Behold, Everything Has to Change: You Cannot Remain the Same

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ—the Church—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in the twenty-second chapter of this New Testament book. “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Clicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both. Men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me wiwtness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came in unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash ahway thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me,  Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:1-21).

 

            “And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air” (Acts 22:22-23).

 

            “The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? HE said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him; and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him” (Acts 22:24-29).

 

            “On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them” (Acts 22:30).

 

            CORE TRANSFORMATION! ENCOUNTERS ON THE WAY! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul having arrived in the city of Jerusalem after making a deliberate and intentional journey toward it. In the twentieth and twenty-first chapters of this New Testament book you will find and encounter the apostle Paul making a deliberate and intentional journey from among the Gentiles unto the city of Jerusalem. What makes this even more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that the apostle Paul did not seek to journey unto the city of Jerusalem because of any vow which he had made nor because of any feast that he had an obligation to celebrate. Of course we learn and understand from the words found in the twentieth chapter of this book the apostle Paul earnestly and eagerly sought to make his way unto the city of Jerusalem that he might be there by the day of Pentecost. Scripture is unclear why the apostle Paul sought and desired to arrive in Jerusalem for the time of the feast—only that he desired to be present in the midst of the city at the time of the feast. It’s actually quite intriguing to think about and consider this when you take the time to consider it for the apostle Paul made it his deliberate intention and desire to journey unto the city of Jerusalem not fully aware of what would await and befall him there in the city. Up until this point the apostle Paul had preached and taught the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus among the Gentiles in Asia as well as in Macedonia. Beginning with the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book we find the apostle Paul and Barnabas being separated by the Holy Ghost from among the brethren which were present in Antioch for the work whereunto He had called them. As a direct result of the guidance of the Holy Ghost and after they had prayed and fasted both Paul and Barnabas were sent forth from among the brethren there in Antioch for the work whereunto they had been called.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the tremendous truth surrounding the twenty-second chapter of this New Testament book and how upon coming unto the city of Jerusalem the apostle Paul would initially find respite and welcome from the disciples and brethren. This, however, would be quickly dissipated as when the apostle Paul would go up unto the Temple of the LORD which still stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem the mob of Jews would raise themselves up against them. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book for what we find in this chapter is a powerful description of the affliction and opposition the apostle Paul would indeed fact in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What makes this all the more interesting is when you consider the fact that in Tyre the disciples through the Holy Spirit sought to discourage him from making the journey unto the Holy Spirit although we aren’t given any indication as to why they spoke such words. When, however, the apostle Paul came unto Caesarea and came unto the house of Philip the Evangelist we find a prophet by the name of Agabus coming up from Judaea—perhaps with a prophetic word from the Lord ordained and appointed for the apostle Paul. It would be in the house of Philip the evangelist in the midst of his virgin daughters as well as those traveling companions of the apostle Paul that Agabus would take Paul’s garment and bind his hands and feet with a very specific prophetic word connected to this illustration. The prophetic word Agabus proclaimed on that day was that just as his hands and feet were bound with that garment so also would the hands and feet of the owner of the garment be bound in the midst of the city of Jerusalem before being delivered into the hands of the Gentiles.

 

            In all reality it is quite interesting to read the words which are found in the twentieth and twenty-first chapters of this New Testament book for within them we are brought face to face with the apostle Paul deliberately and intentionally making the journey unto the city of Jerusalem knowing that affliction and bonds awaited and abided him there. When speaking unto the elders of the church in Ephesus the apostle Paul declared unto them how he was bound in the spirit to journey unto the city of Jerusalem not knowing what awaited him there save that the Holy Spirit testified that bonds and afflictions abode and awaited him in whatever cities he journeyed. As if this weren’t enough we find the apostle Paul in Caesarea hearing the prophetic word which Agabus a prophet from Judaea would declare unto him. It would be this prophet who would in fact speak unto the apostle Paul and all those brethren which were there that he would indeed be bound in the city of Jerusalem by the Jews and delivered unto the hands of the Gentiles. Upon hearing the words which Agabus had spoken concerning the apostle Paul those who were present wept and sought with all diligence to dissuade the apostle Paul from making the journey unto the city of Jerusalem. Upon hearing their words and witnessing their weeping the apostle Paul asked them why they wept and so broke his heart. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to further declare that he was willing to not only be bound in the midst of the city of Jerusalem but also to lay down his life for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and for His word and name. It is absolutely unmistakable when reading the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts that not only could the apostle Paul not be dissuaded from journeying unto the city of Jerusalem but he was also ready to give his life as an offering before and unto the Lord.

