Today’s selected reading continues in the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints of Galatia which is found in the New Testament. More specifically, today’s reading is found in the first ten verses of the second chapter. As the second chapter of the epistle of Paul to the churches of Galatia begins, it does so as a continuation of the train of thought that is found in the first chapter. If you read verses eleven through twenty-four of the first chapter you will find the apostle Paul recounting his experience immediately after the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ to him on the road to Damascus. When reading and studying these fourteen verses I can’t help but be wonderfully and powerfully gripped by the journey of the apostle Paul from the encounter he had with Jesus the Christ on the road to Damascus to the moment he appeared in Jerusalem and stayed with the apostle Peter before meeting with James Jesus’ brother. If you study the chronology of the apostle’s life you will notice that first came the encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus—an encounter which not only through him from his horse, but also left him blind for three days. That day on the road to Damascus the apostle Paul not only had his name called specifically by Jesus Christ, but the apostle Paul was also asked why he persecuted the Christ. One thing that is worth noting is that when the Lord Jesus appeared to sail on the road to Damascus, He didn’t ask him why he persecuted the church, or why he persecuted the churches, but rather, why he persecuted Him. Saul was confronted with the tremendous reality that his actions were not directed to the church alone, but was directed to ward and against Christ Himself. When Saul was thrown from his horse, the Lord called his name twice and asked him point blank why he Pete Dutra him. Immediately Saul’s response was one that we might not elect, for Saul asked the Lord who He was. It was in response to Saul’s question our Lord declared unto him that He was Jesus whom he was persecuting.
It is actually worth noting the words which Jesus expressed to Saul while on the road to Damascus, for Jesus made the statement that it was He whom Saul was persecuting. I would imagine it came as such a shock to Saul to discover that his actions had implications that reached far beyond the city of Jerusalem and even beyond the region of Judaea and Samaria. The apostle Paul learned and discovered that his actions of persecuting the church were actually actions directed toward and against Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of our Lord’s words in the twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew as He spoke about the separation of the sheep and the goats. When comparing the sheep and the goats who would be separated from each other at the end of days there is one fundamental difference between the sheep and the goats. If you listen and pay careful attention to the words which Jesus spoke you will find that the fundamental difference between the sheep and the goat was what they did and didn’t do. Those who discovered the actions they performed and committed on the earth weren’t just about those they interacted with in this realm, but also extended into the realm eternal and directly affected Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. Similarly, those who discovered the actions they didn’t do were surprised to find that their inaction to those around them was essentially inaction toward and concerning Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for these words directly tie into the reality that the Church is indeed and is in fact the body of Christ upon the earth. When Christ ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven He didn’t immediately have a body within and upon the earth. When the Day of Pentecost came, it wasn’t a body that was present in the upper room, but a gathering together of disciples and followers of Jesus. It wouldn’t be until the Holy Spirit was released and poured out on the Day of Pentecost that the body of Christ within and upon the earth was established within and upon the earth.
If we are to truly understand the significance of the words which our Lord spoke unto the apostle Paul on that day while traveling on the road to Damascus, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the reality and concept of the body of Christ. It’s important to recognize and understand that when Jesus was raised from death to life, and even when He ascended to the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, He didn’t immediately have a body within and upon the earth. Even while His disciples walked with Him during those three and a half years here on the earth, they weren’t considered to be His body, but rather His disciples and followers. What’s more, is all those who followed Him during those three and a half years here on the earth weren’t yet the body of Christ, but rather were disciples and followers of Jesus. I am convinced that it wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost when we truly discover the presence of the body of Christ within and upon the earth. Before even getting into the text surrounding the body of Christ it’s necessary to examine two portions of Scripture that describe the marked and noticeable difference between followers and disciples of Jesus in the Upper Room and the body of Christ upon the earth. Beginning with the first two chapters of the New Testament book of Acts we find the following words and language which describe the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ upon the earth in the Upper Room: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)…And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 1:14-15, 2:1). Within these verses we learn and discover that after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father there was a group of men and women—which included the disciples—who returned to Jerusalem and entered into an Upper Room. It was there in the Upper Room where all these who gathered did so to pray and to seek the face of the Lord their God. Jesus the Christ—the one whom they had followed for three and a half years had just ascended to the right hand of the Father and departed from their presence here upon the earth, and He gave them specific instructions to tarry in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost came.
