Holy Spirit. I do not mean that any men among us will ever see Christ while we are here with these eyes; and if we did, it might not do us any good, for thousands saw him who, nevertheless, cried “Crucify him.” But I do mean that there are eyes inside these eyes, eyes of the mind and of the soul, to which Christ himself must reveal himself; and I charge you who have never seen him like that to fall on your knees and cry, “Show yourself to me.” You must have personal dealings with him, each one for himself, and you may have these dealings. He is accessible tonight. He will receive you at once if you seek him. He has declared that he will not cast any out who come to him. Oh, will you not ask him to show himself to you? If you knew he would refuse you, you might be excused the prayer; but since he will reveal himself to every contrite, lowly, seeking soul, will you not seek him? Will you not even now humbly ask him this question, “Who are you, Lord?” Reveal yourself to me, as you do not do to the world, but as you do reveal yourself to seeking souls.
17. So then I leave that question to come to the second one. May the Holy Spirit help us while we handle it.
18. II. “What will you have me to do?” — THE OBEDIENT DISCIPLE IS REQUESTING DIRECTION.
19. We are always telling you that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ has everlasting life. That is the basic doctrine of the gospel; but remember that we never told you that you might believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and then live as you liked. May that be far from us! He who truly believes in Christ does as Christ tells him to, and becomes henceforth Christ’s servant and disciple as well as his saved one. Hence the question, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”
20. You will notice that the apostle here puts himself into the position of a soldier waiting for orders. He will not stir until he has received his officer’s command. “Lord, what will you have me to do?” He stands quite ready to do it; but he wants to know what the order may be, and therefore he looks up, and prays, “Lord, direct me. What would you have me to do?” It is he Lord’s will alone that he now intends to do. “Lord, what will you have me to do?” Before it used to be, “What will Moses have me to do?” And with some now present it has been “What should I like to do?” for whatever their soul lusts after that they have done, and whatever new pleasure, no matter how sinful it might be, if it were within their reach, they followed greedily after it; but he who would be saved must yield up his own will to his Lord. Now, beloved, take heed to yourselves that Christ is your Master, and no one else. It would never do to say, “What would the church have me to do?” As far as the church teaches what Christ taught, obey her, but no further. It would not even be right to say, “What would an apostle have me to do?” Paul said, “Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” But if Paul does not follow Christ, we must not follow Paul. He says, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel, let him be accursed”; and so let it stand. I consider it to be a sad lowering of a Christian’s standard when he takes any mortal man living, or even any man now in heaven, to be his guide and master. “One is your Master, even Christ”; and your question should be, “Lord, what will you have me to do? I see what I am told to do in the Prayer-Book. I see what I am told to do by learned and godly men, but these things have no authority over my conscience. Lord, what would you have me to do? If it is not your will and your word I know there can be no light in it, but what I do not know, teach me.”
21. And, then, see that this childlike obedience of the apostle is personal. It is, “Lord, what will you have me to do? I have little enough to do with my neighbours. They have their duty and their calling, but, Lord, what would you have me to do? Other people must follow the light they have; but, Lord, what will you have me to do? My father, my brother, my friend, I have no right to judge these: to their own Master they must stand or fall; but, Lord, what would you have me to do?” You who look at your own inability when you come to Christ, must come to him with a personal faith, pleading for strength to do his will. You must yield a personal obedience to Jesus, even if it should separate you from all your family. Let it separate the nearest ties, let it cause your past friends to give you the cold shoulder, let it subject you to persecution even to death; you have nothing to do with these consequences, your business is to say, “Show me what you would have me to do, and I will do it.” I mention a little incident in my own personal history, for which I have always had reason enough to thank God. When I was converted to God after some long time of bitter anguish of spirit I found rest; and the very first thing I did when I found rest in Christ was to read for myself the New Testament, and see what the Lord would have me to do. I found in the word of God the duty of believers’ baptism. I had never met any Baptist friends in my life until I had discovered the truth for myself. I had not even heard of their existence, so negligent had they been in the spreading of their views on that matter; but taking up the New Testament with my lexicon to see what the word meant, I found that the word baptize meant to immerse. When I read the Scriptures I found everywhere that believers were immersed. I did not at first know the existence of another person who held that opinion, but it did not matter to me in the least. I was only afraid that I might not find anyone to baptize me, but I meant to attend to the duty in some way or other. I discovered afterwards that there were many who had searched the Scriptures and had come to the same conclusion as myself; but to me, then, it seemed like coming away from all the Christian people that I knew. Have I ever regretted the step? No. Unimportant as some might think it is, it gave to my whole spirit and life a tone for which I have reason to thank God. I stood upon my own feet, having read the Bible for myself. I took my own way in obedience to my Lord and Master, and from that day I do not know that I have wilfully turned aside from his statutes, either in doctrines or in precept, but I have taught the faith as I have learned it. When I go to my room at night with a thousand imperfections to confess, yet I can feel that I have honestly and faithfully followed my Master. If I have erred it has been from lack of light, and not from lack of will to serve him; but if I had bucked against that first conviction, and if I had made little nicks in my conscience at first, could I stand before you all tonight and declare that I have not shunned both to do and to declare the whole counsel of God? I charge every young man as soon as he believes in Christ to read and search the Bible for himself, and say, “Show me what you would have me to do.” I would rather be right alone than be wrong with all the world: and every honest Christian man ought to feel that he would rather follow Jesus Christ with two or three than run with a multitude after the traditions of men. May God help you, beloved, as soon as you are converted to become thoroughly obedient disciples, searching the Word. I do not set so much importance upon the result of your investigation as I do upon the investigation itself. I care less for the result you arrive at than I do for the spirit which would lead you, as a disciple, earnestly to desire to follow your Master, and would lead you to do everything that you believe to be his will — the little as well as the great. May the Lord help us to be anxious to know and do his will in all things, fearless of consequences.
