“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake’ ” (Acts 9:15-16).
Have you ever found yourself looking at certain people, presupposing they would never respond positively in obedience to the gospel message, and thinking there is no way God could use them in His service? Perhaps, you have thought of yourself that because of your past, your weaknesses, and your failures that you are unworthy of God and there is no way God could use you?
The opening passage above shows the utter folly of such thinking. Saul of Tarsus was a man who had made havoc on Christians in the early church in Jerusalem as he had them arrested, put in prison, and even consented to their deaths as was the case with Stephen (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3). Not content with persecuting Christians in Jerusalem, he even went to the ancient city of Damascus to bring Christians from there back to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9:2-3). He is described as “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1). Saul was not a person that many of us would describe as the ideal candidate with whom we should share the gospel message! In fact, Saul would later describe himself at this time in his life as the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
However, Jesus Himself reached out to this man! He confronts Saul on the road to Damascus and says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Having been temporarily blinded, Saul humbly asks Jesus, “Lord what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Saul is told to go to Damascus where he will be told what he must do (Acts 9:6). Saul is then led to Damascus (Acts 9:8-9).
In Damascus, Jesus tells a Christian named Ananias to go to Saul (Acts 9:10-12). At first, Ananias questions the wisdom of this. He says, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). Ananias did not believe Saul was the ideal candidate who upon hearing the gospel message would respond in obedience to it. However, not only did Jesus want to give Saul the opportunity to obey the gospel and be saved, He also had huge plans for Saul to become His “chosen vessel” to bear Jesus’ name to the “Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Not everything would be easy for Saul as he would have to “suffer” for Jesus’ name sake (Acts 9:16), but few men in history have glorified God as much as Saul, who would later become known as Paul (Acts 13:9). God had huge plans for this “chief of sinners”!
What are God’s plans for each of us? God has huge plans for each of us, but we often limit God’s plans for us because unlike Saul, we fail to be humble enough to say, “Lord what do you want me to do?” (cf. Acts 9:6). At other times, we fail to give others the opportunity for God to work in their lives because we refuse to share the gospel with them. We look at some and assume, “Oh, they are so worldly, wicked, mean, etc…, they would never obey the gospel”.
I am so glad that Jesus reached out to this “chief of sinners” because the apostle Paul made a major impact on the lives of countless people by his inspired writings, his ministry, and his Christian example. He is one of the people in heaven I can’t wait to meet. If Jesus was willing to reach out to Saul, he certainly is willing to reach out to me and any others with whom I come in contact. Today, I will remember that “The Gospel is For All” and will rejoice that Jesus reached out to me!
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).