|Volume 20 Number 4 April 2018||
One of the most vicious enemies of Jesus was Saul of Tarsus. He severely persecuted the church in Jerusalem and scattered it (Acts 8:1-4). Then, he pursued Christians to other cities, hoping to exterminate their faith (Acts 26:11). He also “…went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues [Jewish places of worship] of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
However, the message which Saul actually delivered to the synagogues in Damascus was very different from the message he had planned: “…he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20)!
What changed Saul’s mind and message? On the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him in a bright light, and he fell to the ground. After Jesus spoke to him, Saul stood up, opened his eyes and could not see. With the help of his companions, he went into Damascus. In that city, he did not see, eat or drink for three days—but he did pray (Acts 9:3-9, 11). Later, in his letters, he included himself with all “saved” people (1 Timothy 1:15-16; 2 Timothy 1:8-9; Titus 3:5).
So, where was Saul when he was saved? Many people teach that Saul was saved “by faith only” during that great event on the road to Damascus. One preacher even declared that Saul was saved as he was falling off his horse, before he hit the ground! However, the Bible does not mention a horse at all. In fact, Paul and the others had apparently been walking. After the Lord blinded him, Saul’s companions “…led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus” (Acts 9:8; 22:11). The idea of adding a horse to the story came from men, not God. Likewise, the idea of Saul being saved on the road is from men’s imagination, not from God’s revelation.
Actually, the Bible plainly tells us Saul was saved from his sins after he went into Damascus, not on the road. Blind Saul was waiting in a house in Damascus when Jesus sent Ananias to him. Ananias healed him, spoke to him about Jesus and finished by saying, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). This clearly shows that Saul had not already been saved on the road. He still had his sins when Ananias spoke to him three days later in Damascus. After Ananias spoke, Saul did not need to wait any longer. Through faith in Christ, he obeyed the Gospel that day; “…he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18). His sins were washed away by the blood of Christ when he was baptized into Christ. Saul was saved by God’s grace, through faith, when he was baptized.
Jesus is not appearing to people today as He did to Saul. Yet, Jesus is still blessing us through that great event in the life of Saul, who was later called “Paul” (Acts 13:9). He became a dedicated apostle of Christ and led many Jews and Gentiles to salvation!
Through Paul, the Lord told us that the location of salvation is “in Christ” (Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Peter 5:14). He reminded the Christians in Galatia how they entered into Christ: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). These, and many other verses, show that a sinner who believes in Christ is saved from sin at the moment of baptism (John 3:16, 3-5; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12).
We know Saul was not saved on the road to Damascus since he still had his sins three days later. We also know that he was saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:4-10), but not “by faith only.” Instead, he was saved “by faith when”—when he was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38; 8:36-38).
Recently, I mentioned briefly to you about the “each one bring one” concept in regard to bringing others to hear the Gospel preached from our pulpit. There are so many folks “out there” who don’t attend worship at all. The field is ripe for harvest. We just need to become the machines to make the harvest! Teaching others the truth of the Gospel is never an easy task because there are so many worldly beliefs and obstacles to overcome. Yet, we must start somewhere!
So many of the older congregations around us are just like ours; the numbers are dwindling, and, in many cases, worship services have been discontinued altogether at some congregations that at one time were dedicated centers of worship to God. That is so sad because, at the same time the congregations have ceased to meet, the population has increased, and modes of transportation have improved to make it much quicker and more comfortable to get around and to get to the Lord’s house.
I want to challenge you to start this program of “each one bring one.” Please consider that each one who is a Christian has the same direction from God to “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). None of us is exempt from this directive. I ask that you begin thinking of a particular person who you might get to come to worship services with you. Please, don’t just think about inviting your kinfolks or those who already attend worship somewhere else and who are already members of the Lord’s body. Think “outside the box” and bring someone who truly needs the Lord in his or her life.
My challenge is for you to bring someone outside the normal realm of those with whom you mention “church.” If the person you invite turns you down, don’t give up. Maintain your Christian attitude and continue to extend to the person the opportunity to come to worship with you. You can always offer to take your guest out to eat an inexpensive lunch after worship service. Perhaps there will be a common activity you can offer to share with your guest after lunch. Just use whatever means you have available to get the person to come with you to hear the Gospel preached.
Beloved, I fear that if we don’t all work at this task of “each one bring one,” one's congregation will cease to exist for lack of members and participation. I don’t want that to happen, and I trust that you don’t either since you have chosen your home congregation. Yet, we have fewer and fewer numbers in attendance in many churches. I appreciate that a church may be the oldest congregation in town, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to offer folks. If our families all ceased to function because of the aged people in the family, we soon wouldn’t have functioning families, and just so with any congregation.
Some find it hard to mention God and Christ to others. When you find it hard, first consider how much God loves you and what He did for you when He gave His Son to die on a cruel cross for your sins! You might consider through what the apostle Paul went to reach out to others with the Gospel:
In abundant labor, in stripes above measure, in prisons frequently, in deaths often; of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one; three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck and I spent a night and a day in the ocean; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, robbers, my own countrymen and the heathen; in perils in the city, wilderness, sea and among false brethren; in weariness, painfulness, watchings, hunger and thirst, in fastings often and in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
Surely if Paul could suffer all these things to reach a lost soul, we won’t find it difficult for “each one to bring one”!