God Chooses His Messengers from Amongst Sinful People

This coming Wednesday will be my first sermon. I’m fortunate that my seminary has even first year students doing sermons. I think it would have not been until the 3rd year at other seminaries.
The following, more or less, is the sermon I’ve written for Oct 16, 2013. I’m planing on not using any notes, so what I’ve written here is just a guideline.
Doing sermons in an exegetical style is difficult. The exegetical style requires conformity to a passage of Scripture. The sermon isn’t topical or free-flowing, but rather an exegesis of a scriptural passage. One should also find a way to discuss the Gospel as it relates to the passage.
I’ve really learned a lot in the first month here at Seminary, but believe I could be doing much more. I’ve got a lot of free-time, especially now that it’s a 4-day weekend with professors gone to meetings. I’m expecting a Latin textbook in the mail. Since Latin is not in our curriculum (only Greek and Hebrew) I plan on teaching myself. I’m considering Akkadian and Ugaritic as well. I’ve got my phone number out to a few Amish folks in the valley as a driver for them. If they call me, I have a part time job driving them to town or wherever else they need to go. And then tomorrow I’m going to start volunteering at this Care & Share place in Westcliffe. I would have preferred a part-time job to all of this; but God chooses what He will.
Anyways, here is the sermon:
God Chooses His Messengers From Amongst Sinful People – Acts 9:1-19
[Act 9:1-19 ESV] 1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
A. A Change of Names
This summer as many of you know I was hiking the Appalachian Trail. To avoid confusion many hikers adopts a trailname. There may be 10 hiker’s named Mike and 5 hikers named John. But, when they take a unique trailname everyone can known who is being talked about. So instead of the confusion “Mike” or “Jim” hikers take trailnames like Spoon, Misery, or Baltimore Jack.
There was a long-distance hiker on the trail this summer who was from all accounts a very fast, and aggressive hiker. He was so aggressive of a hiker that he even hiked even in storms. In the Appalachians there are some round-topped mountains without any trees. They are called balds. Well this hiker was crossing over a bald treeless mountain in a storm and got struck by lighting. This actually happened.
“Getting struck by lighting” is an idiom for “a very rare event” or one that you’ll never have to worry about. But this hiker, got struck by lightning. And lived! He was struck by lightning survived and adopted a new trailname – Lucky Strike.
A pretty serious event has to happen for someone to change there name. It happened to Abram in the old testament who became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. And Jacob became Israel.
Later in the book of Act’s Saul’s will change his name to Paul, the Apostle. But here we find out the reason. Like a lightning bolt, but even more powerful, Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus. God choose Saul to be HIS messenger, and our passage today is account from Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and this, the Book of Acts, of how Saul was chosen as God’s messenger.
B. Why was Saul breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples?
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
To set the context here, the previous chapter, chapter 8, recounts the death of St. Stephen. The church is being persecuted and Saul is leading the charge.
Not everybody was persecuting the church. But Saul had a reason. Paul was a Pharisee. In fact, he studied under the well-known leader Gameliel. And he was fervent in his following. Paul knew that the Christians claimed that Jesus was God, and he didn’t like this at all. This was to his mind utter blasphemy. He went to destroy the Christians and end this supposed heresy.
Saul wanted to destroy the fledging church, but GOD choose him as his messenger.
C. Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
Saul had never met Jesus, yet Jesus asks “why are you persecuting ME?” Jesus equates the church with himself; the church is the body of Christ and Saul is persecuting the church, therefore he is persecuting Jesus himself. (see Matthew 25) I tell you if anyone does anything onto these they do it unto me. Saul asks “who are you, Lord.” Saul had never met Jesus. This is important. Saul will become a great apostle of the faith. If there was any thought to disproving Christianity by saying it was an inside job, Saul has thrown this theory out the window. Perhaps a small following insiders could fabricate a story, but here we have Saul, the persecutor coming to the faith. A Scholar in England, F.F. Bruce spent a large part of his career studying the apostle Paul and said “the conversion of St. Paul is sufficient evidence for the truth of Christianity.” People are stubborn and rarely change their views. Here, Saul is changed. He is changed by Christ.
