God at Work Through Men: Ananias and Paul

In the passage of Scripture for this morning, we have two people whom God used in carrying out his plan — Paul and Ananias. These two per­sons form a sharp contrast. Ananias was hardly known to Christians, yet God chose to use him. In fact Paul, who was going to be a famous and great Christian leader, needed his prayer and counseling. In these two persons we find a most significant combination in evangelism. Ananias represents Christians who are nobodies, engaged in personal evangelism. They are not known to the Christian public but known of God and greatly valued by God. They are absolutely indispensable. Personal evangelism is still the foundation of all types of evangelism. Paul represents the other type — the great leaders in evangelism whom God raises up for the need of the times and to whom God gives special talents and vision. They are also indispensable in the hand of God.

Our meditation this morning will concentrate on Paul — a man raised and used by God in evangelism. God used him to turn the world upside down because he himself was first turned upside down by God. Or, to use a modern word, God used Paul to revolutionize the world because he himself was first revolutionized by God. Here we have a basic principle in evangelism: God revolutionizes the world through people who are revolutionized by God first.

How was Paul revolutionized? We find the answer in the third chapter of Philippians.

In the first place, Paul was revolutionized in his concept of salvation. In the past, he tried hard to attain to righteousness by keeping the Law of God, but now he rejoices in receiving the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He has great joy in passing on to others this great news of salvation through Jesus Christ. In reading through Paul’s epistles, we often find him suddenly bursting into a song or a. shout in great ex­citement and exultation about God’s unfathomable grace and wisdom in Jesus Christ. There is glorious salvation in Christ! There is freedom, and peace, and joy, and hope in Christ! May we, too, have the same joy and assurance in proclaiming the unsearchable riches of the Gospel of Christ.

In the second place, Paul was revolutionized in his sense of value. In the past, he was bent on gain for himself, but now, he counts all gain as loss and all loss as gain for Christ. Not only that, but also he had joy in sacrificing everything for Christ. He says in Phil. 2:17, “If. I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.” Paul indeed followed the steps of his Lord of whom it was said, “Though be was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor that ye through his poverty might be rich.” It is certainly true to speak of Paul as “poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.”

When he came to the end of his earthly journey, he could only speak of his overcoat and his books (II Thu. 4:13), yet he was so rich in Christ, and he made many people rich in Christ. This reminds us of John Wesley whose autographed will was discovered in 1768 in which only his clerical gowns, his watch, and his books were mentioned. That was all that he had in material things but many people were enriched through his minis­try. Gandhi of India said to a missionary, “Sing me the deepest hymn of Christianity.” “Which one?” the missionary asked. Gandhi said, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” All of us are familiar with the lines of this hymn: “My richest gain I count but loss. . All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice to his blood. . . Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

In the third place, Paul was revolutionized in his concept of life. There are two things that stand out in Paul’s new understanding of life:

First, abundant life through death. Paul says, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (II Cor. 4:10). One phase of the rich meaning of these words is that when Paul died to his self-life, others were brought to have life in Christ. Probably Paul also had something else in mind when he said these words which could be illustrated by his experience in the city of Lystra. Paul was stoned by the angry Jews and he was thought to be dead, and it was possible that he was dead, and they pulled him out of the city. But God healed him. Shortly afterwards, Paul again went to Lystra to preach the Gospel — what dedication and bravery! This time, we read of Christians in Lystra who evidently had been brought to life in Christ through Paul’s reported death.

Second, Paul had only one goal in his life which is the “one thing” in his life — “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). This is the center of all Paul’s efforts. This concentration creates a focus which generates dynamic power in Paul’s life. A life without a focus can never achieve anything. A Christian or a Christian worker without a focus in his life or service cannot ac­complish things for Christ. Dedication brings concentration, and con­centration brings fruitfulness. When Paul was warned by the Holy Spirit of dangers that were waiting for him at Jerusalem (Acts 21:11), he would not listen to those who tried to persuade him not to go to that city. He understood the real intention of the Holy Spirit in revealing dangers to him, and he took them as challenge and went ahead. And he said, “And now I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem; not knowing the things that shall befall me there, save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself so that I might finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24).

When Mary Slessor passed into higher service, her mission had to send twenty men to take over her work. That shows the power that is generated by full dedication.

We pray that God will raise up more fully dedicated Christians and Christian workers all over the world who will have Paul’s “one thing” in their lives.

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Dr. Teng, Hong Kong, is Vice-President and Professor of the Alliance Bible Seminary.

Date: 18 Jul 1974

Gathering: 1974 Lausanne