3084. Paul's Parenthesis

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No. 3084-54:133. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, April 26, 1874, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, March 19, 1908.

By the grace of God I am what I am. {1Co 15:10}

For other sermons on this text:

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2833, “Lessons on Divine Grace” 2834}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3084, “Paul’s Parenthesis” 3085}

   Exposition on 1Co 15:1-20 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2287, “If There Is No Resurrection, — .” 2288 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on 1Co 15:1-32 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3286, “Fear of Death, The” 3288 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on 1Co 15 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2940, “He Must Reign” 2941 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on 1Co 15 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 66, 67, “Resurrection of the Dead, The” 63 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Re 7:9-17 1Co 15:1-28,50-58 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2659, “Fallen Asleep” 2660 @@ "Exposition"}

1. If you will read the context of this passage, you will find that these words occur in one of Paul’s digressions, or parentheses. He was a writer who very frequently went off on a tangent; he often left the subject on which he was writing, turned his thoughts in quite another direction, and then came back, and went on with the subject which he had left for a while. In this respect, I have often, in my own mind, compared the apostle Paul to Samson. When he was on the road to Timnath with his father and mother, he turned aside to kill the lion, and afterwards to find the honey in the carcass, and each time he came back to his parents just as if nothing had happened. So the apostle Paul often turns aside from some grand argument in which he is engaged, and says something very valuable and important on quite another topic, and then comes back again, and calmly and deliberately goes on with his argument.

2. There are some kinds of parentheses which we can always excuse, and, indeed, commend; for example, the parenthesis of prayer. When we are engaged in any duty, it will not delay us, really we shall make all the better speed, if we pause for a while to pray. I like to think of the apostle Paul, while he was writing that grand Epistle to the Ephesians, turning aside from his main argument to offer that great prayer, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fulness of God.” {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 707, “Heavenly Geometry” 698} His argument would not suffer in the least, indeed, it would be all the stronger for that little interval of prayer. At another time, it is very sweet to see how he pauses, after recording the Lord’s abundant mercy to him, to write that notable doxology, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Such parentheses of prayer and praise must be acceptable to the Most High.

3. Our text, then, is found in a digression of a very blessed kind. It would be good if preachers would digress like this nowadays, if by digressing they preached more of free grace and more about the Lord Jesus Christ. I have heard of a preacher who, on one occasion, when he entered his pulpit, found himself suddenly struck with blindness. I think it was old Dr. Gouge, the great Puritan. Being unable to read the discourse which he had taken up with him, and being a man of unusual calmness of spirit, instead of making any outcry, or telling the people that he had lost the use of his eyes, he preached extemporaneously; and when he came down from the pulpit, a woman thanked him for the sermon. “Alas!” said the good man, “a great calamity has happened to me; I have lost my sight.” “Blessed be God for that,” said the woman, “if it makes you give up reading your sermons, and enables you to preach as you have just done.” It is a good thing when a preacher loses the thread of his discourse if his discourse is made of thread, and he goes straight to the cross, and begins talking about Jesus Christ and him crucified; or if he has been wandering in the mazes of modern thought, it is good when he gets back into the old paths, and preaches about the grace of God; that is, if he can declare, as Paul does here, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” May God grant that those who preach free grace doctrines may never get out of the habit of doing so; and may those who have almost forgotten the sound of the word grace, and those who never knew its music, be made to lose their way until they ramble into the blessed regions of the sovereign grace of God, for I am sure that nothing but the gospel of the grace of God will ever drive Popery out of this country. The only antagonist that can ever overcome the self-righteousness and priestcraft of Romanism and Ritualism is a clear, bold, outspoken declaration of the great truth that by the grace of God the saints of God are what they are.

