Summary: God wants to put a stop to our old way of living so that we might experience His restoration and know His love.
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.”