SAILING WITH ST. PAUL
For Younger Readers
HE who sails with Paul has been truly and definitely
converted to God. Paul's conversion oc-cupies a larger place in the New
Testament than any particular doctrine that Paul preached. About this, God
would have no uncertainty. He lets us know clearly how Paul began the voyage to
an eternity of bliss.
Three full chapters in the Acts are devoted to this important subject. In chapter 9 we have Luke's historical account of this model conversion. In chapter 22 Paul himself gives what has been called the "Hebrew narrative" of this blessed event. He relates his conversion to Jewish auditors in a manner especially calculated to appeal to them. In chapter 26 we have his "Gentile narrative," where, "being made all things to all men," he again tells of his conversion, but in such style as to be clear to Agrippa the Edomite and Festus the Roman. Then in the first chapter of the letter to the Galatians he once more dwells on this wonderful theme, particularly emphasizing the sovereignty of God in it all (verses i6). The 3d of Philippians is a fifth account, where his special object is to disclaim all human merit; and he once more refers to it in i Tim. I: 12-17, where he declares that in him as chief. Christ Jesus had shown all long. suffering, "for a pattern (or model) to those who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." With such an array of Scripture before us, which I hope each reader will carefully peruse, it is surely manifest that no one sails with Paul who did not begin with conversion. I know it is unpopular to press this in some quarters today. "Don't trouble people about the how, where or when of conversion. The only thing of importance is to determine how they stand now." Such is the unscriptural and misleading instruction often given. And because of this, souls are harmed by an easy-going ministry that does not arouse the conscience,which lets people complacently drift on to a lost eternity who are not sailing with Paul, though they fancy all is well. The words of the Lord Jesus may surely rebuke all such folly: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. i8: 3).
Conversion then is a very real experience, and not something that may take place unconsciously. I do not mean by this that all know the day, the hour, the moment, when they were converted. Paul did, undoubtedly; but often young persons go through a prolonged period of exercise, in which, little by little, they learn the folly of self-confidence and the simplicity of faith in Christ alone for salvation. When He is trusted in, conversion has taken place; but, for lack of sound teaching, many do not realize this, and so have more or less perplexity in answering the questions, "When, or where, were you converted ?" But there should certainly be no difficulty in regard to the how. All people are converted in ezy actly the same way, however experiences may vary. Conversion is a turning from self to Christ; it is ceasing to rely on one's own fancied merits and trusting in the Lord Jesus alone. Has this great. change occurred in your life, my reader? If so, you have been converted, and are sailing with Paul.
Let no doubts or fears distress your soul if you do not seem to see things just as others do. Do not allow Satan to torment you with thoughts of your unworthiness, or questions as to whether your faith is of the right kind. It has never been God's way to put all souls through some stereotyped experience. No two Bible conversions are alike as to the means of awakening or the way in which the soul was led to trust in Christ. And, on the other hand, it is important to remember that if you were worthy, you would not need a Saviour. It is because of your unworthiness you came to Him, the worthy One. Let your soul then be occupied with Him, and not with your own frames and feelings.
And as to "the right kind of faith "- a difficulty felt by vast numbers of young believers - remember it is nor the right faith that saves, but faith in the right Person. You might have the strongest possible faith in yourself, in the priest, in the church, in the sacraments, in visions or dreams, and be lost forever. But, on the other hand, the feeblest faith in Christ Jesus, God's Lamb, saves for all eternity, and puts you forever in Paul's company.
In cach account given of his conversion we see how God showed him the futility of self-righteousness and human religiousness as a means of salvation, and the absolute certainty of eternal salvation when the Lord Jesus is trusted in and confessed. When He becomes the soul's object, conversion is an accomplished fact. So when we ask, "How, when, or where, were you converted?" we really mean, "How were you led to trust in Christ? When did you find out that He alone must be your Saviour? Where did you get that sweet rest in Him?"
And if, perchance, your exercises covered a number of weeks or months, out of which you emerged at last resting on His mighty arm and trusting His finished work, do not be distressed that you cannot particularize, but boldly confess Him as Saviour and own Him as Lord; for all who have turned from self to Christ are in the fullest, clearest, scriptural sense converted.
