Saturday, 30 July 2022
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. Acts 9:15
The previous verse stated the words of Ananias, “And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” With his words complete, we read, “But the Lord said to him.”
Jesus responds to Ananias’ protestations with a direct and unambiguous command, saying, “Go.” It is an imperative verb. Ananias probably was a bit confused at this point. He had just clearly explained to the Lord that Saul (Paul) was not a good guy, but the Lord directs him to go anyway. But Jesus quickly explains why he is to do this, saying, “for he is a chosen vessel of Mine.”
The Greek literally says, “he is a choice vessel to Me.” Jesus looked beyond Saul’s current state and saw the value in him. Calling Saul a vessel is a Hebraism that is used in various ways in the Old Testament. For example, it is used a couple times in Jeremiah –
“Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol—
A vessel in which is no pleasure?
Why are they cast out, he and his descendants,
And cast into a land which they do not know?” Jeremiah 22:28
“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon
Has devoured me, he has crushed me;
He has made me an empty vessel,
He has swallowed me up like a monster;
He has filled his stomach with my delicacies,
He has spit me out.” Jeremiah 51:34
In the New Testament, it is also used when referring to people –
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
“that each of you know his own vessel to possess in sanctification and honour,” 1 Thessalonians 4:4 (YLT)
Unlike the king of Israel in Jeremiah 22 (above) who was a vessel in which the Lord had no pleasure, He knew Saul’s potential and his determined attitude. With a correction of his thinking about who Jesus is, it was clear that Paul was the very best possible choice to, as He says, “bear My name.”
The meaning is that Saul would be an ambassador of Christ Jesus, a function where a person bears the name – meaning one to communicate the intent and words of the one who sends him. Saul twice specifically states that he is an ambassador of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, he cites it in connection with the other apostles, saying, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Also, in Ephesians 6:20, he says, “for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
As you can see, in both of those instances, the idea of bearing the name of Jesus is evident. The apostle spoke on behalf of the Lord, conveying His intents and purposes for those they encountered. In Saul’s case, that was to include writing out epistles on behalf of the Lord. Jesus next notes that Saul’s authority extended to representing Him “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”
Speaking to Ananias, the Lord clearly indicates what the primary function of Saul would be. It was not to speak to Israel so much as it was – first and foremost – to speak to the Gentiles. This explains the term “apostle to the Gentiles” that Paul states several times (Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8, 1 Timothy 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:11, and implied many times elsewhere).
Despite this being his main calling, it was not his only calling. He was to speak on Christ’s behalf before Kings, something he did before Agrippa and Caesar, and he was to also carry the Lord’s words to the children of Israel, something he always did prior to then going to the Gentiles. In each new city or district that he traveled to, he would present himself and his doctrine to the synagogue.
As can be seen here, the ministry of Saul to the Gentiles was to be one of primary focus, but not sole focus. The same is true with Peter. His primary focus was to the circumcision (meaning the Jews), but it was not to be his sole focus, as will be clearly evidenced in the coming chapter. The lie that there are two gospels and that the church began with Paul (hyperdispensationalism) is clearly refuted by a simple read through Acts and the epistles.
Life application: Jesus’ words to Ananias clearly tell us that the church did not replace Israel (replacement theology). Jesus was commissioning Saul to go “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” He specifically states Israel as a separate category to be witnessed to. At no future time does the Bible ever call the church “Israel,” nor do the promises to national Israel ever transfer to the church while leaving Israel out.
Rather, the church joins into the spiritual blessings (the commonwealth) of Israel (Ephesians 2:12). Such points of doctrine as this are not difficult to determine, but once someone accepts faulty doctrine, it becomes solidified in the mind. From that point on, no matter how much evidence of what is correct is presented, unless the person is willing to say, “Maybe I am wrong,” nothing will change his mind.
This is why trying to convey one’s personal doctrine to another person, even it if is absolutely correct, can be so maddening. What is accurate is plainly evident, but the other person’s mind simply refuses to accept the truth. This is mostly because pride steps in and refuses to admit error has taken over. It is also why we are admonished to not argue with people over such things. State your case, show what is correct, and then let it be. Until they are willing to accept what Scripture actually teaches, they are vessels of obstruction and are of no value in discussing proper doctrine.
Lord God, help us to know when to walk away from someone who is unwilling to accept sound doctrine. In the end, our constant attempts to correct them will fall on deaf ears and they often only cause the person to even further set his feet on the path of falsity. May we know when to state our case and when it is time to no longer argue. Help us to be discerning in this. Amen.
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