There was a song made popular by the most famous of Wailers, and he suggested that people ‘stand up for your rights.’ Bob Marley had a message, and he was admired and despised for his patriotic island evangelism for the working man. People resonated with the reggae master, in the same way Israel Kamakawiwo’ole did, the Hawaiian troubadour.
There is a tune to the ear that is recognizable, and it is even better when this note has heaven as the origin. It is a cadence of a cause not for your ‘rights,’ but for your goodness, as well as another’s benefit. The treasure is not to be kept in reserve, but to be spread and multiplied. And what is this treasure?
It is the glorified life in jars of clay; it is the divine in the mortal; it is the breath of God in that which was lifeless; it is pure gold, untainted by earth. It is the ability to get up, stand up, and sing a new song.
All things can now be viewed through the Creator and His word. Politics, law, science, faith, crime, righteousness, nature and all that is, from the galaxies above to the dirt below, can now be measured by a sanctified mind.
Paul was given immediate new sight cloaked in blindness, and he said: ‘I could not see for the glory of that light.’ A man bent on destroying others could never utter such a thing, unless…
Blind yes, but not punishing. Saul too beheld His glory, and would soon be a pattern to all who would believe as he heard these words from the source of life in the Hebrew tongue:
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 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.
Yes, get up, stand up, not for your rights, but to be a vessel of honor, when once all was simply dishonorable. You think haling people into prison because they offend you is a good thing? Ha. These are my people, and they are your people, and they stand not for their rights, but for what is right.
Such is the colored beginning in the life and times of the apostle. His mission as Saul was one of destruction; now He would taste of grace and unfold God’s plan for the ages as the promises of the law, the prophets, and the psalms foretold, but now running not as Saul, but as Paul, now too a sent one, like Peter, James, and John.
The question was asked, and a good one at that: ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ and Paul came to believe that the Messiah was not only the Lord Jesus Christ, but that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact the promised son of God according to the scriptures.
‘Chief of sinners,’ he said of himself, and this was no false humility, but a statement born from the furnace of grace. Paul learned grace was not a leftover scrap of God’s favor, but His benevolent and effulgent light of life springing from eternity, but paid for at the place of the skull.
He learned the treachery of Adam, the weight of a broken law, the strength of sin and the sting of death, and the express freedom and empowerment through the unspeakable gift of God’s grace, given him freely, without a cause. Such was this propeller that drove Paul night and day to minister this inheritance; but to whom? to they who were without God, without hope, aliens from God’s purpose, and strangers to God’s covenants and promises, but now brought nigh.
Now sanctified, set apart to be holy for God, when once he walked according to the course of this world, deceiving and being deceived, as a man bent on fulfilling his fine disobedience, Paul was arrested by the Lord Himself and then asked: ‘who are you?’
When he heard ‘Jesus whom thou persecuted,’ he instinctively knew it was people he was harassing, and he was given a glimpse into the marvellous truth of the body of Christ. Paul never doubted the reliability of the Old Testament scriptures, nor did he question the Creator of all; it was his interpretation that was lacking because of his pride.
When he spoke of his pedigree in Judaism, he said he was blameless in the law. According to the letter, this was true, but he added, ‘the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,’ and this was all the difference as the light is from darkness. Paul was careful to remember his roots; but being a child of Abraham was not enough, as he stood up insisting on the ‘rightness’ of He who fulfilled the scriptures perfectly by being ultimately crucified on the central tree. The resurrection of Christ guaranteed God’s seal. Sitting on the right hand of God confirms all truth.
Paul stood for something he once despised. He rose and stood: resolute, without embarrassment or apology, convicted personally and brought the indictment and the anecdote to all who would listen; truly he stood for what was right.
You and I are also called to stand fast, as there is a great falling, but there is One greater who does the holding; indeed He is much stronger but enjoys our weakness, as an empty vessel has much value before Him. Paul saw himself not in light of others, but like Isaiah, who saw the Lord high and lifted up, with eyes cast on Eden, and with a heart set on the throne of God, he could say with full confidence: I am not fit to be called an apostle, but by the grace of God.
Let us rise and stand upon our feet, and shrink not from proclaiming this wonderful inheritance, and perchance we may reach them beyond the miles who are considering even now, ‘if these things be so.’