22. Notice again, that the apostle not only puts it personally, but he pleads for grace at once. “Lord, show me what you would have me to do,” as much as to say, “I will do it immediately.” He does not ask to be allowed a little delay, but “What would you have me to do? Here I, your willing servant stand.” Young man, if you would have salvation you must be ready to follow Christ tonight. Tonight, it may be, is the time when the Spirit of God is struggling with you, and if resisted he may never return. Just now the scales hang in an even balance. Which way shall they turn? It may be tonight for death or life the scale shall turn for the last time. Oh blessed Jesus in heaven, why should we hesitate if you will indeed save us? We may well make a complete surrender and say, “Now, even now, I enlist beneath your banner, for I am your willing servant.”
And observe, once more, that he does not make any kind of
conditions. What would you have me to do? I will do it. If
unpleasant to the flesh it shall be pleasant to my heart: and if it
appears stern, yet if you will help me I will do it, “What will you
have me to do?” Saul little knew when he asked the question what the
doing of his Master’s will would involve, but he meant at the time
that whatever it would involve he was prepared for it. Oh you who
wish be Christians, do not suppose that it is just believing
something — an article of a creed, or undergoing a ceremony — that will
save you; you must, if you are Christ’s, yield yourselves up to him.
He did not come into this world to lead men to heaven by back roads
and crooked paths, but he leads them into the way of righteousness,
the end of which is everlasting peace. Will you be child enough to
follow him? Will you have the childlike spirit which only needs first
to know who he is and then exclaims —
Through floods or flames if Jesus lead
I’ll follow where he goes.
May the Lord grant it may be so with us!
I close with just this remark, that it is by knowing Christ that you
will learn to obey him, and the more you obey him the more easy it
will be: and in obeying him you will find your honour. Paul to this
day stands in a most honourable place in the church of God, simply
because being called by God to do his will he did it faithfully even
to the end. Is it not beautiful to see how Paul in one moment seems
to have forgotten all his old Pharisaism? All the harsh words and
bitter blasphemies that he had spoken against Christ, they have all
gone in a moment. What strange changes will come over some beings in
an instant. One of my students who has been a sailor has preached the
gospel for a long time, but his English was far from grammatical.
Having been in college for some time he began to speak correctly, but
suddenly the old habit returned to him. He was on the Princess
Alice [b] at the time of the lamentable catastrophe, and he escaped
in an almost miraculous manner. I saw him some time later, and
congratulated him on his escape, and he replied that he had saved his
life but had lost all his grammar. He found himself for a while using
the language of two or three years ago: and even now, though he is
recovering his spirits, he declares that he cannot get back what he
had learned. He seems to have drowned his grammar on that terrible
occasion. Now, just as we may lose some good thing by a dreadful
accident, or occurrence, which seems to sweep over the mind like a
huge wave and wash away our treasures, so by a blessed catastrophe,
if Christ should meet any man tonight; much which he has valued will
be swept away! You may write on wax, and may make the record fair.
Take a hot iron and roll it across the wax, and it is all gone. That
seems to me to be just what Jesus did with Paul’s heart. It was all
written over with blasphemy and rebellion, and he rolled the hot iron
of burning love over his soul and the evil inscription was all gone.
He ceased to blaspheme, and he began to praise. May the same be
done for many here present to the praise and glory of my Master’s
love and power. Amen and amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ac 26]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Invitations — None That Come Cast Out” 505]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Contrite Cries — Desiring To Submit” 589]
(Hymn No. 109 from Mr. Charlesworth’s Book, “Flowers and Fruits of Sacred Song”)
[a] Market Cross: A cross erected in a market-place. OED.
[b] SS Princess Alice: The ship was a Thames river paddle steamer which sank after a collision with the Bywell Castle off Tripcock Point on September 3, 1878 with the loss of at least 600 lives. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Princess_Alice_(1865)"
505 — None That Come Cast Out
1 Hark! ‘tis the Saviour’s voice I hear,
Come, trembling soul, dispel thy fear;
He saith, and who his word can doubt?
He will in no wise cast you out.
2 Doth Satan fill you with dismay,
And tell you Christ will cast away;
It is a truth, why should you doubt?
He will in no wise cast you out.
3 Approach your God, make no delay,
He waits to welcome you today;
His mercy try, no longer doubt,
He will in no wise cast you out.
4 Lord, at thy call, behold! I come,
A guilty soul, lost and undone:
On thy rich blood I now rely,
Oh, pass my vile transgressions by.
Samuel F. Smith, 1850.
The Christian, Contrite Cries
589 — Desiring To Submit
1 Oh that my load of sin were gone!
Oh that I could at last submit
At Jesus’ feet to lay it down,
To lay my soul at Jesus’ feet!
2 When shall mine eyes behold the Lamb?
The God of my salvation see?
Weary, oh Lord, thou know’st I am;
Yet still I cannot come to thee.
3 Rest for my soul I long to find;
Saviour divine, if mine thou art,
Give me thy meek and lowly mind,
And stamp thine image on my heart.
4 Break off the yoke of inbred sin,
And fully set my spirit free:
I cannot rest till pure within,
Till I am wholly lost in thee.
5 Come, Lord, the drooping sinner cheer,
Nor let thy chariot wheels delay;
Appear, in my poor heart appear!
My God, my Saviour, come away!
Charles Wesley, 1742, a.