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He is My chosen vessel

Act 9:1-16

Acts Chapter 9 records Paul’s conversion experience, which is the most touching event in the history of the church. It is a new chapter in the history of the church and serves as a historical turning point from which the gospel is spread to the Gentile world. In an era when walking was the main mode of transportation, Paul and his co-workers spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

I once wrote a sermon, "Adventures on the Road to Damascus," about Paul's conversion to the Lord. This article intends to look at the Lord Jesus’ revelation of Paul’s selection from another perspective, because the Lord Jesus said of Paul, “He is the vessel I have chosen.”

Brothers and sisters, please think about this question: Do you think you have lived out the greatest potential in your life? How can you live your life to your fullest potential?

I. Conversion of Saul

After Stephen was martyred, the church in Jerusalem suffered great persecution, and Saul was the culprit in persecuting the church.

“But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.”

When Stephen was martyred, Saul guarded the clothes of the men who stoned Stephen. Some pious people buried Stephen, mourning deeply for him. Stephen's unwavering commitment and righteous demeanor spurred Saul to determine to eradicate the church and believers of Jesus Christ.

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”(Acts 9:1-2)

Saul took the high priest's scribes and a group of servants and marched to Damascus to arrest the Christians. As he approached Damascus, suddenly a great light shone all around him from heaven, and Saul fell to the ground. He heard a voice speaking to him from heaven,

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”(Acts 9:4)

“"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."”(Acts 9:5)

Saul was shocked to find that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, was still alive!

This revelation was shocking! He had always believed that the followers of the Nazareth was heresy, and he had always thought that he was zealous for God by purging the family for God. All along, Saul did his best to drive out those who believed in this faith. It turned out that he had been battling Jehovah God Himself!

“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”(Acts 9:6)

Saul suddenly realized that the name he had persecuted in every possible way in the past, Jesus of Nazareth, carried authority from heaven and an irresistible power in His Words.

“Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”(Acts 9:8-9)

What an irony: The one who was supposed to capture and imprison the followers of Jesus, but now became a prisoner of Jesus; was supposed to go to a foreign country to bring those who believe in "this way" back to Jerusalem, but now was being led by others by the hand to Damascus, a gentile City; was a roaring and terrifying murderer, but now became lonely and helpless as a child and was at the mercy of others; once vigilant in scrutinizing and arresting all suspicious people, but now had become a blind man.

Saul could neither see or eat in Damascus for three days. He had ample time to retrospect on his life so far, and it was like a movie. The scenes unfolded before his eyes: "Saul, Saul, how blind are you?"

Today there are many people like Saul- highly accomplished people in different fields. However, one day, like Saul, they will look back on their unbelieving life and regret: How blind I wave been!

From then on, Saul transformed into Paul, and Stephen's heroic image when he was martyred became a model for his new life. He began his glorious career of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ at the cost of his life.

II. Chosen Vessel

The Lord Jesus did not forsake the repentant and blind Saul. In a vision, He called Ananias, another disciple of Damascus, and instructed him to lay hands on Saul and pray so that he could regain his sight.

The way the Lord works is often seemingly confusing, particularly the way He chooses to use certain people. People usually wonder: Lord, did you make a mistake?

This is exactly what Ananias’ response:

“The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name."”(Acts 9:10-14)

Ananias seemed to be saying to the Lord, Lord, you must be mistaken. This man has done great harm to your saints in Jerusalem, and he has come here with the authority of the high priest to bind all who call on your name! This man is a Christian’s nightmare! If you ask me to pray for him, aren't You sending me to deal with a tiger or fall into a trap?

Is Ananias’ confusion justified? certainly.

Later in Acts chapter 9, it is recorded that many days later, when Saul arrived in Jerusalem, the people were still afraid of him.

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.”(Acts 9:26)

Paul himself later testified that:

“I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, …and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.”(Acts 22:4-5)

“I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.”(Acts 26:10-11)

Obviously Saul was a violent, ruthless persecutor of churches and Christians! How could the Lord choose a person like Saul?

But it was Sal that the Lord Jesus happened to choose.

“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,NKJV)

Did the Lord Jesus make a mistake in choosing Saul?

Of course not! In fact, Jesus never makes a mistake in His choices.

“For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable.”(Rom 11:29)

Paul’s contribution includes at least two aspects:

  1. heological doctrine: Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. The author of Hebrews is unknown, but many scholars believe that it is still possible that it was written by Paul. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament. Paul's letters laid the foundation for important doctrines of the Christian faith: such as justification by faith, salvation by grace, total depravity of man, the church is the body of the Lord, and the return of Christ, Paul has made extraordinary achievements and contributions to systematic theology, Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology.

  2. missionary practice: Through his three missionary journeys (the last of which he was taken to Rome as a prisoner can also be considered as his fourth missionary journey), Paul traveled to several continents, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere and establishing gentile churches. As the most successful missionary, he became a great pioneer and trailblazer of the Christian church's worldwide mission, and a dazzling example of mission for many generations to come. At the same time, Paul’s testimony of sacrificing his life to spread the name of the Lord has also become a model for believers in all ages to follow and an inspiration for those on the journey of faith.

Why did Jesus choose Saul?

Because he had rigorous theological training? Because he is well versed in Jewish laws? Because he speaks multiple languages? Because he is familiar with foreign cultures? Because he is good at Greek philosophy? Because of his leadership qualities? Because of his intelligence and wit? Because of his religious zeal and ambition? Because he is sharp and eloquent? Because of his good family and educational background? Because of his natural Roman citizenship? Because he is able to make tents to sustain himself?