4. I. Coming to the text, and speaking simply and plainly, and praying that God may speak to your hearts through my words, I want to prove to you, first, that THE TEXT CONTAINS A DOCTRINAL STATEMENT: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

5. And that statement may be read, first, as meaning this, — that Paul ascribed his own salvation to the free favour of God. He believed himself to be a regenerate man, a forgiven man, a saved man, and he believed that condition of his was the result of the unmerited favour of God. He did not imagine that he was saved because he deserved salvation, or that he had been forgiven because his repentance had made an atonement for his sin. He did not think that his prayers had merited salvation, or that his abundant labours and many sufferings had earned for him that blessing from God. No, he does not for a moment speak of merit, it is a word which Paul’s mouth could not pronounce in such a context as that; but his declaration is, “It is by God’s free favour that I, Saul of Tarsus, have been converted, and made into Paul the apostle, the servant of Jesus Christ. I attribute this great change entirely to the goodwill, the sovereign kindness, the undeserved favour of the ever-blessed God.”

6. Now, my dear hearers, let me put this truth very plainly, so that you may not misunderstand it. If you are saved, you do not owe your salvation to anything that you have done; nor, if you ever are to be saved, will it be the result of any goodness of your own. You may spin, but if you are ever saved, the first thing God will do will be to unravel what you have spun. You may clothe yourself in the gaudy garments of a self-made righteousness, but God’s first act of grace will be to strip you of them, and to make you feel that all such garments are nothing but filthy rags, fit only for the fire. You must deny your own merits, or you cannot have the merits of Christ. Your church-goings, your chapel-going, your baptism, your so-called sacraments, your confirmation, your private prayers, your family prayers, your Bible-readings, your good thoughts, your alms-deeds, — all these put together have no merit in them that could help you to go an inch towards salvation. Salvation is not by works, but by grace alone; and those who do not obtain salvation in this way will as surely perish as the blasphemer and the drunkard. There is only one way of salvation, the way of free favour. That was the way in which Paul went, and that is the way in which we must go if we would enter into eternal life.

7. The word grace, in Scripture, also means something else besides free favour; it very often means operative power. When the Spirit of God works savingly on the heart, the influence which he exerts is called his grace; so the apostle means here, “By the grace of God I am what I am”; that is, “Whatever I am that is right, God made me that. If I am regenerate, I must have been born again from above by the power of God. If I have repented, my repentance was the gift of God. If I have believed, my faith was the work of God. If I have perseverance in faith, that perseverance has been the result of the work of God in my soul. If I have ever prayed an acceptable prayer, it was God’s grace that enabled me to do it. If I have ever sung God’s praise so as to please him, that praise was first written in my heart by the Holy Spirit.” “What do you have which you have not received?” is a question to which the answer from every true heart is, “I have nothing which I have not received, except it is my sin; but all I have that is good must have come from God.” If any of you are to be saved, God must save you. Sinner, you are lost, and lost beyond recovery by any hand except is divine and omnipotent. “It is not by him who wills, nor by him who runs, but by God who shows mercy.” Let that text roll like thunder over the heads of those who think that they can save themselves. The Lord must do it from first to last. His is the first act of grace when he quickens the spiritually dead, and his must be the last act of grace when we lay down our vile bodies, and our spirit enters into the joy of our Lord.

8. Now, these two things being true, and being surely believed among us, that salvation is by the free favour of God, and that it is by the power of divine grace, I think I may say that, if Paul had been here, he would have pushed this matter a little further. There are some of our dear brethren, and true brethren, too, who do not see the doctrines of grace very clearly. They see men as trees walking, for they seem to attribute the fact of their salvation in part to themselves. I do not say as for merit, for I believe they abhor that idea; and I do not say as for power, for I believe they hold as earnestly as we do that the sinner is dead in sin, and that the power to act comes from the Holy Spirit. But, somehow or other, they make a great deal more of man’s will than I think they should; just as, on the other hand, some speak too little of the will of man, and treat men as if they did not have any wills, but were so many logs of wood. There is truth on both sides of the question; and, since some of my brethren preach the other view of the truth, I will preach that view of it which my text gives me.