 

            It is with this reality and concept of the apostle being willing to not only be bound but also to lay his life down as an offering before and unto the Lord that we must needs consider the words which are found in the second and third chapters of the New Testament epistle he wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi. I have previously written and continue to believe that in the second chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul presents us with the pattern and example of the humility of the Lord Jesus in His willingness to lay aside His deity and take upon Himself the form of a man. What’s more is that not only did the Lord Jesus put aside His divinity that He make take upon Himself the form and nature of a man but we also find the Lord Jesus Christ taking upon Himself the form and nature of a man that He might suffer in the flesh—and not only suffer in the flesh but might also die. The sole purpose Jesus laid aside His divinity and took upon Himself the form and nature of a man was that He might suffer and die in the flesh. What makes this all the more intriguing when you consider it is when you come to the third chapter of this same epistle for while in the second chapter of the epistle we find the pattern and example of the Lord Jesus we find. In the third chapter the apostle Paul following that pattern and example and being willing to lay down his own life. That which we find in the third chapter of this New Testament epistle demonstrates just how radically and dramatically the Lord Jesus had transformed the life of the apostle Paul from a man who wrought havoc against and upon the church to a man who would be its fiercest defender and most faithful builder. It would be the apostle Paul who would journey unto the Gentiles where He would teach and preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus that they too might experience that which aforetime was only available unto the Jews.

 

            There is not a doubt in my mind we must needs consider the words which are found in the second and third chapters of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints—and not only that which is found within this epistle but also that which is found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Romans as well as what is written in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews. It is in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints as well as the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we encounter the tremendous reality of the Lord Jesus laying aside His divinity that He might take upon Himself the form of human flesh. Moreover it is within these chapters we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth that the Lord Jesus laid aside His divinity and took upon Himself the nature of human flesh that in the flesh He might suffer and die. What we find in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome is the powerful truth surrounding the example and pattern the Lord Jesus Christ provided us and how the apostle Paul not only followed that example but also how he encouraged the saints and believers to do the very same thing. I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this for everything the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian saints as well as the words which were written unto the saints which were at Rome have their foundation in the encounter the apostle Paul had with the Lord Jesus while journeying on the road to Damascus. It is with this in mind I invite you to first consider the words found in the second chapters of the epistles written unto the Philippians and the Hebrews before reading the words found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Philippians saints:

 

            “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife of vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than t hemselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:1-13).

 

            “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crowndest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).

 

            Both of these passages bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ and how He laid aside His divinity and deity that He might take upon Himself the form of human flesh. It is within these two passages where we find but two of the many wonderful pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ laying down His divinity that He might take up the form of human flesh that He might lay down the life He had in the flesh. It is absolutely and incredibly interesting to read and consider the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for within these passages we are brought face to face with the powerful picture of the Lord Jesus first laid down His divinity and deity to take upon the form of human flesh that He might then take the life which He had in the flesh and lay it down. In all reality the entire narrative of the Lord Jesus Christ is that of sacrifice and offering for there was first the initial sacrifice and offering of His divinity and deity that he might take upon Himself the form of human flesh while there would be the second sacrifice and offering of the life which He had in the flesh that He might suffer and die. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and pay close attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the great sacrifice and offering the Lord Jesus made—first in heaven as He laid down His divinity and deity and second in the earth as He laid down the life which He had in the flesh. Oh that we would recognize and understand this for there is not a doubt in my mind that the Lord Jesus was able to lay down His life in the flesh because He first laid down His deity and divinity in heaven thus guaranteeing that it would be on the earth as it was in heaven.