NO! None of the above!

While these factors were important in making Paul who he was, they were not the reasons why the Lord Jesus chose Paul. The Lord Jesus chose Paul purely and solely out of the grace of Jesus Christ. If God can raise up descendants for Abraham from the heap of stones, what is there that He cannot do? Paul himself testified that---

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”(1 Cor 15:9-10)

Paul became an apostle because of God’s grace. He worked extra hard and diligently, and it was also because of God’s grace.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”(1 Tim 1:15-16)

Paul said that he was the worst of sinners, but by the grace of the Lord Jesus, he became a saint among saints.!

For he is a chosen vessel of Mine.

"Choose" means both "picking" and "selecting", which means to be selected from among many people.

According to Webster Dictionary, “vessel”,means “a person into whom some quality, such as grace, is infused.”

Paul became the vessel chosen by the Lord Jesus, which means that Paul became “a person infused with God’s grace,” so that he could become a channel to deliver God’s grace and blessings.

Therefore, the point of becoming a vessel of the Lord Jesus is not about the vessel (container) itself, but about the grace bestowed by Jesus.

III. Calling of Christ

“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." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.”(Acts 9:17-18)

Although Ananias was confused and even stunned by the Lord’s choice, he firmly believed that the Lord Jesus’ words could not be wrong. Ananias set out immediately without delay. Ananias’ obedience gives us a great example. No matter how much the words commanded by the Lord seem to be inconsistent with my reason or common sense, He is always right, and He will never make mistakes. If they are inconsistent with my reason, there must be something wrong with my reason. All I had to do was obey.

Saul’s transformation after his conversion was almost immediate:

“Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God…. Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.”(Acts 9:19-22)

The transformation of "Saul the Murderer" into "Paul the Apostle" was the work of the grace of the Lord Jesus, which was accomplished through an ordinary little person like Ananias. The contrast between the ordinariness of Ananias and the extraordinariness of Paul is stark. However, the wonder of the Bible is here. Ananias is another vivid example of "the ordinary makes the extraordinary, and the small makes the great" in the Bible!

Speaking of “vessels”, Ananias was also a common and yet useful vessel in the hands of the Lord Jesus.

In fact, in the Bible, except for a very few great scholars like Moses and Paul, most of the people chosen and used by the Lord Jesus were humble and ordinary people like Peter and John, a group of "uneducated common people". .” It is in the weakness of these people that the power of Jesus Christ is perfectly demonstrated.

“But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”(2 Cor 12:9)

Going back to the question at the beginning of this sermon: Do you think you are living to your greatest potential in life? Did Paul live his life to his fullest potential?

Just imagine, what kind of person would Paul have become if he had not become an apostle of Jesus and a vessel in the Lord’s hands?

Indeed, Paul had many talents. Very likely he would become an outstanding lawyer, a rigorous Pharisee, an excellent Jewish rabbi, and a passionate religious leader... However, there are too many such people. There are many smart people, excellent people, outstanding people, people with extraordinary achievements. Where are they today?

However, the name of the Apostle Paul will remain widely known, and the thirteen letters he wrote become the Word of God in the Bible.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isa 40:8)

So, how can you live your life to your fullest potential?

Only when your own life goals are in tune and consistent with the goals God has predestined for you, and with the power of the Holy Spirit living within you, can you live out your life to its greatest potential. You can achieve extraordinary things and have eternal value.

“In a seminary mission class Herbert Jackson told how as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without push. So for two years he had to get students to push his car to get it going or he would park his car on a hill or leave it running. He finally had to leave the seminary due to ill health and new missionary was assigned the car. ”

“Jackson proudly explained the process for starting the car. The new man looked under the hood and found loose wire which he promptly tightened. He got into the car and turned the ignition and to the astonishment of Jackson, the car started just fine. For two years needless trouble had become routine, the power was there all the time, only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work. How tremendous is the power available to us in Christ.” However so many times we fail to draw this power from God due to our loose connection with God.

The famous British playwright Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland. He wrote more than 60 plays in his life. His writing style used dark humor to expose real problems. His literary achievements earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.

Bernard Shaw was also humorous in real life. Once a beautiful woman said to him,

"Mr. Bernard Shaw, let me marry you. If we have a child, he must have both your intelligence and my beauty."

George Bernard Shaw replied, "How miserable it would be to have a child who unfortunately inherited your IQ and my appearance."

He did not forget to be humorous even before his death.

Playwright George Bernard Shaw was playing the "What If?" game with some friends shortly before he died. Mr. Shaw was asked, "If you could live your life over and be anybody you've ever known, or any person from history, who would you choose to be?" Mr. Shaw's reply was, "I would choose to be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was."

One day in the future, will you also regret that you did not become the kind of person you expected to be?

“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world.”(Eph 1:4)

Jesus Christ is still calling vessels suitable for His use today. We did not choose Him, but He chose us. Therefore, you and I are unique. Each of us will play the role you can in a big drama directed by God.

“Have you ever thought about what you could be if you would only surrender to God's power for living?”

“What is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.”(Eph 1:19,NKJV)

Are you willing to be the chosen vessel of Jesus?

Praise the Lord!

Rev. Amos Ren (Translated by Dr. Yun Ling)

Dec 14, 2023


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