9. If I am a saved man, how did I come to be saved? Someone asks, “But why are you saved, and not other men?” My dear friend, there are two questions there, so I must take them one at a time. Will you kindly let me take the first one, only altering it like this, — Why are you saved? If you are saved, there is a great difference between you and others who are not saved. You were once a lover of pleasure and of the world, and you are now a lover of God. Now, someone made that difference, and whoever did it, did a good action, so let his head be crowned. Here is the crown. Now, sirs, on whose head shall I put it? Have you made yourself to differ from what you used to be, and from what others still are? Are you prepared to wear the crown? You bow your head, and say, “Oh, no! Let the Lord have the glory for it.” Well, then, it is quite evident that God has made a difference between you and others, and that it was a commendable thing for him to do so; and since it was commendable for God to do it, it must have been so for God to purpose to do it; and if it was commendable for him to purpose to do it the day he did it, it was commendable for him to purpose to do it from all eternity; and so we get back to the old and glorious decrees and covenant of divine grace of which some are so afraid, though, as surely as this Book is written by God, it stands there that he has “from the beginning” chosen his people to salvation.

10. “By the grace of God I am what I am.” If there is an Antinomian {a} here, he will very boldly declare the meaning of this passage; but I will speak as boldly as he does, and dare to do it with the truth on my side. I am sure that this is pure unadulterated truth, that grace, grace, grace, grace saves the soul from beginning to end; but if you ask me, “Why is a man lost?” then the Antinomian and I will differ altogether. I say, if he is lost, it is his own fault; it is his sin and his wilful rejection of Christ that cause him to be lost. And if there is any Arminian here, who will lay the guilt of sin on the sinner’s conscience, I can do that as much as he can, and I believe I shall have Scripture with me in doing so. Damnation is all by man from first to last, and salvation is all by grace from first to last. Someone asks, “How do these two things agree?” No, brother, how do these two things disagree? If you will tell me when they quarrel, I will try to reconcile them. They stand in this Book side by side as two grand inspired truths, and they should be preached side by side. They never did fall out, and they never will. If you love self-righteousness, they will quarrel with you; but they will never quarrel with each other.

11. II. Now, secondly, I shall briefly treat our text, AS A GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT.

12. Here is a child of God who stood very high among his fellow believers, one who had many gifts, much grace, great success, and high honour in the church; yet he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” It would be right for any of us who are nobodies, and who never did anything, to talk like this; but this is Paul who is speaking, the one who could truthfully say, “I was not a bit behind the very chiefest of the apostles”; yet he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

13. Paul’s grateful acknowledgment means, first, that he forbade himself ever to boast. Why should he boast? Whatever he had that was good had been given to him by the great Benefactor, so he might well have said, “What do I have in which I can boast? I am nothing, and I have done nothing, except what God has made me, and what his grace has created in me and by me.” Beloved friends, it is an astonishing thing that we should be the subjects of pride; yet, considering what poor creatures we are, it is not astonishing that we are proud, or that we are anything that is bad. But if we are proud, what fools we are! Proud? — just a heap of dust and ashes that the wind would blow away if it were not for a daily miracle, — just a mass of corruption that would be putrefying in a few hours if the life were gone out of it, yet we swell up, and think ourselves some great ones; and, oh, what big somebodies we are until the grace of God brings us down to our proper level! The heavens themselves are scarcely high enough for our tall heads, we think ourselves so great; but it is a death-blow to boasting when anyone can say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

14. And, dear friends, this grateful acknowledgment stimulates us to holy service. If everything that we have already received has come from God, let us surrender ourselves and all we have to God. Since he has made us, let us live for our Creator. Since he has accomplished all our works in us, let us give up to him our spirit, soul, and body as our reasonable service. Debtors to free grace as we are, if others talk about good works, let us go and do them. While the idle dream of self-righteousness leads some men to make sacrifices, let gratitude for free grace constrain us to make even greater sacrifices.

