GETTING THE MESSAGE/From darkness to light in Christ
We have been looking at the benefits of salvation the Apostle Paul mentioned in Acts 26:18 while he was testifying about the Lord Jesus Christ before King Agrippa and other leaders in the city of Caesarea. The first two benefits are “being turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” Now we will look at the next two benefits of salvation Paul speaks of, “forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ.”
The gospel is God’s plan for the salvation of sinners. If we are not sinners, we do not need the gospel. Redemption is deliverance from sin. If there is no sin, there is no redemption. And if sin is just certain acts that can be avoided for the most part, then redemption is a small thing. But if sin is a universal and an incurable condition that incurs guilt with God, then redemption is the work of God.
In that case, the offer of forgiveness of sins from God is of the greatest worth. To be without forgiveness of sin before God is to be without hope. God’s justice will not bend in the least. That being our condition, there is a necessity that we be convicted of sin in such a way that we see our need of God forgiving our sin.
If we don’t feel ourselves guilty, we won’t seek forgiveness, and if we don’t find ourselves polluted with sin we won’t seek cleansing from it. It is for this reason that the Holy Spirit is sent: to convince men of their sin and to show men the sufficiency of Christ in his offering up of himself for sinners. And to give assurance that he is offered freely to all who come to him in faith.
If one suppresses these convictions or rejects the offer of forgiveness of sins, it is due to unbelief. The unbeliever has little sense of God’s displeasure with his sin. The blind and leprous were convinced of their deplorable and helpless condition when they applied to Christ for relief. In the same way, sinners under true conviction of sin know they are guilty and helpless and must have a Savior.
The benefit of forgiveness is immeasurable. When Christ became our sacrifice, he bore away our sins. This is a real purging of sin. This is a great mercy. Psalm 32:1 says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” There is great happiness for the sinner to realize he is in such a state as this.
Before Christ, your iniquities were against you. Now they are as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:11-12). Christ’s sacrifice extends to all sins: past, present, and future, without exception. He suffered no less than was required by the justice of God. What a sad case it is for one who has no benefit from this sacrifice.
It should change you and be an endless joy to know you have forgiveness of sins. It changed Paul from despising and hating to adoring and loving Christ and men. And it made him one of the greatest, best, and happiest of men. We should endeavor to be transformed in the same way.
The last benefit Paul mentioned in Acts 26:18 is a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ. All the benefits offered by Christ are conditioned upon faith. A place among those sanctified means a place among the holy people of God, that people who make up God’s own possession and who have a title to the place where their name is written in the book of life.
Christ told his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you; I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). We have gospel joys now, but will have heavenly joys then when we see Christ, which is the great promise that is ahead. We have heard much of Christ, read much of Him, and tasted that the Lord is good.
Therefore we should long to see Him and be with Him. This is the way of the Christian life: living for Christ in view of the mercies of God in Christ, and looking forward to seeing the Christ who loved me and gave Himself for me, as he promised, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.