He Is Not Ashamed: The Jesus Who “Delights to Save His Enemies and Welcome Them Into His Family”

At this point in the story, the last thing anyone is rooting for is mercy [writing of Saul the great enemy of Christ and persecutor of the church]. Instead, we naturally want justice. We want Saul to get what’s coming to him. But that’s not what happens. In an unexpected twist, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Making his way along the seven-day journey to Damascus, armed with letters of extradition, he was startled by a noonday light from heaven that was brighter than the sun (Acts 22:6; 26:13). He fell to the ground and a voice from heaven said, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ (26:14. Confused and no doubt greatly unnerved, he answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then came the answer, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ (26:15).

Let’s press pause on this scene for a minute and consider a question. In what sense was Saul persecuting Jesus? After all, Jesus had been resurrected and ascended to heaven. The answer lies in Saul’s persecution against his family, the church, the body of Christ. Jesus is the head of the church. He’s closely identified with and connected to his people. If someone attacks the arm, then they attack the head also, for we are one body. John Stott observes, ‘At once Saul must have grasped, from the extraordinary way in which Jesus identified with his followers, so that to persecute them was to persecute him, that Jesus was alive and his claims were true.’ Jesus is the exalted King of kings, but he’s also a compassionate high-priest who sees and sympathizes with us in our weakness (Heb.4:15). Dear Christian, you may feel alone at times, but you never escape the omnipresent eyes of your loving Savior.

In a moment, the wild wolf came face-to-face with the good shepherd of the flock of God. Here we see Jesus’s power as King and his love as Savior. He is the one who delights to save his enemies and welcome them into his family. Here on the road to Damascus, the man intent on arresting Christians was arrested by Christ. The raging rebel and enemy of God was subdued by omnipotence and tamed by mercy. While the light from heaven blinded his eyes, mercy melted his heart. Reflecting on this verse, John Newton writes,

If thou hadst bid thy thunders roll,
And lightnings flash, to blast my soul,
I still had stubborn been:
But mercy has my heart subdu’d,
A bleeding Savior I have view’d
And now I hate my sin.

This experience that Paul had with the resurrected Lord shaped so much of what we read from him in the New Testament. If Jesus rose from the dead, then everything he said is true. It’s that simple. He is God, worthy of unrivaled devotion, honor, and glory. The Prince of Peace is willing to forgive the chief of sinners.

And that leads the author to conclude with this:

Those who oppose God are prospects for grace. We might be tempted to write off certain people as too far from God. But is this true? What does the family photo of Jesus teach us? To paraphrase John Newton, none are so bad that the gospel cannot be their ground for hope, and none are so good as to have any hope without it. Consider Stephen. The crowd responded to his faithful proclamation of the gospel by pelting him with rocks. How did he respond to that? In his last breaths, he prayed for them, ‘And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep’ (Acts 7:60).’ Don’t forget that Saul of Tarsus was a member of that violent mob. The Lord answered Stephen’s dying prayer. Our Lord can cure man’s arrogance. He can lead a man to the knowledge of the evils of his heart. May God help us to pray, preach, and share the gospel like we believe that God delights to save his enemies.

Erik Raymond in He Is Not Ashamed: The Staggering Love of Christ for His People (Crossway, 2022), pp.53-55,57. This is a title I requested for review for the Standard Bearer. If any readers are interested, they may let me know if they would like to have the book for a brief review in this Reformed magazine. In the meantime, I continue to read the book and am blessed by its message.

Published in: on November 5, 2022 at 9:40 PM  Leave a Comment