I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a witness…to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Acts 26:16f
Three times in the Acts of the Apostles Luke recounts the story of Saul’s encounter with the risen Lord. Although each account varies based on the listening audience, one fact remains consistent. Jesus calls out — “Saul, Saul.”
Whenever I read these passages I hear echoes of the Old Testament. When Abraham was tested by God, when he was told to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering, he heard a voice from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” When Moses was tending his flock, and saw a burning bush, from it he heard the Lord call his name, “Moses, Moses! When Samuel as a young child under the care of Eli the priest was sleeping in the temple of the Lord, the Lord called to him, “Samuel! Samuel!”
In each of these great scenes, the word of Lord was calling them to be his witness. Abraham was called to be the father of Israel. His descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore, and through his off-spring all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:17-18). Moses was called to stand before Pharaoh and deliver the people of Israel out of bondage. He was called to lead them to the Promised Land, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob (Exodus 6). Samuel was called as a prophet of the Lord, to deliver God’s word to Israel. Through him he would anoint David to rule over the house of Israel, to establish his throne and kingdom forever (II Samuel 7:15). Like Abraham’s and Moses’ and Samuel’s calling, the Lord was calling Saul as a witness.
So often when we recall the story of Paul on the Damascus road, we relate it to Paul’s conversion. It is certainly true Paul was converted. He who was lost was found. He who was blind received sight. He who was dead in sin was made alive in Christ Jesus. While it is true Paul experienced a conversion, the Lord had something more in store for him. His conversion was not an end in and of itself. Tied directly to his conversion was his commissioning. He, like Abraham, Moses, and Samuel, was to bear witness to the might deeds of the Lord.
Romans is that witness. As we move through this letter we do well to remember the greatness of this work is not its theological arguments, or doctrinal statements, or spiritual insights. What makes this letter great is that it bears witness to the power of God’s salvation in and through the person of Jesus Christ. It is all about his redemption and reconciliation. It is all about his righteousness and the resurrection. It is about having a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
And that was what Paul was all about! He was called to be a witness! Paul’s greatest joy was to tell the wonderful story of Jesus and his love.
How are you a witness for the Lord? Does it give you great joy to share Jesus with others? Is it the theme of your life? Paul loved to tell the story. How about you?
I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.
I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
~Arabella K. Hankey
We are saved to serve, to testify to the grace of God found in Jesus Christ our Lord.