Arrested by Love
Intro: In my nearly 40 years, I’ve never been arrested. I did receive 3 speeding tickets and a traffic violation soon after I turned 16. Then I got another speeding ticket 3 years later- back when the interstate was still 55 MPH in ID, rather than 75. Of course I didn’t think I deserved any of those tickets, but I did slow down a little bit.
-The apostle Paul refers to his first encounter with Jesus as an arrest, or as being apprehended by Jesus. In Philippians 3:12, Paul writes, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” This word “apprehended” appears only in the KJV. It literally means to seize or take hold of. Paul says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
-Although it is debatable, one can see the irony of Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was going there to apprehend Christians, taking hold of them and dragging them off to jail. However, Christ apprehended Paul. Jesus got a hold of Paul’s life and He never let him go. Jesus wants to get a hold of our lives as well, and that is what I’d like to talk about today.
Prop: God wants to put a stop to our old way of living so that we might experience His restoration and know His love.
Interrogative: How did God go about changing Saul’s direction in life and how does that relate to us?
TS: We are going to look at several stages that God used to bring about transformation in Saul’s life. These stages may or may not be identical in our lives, but we can learn more about God’s love by seeing how far He is willing to go to reach lost people.
Acts 9:3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
-Saul was busted by the Lord for heading down the wrong road. He had been fighting against God’s will, just like his teacher Gamaliel had warned against in Acts 5:38-39: Leave these men alone. If [this] is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." Well, Saul did not listen very well, and on his way to Damascus found that he had indeed been fighting against the Lord.
-Saul thought he was doing something great for God, but Jesus brought him up short and gave him a reality check. Not only had he not been helping the God of Israel, but he had been persecuting His Messiah, Jesus.
-It is interesting how Jesus phrases His words to Saul. He asked him, “Why are you persecuting Me?” This may sound kind of strange unless you look back to what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Jesus linked the treatment of even the lowest of His brothers with personal treatment of Himself.
-Application: Do you remember when you were busted by the Lord? He does it in a lot of different ways for different people. Some are overcome by the guilt of their sinful lifestyle and they call on the Lord, asking Him to save them from the destruction they are heading towards. Some have to smash into a brick wall in life before they see the light and call on the Lord for help. Rarely do people call on God when things are going well in their lives. They usually have to get so low that they have to look up to see bottom. Then, they realize that doing things their own way doesn’t work too well. All I know is that God only accepts those with a humble heart. If it takes several hard knocks in life to produce humility, then let the hard knocks begin!
-TS: Saul saw the light and was busted for fighting against Jesus and resisting His grace. Now, even though due process would normally require time for charges in an arrest to be officially brought against the defendant, God’s court is always right and always just. I’d like to describe the next step as Saul’s arraignment.
Acts 9:5 "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
-The arraignment generally takes place in a courtroom before a judge. The charges are brought against the defendant, and he/she must plead guilty or not guilty.
-If we believe Jesus that the way we treat others is the way we treat Him, then Saul would have been charged with murder and Divine assault. Now Saul may never have killed anyone himself, but we know that he was standing by approving or consenting to Stephen’s death. If he was part of the Sanhedrin, then he would have made up one of the votes required to sentence any Christians to death or prison. In Acts 26:9-10, Paul says, "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.”
-So, when Jesus indicted Saul on multiple counts of Divine assault (persecuting Jesus by persecuting Christians), Saul begins to realize how far he has missed God. Saul realizes that he is indeed guilty of the death of Jesus, since he cast his vote against many believers who were consequently put to death.
-TS: Saul was busted, then arraigned, now let’s move ahead to the trial.
-There really is no separate trial in Saul’s case, because the court of heaven has already found him guilty on all counts. In our legal system we have what we call due process to avoid hasty and unjust punishment. However, since the court of heaven has all the details recorded already, a just verdict is quickly reached.
-The Bible tells us that we all have sinned and have fallen short of the standard that would enable us to live in God’s presence. If we as sinful people were to stand in the presence of a holy God, His glory would consume us. We would not be able to approach Him because the power of His holiness would destroy us.
-Application: Just as Saul was found guilty of the Lord’s death, there is a sense in which we all share in that guilt. It is our sin that put Him on a Roman cross. He would have gone to the cross even if you were the only one who needed His forgiveness. However, we all have sinned and we all need forgiveness. We may never have killed anyone or done anything that seems terribly wrong. However, we are already guilty because we have inherited the sin and guilt of Adam. It is only when we turn to the Lord that our guilt is taken away. Until we call on the Lord, we are in the same place Saul was in: guilty of the death of Jesus!
