We live in a country where there are millions of stereotype ‘Christians’. There are millions of people who are ‘Christians’ because they repeated a prayer after a preacher which goes like this: “Lord Jesus I acknowledge that I am a sinner, forgive me my sins, delete my name in the book of death and write it in the book of life. Now I believe in you, Thank for accepting me. Amen!” Many would not accept that a person can be saved without a pastor nearby. Many would not believe that you are a genuine Christian if you told them that you do not know when you were saved.
It is in this light that I would like you to get it very clearly that it is God who is total control for the salvation of people. It is not the pastor or the preacher who is in charge. It is not the church that saves because the place does not matter. Neither is it the method used or time that saves it is God. Because God saves who He wants in His own time using whichever way may please and at a place of His choice. Brethren and friends this is the most important thing you can ever hear – IT IS GOD WHO SAVES!
1. God saves whoever He wants
Here we are talking about the conversion of a Pharisee called Saul of Tarsus the chief city of Cilicia. A very intelligent man affluent and well positioned man with all the privileges of life in terms of education, social class, influence and power. He had great knowledge from learning, natural gifts and talents and he used them all to advance his convictions. He had the best education being taught by the best teacher, Gamaliel and so rose to the highest point of being the Hebrew of Hebrews.
A man who described himself: “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”(Philippians 3:5-6). He lived a Jew , "My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. (Act 26:4-5)
Simply put, his religion and moral habits were impeccable. Yet he was not converted. He was living all this for vanity because without Christ he was without hope. But thank God for this did not hinder Christ from saving him.
Being as such, his great zeal to express his conviction and confession, Paul was a great threat to the Christians having killed so many in Jerusalem including Stephen the deacon. When Stephen died the Bible says that his clothes were thrown at his feet (7:58)and he particularly is identified as one who approved his death (8:1). He was ‘breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord’. He had power obtained from the high priestly letters to bind and drag both men and women to Jerusalem. He was a very violent unbeliever, a persecutor of Christ and His Church.
God can convert the very best (humanly speaking) as well as the very worst. God is not limited by the background of a person. It might be a momentary hindrance to the gospel but God will penetrate all the impregnable walls of the world to save His elect. Here Paul is called the chosen vessel and therefore God works to overcome all situations surrounding his life and rescues him by His grace. He mightily and powerfully conveys him from the darkness of Pharisaic religion which He had so strongly condemned to save Paul.
God can save you whoever you are. He is no respecter of persons – you realize that although there were other people in the company of Paul, there is no indication that they were saved. Paul was handpicked as we may call it, as a choice vessel to accomplish the will of God. Because we see Paul completely transformed at the end. He is so changed that you would not recognize him if you knew him earlier. His change was ‘immediately…’ (v20). He now believes the very Jesus that he hated and believes Him to be the Christ! What a leap of conviction! But even more shocking to everyone who heard him was that he started proclaiming Him to be God! (v20). He proved that Jesus was the Christ (v22). He also immediately identified with the very people that he persecuted. He devoted himself to the means of grace in which he could grow in faith. Would you then notice that when God saves, He saves completely?
Now if you think that you are in position or state that is too hard for God to save you then we have good news here. God is able and willing to save you today. If you think that it is hard for your son or daughter, your parent or relative or friend to be saved because of the sort of person they are, here is good news for you – God can save them regardless of their hardness of heart. If you think that because your son is such a drug addict who is beyond repair, still there is good news for you that God can save him as well. Who would not be saved? If you say that your son or daughter is mentally retarded and so he cannot be saved, then I tell you there is good news that God is able to save even such. It is God who saves – not the mind or the intellect but the person. Remember the Gadarene demoniac who the Lord healed and saved? He was completely saved (Mark 5). There is no one who is beyond God. He might be the worst of all the people, criminal or murderer or thief as well as a blasphemer – the grace of God is sufficient. Please let us not limit God in His way of saving people. Look at His church, there are men as well as women, boys as well as girls. In the church of Christ there are the rich as well as the poor, educated as well as uneducated, sick as well as healthy – all completely saved by the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ in whom there is salvation.
2. God saves however He wants
In the past conversions we have seen how God saved different people differently. Sometimes He saved three thousand at once through the preaching of Peter at the day of Pentecost; some other time He saved only one Ethiopian through a personal conversation. If you ask people how they got converted, then you would know for sure that God has His own way of saving people. The situations and are events are different. But there is a great remarkable change in the life of the one saved.
So how did God save Paul, in a way that is different from other conversions?