 

            Building upon this reality we must needs recognize that we are not only called to look at and examine the example the Lord Jesus provided for us in the heavens but also the example the Lord Jesus gave us in the earth as He took upon Himself the form of human flesh. It is absolutely necessary we pay careful and close attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the Lord Jesus making a sacrifice and offering in the heavens before making a sacrifice and offering in the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we witness and behold in the four gospels is but a powerful demonstration and manifestation of “on earth as it is in heaven.” We must needs recognize and pay close attention to this particular truth for it is at the very heart and foundation of what is present in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippians saints as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome. I firmly believe that we have the testimony of the apostle Paul because we do in fact have the testimony of the Lord Jesus—first in heaven and secondly in the earth. I am absolutely convinced there is something which must needs be considered when reading these words for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the example of the Lord Jesus in heaven and how that example and witness in heaven would indeed be translated to action in the earth. I firmly believe the Lord Jesus was able to suffer in the flesh and lay down His life as a sacrifice in the flesh because He had first laid aside His divinity and deity. The Lord Jesus purposed within Himself and the triune Godhead that He would lay aside His divinity and deity in heaven which enabled Him to be able to lay down the life which He had in the flesh. It is with this in mind I now invite you to consider the following words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints as well as the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome:

 

            “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for Christ for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:1-16).

 

            “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts different according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence: he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).

 

            I absolutely love the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for within them we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle being willing to follow in the example of the Lord Jesus who thought it not robbery with God to be equal with God and yet laid down His divinity and deity to take upon Himself the form of human flesh. The Lord Jesus deliberately and intentionally laid aside His divinity and deity that He might take upon Himself the form of human flesh that in the form of human flesh He might lay that down too. We must needs remember the words which the Lord Jesus spoke for He emphatically declared that no man took His life from Him but that He laid it down Himself—and if He laid it down He had the power and authority to take it up again. Oh there is something absolutely incredible about the words which are found in the second chapters of the epistles written unto the Philippian saints as well as the Hebrews for it’s almost as if both Gentiles and Jews alike were brought face to face with the same truth—the truth that the Lord Jesus laid aside His divinity and deity that He might take upon Himself the form of human flesh. Not only this but both Jew and Gentile alike came face to face with the realization that the Lord Jesus in the form of human flesh surrendered that flesh unto the Gentiles and even laid His life down before the Gentiles. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and powerful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and how He laid down and put aside His divinity and deity—much like He laid aside His garments in the upper room that He might take upon Himself the towel and the wash basin to wash the feet of the disciples. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find in the upper room as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John is an earthly example of what took place in heaven—namely as the Lord Jesus laid aside His garment of divinity and deity that He might take upon Himself the form of human flesh.

 

            As I sit here today thinking about and writing these words I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth which is found in the twentieth, twenty-first and now the twenty-second chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. It is in the twentieth and twenty-first chapters of this New Testament book we are brought face to face with the apostle Paul following the example of the Lord Jesus whom He faithfully followed and served with his life. The words and language that is found in these two chapters brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul making his journey unto the city of Jerusalem knowing that making the journey unto the city might not only cause him to be bound and lose his freedom but also to potentially lose his life. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that the apostle Paul knew that by going to Jerusalem he would potentially lose and give up his freedom through being bound—and not only give up his freedom but also lose and lay down his life for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. In an age when there is so much that has been said concerning our freedoms and the freedoms we are entitled to I have to ask myself as well as you who might be reading these words whether or not we would deliberately and intentionally be willing to lay down our freedoms for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Would you and I deliberately put ourselves in a position where our freedoms and liberties would most certainly be removed and stripped from us within our lives? If we knew that going to a certain place or doing a specific thing would result in the loss of our freedom would we still be willing to do it and go through it? Do we have the resolve, the determination and the desire within our hearts and our spirits to actually lay down the freedoms which have received such heavy emphasis in this nation—particularly and especially over the past year plus?

 

It is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable when looking back over the events of this past year that the freedoms and the liberties we have been afforded and have been able to enjoy as a result of the Constitution have been a hot topic of discussion within the political and religious arenas. You cannot look at the events which have taken place over the past year and not come face to face with how men and women have fiercely defended the liberties and freedoms they have been able to enjoy in this life as citizens of this nation. What’s more is there are countless men, women and children who are attempting to cross over the border into this nation because of the freedom(s) and liberty that is afforded within this nation. The simple fact that we are witnessing an unprecedented migration and influx of individuals from other nations seems to indicate the relentless pursuit of the freedoms and liberties citizens of this nation enjoy and have enjoyed over the years. What I find so absolutely incredible about the words in the twentieth and twenty-first chapters of this New Testament book is the willingness of the apostle Paul to be bound in the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul was warned—even by and through the Spirit—that if he went unto the city of Jerusalem he would be bound by the Jews and would be delivered unto the Gentiles. The very same thing which his Lord Jesus experienced in this life would be that which he himself would experience. The apostle Paul knew how his Lord was bound by the religious leaders and rulers of that generation and how after they had tried and falsely accused Him they delivered Him unto the Gentiles to be killed and crucified.

