I can identify with Jesus at the point when the rich man walked away from Him. I have dealt with religious “giants” who, having professed that the Bible is God’s unalterable Truth, then utterly refuse to believe and obey it. In an earlier posting I related how a local pastor openly admitted that everything I had written in a newspaper article was true, then refused to obey the very Words of God which I had presented verbatim in the article. Ironically, the rich man of old was in better stead with the Lord than the local preacher is today in that he knew he was walking away from salvation. The local pastor, “knowing” that he is “saved,” strolled into the pulpit where he confidently assured everyone in the building that they were saved and on their way to heaven because they believed the lies he told them. Only one entity could orchestrate such convoluted, contradicting, conflicting lunacy and sell it as “The way of the Lord.” Truly, Satan has deceived the whole world (Rev. 12:9).
Now let us examine another man who had found himself face-to-face with Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus was a Christian-hating Pharisee who was on his way to capture and imprison Christians who had fled to Damascus. Suddenly and without warning, he was knocked off his horse and blinded. Stunned and confused, Saul asked the being in front of him the same question as the rich man, using slightly different words. Though the rich man had received the Lord’s answer immediately, directly and to the point, Saul, henceforth called Paul, would receive His response during a three year stint in the desert where the Master would teach him His ways. Why the different teaching methods for the two men?
The rich man was seeking eternal life but wanted to pay the smallest price. Perhaps more trips to the Temple would do the trick, or maybe more money in the coffers? There had to be an easy solution to his problem. He had been told that this Preacher from Nazareth would know what to do. However, the part-time carpenter painted an entirely different picture. Having learned that the man had obeyed the Law all of his life, Jesus told him that there was only one thing separating him from eternal life.
Saul, not knowing the Law, found everything standing between himself and salvation. Over the following three days he would not only learn God’s Law, but would be appointed His primary teacher of it. As he would soon find out, he had much to learn before he could officially begin to answer God’s call on his life. Over the following three years he would receive everything he needed to know from Jesus Christ himself through revelation (Gal. 1:12).
Two men; one question; one answer; two opposing priorities expressed; two opposite outcomes determined.
What was it that made Paul a successful minister of the Lord? The answer can be found in the two questions he asked Jesus while lying in the dust. His first question involved the identity of the unseen entity. Paul wanted to know with Whom he was dealing, so he asked Him. Like anyone seeking Truth, one needs to know who has it and who only claims to. The Lord’s answer leaps off the page: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom you persecute” (Acts 22:8). Note it: BY PERSECUTING GOD’S PEOPLE, PAUL WAS PERSECUTING JESUS HIMSELF. Jesus identifies totally with His saints; He and they are spiritually one in the same. This truth is brought out again in Acts 9:4-6 where Jesus tells us that when one helps one of His brethren, one is helping Jesus Himself. In Matthew 12:46-50 He identifies His brethren as those who “… do the will of My Father in heaven.” God’s will is detailed in His Holy Bible. Christ’s brethren are those, and only those, who believe and obey it.
While Paul lay in the road blinded and confused, he had heard a voice from above saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” He had responded with a question: Who are you? Beginning at this point the difference between Paul and the rich man gradually becomes apparent. The rich man did not know that his greed was an offence to God. Paul, on the other hand, realized immediately that everything he had done was an offense to God. The rich man walked away from Jesus without further comment, knowing that he would die eternally. Paul, on the other hand, asked Him the question that would determine whether he would live or die eternally: “What would you have me do, Lord?” The rich man knew what he had to do but refused to do it. Paul wanted to know what to do and was determined to do it.
Unlike the rich man, Paul obeyed Christ immediately and totally. Unlike the rich man, Paul was willing to give up his life of power, ease and privilege in order to serve the Master. The rich man was not. Their responses revealed their priorities. One wanted to serve self; the other wanted to serve God. The two men’s questions and responses determined not only their priorities, but their final outcomes. Paul’s questions and responses serve as spiritual gold for those whose ultimate desire is to spend eternity with the Lord. L.J.