If you read the second chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles you will find that the day of Pentecost was the single greatest transition within the body of Christ, for it was on that day when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit transformed disciples and followers of Jesus Christ into the body of Christ within and upon the earth. The second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts begins with the following words: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). It is with these words where we discover that those who gathered together in the upper room were not only filled with the Holy Ghost, but also began speaking with other tongues. It isn’t until you come to the end of the chapter where you begin ti discover the full weight and magnitude of that encounter with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. If you begin reading with and from the forty-second verse of the same chapter you will find the following words which describe the powerful transformation that took place on the day of Pentecost—not only in terms of size and number, but also in terms of nature and presence. Actually, beginning with the forty-first verse of the second chapter we find the following words: “Then they that gladly received His word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
It’s interesting and worth noting that in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts there were only one-hundred and twenty souls present in the upper room. On the day of Pentecost, however—when the Holy Spirit was sent by the eternal Son who now sat at the right hand of the Father—that number multiplied on an exponential scale, for on the day of Pentecost Luke records that the number of souls that were added on that day was about three thousand souls. You can speak about church growth all you want, and you can speak about how many souls are presently on the membership roster of your church, and even how many souls might be added to your number week over week, but I am convinced that nothing compares to what took place on the day of Pentecost. It took a single day, the outpouring of the Spirit, these one-hundred and twenty souls speaking in other tongues, those tongues being understood by many in Jerusalem, and a powerful sermon by the apostle Peter in the city of Jerusalem, and three thousand souls were added in a single day. It’s interesting to note that on one occasion Jesus fed a multitude of about five thousand souls with five loaves of bread and two fish. On another occasion Jesus fed four thousand souls with loaves of bread and fish. When we come to the book of Acts—and specifically to the day of Pentecost—we find three thousand souls being added to the one-hundred and twenty souls who were already present in the upper room. How absolutely incredible it is that on one occasion Jesus fed five thousand souls, on another occasion Jesus fed four thousand souls, and on this occasion Jesus adds three thousand souls to the one-hundred and twenty who were already present in the upper room. Speak about church growth all you want, and how many souls might be added to your number, yet I have yet to see three thousand souls being added to any church or congregation in a single day. Consider how long it took even the largest churches in America to reach three thousand souls, and I guarantee you it did not happen in a single day as it did on the Day of Pentecost. I don’t care how powerful or anointed you think your preaching might be, for under the anointing and inspiration of the Holy Spirit the apostle Peter stood up in the city of Jerusalem and preached a message, and together with the witness of speaking in tongues, three thousand souls were added to to the church.