15. Moreover, our text, I think, as a grateful acknowledgment, leads us to further confidence in God. If by the grace of God I am what I am, then by the grace of God I shall be, eventually, something even better. He who has brought us to repent and to believe will bring us to greater faith, to fuller assurance, and to more complete conformity to Christ, and will preserve us to the end. When anyone tells us that God will leave us to perish at the last, I never care to reply to them, for it always seems to me that those who talk like that about my Master do not know him. What, leave his beloved, leave his spouse, leave the members of his own body to perish? It is useless to tell us that. He loves his own with too mighty a love ever to cast them away. Let others say what they wish, I join with Paul in saying, “By the grace of God I am what I am”; and I am persuaded that, by that same grace, I shall one day be with Christ, and be like him. You who are not the subjects of divine grace may well fear that you will perish; but you who have received God’s grace may rest assured that, since grace was the motive which began the good work in you, the same motive will continue even to the end. If God had begun saving us because we were good, he would of course stop saving us when we were not good. If he had begun to save us because we were pure in heart, and gracious in life, he would stop when we ceased to be so; but since he began to save us from no motive but his own sovereign determination to save us, how can that be affected by anything that may happen to us? So let us fall back on this comforting assurance, by the grace of God we are what we are, and by the grace of God we shall one day share Christ’s glory.

16. III. I will not say more on that part of the subject, though it is one on which I might profitably speak for an hour; but, in the third place, I want you to regard the text as A SWEET ENCOURAGEMENT.

17. A sweet encouragement to whom? Why, first, to the minister. Beloved friends, he who is now speaking to you feels himself to be a marvel of the grace of God, and he can say to you honestly, and without any mock humility, that since God saved him, he has never doubted the possibility of the salvation of anyone else of the whole human race. Preserved from outward sin of the grosser kind, I nevertheless, had for some years such a full sense of my own depravity, and such a horror of darkness on account of the evil that I saw within myself, that I can have sympathy with the most despairing soul that is here. If you are sitting at hell’s dark door, I can tell you that I sat there month after month; and if you are tempted even to commit suicide, I can assure you that I have known the misery that Job felt when he said, “My soul chooses strangling, and death rather than my life.” Yet I am saved by the sovereign grace of God, glory be to his holy name! If the Lord sent me to preach the gospel to the devil himself, I should believe that God was able to convert even him. I know that he never will do so; but if there is any man who is as bad as the devil, and the gospel is sent to him, I shall never despair of the possibility of that man being reclaimed, and made to stand among the redeemed at the last. I know that there are many here, who were drunkards and swearers, and worse than that; but they have obtained mercy, they have been washed in the precious blood of Jesus, and they are rejoicing tonight that their many sins have been forgiven them for Christ’s sake. Those who have been in such a plight as that, do not despair of the salvation of the greatest sinners here. You have gone far into sin, but you have seen another saved who was once just what you now are, so why should you not be saved? There have been murderers saved, then why not you if your hands are red with the blood of others? There was a thief who was saved at the last hour, then why not you if you are a thief? There have been many Magdalenes saved, then why not you if you belong to that sad sisterhood? Oh you who lie despairing, at the gates of hell, the silver trumpet of the gospel is sounded in your ears by one who has enjoyed its music in his own soul. What an encouragement it is to the preacher when he can say, “By the grace of God I am what I am!”

