To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God…
I. THE PURPOSES OF ST. PAUL'S MISSION. It was —
1. "To open their eyes."(1) The words, like those spoken of Christ's mission (Isaiah 42:7), refer to those spiritually blind, through inattention, unbelief (2 Corinthians 4:4), prejudice, superstition, love of the world, fleshly lusts, wicked habits.
(2) Paul opened their eyes —
(a) By means of his miracles, which tended to awaken their attention, and convince them that his mission was from God.
(b) By his discourses, informing their understanding and conscience.
(c) By his unblameable, holy, and useful life, overcoming their prejudices — partly by affecting their hearts, and exciting their sympathies with his sufferings.
2. "To turn them from darkness to light." The heathen, even the learned Greeks and Romans, were in a state of great darkness, i.e., ignorance and error, as to spiritual things. By the preaching of the gospel and the influences of the Spirit, men are translated from this darkness. In equal darkness are involved the present heathen, Mahomedans, Jews, Papists, and many Protestants! Now missionaries are sent abroad, and ministers are labouring at home to enlighten them.
3. "From the power of Satan unto God." Satan, who is "the prince of darkness," "the ruler of the darkness of this world" (Ephesians 6:12), obtains his power over mankind through their ignorance. Through ignorance of the true God, they worshipped false gods (Romans 1:21-23); through ignorance of His purity, mercy, truth, and righteousness, they were filthy, cruel, and false. Hence their dreadful corruption of manners (Romans 1:24-82). And why did the Jews crucify the Lord of glory? Because they knew Him not (Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8). Why have so many nations embraced the Mahomedan delusions? From the errors with which their minds were blinded (Revelation 9:2, 3). Whence the superstitions of popery (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9). And whence is it that among almost all descriptions of persons, even among us, the body is preferred to the soul, earth to heaven, the world to God; sin, the greatest evil, to holiness, the greatest good; Belial, the worst master, to Christ, the best! All this is from darkness, and the power of Satan exercised thereby. The gospel, by enlightening men, rescues them from his power, and brings them to the experimental and saving knowledge of God.
4. Hence, being "turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God," they "receive the forgiveness of sins"; being delivered from the dominion of them, they are exempted from their penalty. They do not merit this as a reward or debt, but they receive it as the effect of Divine mercy and grace (Titus 3:4, 5); obtained through Christ's sacrifice and intercession (Romans 5:9, 10); received by faith in Christ (John 3:14-18; Galatians 2:16), and sealed on the heart and conscience by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
5. "And an inheritance among them which are sanctified." Sanctification is an internal change wrought by the Holy Ghost (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13), by means of the Word (John 17:17), and faith in Jesus (see the text and Acts 15:9). This implies a deliverance from sin, and from the world, a dedication to God in heart and life, in soul and body, in our faculties and members, our all being employed for Him; a conformity to Him, a participation of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); and hence walking with God (Genesis 5:24), and communion with Him, living and walking in His Spirit (1 John 1:3; Galatians 5:25). How great is this blessing! They obtain "an inheritance among the sanctified" here and hereafter. Thus they have a lot among the wisest, best, holiest, the most honourable and blessed of the human race in this world and another; yea, among angels with Christ and God.
II. THE INFINITE IMPORTANCE OF HIS MISSION. These ends never were, and never will be obtained in any other way, than by the preaching of the gospel. Some few of the heathen had a degree of knowledge and virtue (chap. Acts 10:35; Romans 1:19, 20), and might attain some degree of happiness after death, but not the proper Christian salvation as here set forth. Hence the command of Christ, that His gospel should be preached to every creature (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47). Hence this wonderful miracle wrought in the conversion of St. Paul (ver. 16; Acts 9:15). Hence the great sufferings to which he was exposed (Acts 9:16; 1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12). Hence, likewise, Christ requires all His disciples, and especially His messengers, to "deny themselves," etc. (Matthew 16:24; Matthew 10:37-39; Luke 14:26). Nay, the Lord Jesus Himself was born and came into the world, and lived and died to "bear witness to the truth."
III. INFERENCES. What, then, shall we think of —
1. Those Christians, so called, who, like the Jews in St. Paul's day, forbid the preaching of the gospel to the heathen (1 Thessalonians 2:15, 16)?
2. Those who are so attached to their worldly wealth that they cannot be induced to sacrifice a little of it to promote the salvation of the heathen? May not one properly use the words of Peter to such characters, and say, "Thy money perish with thee!"
3. Those pious young men, who have reason to think themselves called to missionary work, but are backward to offer themselves to this service?
4. Those, who, having set their hands to the plough, look back, and give up such a cause after they have undertaken it?
Parallel VersesKJV: To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
WEB: to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'