The resurrected Lord Himself appeared and preached to Paul! He heard Christ ask the question, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"… "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The Lord brought the Word to Paul and introducing Himself as Jesus – the earthly Name that He was given meaning that He was to save people like Paul from their sins and for this purpose then He reveals Himself to this man. Persecuting the church is equal to persecuting Christ Himself. He is the Head and we are members of His body because when a toe is injured the head must feel the pain. Still the message brought was through a voice and using understandable words. This was the greatest gospel message ever preached, the Lord, just like the way He had preached to His apostles after resurrection preached to Paul after resurrection and ascension! Paul himself reporting how he received the gospel says, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11,12)
What a privilege it was to hear from the exalted Lord of glory, to behold the beauty of His holiness, who was dead and is now alive. He who had ransomed for Himself a people. Him who has all power and authority. And what a gracious Saviour He is to come back to pursue a single man! It is the true picture of a good shepherd who leaves the 99 to look for the lost one sheep! And He came and obtained this sheep. There is no question that the Lord would pursue all who belong to Him by all means and bring them to salvation.
But we see that after the Lord subdued (by making him blind) this ravenous wolf into a the most calm sheep, He immediately sent him to the ministry of a man.
The Lord went and prepared His servant Ananias to be of ministry to Paul. Ananias was not excited to meet this man because his reputation of cruelty to Christians was well known in Damascus as in Jerusalem. However, he went after listening to the Lord, what a firm believer He was! Fearing nothing and no one because he knew the Lord Almighty was with Him. Note that after hearing the Lord Himself call Paul, ‘a chosen instrument of mine,’ he did not hesitate to call him “Brother Saul” Paul is now a brother! Brother meaning that he now belongs not to the Pharisaic party but to the family of God, having been forgiven his sins by Christ. Jesus whom he persecuted is now his Redeemer having cleansed his sins with His blood. To prove this, his eyesight was restored and he received the Holy Spirit and was baptized, being added to the church of Jesus Christ!
Let me assure you that God, using His appointed means, has different ways of working salvation in the lives of people. We should bear in mind that it is God saving and He has not said that he will consult us when he is about to save. He will do it the way He want. There is are those who being avowed enemies of Christ, have said that they will not go to church. But still God has got His own way of taking the gospel to them and they hear it. Take for example how Augustine was saved – while he was in a great distress refusing to submit to the power of the gospel - sensuality and pleasure being more attractive. He heard the voice of a child saying, “Take and read! Take and read!” He had a copy of the New Testament with him, so he picked it up and it fell open into Romans 13:13-14 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” This is what He said in his own autobiography, “I did not want or need to read any further. Instantly, as I finished the sentence, the light of faith flooded my heart, and all the darkness of doubt vanished.”
3. God saves whenever He wants
This was at time when Paul was at the height of Paul’s cruelty. He was at the height of his career, when he was not likely to be tamed. No apostle or disciple or Christian would dare approach him with the gospel. He was still breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples. It was when he had all the authority from the high priest himself!
It was at the time when no one would dare approach him with the gospel. Ananias well acknowledged to Christ that Paul was much evil to reckon with and given options he would rather not go to him (v13). Ananias knew very well that he had high priestly orders to carry out his threats against the followers of Jesus.
He was young and strong full of energy. It was a time when Paul had power and influence to do what he wanted. The whole region was in his hands because then he could do whatever he wanted in Jerusalem as well as Damascus. It was at a time when he was well armed with both authority and men to execute his commands.
Yet this is the time when he was saved. This is the time when the Lord the one who is truly Lord, the one in total control of everything. The one who reigns over the earth and the sea, without who nothing was created. The Lord who is overall and in all. The one who reigns through all the ages. He appeared to Paul and spoke to him and subdued him completely. He came with His mighty arm and changed his course of direction. He entered into Paul’s heart and mind and spirit, changing his plans, his desires, his attitude, his will and his person in entirety. God came and with the very power that raised Jesus from the dead made him alive in Christ and seated him together with Christ in the heavenlies to the glory of His mighty Name.
You realize that it was at midday – noon of the day as he himself says in 26:13 when the Lord of glory shined His marvelous light upon Saul, the king of sinners. The Lord appeared to him when he was most sober and alert. The Lord came when there was no doubt that he and others were neither dreaming nor hallucinating. It was at a time when his companions could hear the voice and the astounding occurrence when their master was overpowered by a greater and more powerful Lord! For three days, three good solid days that great murderer of the saints was being tamed to be a fisher of men. He was being transformed in his very essence. Paul was in three days made to be a Christian fit for heaven and fit to be used in the Kingdom of God. In those few days He was made blind to sin, yes dead to sin. In those three days he was converted.