It’s necessary that we recognize and understand what took place on the day of Pentecost, for not only was the Holy Ghost poured out upon those one-hundred and twenty in the upper room giving them the ability to speak with other tongues, but three thousand souls were added to their number. In a single day we find the body of Christ growing from one-hundred and twenty to three-thousand one hundred and twenty. I absolutely love how Luke records the number of souls that were added on that day before moving on to speak about what the nature of the body of Christ looked like upon the earth, for it expresses the sheer magnitude of what the expression of the body of Christ was like upon the earth. It would have been one thing for Luke to write the words contained in verses forty-two through forty-seven concerning the one-hundred and twenty, and in all reality that would have been remarkable in and of itself. Luke, however, chose to first reveal the number of souls which were added to the church as being three-thousand, and then goes on to describe the fellowship and community of that body of believers within and upon the earth. What we read in verses forty-two through forty-seven of the second chapter holds so much more weight considering it was spoken of concerning three thousand one-hundred and twenty souls as opposed to one-hundred and twenty. How many pastors and ministers among us today struggle to get a church of fifty to look like what we read in these verses, and even how long it would take such a. minister and leader to accomplish such a feat, and yet the Holy Spirit not only did it, but it accomplished it in a single day. There are ministers and leaders who struggle all throughout their ministry to bring those entrusted into their care to engage themselves as the early church did in the book of Acts, and yet I am convinced that this proves one reality and one reality alone—it cannot, it must not, it should not, and it will not be done without and apart from the power, the person and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t the apostle Peter’s sermon, nor the instruction of the apostles, nor even the one-hundred and twenty who were originally in the upper room who accomplished this on the day of Pentecost, but it was the Holy Spirit and He alone. I am utterly and completely convinced that we must recognize and understand that what we read in verses forty-two through forty-seven of the second chapter of the book of Acts can only be accomplished through and by the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.
As you continue reading in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that there is another example early on in the history and account of the body of Christ that describes what the body of Christ looked like within and upon the earth. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-first verse of the fourth chapter you will find the following words written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke: “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and destruction was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The Son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the company of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:31-37). This passage which we find in the fourth chapter of the same New Testament book sheds even more light on to the powerful reality of the presence of the body of Christ within and upon the earth. It is this passage—together with what we find and read in the second chapter of the book of Acts—which helps paint a picture of what the body of Christ looked like upon the earth. When the day of Pentecost came just ten days after Jesus had ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, the body of Christ was birthed and established upon the earth. On that day ten days after the ascension Christ established His body within and upon the earth, as He Himself who was the head would remain in heaven. Scripture lends to this reality, and the apostle Paul specifically speaks to the reality of Jesus Christ as being the head of the church, and the head of the body. If you examine the writings of the apostle Paul, you will not only discover Christ as the head of the body, but you will also discover the church as being the body of Christ upon the earth.
Consider if you will the language written and recorded in the epistles of the apostle Paul concerning Jesus Christ as being the head of the body and the head of the church. In the twenty-second verse of the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians we find the following words: “And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22). In the fifteenth verse of the fourth chapter of the same epistle we find the following words: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). In the twenty-third verse of the same epistle the apostle Paul writes these words: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). In the eighteenth verse of the first chapter of the epistle to the Colossians we find these words: “And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). IN the nineteenth verse of the second chapter of this same epistle we find the following words: “And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:18). Each of these verses expresses the reality that Jesus Christ is indeed and is in fact the head of the Church which is His body upon the earth. In the twelfth chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints, the apostle Paul goes into great detail concerning the body of Christ as being present upon the earth. If you begin reading with and from the twelfth verse of the twelfth chapter of the first epistle unto the Corinthians you will find the following words:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole body were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestowed more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
I found it absolutely necessary to give this brief discourse on the body of Christ upon the earth, for there was perhaps no individual on the face of the earth who understood the reality and concept of the body of Christ more than the apostle Paul. What marks this as truly unique and truly powerful is that it seems the concept of the body of Christ was first introduced to the apostle Paul while he was on the road to Damascus. When Jesus asked him why he persecuted Him, and when Jesus declared unto Saul that He was Jesus whom he persecuted, we immediately get the sense that the body of Christ had been established within and upon the earth. Though Jesus Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, and though the Head of the church was in eternity—the body of Christ was still present within and upon the earth. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize that Saul’s actions weren’t merely directed toward and against churches or a body of believers, but was actually directed toward and against the body of Christ. Right from the beginning of his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus Saul began to understand the presence of the body of Christ within and upon the earth, and how Christ does in fact have a body within the earth. In fact, I would dare say that one of the apostle Paul’s greatest revelations was concerning the body of Christ upon the earth, and how the church of Jesus Christ was Christ’s body upon the earth. When Christ was raised from death to life on the third day His physical body was removed from the grave, yet when Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, He would leave His body behind upon the earth. Pause for a moment and consider that on the day of Pentecost—not only do we the body of Christ being present within and upon the earth, but we also see the Spirit of Christ within and upon the earth. One of the most pertinent and powerful realities we must recognize and understand concerning the church of Jesus Christ is that from the day of Pentecost on—not only was Christ’s body present within and upon the earth, but so also was Christ’s Spirit upon the earth. Though the head would be in heaven at the right hand of the Father, the body and Spirit of the head would remain present within and upon the earth. Even now as I am writing these words both the Spirit and body of Christ is upon the earth, while Christ as the head abides with the Father at His right hand in eternity.