18. And what an encouragement it should be to the hearer when he is told that salvation is all by grace! If Christ came to you, and said, “You cannot be saved unless you perform so many good works,” there would be no hope for most of you, though I fear that there are some who think that such a message would just suit them, for they imagine that they have done a great many good works. In cherishing that delusion, they are like a Hindu of whom I once heard. He believed that he must not eat any animal substance, or that if he did he would perish. A missionary said to him, “That idea is ridiculous. Why, you cannot drink a glass of water without swallowing thousands of living creatures.” He did not believe it, so the missionary took a drop of water, and put it under the microscope. When the man saw the innumerable living creatures in the drop of water, what did he do? Why, he broke the microscope; that was his way of settling the question. So, when we meet people who say, “Our works are pure, and clean, and excellent,” we bring the great microscope of the law of the Lord, and we tell them to look through that; and when they do look through it, and discover that even one sinful thought destroys their hope of salvation by self-righteousness, and when they see a whole host of sins in every one of their prayers, or acts, or thoughts, then they are angry with the preacher, and they try to break the microscope. But, for all that, the truth remains, “By the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

19. But salvation comes by grace. Grasp that, sinner; for, if it is by grace that sinners are saved, why should you not be saved? If a thing is given away, no one can be too poor to have it. If it is the gift of charity, poverty is a recommendation rather than a hindrance. My Lord and Master does not tell me to come and say to you that salvation is by your own feelings. It would be as impossible for you to feel properly as to do properly; but salvation is entirely by God’s grace. “But,” says someone, “my heart is hard.” Then come to God to have it softened. “But I have no good thing to bring him.” Then come to him for every good thing. “But I cannot even bring a sense of need.” Then, come without a sense of need; for the man who feels that he does not have a sense of need is often the one who has the best sense of need. He who says, “I have at last a sense of need,” shows that he has not gotten to the bottom yet; for if he were brought to the bottom, he would feel that he did not have any feeling, he would groan that he could not groan, and grieve that he could not grieve. Dear friends, you have to do nothing, and to be nothing, and to feel nothing by way of fitness for salvation, but just to come and accept, free, gratis, for nothing, the abundant mercy of God in Christ Jesus. He is the empty sinner’s fulness, the dead sinner’s life, the perishing sinner’s salvation. I do not know any truth that can encourage poor sinful souls to pray, to repent, and to believe in Jesus except the truth that salvation is all of grace from first to last. Just as the apostle was saved by grace, so it must be with all the rest of us, and so may it be with you!

20. IV. Now, to close, I think our text gives us A SUGGESTION FOR SELF-EXAMINATION.

21. “By the grace of God I am what I am,” says Paul, and I want each one of you to ask yourself, “What am I?” My eye cannot reach you all, but I want you to feel that God’s eye is looking at you, and that he asks you this question, “What are you?” Paul tells us what he is, but what are you? An unregenerate sinner? An unpardoned sinner? An impenitent sinner? An unbelieving sinner? Will you put on the right label, and wear it? I almost wish I had some labels to put on you, but let your own consciences do it; and when you get home, will you take your pen, and write down what you really are? You are either condemned or uncondemned; write down whichever you are, and look the truth in the face. No man is usually so near bankruptcy as the one who dares not look into his books, and that man must be bad who dares not to search his own heart. What are you, then, dear friend? Let that question begin your self-examination.

22. Here is another question, How much do you know about the grace of God? Paul says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” You see that the mark of a child of God is that by the grace of God he is what he is; what do you know about the grace of God? “Well, I attend my place of worship regularly.” But what do you know about the grace of God? “I have always been an upright, honest, truthful, respectable man.” I am glad to hear it; but what do you know about the grace of God? You think you do not need it, though you are not a saved soul; yet none are so certainly lost as those who think they do not need the grace of God. Has that grace ever changed you? “Well, I was born again in baptism.” Yes, I have seen a great many of those who were said to have been born again in baptism, but I have not seen any difference between them and those who were not born again in baptism, nor can anyone else. “You must be born again,” even you baptized heathens who know no more about the grace of God than if you had never lived in a land where the gospel is preached.

23. I will ask you another straight question, Is Christ Jesus your only hope? Were you ever made to feel that there was no merit in anything that you ever did? Were you ever thrown flat on your face on the grace and mercy of God, and made to pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, “God be merciful to me a sinner?” If not, what is your hope? If there is, in the matter of your supposed salvation, anything that is not by the grace of God, do with it what the man did with the forged bill, bury it in the earth, and run away from it, and be afraid that anyone should think it was yours. Your own righteousness is such an abominable thing that it will as surely damn you as the greatest profanity; and the best thing for you to do with it is to bury it, and run away from it.