You may be troubled and perplexed about many things; your knowledge of many subjects may be very vague; your conflicts with yourself may be most trying, and at times thoroughly discouraging; but let nothing make you doubt that you are converted, and therefore eternally saved, if Christ is the One to whom you have turned for deliverance. Count on God to make all else clear as you go on, and fear not as to the final issue; for all who sail with Paul shall come out right in the end. The devil knows this, and therefore seeks to rob you of the good of it; but it is written, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
FORGIVENESS OF SINS
NO unforgiven soul sails with Paul: which is to say that Scripture recognizes no such person as a believer in Christ Jesus who has not already received forgiveness of all his sins. "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace' (Eph. I:
And the beloved apostle John joins with his brother-messenger Paul, and says, when addressing the en-tire family of God: "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" (i John 2 12). Now faith lays hold of this, and cries, "I believe God!"
Some time ago a young man called upon me. I asked him if he were a Christian. "Yes," was the reply. "At some special meetings held lately by Dr. C, I trusted Christ, and am now seeking to serve Him."
"Indeed," I said, "this is very good news. Then you know what it is to have all your sins forgiven!"
"Oh no, sir!" he cried, "I would not dare say that. I have been converted but a few weeks, and do not feel that I have forgiveness yet. But I am hoping to reach it soon"
"And how do you expect to know when you have attained it?"
"Well, sir, I am not quite clear as to that, but the Bible says something about the Spirit's witness to let us know, and I have not got the witness yet, though I am seeking it every day."
"If you have really trusted Christ as your Saviour, as the One who died for you, you already have the witness," I answered.
He looked at me in perplexity, and then said, "I do not understand you. I do not want to doubt God, but I cannot feel the witness at all."
I pointed out that the word feel is only once found in the New Testament, and that is in Acts i2 27, where Paul says of the Gentiles that "they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him." The word feeling is also found but once - in Eph. 4 19, where the ungodly Gentiles are said to be "past feeling." The word does not be. long to the Christian, you see, but to the heathen who have no written revelation. Our word is "faith," or, "believe." We do not know because we feel; but we believe God's word, and thus we know. The young man became deeply interested, and it was my privilege then to put before him a line of truth I would now endeavour simply to unfold to my reader. Through it he was soon rejoicing in the knowledge of forgiveness, and I would the same result might follow if these lines are read by any doubting one.
We read in Scripture of the witness of the Spirit to us, and the witness in us. Until we receive the witness to us, we cannot have the witness in us. This is of supreme importance, and, I hope, will be carefully noted.
Open your Bible at the 10th of Hebrews. In the first fourteen verses there is a vivid contrast presented between the temporary and oft-repeated sacrifices under the law, and the one all. sufficient offering of our Lord Jesus Christ, which needs never to be repeated, because full atonement for the sins of every believer has been perfectly accomplished. On the basis of this, "the worshipers, once purged, have no more conscience of sins." Christ has now sat down on the right hand of God, because His work is finished. Nothing remains to be done. "By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified; that is, He saves forever and completely all who are set apart to God through His blood, by personal faith in Him who shed it. Now see what glorious results flow from this:
"Whereof the Holy Ghost is a witness to us"- the work of Christ being all complete, the Holy Spirit witnesses to what? and where is the witness found?
First, He witnesses to new birth: "I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them." There is thus a new nature, with new desires and yearnings, implanted in every believer. Nor is this all. He further witnesses: "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Thus there is the Spirit's testimony to full forgiveness.
Secondly: This witness-record, or testimony, is found in the Holy Scriptures, written by the Spirit's dictation. The witness of the Spirit is the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the word of God.
Have you believed it? If so, you know, because God says it, that your sins are forgiven, if you have trusted Christ.
But what about the witness in us. We have the witness in us when we believe the witness to us. We have then received the Word into our hearts - and, remember, the Word is the witness.
Now read 2 John 1-13. Weigh every word, but note especially verse 10: "He that believeth or the Son of God hath the witness in himself." Compare with this verse ii: "And this is the witness (or record), that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." This is the unvarying testimony of Scripture. The Spirit's witness is not a happy feeling in my heart. It is the record of the word of God as to the work of Christ and its results.
When I believe this, the witness is received into my very being, and henceforth "the Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8: x6). In other words, God's testimony, ministered to my soul in the Spirit's power, and my personal faith in that Word, are in agreement. I know I am God's child, and all God's children are forgiven. So I know that my sins are forgiven also. In a later paper I hope to say something on another aspect of forgiveness - that which the child of God needs when he fails; but the forgiveness we have had before us is the eternal portion of all who have rested their souls on Christ.
End of Chapter One
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