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Thanks Be To Jesus For Saul’s Conversion! And Yours!

May 5, 2019

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Third Sunday of Easter                                Trinity Lutheran Church

5 May 2019                                                   Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

Acts 9:1-22

 

There he is! Saul! Later known as Paul. Very religious Pharisee. Extremely zealous devotee of Judaic tradition. He hates Jesus. Despises Him. So, he ruthlessly orders and supervises the murder of Christians like Stephen if you remember. Dedicated to the destruction of the Christian church on the earth. Tyrannical Saul! You wouldn’t want to come face to face with this dude.

 

Saul hates Christians because they worship Jesus. He is intoxicated with animosity. He has immensely powerful friends in very high offices that hated Jesus and therefore hate Christians too. He uses all his cleverness, skills and talents for, “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” With all his might, with all his power, with all his authority, Saul would pull off a Christian genocide. A Christian holocaust. He’s made it his mission in life to wipe Christianity off the map.

 

Jesus, however, is the crucified but risen Lord! Jesus reigns! Saul is not lord. Jesus is! Saul is not in charge. Jesus is. Jesus savior-ly manages history. Saul is not the Savior. Jesus is. Always has been. Always will be. As Revelation describes it: Jesus alone is worthy to take “the scroll” of God’s plan of salvation in world history, open it and fulfill it.

 

Behold all heaven worships Jesus. And not just any Jesus but the Lamb Jesus who was “slain” because by His divine blood He has “ransomed people for God.”

 

Did you hear that? “Ransomed people for God.” Jesus died for all. From every “tribe and language and people and nation.” He didn’t leave out anyone from His Good Friday all atoning death. He is the slain Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 

As we heard from Revelation all of heaven worships Jesus. Now Jesus would have the ransomed-by-His-blood-people on the earth worship Him too. And how do you spell such worship? Yes, that’s right! F-A-I-T-H! Faith is the highest worship of Jesus. It is worshiping Him “in spirit and truth,” as Jesus Himself says in John 4. In fact, as Jesus also says in John 4 God the Father “is seeking such people to worship” Him and His Son by faith. Why? Well, it is because faith is what saves you. Faith saves because faith clings to Jesus for the salvation He Good Friday-ly won on the cross. “Whoever believes [in Jesus] has eternal life,” (John 3)!

 

For such saving faith in Him, for a worshiper in spirit and truth, Jesus seeks out faithless Saul!

 

Did you hear what I said? I said Jesus goes after Saul’s conversion! Saul doesn’t! He won’t! He can’t! Jesus will faith Saul. Saul can’t faith himself. Saul’s will is actively bound in his unbelief! On his own Saul cannot be converted. On his own Saul cannot produce faith in Jesus that saves.

 

This is a critical biblical teaching. Jesus alone converts unbelievers. Unbelievers don’t convert themselves. Sauls don’t “faith” themselves! Can’t. Won’t. This is precisely why the Small Catechism faithfully teaches from the Bible that, “I believe that I CANNOT by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord or come to Him.”  

 

In order to be faith-ed – to be converted THERE HAS TO BE A MIRACLE! Miracles, of course, are Jesus’ cup of tea! Jesus must do the miraculous faith-ing or converting!

 

So let’s get it straight. Biblically straight. When it comes to salvation Jesus does it all! Without any of Saul’s help Jesus not only dies to win Saul’s salvation but He AND HE ALONE also faiths Saul completely apart from Saul’s will! Big strong, very religious and very spiritual Saul! But in his religiosity and spirituality he’s totally and energetically opposed to Jesus! Dead to Jesus! One thing Saul has perfected and that’s non-faith in Jesus! An unfaither! He’s an unbeliever.

 

For Saul or any other unbeliever for that matter to become a faith-er, to become a worshipper of Jesus in spirit and truth, to be brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, Jesus doesn’t say to Saul: “Look deep inside yourself Saul. Find a little spark of goodness within you and make a decision for me. Decide to make me your Savior and then you’ll be saved. I’m waiting!”

 

Not hardly. Saul is converted through the Holy Spirit filled Word of Jesus that is put into Saul’s ears. It’s the Word of the Lord Jesus that does the conversion. That turns unbelievers into believers. Unfaith-ers into faith-ers! Idolaters into true worshippers!

 

In the gospel today Jesus does it all. Barks out all the commands about fishing, provides the 153 fish, and serves up breakfast. It’s only because Jesus speaks and serves that John can finally say: “He is the Lord!” Similarly here in Acts. Jesus speaks to Saul: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!” Jesus gives the commands: “Go to Damascus.” And once there Pastor Ananias, upon the mandate of Jesus, preached to Saul upon which he received the Holy Spirit and received holy baptism.

 

The conversion of Saul. Saul’s becoming a Christian. A faith-er. A believer. All the Lord’s doing. All the Lord’s giving. Not Saul’s. Just as the catechism faithfully confesses it: “But the Holy Spirit has called me [to faith in Jesus] by the gospel, enlightened me [with faith in Jesus] with His gifts [like preaching and baptism] …”

 

Conversion is a total miracle. Total gift from the Lord. I’m a believer. You too are believers. And the credit all goes to Jesus. He won your salvation on the cross. He calls you to faith through the Holy Spirit filled preaching of the gospel and through baptism. It’s just how Saul or later named Paul put it in Titus 3: “God saved us not because of righteous deeds we had done. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

 

That, of course is Paul’s commentary of when he was baptized as we heard today in Acts. You too at your baptism. In Acts 22:16 Paul recounts what Pastor Ananias said to him when he baptized Paul: “What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized and wash away your sins.”

 

In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul tells you: “The saying is most certainly true and precious and worthy: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost.”

 

Christ Jesus came to save sinners. Even the likes of Saul. Even the likes of you. And me. Jesus had good use of convert/preacher Paul as His instrument to preach the gospel for the conversion of many all over the world. And every time you read or hear preached one of Paul’s letters in the NT you’re hearing Paul preach Jesus as Savior for you too.

 

Such preaching of Jesus bears good fruit. Faith! Faith alone in Jesus that saves. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Christ preached by Paul all throughout the NT.

 

Thanks be to Jesus for Saul’s conversion! Yours too by the way!

 

In the Name of Jesus

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