Acts 22:1-16 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.”
2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said:
3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,
5 as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me.
7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’
8 So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
9 “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.
10 So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’
11 And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.
12 “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there,
13 came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him.
14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth.
15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
This invitation of Jesus, to follow and serve Him, is Paul's greatest decision - as it is for all of us.
--Paul says, "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19). History shows his record.
--Three times in Acts, God tells Paul's conversion..Chapters 9, 22, and 26 .. so important it is to us.
--Life is full of decisions - we make decisions, and our decisions make us, or break us. Decide aright.
--Decisions as to career, dates, and life's mate; but the most important of all is to "follow Jesus."
All others are for time, for Jesus it is eternity.
In Acts 22 Paul is defending himself, before an angry mob in Jerusalem. We may outline to help, like this.
--I. PAUL'S CREDENTIALS (1-5), His Jewish background, as a Pharisee, trained by Gamaliel, religious, lost.
--II. PAUL'S CONVERSION (6-13), Jesus appeared to him on his way to Damascus, to persecute Christians.
--Saying, "I am Jesus .. whom you are persecuting..Arise, and go into Damascus, there you will be told all things.. to do." The Risen Christ was speaking.
--III. PAUL'S CALLING (14-16), "God..has chosen you that you should know His will..You will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
--IV. PAUL'S CONSECRATION, "Arise and be baptized."
It was Paul's greatest decision, to change from persecutor of believers, to follower of Jesus - willing now to suffer for the Savior, but enjoy His blessings.
The word decision is only twice found in the Bible..both in the same verse, Joel 3:14, "Multitudes in the valley of decision." Some of you are now in a "valley of decision."
--Like Paul, may we make the right one, as God leads.
One day I was in that valley, and made that decision for Jesus, what a blessing superb for me - an I assure you, that it will be for you, following Jesus.
--Followed by the second most important, a dear wife.
--Then, together, responding to His call to ministry.
--What is God calling you to do, for Him, my friend?
--Together you and I can point America back to God!
To follow Jesus is a decision Paul, and I, and every believer can live with. It is a life-changer truly.
--Not by rituals, rules, or "keeping the Law," but by "God's grace, in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit."
--Each may be "born again," as Jesus said in John 3.
Study the Book of Acts, and his Epistles, Paul knew, from what he had been saved from .. Who he had been saved by .. and what he had been saved for .. as well as the joys of heaven that he had been saved to.
"All things became new" - Paul had new relationships for he is now "Brother Saul" (v 13). He had received new sight. He had new life. A new name. And he had a new mission .. to seek to win a lost world.
--All are lost sinners, until Jesus comes in to live!
Moreover, Paul knew that he was saved .. how he was saved .. and by Whom he was saved. That is for us all to know.
With your Bible in Acts 22:14-16, note six things.
--1. "God has chosen you" - chooses all to be saved.
--2. "You should know His will." Whose? God's will.
--3. "See the Just One." Paul saw, heard - Jesus!
--4. "Hear the voice of His mouth," God's Word.
--5. Be His witness to all men." To tell others.
--6. Be baptized, " like Jesus was. It pleases God.
To this invitation, millions have made a decision - that is life's greatest! "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." I know none who regret it.
--I've met some who regret they didn't make it - or didn't make it much earlier in life.
Some make think, the Lord has not appeared to me!
--Nor to me either, personally. But He does speak!
--God speaks through His Word! A sermon. A song.
--By His Spirit. A friend. In sorrow. Suffering.
--By someone's kindness. Or divine deliverance.
--But are we listening? Paying attention to Him?
We have spent times at the church and home in London and Bristol, England of Charles Wesley - whose preaching and hymns brought so many to Jesus.
--Over the sanctuary, in Bristol, are rooms for John and Charles Wesley; and for Adam Clarke.
--It was where Adam Clarke wrote much of his excellent Bible Commentary, that I recommend to students.
--In it, Clarke says that Paul's conversion is most remarkable. All are! But, especially that of Paul.
--Why? Because of his background .. the manner it was brought about .. the change in his life .. and work he did so tirelessly in evangelism and missions .. as well as the valuable letters that comprise much of the New Testament. Amazing influence, even today!
All brought about by a changed life. By the Savior.
--Friend, no one can argue with a changed life. By the Savior.
--That is as near proof-positive as one can get.
--Yet a changed life, without Christ, means little.
--The key is "Being born again" and living for Jesus.
It was a decision of which Paul firmly knew was real.
--There was no "hope so," or "maybe so." He knew so!"
--Paul documents it precisely. A good thing to do.
--He tells when he was converted - "about noon" (v 6).
--He tells where it happenend - "near Damascus."
--He tells how - "a great light from heaven" - Jesus.
--He tells who - "I heard a voice, 'Saul, why are your persecuting Me .. I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom you are persecuting.'" He gives us the details.
God has so much love .. so many blessings .. in Jesus.
--To share with you. Beginning with our conversion.
Maybe you are not sure you are saved. Do make sure.
--My dear friend, if we are saved, I think we know it.
--If we are alive, we know it. Married, we know it.
--We know most everything else pertinent to life.
--Why not to be able to know we are saved? We can.
--Paul knew. "I know," he wrote, "whom I have believed and am persuaded that
He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day" (II Timothy 1:12)
All religions - especially Christianity - are coming under attack in a rash of books promoting atheism.
--An atheist is one who believes there is no God.
--It is not new, but it is gaining strength.
Atheists and unbelievers may doubt and reject the Lord.
--Atheists are trying to take God from America's life!
--To deny God is like a mouse denying the elephant.
--The more I learned of God's Word the greater is God.
Let me share more of why it's life's greatest decision.
I. BECAUSE OF ITS INCLUSION - "WHOSOEVER WILL."
--The Gospel of salvation is available to everyone.
--Not many things are for everyone. But Jesus is.
--"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16)
--All races. Rich, poor; young, old, whoever believes.
--God can save anybody, but we must make the decision!
--We must pay for our sins, or accept Jesus' payment on the cross and resurrection, so all may live in Him.
II. IT IS LIFE'S GREATEST DECISION, FOR OUR SALVATION.
--Because, in Jesus, we have forgiveness, fellowship.
--We have salvation, assurance of life everlasting.
--No other Savior, or religion, compares with Christ.
Physical life, and birth, is God's marvelous gift.
--We are born .. grow up .. grow old, then what?
--God's salvation is for the here, and hereafter!
--What we go after here, decides where we go hereafter!
--The benefits of God's salvation are marvelous.
III. IT IS THE GREATEST DECISION FOR ITS DURATION
--It is forever, and forever - life without an end.
--Some may think death ends all, but certainly not.
--It is life everlasting, at its best; never grow old!
--With no infirmities! No medications. No deaths.
--My friend, the older one gets the better it is.
IV. IT IS THE GREATEST, BECAUSE OF ITS DESTINATION.
--There are two places we go, make sure of heaven.
--It is a place "Jesus has gone .. to prepare for us, and He will come again and receive us" (John 14).
--I want to be sure to go there. I want you there.
--Revelation 21 says of it, "No more sin, sufferings, sorrows, separations." All the things we'd like!
The decision is yours. What'll it be? Follow Jesus.
--May God's love lead us!
Wilbert D. Gough, ThD. DD. 819