-TS: Now what was the punishment for most murderers in Biblical times? It varied from culture to culture, but it was almost always considered one of the worst offenses possible. Let’s look at Saul’s sentencing next.
Acts 9:6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." Acts 9:16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
-Saul was busted, arraigned, convicted, and now faces his sentencing. I wonder what he was thinking. According to our text, Jesus does not speak any comforting words to Saul. Saul knows the law very well and knows that he is worthy of death. If Jesus really is the Messiah, then Saul has unjustly persecuted and caused the death of many followers of the Messiah. So when Jesus tells Saul to get up and go into Damascus to receive further instructions, for all Saul knows, he is going to face some serious consequences- maybe even death.
-In one sense Saul does receive the death penalty. Jesus wants to give Him life, but it will require Saul to die to himself and to sin. Several years later, in 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul writes, “I die daily.” Also, in Colossians 3:3-6, Paul writes, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”
-So, in order to receive the life of Christ, Saul is sentenced to death on a daily basis. Again, this does not apply only to Saul, but to each of us. If we do not keep the old person we were dead, then Christ’s life will not have its effect in us. In light of this, we need to do what Col. 3:5 says: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” Why death? Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:7).
-Saul was not only sentenced to death, however. He is also sentenced to life in Christ’s service. This is not actually punishment, nor does Christian service provide for our forgiveness or salvation. Here is how Paul speaks of the ministry God has called him to: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service” (1 Timothy 1:12). Paul sees himself as a bond-servant of Jesus (Titus 1:1). We too are servants of Jesus: “But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life” (Romans 6:22). Again, this is not a punishment, but a privilege and responsibility given to us by the Lord. We were not created to serve ourselves. It is God’s kingdom and we serve Him out of love and gratitude for all He has done for us.
-TS: Finally, let’s look at how Paul was forgiven and restored.
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-- Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-- has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.”
-As Saul spent these 3 days praying and repenting, he had time to really think about how far he had missed God. He probably felt very guilty and ashamed of the way he had fought so hard against God. He may have thought, “How will these followers of Jesus ever forgive me or accept me?”
-Well, the Lord used Ananias to minister the Lord’s healing to Saul. When Ananias came to see him, he said, “Brother Saul….” Now using the word “brother” with someone’s name may just sound religious to us today. However, in those days, it was an affectionate term used to describe someone who you were close to and had much in common with. What Saul heard was, “I love you and accept you as someone who is valuable to the Lord. I am glad you are part of the family.” After Ananias accepted Saul and touched him, Saul’s sight was restored as something like scales fell from his eyes.
-Not only was Saul’s physical sight restored that day, but also his relationship with God. He probably had started out with a sincere desire to please God; however, at some point his zeal for God and the Jewish religious system crossed over into hatred of Jesus and all His followers. After he encountered Jesus, God did something wonderful in his life. He gave him a new heart that was humble and broken. The Lord breathed life into the soul of a man who had become hard and distant from God.
Conclusion: As we close, let me say again that God wants to put a stop to our old way of living so that we might experience His restoration and know His love. We see this in Paul’s life as he was busted, arraigned, convicted, sentenced, and finally restored.
-Most of us will never be blinded by a light from heaven and have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus in this lifetime like Paul did. However, if He has not already done so, Jesus wants to arrest you by His love. He wants to get a hold of your life and make something wonderful out of it.
-I want to speak to anyone here who has not asked Jesus to forgive you and to become the leader of your life. Don’t wait until the bottom falls out! Don’t wait until you just can’t cope on your own anymore. You have been chosen for a better life. It does not promise to be an easy life, but it is what you were created for. We all were created to have a close relationship with God our Father, through Jesus His Son. If you will simply confess your sins to the Lord and let Him be the leader of your life, God will restore you and give you the life you’ve always wanted. If you are ready to do that, I invite you to come and talk with me in just a few moments.
-Maybe there is someone else here who has asked Jesus to forgive them, but you’ve not really let Him lead your life. You are still in control. Will you scoot over and let Jesus drive? Are you willing to die to yourself and let Jesus take control? If so, tell Him. Take some time to talk to the Lord, giving Him permission to take control of that which is rightfully his – your life!
-Before we close in prayer, maybe you would like to come to the front and find a place to pray. Maybe you need someone to pray with you. I’d be glad to do that. If you feel like this is something the Lord wants you to do, please come and connect with Him for a few minutes. He loves you and everyone here loves you.