The persecutor Saul understood Christian doctrine better than those he persecuted. The better he understood it, the more intensely he persecuted. The difference was that Saul considered the doctrines false and blasphemous, while the Christians believed them to be true.
D. I have heard about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.
Ananias received a vision from the Lord. This was a vision directly from God, the source of all that is true and right. Yet, so notoriously evil was Saul that Ananias was in disbelief when the Lord himself told him about Saul’s conversion. God had to speak a second time to reassure Ananias the truth of what He said. Saul was an enemy of God, but God chooses his messengers.
E. My Chosen Instrument
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. “
The Book of Acts is an account of the Gospel of Christ being spread to the ends of the earth. And Saul is God’s chosen instrument in this plan.
But this task will not be easy. God warns “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Paul converted for no fathomably human reason. For no gain of his own. He certainly did not find an easier life. He was beat, stoned, shipwrecked, almost drowned, and bit by a snake. Yet, he continued to proclaim Jesus; the risen savior even up to his martyrdom for the faith. There was no earthy reason why Saul became God’s messenger; God choose him.
F. Recall Moses
Exodus 4:10-11
But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue.” The the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? What makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
Moses did not choose to be God’s messenger. He had no confidence in his speaking abilities. But God chooses his messengers.
G. Recall the calling of the Apostles
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:16-18
God choose simple fishermen to be his messengers. They were not of lofty birth. They didn’t come from wealthy families nor were they descendants of royalty. Andrew and Peter were just simple fisherman, but God chooses his messengers.
H. Recall Martin Luther
The story of Martin Luther’s calling to be a messenger of God is another example of God choosing his own messenger. Luther, who would go on the be a great reformer of the church had no intentions to go into ministry. His parents paid for him to go to law school and he became a lawyer. But one evening as he was traveling a storm came in and he almost was struck by lightning. And his path was changed and he became a monk. He would go to translate the Bible into German so that his own people could read the Bible in their own language. Martin Luther’s parents were furious that he was no longer on the path to be a wealthy lawyer, but God chooses his messengers.
I. Application
1. The Lord uses sinful people to spread the Gospel. I am one of them. (We all are)
Each of these examples shows that God’s messengers are regular, sinful, people with problems. You may question your abilities, but God can use you in his own way. But I can’t speak good. (No, that’s I can’t speak WELL.) But, God made Moses his messenger despite his speech impediment.
2. God choses some of us to specific messenger roles.
You might not get struck by lightning like Lucky Strike. Or maybe you will; Martin Luther almost got struck by lighting. But I’m sure that most of us here have not had such a brush with death. Yet, most of us here are called to be preachers of the Gospel. God chooses his messengers. He chooses some of us to specific roles. Some of us are preachers. Some of are teachers. Others are called to be his messengers to foreign lands. Or to be God’s messengers to our children or our parents. And those who are not called to specific charges like preacher and teaching are still called to be followers of Christ.
3. All of God’s chosen people are called in General to be messengers for His gospel.
But all of us are called to be God’s messengers in a general sense. How can you personally bring the message of the Gospel to others?
The Gospel
Do not doubt the results of evangelism, the results of acting as God’s messenger, because it is that it is message from God which gives it power.
But what is the message that we are called to send? The message is this: Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to this world to die in the place of sinners so that we may have eternal life. Believing this message of the Gospel brings us hope, and gives us a central focus to our lives so that we follow the path of Christ and not our own.
Christ is our ultimate messenger. He is the messenger of salvation. The salvation that gives us hope for the future and meaning in our lives. All we do is because of Him.
Just as God chooses his messengers he also chooses his people. When you least expect it; whether in sin like Saul, in weakness like Moses, or in denial like Luther, God calls you to be his. Listen to God, hear the message brought to you by His messengers and follow Christ, God’s messenger of our salvation.
Go, therefore, and speak boldly for the Gospel of Christ because you have a message from God and backed with his power, not your own.