 

Oh there is something absolutely incredible about the words which are found in these two chapters within the New Testament book of Acts for they bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the willingness of the apostle Paul to lay down his freedom(s)—and not only lay down his freedom(s) but also to lay down his life. Despite the fact the apostle Paul was both a Jew and Roman citizen he did not consider or count those things as gain unto and for himself. Although the apostle Paul was indeed both Jewish and Roman by birth he was willing to lay down those rights and those liberties for the sake of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must needs recognize and understand what is found in the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of this New Testament book for within these chapters we encounter and come face to face with the fact that the apostle Paul was willing to lay aside and cast down his liberties—both as a Roman citizen and a Jew—for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is something absolutely incredible about this particular reality and concept for it has an incredible amount of weight considering the days and times in which we are presently living. Over the past almost year and a half we have witnessed a tremendous focus and fight on the liberties and freedoms we have enjoyed in this nation—not only based on our citizenship but also based on the Constitution. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that the rights and liberties we cling so tightly to is not only based on our citizenship as those who have been born within this nation but also as a direct result of the Constitution which was drafted centuries ago. For centuries now those who have been born within this nation have enjoyed certain “inalienable” rights and freedoms which have allowed them to be able to enjoy and experience life in a way that those in other nations—particularly in Middle Eastern nations have not been able to.

 

I sit here today reading the words found in these chapters and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul and his deliberate and intentional willingness to sacrifice and lay down his freedoms and liberties for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul had certain rights as a Roman citizen as well as certain rights as a Jew and yet he laid it all down for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is the apostle Paul knew that by journeying unto the city of Jerusalem would most certainly and assuredly result in the forfeiting of his freedom. Although the apostle Paul would still be a Roman citizen and although the apostle Paul would still be a Jew he would give up his freedom in the city of Jerusalem as he would be bound by the Jews. This final journey unto the city of Jerusalem would not only result in his being bound and giving up his freedom but would also result in his departure from the city never to return or see it again. The apostle Paul would make the journey unto the city of Jerusalem not fully knowing what would befall and come upon him in the midst of it and yet he considered not his life nor his freedom as being dear or precious to him. This is what is so incredibly powerful about the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints for the words presented there bring us face to face with the fact that the apostle Paul considered all things as loss and even dung but for the sake of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. The apostle Paul considered nothing as sacred and dear unto himself to the point where he would not be willing to lay it all down and give it up for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

What we find in the twenty-second chapter of this New Testament book is the apostle Paul having already been bound by those in the midst of the city of Jerusalem after the Jewish mob had beaten him. The Jewish mob would have most certainly beaten him to the death if were not for the captain of the guard who came to the defense of the apostle Paul that he might learn and understand for what purpose the Jews had raised themselves up against him. In the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul standing before the Jewish mob which had already beaten him and sought to kill and put him to death. The words which are presented here in this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the defense the apostle Paul made before all those who were gathered together in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Consider if you will the fact the apostle Paul declared unto all those who were present on this particular day that he was not only a Jew born in Tarsus a city in Cilicia but was brought up in the city of Jerusalem under the feet of Gamaliel. Moreover the apostle Paul would also declare unto all those who were present that he was taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers and was zealous toward God as all of them were on that day. The apostle Paul would go on to declare that he had previously persecuted the way of Christ and the followers of the Lord Jesus unto the death as he bound and delivered into prisons both men and women. As if this weren’t enough the apostle Paul also received letters from the high priest and the elders unto the brethren and went unto Damascus to bring those which were bound unto the city of Jerusalem to be punished. The apostle Paul held absolutely nothing back when speaking unto the Jewish mob for he essentially recounted unto them the same history which we found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippians saints.