It’s important that we recognize and understand the progression of Saul from the moment he decided to travel along the road to Damascus, for it was on the road to Damascus where Saul encountered Jesus Christ in a blinding light from heaven, and a voice that could be heard. It was while traveling on the road to Damascus Saul encountered the risen and exalted Jesus Christ, yet it wouldn’t be until he went into the desert of Arabia that he would receive and experience the revelation of Jesus. In between the encounter and the revelation was something I am convinced we as the saints of God and disciples of Christ often miss—the loneliness of Damascus. When I began reading the epistle of Paul to the churches of Galatia I couldn’t help but be struck by the tremendous reality that while it is true the apostle Paul was alone with the Shepherd in the desert of Arabia, he was first alone with himself in Damascus. I am convinced there are a number of men and women who earnestly seek and desire to be alone with Jesus in Arabia, yet they are unwilling to experience the loneliness and blindness in Damascus. I would emphatically declare that until and unless you are willing to experience the loneliness and blindness of Damascus, you are not properly positioned, nor properly prepared to experience being alone with Jesus in Arabia. If you study the account of the life of Saul of Tarsus you will find that first came the encounter on the road to Damascus, and it was the encounter that immediately transitioned him to being alone with himself in Damascus. I am convinced that during those three days while Saul was blind in Damascus, he was forced to confront everything he thought he was, and everything he had become throughout and over the years. I believe with all my heart that during those three days—three days when Saul could not see outwardly, but could only see inwardly—that he was forced to confront who he had become as a man and as a person. There is not a doubt in my mind that during those three days in Damascus Saul had to face everything he had done, and truly come to terms with his actions of late toward and against the church of Jesus Christ.
THREE DAYS BLIND IN DAMASCUS! THREE DAYS BLIND! While I am not promoting or advocating three days of actually being blind, what I would like to promote and advocate is that we as the saints of God may very well find ourselves in a place where we desperately need this three days blind experience within our own lives. I am convinced there are a number of men and women among us who need to experience this three day blindness as Saul did, for it is during those days when we are unable to see that which is present all around us, and that which is present before us, and we are forced to look at that which is before and in front of us. There are men and women who desperately need to encounter Jesus the Christ as Saul did on the road to Damascus, and it is a direct result of that encounter that leaves them blind and unable to see anywhere but within themselves. I wrote yesterday how there are many men and women who are afraid and absolutely petrified of being alone with themselves because they are afraid of themselves. I know that I myself am sometimes afraid of being alone with myself because I know that by being alone with myself I will have to deal with who I have become as a man. If I am being truly honest with myself, and with the Lord, I must admit that I am not entirely satisfied with who I have become as a man. I recognize there might be those who know me who would claim me to be a mighty man of God, and a wonderful example, however, I know there are areas within my life that desperately need to be changed and transformed. I have to admit that there are times when I absolutely hate being alone with myself, by myself, and to myself, for by being alone with myself I have to deal with and confront the reality of who I am and what I have become. Those three days Saul was blind in Damascus he had to face himself directly and could not run. I actually find it quite astounding and necessary that not only did Saul need to be helped and guided to the city of Damascus, but Saul was also blind for three days. This is absolutely and incredibly significant, for not only could Saul not see what was around him, thus forcing him to look inward and look internally, but because of his being blind, he was unable to run—unable to run from who he was, unable to run from who he had become, unable to run from what he was having to look at and deal with.
Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many of us would run if we had the chance. How many of us—when forced to deal with and confront who we have become—would choose flight over fight any day? I do not find it to be a coincidence the apostle Paul was blind for three days, for it forced him to abide where he was, and to look inwardly at himself and who he had become. Permit me to ask you a very pointed question—What does Jesus need to do in your life in order to cause you to remain where you are that you might come to terms with who you have become? It is true Jesus might not throw you from a physical horse, or even cause you to be blind for three days, but there is something Jesus needs to do within your life that causes you to be completely immobile and unable to look anywhere else but within. You who are reading these words right now—are you afraid of being alone with yourself because you know what you will see? You who read these words right now—are you afraid of being alone with yourself because you absolutely despise who and what you have become? When Saul rose from the place he had fallen on the road to Damascus he had to be led by the hand into Damascus, and from the moment he opened his eyes on the road to Damascus he was blind and completely unable to see. THE BLINDNESS OF SAUL! The blindness which Saul experienced was absolutely necessary, for it was only through that blindness that he was forced to look inwardly and confront and face who and what he had become. The blindness which Saul experienced was absolutely critical and necessary, for it was only through that blindness Saul was forced to become dependent on others around him. Perhaps Saul never asked for or needed help a day in his life, yet on this day, Saul knew what it was like to be dependent on others. Perhaps for the first time in his entire life Saul knew what it felt like to need assistance and help from someone else other than himself. What’s more, is that the blindness which Saul experienced was necessary, for it was the blindness he experienced which prevented him from running—running from who he had become, running from who he was, and running from the work the Lord sought to do in his life. Oh I can’t imagine what it was like when Ananias came into the house where Saul was and spoke those words, “brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as though calmest, hath sent me, that hour mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:17).
I absolutely love how the first chapter of the epistle to the Galatians ends, and how the second chapter of the same epistle begins, for both reveal and express a tremendous and powerful reality concerning Saul and the mighty transformation he experienced in his life. Beginning with the twenty-first verse of the first chapter of this epistle we find the following words: “Aftewards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth faith which one he destroyed. And they glorified God in me” (Galatians 1:21-24). When you come to the first verse of the second chapter of the same epistle you will find these words: “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain” (Galatians 2:1-2). When the first chapter of this epistle draws to a close it does so with the testimony of Saul that he which once persecuted the churches of Jesus Christ now preaches the faith which he once destroyed. When the second chapter of the same epistle opens and begins, it does so with the apostle—together with Barnabas and Titus—going up to Jerusalem and Paul communicating unto them in Jerusalem the gospel which He preached among the Gentiles. It’s necessary that we understand that the gospel which he communicated unto those in Jerusalem was the same gospel he already declared was a gospel that was not after man, for the apostle neither received it of man, nor was he taught it by man. The gospel which Paul communicated unto those in Jerusalem was one he received by the revelation of Jesus Christ, and it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this, for there are those who would wish to communicate that which they received from Jesus the Christ immediately after they received it. Although what they received was indeed from Jesus Christ by and through revelation, it isn’t and wasn’t meant to be immediately proclaimed and communicated. You will notice the apostle Paul waited fourteen years before going up to Jerusalem again to communicate unto them the gospel which he received—not of men, or by men, but of Christ. We must understand this within our own lives, for there are times within our lives when we aren’t immediately released to communicate what we have received by revelation from Jesus the Christ. As I am sitting here right now I am finding myself recognizing and understanding that there is oftentimes a ruminating and maturation period where we must sit on that which we have received of the Lord—even though it is the revelation fo Christ—before we are able and qualified to communicate it. I find myself being challenged by what I read in this passage of Scripture, for it forces me to confront the tremendous need to allow that which has been revealed and communicated within my life to mature, to grow, and to first have its work within and upon my life.