July 25, 2014
Acts 9:1-9 (in context)
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Finally, we arrive at the proverbial yet literal “Damascus Road Experience.” Luke gives us a brilliant account of this “blinded by the light” encounter (no puns intended). We’ve already been introduced to Paul, whom I refer to as “the Osama Bin Laden of the New Testament.”
There’s a technical term for such an event: Divine Intervention. Kingdom Enemy #1, possessed by a vituperative, vitriolic, even demonic anger (I’ve always wanted to use those two “v” words in a sentence. ;0) meets his maker in the form of a forceful light and a piercing voice. Saul legitimately thought he was doing God a favor. He had absolutely no use for Jesus, and his sole ambition was to wipe his followers off the face of the Earth. Saul, arrest warrants in hand turns out to be the one put under arrest.
As an aside, note how they referred to such people as,”people who belonged to the Way. [In these days when church folks labor to call themselves by anything other than “Christian” (i.e. Christ follower, Believer, etc.) I’ve often wondered why we don’t pull this one out and try it on for size again as in, “Yeah, I belong to the Way.”]
So what are we to make of this Damascus Road Phenomenon? On the one hand, we can celebrate it as perhaps the most important moment in church history, just after the Resurrection and coming of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, we must avoid the trap of setting this kind of experience as the norm for Christian conversion. Perhaps somewhere along the way you’ve been questioned as to the precise moment you became a Christian. It’s not a bad question, but having a definite answer is not necessarily necessary. (I’m on a roll today.) More than a “Damascus Road” story to speak of our salvation, we need a deeply inward experiential assurance of the love God has for us in particular. It is good to have a testimony that something happened somewhere in the past, but it is essential to have a growing assurance of something happening in an ongoing way.
The Don of the Damascus Road would later say it this way, The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16
Salvation is not something about which you convince yourself, nor is it a particular experience of which you try to convince others. We are given assurance of our salvation through the working of the Holy Spirit. Any authentic proof of our salvation to others also comes from the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Some people can not remember a time when they did not possess a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Others can tell you the day and time, and there are a thousand varieties of experience between these two scenarios. The critical question is, “Do you have an inward assurance in your own spirit that you are a son or daughter of God?” The need to convince oneself of their eternal security is itself the greatest sign of eternal insecurity. Our great need is not for a doctrine of eternal security but the graciously granted gift of Divine assurance which comes from the Holy Spirit.
Got assurance? If not, ask God to give you assurance that you are God’s daughter or son through the inner working of the Holy Spirit. And wait for it. He delights to do this.
Damascus Road Experience: Not required.
Assurance of Salvation: Prerequisite for the life hid with Christ in God.
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
[Note to the reader– I realize there is far more to the doctrine of eternal security than I have made it out to be here. One of my weaknesses (in addition to overstating my point at times) is that of being a bit too polemical on occasion. I am trying to get at the internal dynamics of salvation by grace through faith. I think I’m trying to make the point that to appeal to the doctrine of eternal security as exhibit 1A of one’s salvation is problematic. One needs the more sovereign gift of Divine Assurance– which is ultimate security.]
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