24. If you cannot say that you are what you want to be, if you cannot say that you know anything from experience about the grace of God, the last question I will ask you is this, What must that principle be which rules you? The grace of God made Paul what he was; what has made you what you are? “Well, sir, I think I am as good as my neighbours, and rather better than most of them.” Who made you so? I suppose you are a self-made man; and it is a matter of fact that everyone worships his creator, so that if you believe that you made yourself, I am not surprised that you worship yourself. But I do wonder where you expect to go when you die, you who have never done any wrong, and have been so good that you do not need a Saviour. Do you expect to go to heaven? Well, if you could go there, what would you do? I read, of the multitude that no man could number, “These are those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.” But if you could get there because your garments never needed any washing, surely you would throw up your cap, and say, “Well done myself!” And what a discord that would cause in the music of heaven! What a stranger you would feel among those multitudes who would all praise the blessed God! But you will never go there until you fling that righteousness of yours back to the pit from where it came, for there is nothing in it that God can look at with pleasure. It is a vile compound of pride and ignorance. May the light of the Holy Spirit shine on it, and make you loathe it and detest it, and flee from it, and may he teach you that there is life in Jesus, there is pardon in Jesus, there is salvation in Jesus for every soul that comes to him! If you say, “By my own merits and abilities I am what I am,” may God save you from that dreadful delusion, and bring you humbly to trust in the merits and sacrifice of his dear Son! So you shall find salvation, and he shall have the glory, world without end. Amen.

{a} Antinomian: One who maintains that the moral law is not binding on Christians, under the “law of grace.” spec. One of a sect which appeared in Germany in 1535, alleged to hold this opinion. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ac 9:1-31}

1. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, — 

Notice that little word “yet.” “Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord”; but there was to be a point beyond which he could not go. I pray God that there may be such a “yet” as that put into the histories of any here who are opposing God and his Christ. “Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter,” — as if they were his very breath, as if he only lived to blaspheme the name of Christ, and to persecute his followers, — “went to the high priest,” — 

2. And desired letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

He wanted his hunting-ground enlarged; he did not have enough to gratify his malice among the thousands of believers in Jerusalem, so he must go to Damascus to hunt for the Christians there. Paul was always very thorough in all that he did; so, when he was a persecutor, he was a very bitter one. It did not matter to him whether the saints were men or women. In ordinary warfare, it is the custom to spare the women. A brave man is satisfied to fight with men like himself; but a bigot’s zeal knows no bounds, and so Saul asked for letters, so that “if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”

3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus:

The lion is about to leap on his prey. The sheepfold lies in the valley, and the wolf surveys it from the hill-side. “Alas for the Church of God at Damascus!” you and I would have said if we had been there.

3. And suddenly there shone all around him a light from heaven:

A supernatural blaze, as though heaven’s gate had been thrown open, and the glory had come streaming down on this rebellious man.

4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Most people are converted in a somewhat similar manner to this. There is “a light from heaven” shining through the gospel on them, they fall to the ground in penitent self-abasement, and then they hear the voice of the Son of God speaking to their hearts. I do not mean that the external phenomena are the same as in the case of Saul of Tarsus, but the work is the same in its effects, and in some of its processes. Saul “heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” It was a voice divine, majestic, piercing, affectionate, convincing. Saul’s mind was of a deeply logical kind, so Christ’s question was an appeal to his reasoning faculties: “Give the reason for your present action. ‘Why do you persecute me?’”

