The Conversation that Never Was
The following is an encounter between Jesus and Paul when Paul was converted on the Damascus Road. Acts 26:9-18 are the actual historic words of Christ and Paul that were recorded for us. But then, in order to make a point, we take some liberties and create a hypothetic conversation that goes in a most unlikely direction, for your amusement and edification:
"I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Paul Tells of His Conversion
"In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles--to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
Ummm, wait a minute. Jesus, I don't think so. Who are you trying to push around? "APPOINT ME AS A SERVANT???" Huh, Isn't that a violation of my free will? I mean, don't I get to choose whether this is for me or not? What if I am not interested? Then your so-called decree to appoint me to the Gentiles has been thwarted. If you have appointed me, that means you are not giving me a choice but I am telling you right here that I have other plans. I still want to lock up some Christians in Damascus and rid the earth of them. You may have blinded me and you may have knocked me off my horse, but I have my rights and my own will trumps your pushy and rough behavior. Who put you in charge?"
Jesus answered, "Hmmm, you have a point there. Sorry about blinding you and roughing you up. I never thought of it that way. I will go look for someone else who may be willing, and this time I will take your advice not violate his will ... maybe if I just talked nicely to him and let him choose ... you think this would work better Saul?
[the above hypothetical response of Paul is another example showing the absurdity of the free will argument for salvation. Men are naturally hostile to Christ, but when Christ determines to save and bring us to Himself, there is a certainty about it, an infallible call to His own which is never resisted. He opens our eyes to His fearsome holiness, beauty and excellency, He then simultaneously softenes our heart, and convicts us of our spiritual bankruptcy that we might see our need of Christ and believe. Grace is not merely an offer which hopes against hope that some "lover of darkness" (John 3:19) will autonomously pull themselves out of their sink of misery, but rather a work of the Spirit to change the dispositon of our hearts, a quickening that men would live. If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God it is because the Holy Spirit has given that person a new, humble nature, not because some men are more humble than others. Men may resist the outward call of the gospel, but when the gospel is accompanied by the inward call and quickening of the Holy Spirit, he never resists.]
"When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)
"Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases" (Psalm 115:3).
"He does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand!" (Daniel 4:35).
For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. ... So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" To which Paul answers: "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me thus?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?" (Romans 9:15, 16, 18-21).
"We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jew and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." Notice the two kinds of "calls" implied in this text.
When Lydia is listening to the preaching of Paul. Luke says, "The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul." (Acts 16:14)