 

The words and language which are found in the twenty-second chapter of the book of Acts is incredibly similar to the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints as the apostle Paul would not only speak of his being born a Roman citizen and a Jew but also of his being zealous and a Pharisee who studied under Gamaliel in the city of Jerusalem. Even when writing unto the Philippian saints in the epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul he would speak unto them of how he persecuted the church and would have continued along that path were it not for the divine intervention of the Lord Jesus while journeying on the road to Damascus. In all reality it is absolutely astonishing to read the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto all those who were present in Jerusalem on this particular day for it would have been a time when Jews from throughout the known world at that time would have made the journey unto the city for the feast of Pentecost. Undoubtedly the city of Jerusalem would have been a bustling city at this point in time and the apostle Paul would have had a large crowd and audience when he delivered his defense and speech before and unto them. The apostle Paul would indeed speak of his previous life prior to the Damascus road experience and he would make sure he spoke unto all those who were present on this particular occasion concerning the encounter and transformation which he experienced while traveling along the road from Jerusalem unto Damascus. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear unto all those who were present that although he was journeying unto the city of Damascus to bring bound those whom he found to be followers of the way unto the city of Jerusalem for to be punished. What would happen on the road to Damascus, however, was something entirely and altogether different from what he expected or anticipated for he found himself coming face to face with the Lord Jesus.

 

I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the apostle Paul would emphatically declare and proclaim unto those who were within the sound of his voice how the Lord Jesus had encountered him as he journeyed along the road to Damascus. The apostle Paul declared how as he made his way unto the city of Damascus about noonday a bright light shone round about him from heaven causing him to fall to the ground. In the midst of that light which shone round about the apostle Paul a voice would speak unto him calling him by name and asking why he persecuted him. In response to the question being asked of him the apostle Paul would ask the one speaking to him who he was—a question which received the response “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest.” Those who were with the apostle Paul saw the great light but heard not the voice of the one speaking unto him and perhaps heard the next question the apostle Paul would ask which was simply what he would do. Upon hearing the Lord Jesus declare that He was Jesus of Nazareth whom he persecuted the apostle Paul would ask what he ought to do in response to this encounter. The Lord Jesus declared unto him that he needed to arise and go into Damascus and there in Damascus it would be him of all things which were appointed for him to do. The apostle Paul would then have to be led by the hand for he could not see for the glory of the light which shone round about him. Three days after arriving in Damascus a devout man according to the law who had a good report among the Jews which were there—a man by the name of Ananias—came unto him and declared unto him, “Brother Saul, receive thy sight.” Immediately upon hearing those words the apostle Paul who at that time was still known as Saul received his sight and looked upon this faithful brother who came unto him that he might receive his sight and learn what it was he had been called to do.

 

The apostle Paul would go on to speak and declare unto all those who would hear and listen to him how Ananias declared unto him how the God of their fathers had chosen him that he should know his will, and see that Just One and should hear the voice of his mouth. Moreover Ananias would go on to declare unto Saul that he would be a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ unto all men of what he had seen and heard. Furthermore Ananias would go on to instruct Saul to rise and be baptized and wash away his sins calling on the name of the Lord. The apostle Paul would immediately be baptized and would begin calling upon the name of the Lord as he received the Holy Ghost. From that moment on the apostle Paul would teach and preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with absolutely no desire, motive or intention of turning back on what he had seen, heard and experienced. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s the tremendous truth the apostle Paul would and could not turn his back on the Lord Jesus. The encounter which he had with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus was such that would dramatically and radically transform him for the rest of his life. It’s important to note that the apostle Paul would and could never turn his back on the Lord Jesus—despite and regardless of the tremendous suffering and affliction he would experience. Regardless of how much suffering, how much affliction, how many trials, how many troubles, how much persecution, and how much opposition he experienced he would and could not turn his back on the Lord Jesus.

 

The more I think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth of just how great this encounter with the Lord Jesus truly was. The apostle Paul would and could not be the same after this encounter and the entire trajectory of his life would be altered forever. Not only would the apostle Paul consider everything but loss for the sake of knowing Christ—his rights, his pedigree, his citizenship and the like—but the apostle Paul was also willing to lay it all down for the sake of knowing the Lord Jesus. That single encounter on the road to Damascus was enough to dramatically alter and change the apostle Paul and as a direct result of this he would now stand before the Jews in the city of Jerusalem bearing witness—not only to what he had seen and heard but also how the Lord Jesus had dramatically altered and changed his life. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it draws and calls our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul and how the Lord Jesus would encounter him in such a way that the rest of his natural life would be spent bearing witness unto the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul would commit the rest of his natural life to and for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. This one who was previously the greatest champion of persecution against the church and this one who had previously wrought havoc and destruction upon the church by imprisoning and putting others to death would now become the greatest champion for the church. As a direct result of this encounter with the Lord Jesus the apostle Paul would indeed spend the rest of his natural life building, strengthening, edifying and encouraging the saints and the brethren. The apostle Paul would bear witness unto the Lord Jesus Christ among the Gentiles and would be the single greatest voice of the Lord Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles.