Time is not an issue when God wants to save because He created time and Himself is not limited by time as he lives outside time. He saves whenever He wants. It might be at youth or at old age. It might be at dawn or at twilight. It might be at one or at two or three… time cannot and will never be a time when God wants to save. God is neither hindered by daylight nor by darkness to save. His hand is not stayed by teenage energy nor by the grey hair. His power to save cannot be reduced by anything – He can and has saved some in the noon of the day and others in the moon of the night. His arm cannot be stayed by anyone or anything when He wants to save. He can save now just like He saved us yesterday.
Do not wait for some time if your time in future yourself it is now do not linger. Because you have heard the gospel today plead with Him to extend His hand to save you, do not hesitate to turn to the Saviour in faith and repentance and find mercy and pardon for your sins. Please turn to Him now and obtain mercy.
There are those of you who have been here for so long please come to Christ today and He will save you. Behold, today is the day of salvation, you are hearing His voice now please do not ignore it. Do not make your hear dull or deaf. Belief in Jesus Christ and find life.
If you had given up on the salvation of your husband, here is good news for you because if God wills to save him he will save as soon as He wanted without delay. If God wanted to save your rebellious daughter or son or friend, definitely He will save him.
However, there are those who gamble with God by assuming that He will save their future ‘husbands’ and ‘wives’. I am referring to the young people who disregard the Word of God and say that God will save them in the right time. Please do not put the LORD your God to test by thinking that you can be married by a unbeliever because you presume to know the time of God to save. The Bible clearly talks of a believer marrying a believer only why do you think that you will help God in planning by marrying one who He has clearly refused. Trust Him for the right spouse the right time.
On the other hand, we are to also bear in mind can save the children as well. There are those of us who God saved at a very tender age, thank the Lord. We should not think that children are saved. There are those who were saved in their old age and rightly so because that was the plan of God. You should not grumble before the Lord by saying that you were saved late. Instead rejoice that there are many sins that cannot attract you as they do trouble the young people. God’s timing is the best and we should always know and appreciate that God saved us at the moment when it pleased Him and not where we wanted and being a gracious Father who knows well enough how to give good gifts.
4. God saves wherever He wants
Here we have a man with immense influence and power, with a band of his colleagues going to Damascus. He is converted not in a church building or in a church meeting but on the road! Do you think he was not saved because the pastor was not there? No at all because he was completely saved! Look at the transformation that took place in his life and there will be no doubt that this man was completely saved.
The Lord met him on road and flashed the great light of His saving grace on him. Note that even after this incidence on the road the apostles did not even go to pray for him to be saved. Even the disciple Ananias who was sent to did not have some special powers. He only went at the prompting of the Lord and all that happened was not because he was in a ‘holy ground’ or in a ‘sanctuary’ as we may call it but because the saving work of the Saviour was effected on him.
Brethren and friends I have given you four things indicating one big truth – that God saves when He wants to save. He will save the person that He wants to save, He will save him the way He wants, when He wants wherever place the person may be. Now you are privileged to be in the company of God’s people today – where the Lord has promised to be (Matt. 18:20). What a conducive time and place it is for you now to be saved? How great an eternal relief you would obtain where you to trust in this Great God, Jesus Christ who is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to Him in faith?
Oh I urge you to turn from the fleeting pleasures of this life and turn to the eternal bliss and joy that the world has ever known? How I pray that you may trust in the Lord today and find peace that surpasses all human knowledge? How I pray that you will today give heed to His great invitation that you may come and enjoy the feast at His banquet, and find what Saul of Tarsus found – that which made Him to spend His entire life in the service of the Lord whom He met on the Damascus road?
And for you who have believed would you like Paul not keep quiet of the things that you have received from the Lord. How can you stop proclaiming the praises of Him who conveyed you into the marvelous light? He has enlisted you into His company. And your duty is to go and proclaim Jesus wherever you go. Paul proclaimed Him in the synagogues’ saying that Jesus is the Son of God. He proved to all and sundry that Jesus was the Christ. He did not fear the retribution from the Jews, because his fear was only to the one who can kill both the body and the soul. He confounded them by His turnaround for exactly was he had given his life to destroy is the same that he was building with all his strength. With the very same and even more effort (being strengthened by the Holy Spirit) he preached the Gospel. Where is the most of your energy spent? Is it in making money or in enriching the kingdom of God?
Brethren, what a joy to know that it is God who has saved us? So that there is nothing, no one who can pluck us from His hand! How reassuring to know that the very same God who saved us is saving more and more everyday! How great to know that your spouses and children and parents and relatives and friend and colleagues, regardless of their condition can be saved! What a great and dependable God He is! Praise His Name forever for His grace! AMEN!