5. And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

I do not doubt that he had been already pricked in his conscience, and he had kicked as an ox kicks against the ox goad when he is pricked by it to make him go forward. Saul was a man of strong will and determined purpose. He had already felt in his own heart some of the sorrows that follow from a wrong course of life, yet he resolved to persevere in it, so the Lord said to him, “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks”; and if any of you resist the thrusts of conscience and the strivings of God’s Spirit, you will be like a man, with naked feet, kicking against iron spikes, and hurting himself, but not injuring what he kicks against.

6. And he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”

This was a very natural question from one who had always tried to live by doing. He had been a workmonger up to that very moment, so he naturally cried, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”

6. And the Lord said to him, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told to you what you must do.”

“You must become a disciple, and sit at the feet of another man, of a humbler kind, and you must learn from him.” Christ will never teach us by visions what we can learn by the ordinary means of instruction, nor will he work miracles where common methods may suffice.

7. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, — 

They were struck with astonishment, — 

7. Hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

A loud voice stunned their ears, but they could not understand its message.

8, 9. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

What a whirl of anguish must his mind have been in all that time! The panorama of Stephen’s martyrdom and of the holy men and women against whom he had breathed out threatenings and slaughter would pass before his inward eyes, even though his outward eyes were closed.

10, 11. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Behold, I am here, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays,

God knows where every sinner is, — the street he lives on, the number of the house, and the name of the owner of the house, so that he can find him when he pleases, or send one of his servants to him. You remember what John Bunyan said to the Quaker who came to see him in prison. The Quaker said to him, “Friend John, I am glad I have found you at last, for the Lord sent me to you, and I have been through half the prisons in England trying to find you.” “No, no,” said Bunyan, “do not tell me that. The Lord did not send you to me, for he knows I have been here all these years. If he had sent you, you would have come straight to the prison door.” When the Lord calls a man to go on an errand for him, he puts his finger on the right place, and says, “Go there.”

12. And has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”

You see how true revelations fit into each other. Something is revealed to Ananias, and it is also revealed to Saul, and therefore it is proved to be true. Some years ago, a brother told me that he had had it revealed to him that I was to let him preach for me in the Tabernacle. I said that of course I would agree to that when it was revealed to me that I was to let him, but I did not believe in lopsided revelations. You will find a great many of those crazy revelations around, and you may generally judge them in some such common-sense way as that.

13-16. Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem: and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go your way: for he is a chosen vessel to me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

He had made God’s people suffer because of their loyalty to Christ, so it seemed only right that he himself should suffer for the same reason.

17, 18. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me, so that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he immediately received sight, and arose, and was baptized.

Since he believed in Jesus, it was right that he should confess his faith in the way that Christ appointed.

19. And when he had received food, he was strengthened.

Admire the tenderness of the Holy Spirit in recording that Saul received food, and was strengthened. He had been without food or drink for three days and nights, so that it was as right for him to partake of food as to confess his faith by being baptized.

19. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples who were at Damascus.

So the lion lay down with the lamb, and the wolf with the kid.

20. And immediately he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

How he must have startled his Jewish brethren that day! They knew why he had come to Damascus, but, behold, he was preaching the very faith that he had gone there to destroy!

21-25. But all who heard him were amazed, and said: “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and came here for that intent, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. Now after many days were past, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

I never heard of a more precious basketful of material than that. Sometimes, the greatest of men may owe their safety to the very poorest of instruments; and I think it is the duty of a Christian to avoid trouble if he can, just as our Lord told his disciples, when they were persecuted in one city, to flee to another. Paul was carrying out that command of his Master. It was not cowardice, it was the very soul of courage, that he might go elsewhere to proclaim the gospel that he had received in Damascus.

26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.

They did not admit just anyone into the Church. They guarded it as Christ’s Church should be guarded, so that unworthy people might not enter it. If any of you should be kept back a little while, you can say to yourself, “Well, they kept back Paul.” We are poor fallible creatures, but we try to judge properly concerning those who wish to unite with us.

27-31. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Greeks: but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him out to Tarsus. Then the churches had rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.

Blessed be God for such a conversion as that of Saul of Tarsus!

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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