 

It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that the life of the apostle Paul would indeed come full circle for as you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find how the Lord Jesus would originally speak unto him and instruct him to make haste and get himself out of Jerusalem for they would not receive his testimony concerning him. The Lord Jesus would indeed speak unto the apostle Paul and would send him forth from the midst of the city of Jerusalem unto the Gentiles for unto the Gentiles had he been called and sent. What makes the words found in this passage of Scripture so unique is when you consider the fact that the life of the apostle Paul would indeed come full circle for although he would initially and originally come unto the city of Jerusalem where he would be presented unto the apostles and brethren by Barnabas as one who had seen the Lord and faithfully preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus he would not be received in the midst of the city. In fact even as early as that first journey back unto the city of Jerusalem there were those who sought to kill him and so much so that he was brought forth from Jerusalem that he might ultimately come unto Tarsus before Barnabas would find him again and bring him unto Antioch. Now here we are years after that first journey and trip to Jerusalem and we find the apostle Paul having been bound and now standing trial before the Jews and all those who were present in the midst of the city. This one who had studied under the feet of Gamaliel would now be bound in the city as he stood trial before those who had not only beaten him but who would have also sought to put him to death. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider the tremendous truth surrounding everything coming full circle in the life of the apostle Paul as he would be brought back unto the city of Jerusalem for the sake of the name and word of the Lord Jesus.

 

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary we call and draw our attention to the words found in this passage of Scripture for the journey which the apostle Paul would make unto the city of Jerusalem not only demonstrated the tremendous reality that he was willing to lay down his freedom but also that he was willing to be bound for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. That which made the words presented here in this passage of Scripture so incredibly unique is the fact that the apostle Paul considered not his life, nor his pedigree, nor his citizenship nor anything that had been afforded unto him as precious and dear to him. Much like his Lord had laid down His divinity and deity the apostle Paul lay down his rights and any control over his life for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the apostle Paul had absolutely no desire to possess any control over his life and fully and completely surrendered it unto the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul considered not his life as being near and dear unto him for he had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ that would dramatically alter and transform him from that moment on. For the rest of his natural life the apostle Paul would live his life doing whatever the word and voice of the Lord Jesus had commanded and would follow the leading and guidance of the Holy Ghost wherever He would lead. The apostle Paul would indeed live his life completely and utterly sold out and committed to the Lord Jesus Christ that His name might be exalted and glorified in the earth among the Gentiles. The apostle Paul laid down absolutely everything He had for the sake of the knowledge and name of the Lord Jesus in the earth that the Gentiles might hear and know the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

 

The question I can’t help but ask myself as well as you who might be reading these words is whether or not we have been truly encountered and apprehended by the Lord Jesus. Have you truly been apprehended and laid hold of by the Lord Jesus and are you willing to lay down your life for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus? Are you willing to live your life completely and totally sold out and surrendered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and for His glory in the midst of the earth? The Lord Jesus presented His first sacrifice and offering unto the Father in heaven as He laid down His divinity that He might take upon Himself the nature and form of a servant—and not only the form of a servant but also the life of human flesh. It would be this initial laying down of divinity and deity in heaven before the Father that would ultimately position Him in the place where He would be willing and able to lay down His earthly life which He had in the flesh. The Lord Jesus first laid down and laid aside His divinity and deity that He might take upon Himself the form of human flesh and it would be in the form of human flesh He would then lay down the life He had in that earthly tent. Oh we have a great need to recognize and understand this particular truth for it bring us face to face with what journeying unto the city of Jerusalem would have meant for the apostle Paul. The journey which the apostle Paul took unto the city of Jerusalem was in all reality a powerful demonstration of the laying down of his life in the flesh for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. Oh there is a great need that we as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ might be those who consider not our life as being dear and precious unto us but might indeed and might in fact fully and completely surrender ourselves unto him. The single greatest challenge we have before us—particularly in this generation—is not counting our lives as being dear unto us that we seek to hold on to it that we might somehow have something to gain from it. We are being and we have been called in this life to fully and completely surrender ourselves before and unto the Lord Jesus and the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are indeed willing to make such a sacrifice in the sight and presence of the Lord Jesus. Are we as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ truly willing to surrender our lives fully and completely to the Lord Jesus that He might accomplish within and through us that which He desires and purposes?

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