And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come near to Damascus about noon…
The incidents here narrated have been previously considered in their bearing on St. Paul's conversion. The apostle now repeats the story, with a definite purpose. He is on his defense, and he is striving to show that throughout his life he had been loyal to Judaism, and in the matters which men misrepresented he had but followed and obeyed special Divine directions given to him. He had visions and commands direct from God, and, as a Jew, he "dared not be disobedient unto the heavenly vision." Such a defense was most effective for his audience, as no true Jew would deny that Jehovah might choose any of his people for special service, and give them immediate visions and directions. So we find the people heard the apostle patiently until he referred to the "Gentiles," and then national jealousy and religious bigotry were aroused, and uncontrolled passion put St. Paul's life again in peril.
I. PERSONAL DIVINE REVELATIONS HAVE COME IN EVERY AGE. Distinguish between the ordinary inspirations which may direct a man's preaching and writing, and the special occasions on which God may tell his mind and purpose, or give some trust and some work to an individual. Such personal revelations do not necessarily affirm the superiority in character, or in Divine favor, of the person communicated with; but they always declare the Divine recognition of a special fitness and adaptation for the work assigned; and our attention should be fixed on the fitness and the work rather than on the privilege that may be involved in having such a trust. Illustrations of personal revelations may be taken from
(1) the patriarchal age;
(2) the times of the judges;
(3) the prophets. It should be shown how well the selection of individuals, and direct communication with them, fits in with the idea of a theocracy. God, as actual and ever-present Sovereign of the nation, has the right to ask for any man's service, and to address himself directly to whomsoever he pleases. And nothing is more reasonable than to expect he will do so. Coming to later times, we get illustration
(4) from John the Baptist;
(5) from the Lord Jesus Christ regarded as a man called to a special mission; and
(6) from the apostles, e.g. St. Peter in the matter of Cornelius. What is called the conversion of St. Paul, but is more properly his call, is a case in perfect harmony with all that had gone before in the history of the nation. The God of the fathers, Jehovah, the theocratic King, had, by a gracious manifestation of himself and of his will, called the apostle to his service. This was the sole and all-sufficient explanation of his life and conduct; and this became his entire defense - "A revelation from God, the God of my fathers, has come to me, and I must obey it." Compare the main argument of Stephen's speech, which is this - God has not only spoken to our own nation in the Mosaic system, he has spoken directly to individuals age after age, but it has always been characteristic of the Jewish nation that they have resisted these prophet-revealers of God's will. Theoretically, they would admit that God might send messages directly to individuals; practically, they refused to recognize such messengers. This was proved once again in the case of St. Paul.
II. PERSONAL DIVINE REVELATIONS MAY COME NOW. This truth it may be difficult for us to receive; and, indeed, it needs to be stated with careful limitations and qualifications. Under the ministration of the Spirit, and with the Spirit actually witnessing in our hearts, it would seem that we can expect no direct Divine communications. Yet they do surely come to open hearts. It may be shown that they are granted:
1. In the spheres of truth. We cannot conceive of finality in the written revelation we have, but we may be sure that all further revelations will be in perfect harmony with that we have. We may, however, rather look for new apprehensions of truth than new truth.
2. In the spheres of duty. In the perplexing circumstances of life, hearts that are really open to God, and dependent on him, do receive direct Divine guidance.
3. In the spheres of work. God still speaks directly to the souls of his servants, calling some to the missionary field, some to the ministry, some to service for the children, and some to philanthropic labors. And, still, none of us may be "disobedient unto the heavenly vision." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.