The apostle Paul was commissioned to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). He gladly accepted his role as a gospel proclaimer and was not ashamed of the great news about salvation via Jesus (Romans 1:16).
When Paul stood as a prisoner before King Agrippa, he related to the king what Jesus had told him about the role that our Lord wanted him to fulfill: “(17) I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, (18) to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:17,18).
Why do we teach the gospel to lost people? What are we trying to accomplish when we do so? When we look at and analyze Acts 26:18, we can see just what the Christ had in mind when He sent His disciples forth to declare the gospel message. Let the words of Jesus to Paul serve as a reminder to us and motivate us to keep on sowing the seed and do it with the proper spiritual goals in mind. Here is what we learn about Paul’s preaching from Acts 26:18:
(1) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to open people’s eyes – It is a process of education. People will not make right choices consistently until they learn what is right. The Lord’s will must be taught in order for people to come to Jesus (John 6:44,45).
Do some refuse to open their eyes? Yes. Such people would be the “wayside soil” that Jesus described in His parable of the sower. But, thank God, there are also those who will have their eyes opened when they hear God’s truth! When they do, they will be saved (John 8:32). Paul knew all about accepting the truth. He himself had turned from a rejecter of truth to a receiver of it.
(2) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to turn people “from darkness to light” – It is not a forcing, but a turning. Here is the power of the gospel – it changes people’s thinking, action, and eternal destiny! In the Bible, “darkness” is often used as a symbol of evil, while “light” is used to represent that which is good and wholesome (John 3:19-21). Through the gospel, the Lord calls men out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). We proclaim the gospel in order to help people see their way out of darkness and find Jesus as the light of the world (John 8:12).
(3) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to turn people “from the power of Satan to God” – Some may not like the sound of the idea that they are under the rule of the devil, but the facts are the facts.
One is either with Jesus or against Him (Matthew 12:30). There is no middle ground. One is either a child of light or a child of darkness (Ephesians 5:8-11), a child of God or a child of the devil (John 8:42-44). Gospel preaching brings sinners “to God.” In Colossians 1:13 it is written that God delivers lost people from the power of darkness and conveys them into the kingdom of His Son. Thus, when one truly comes to God, that person is born again into the Lord’s kingdom, or church.
(4) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to help people “receive forgiveness of sins” – The teaching of the gospel is all about the salvation of souls! In order for a person to appreciate the forgiveness of sins, he must understand what sin is and what it does to a person – sin’s wages are death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). So, we must explain to the lost why a Savior is needed.
Furthermore, a lost person must understand what provides forgiveness. God’s grace makes it available through the death/blood of His Son (Romans 3:24; 5:9). Then, a person in darkness must learn the only way out of sin – he must take the God-prescribed action, which is to obey the gospel (Acts 2:27-41). What about those who are already in the Christ? They can continue to have their sins cleansed by walking in the light, confessing and repenting of their sins (1 John 1:7-9; Acts 8:21-23).
(5) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to help people receive “an inheritance” – Sometimes lawyers work to help others protect or obtain their legal inheritance. You and I may not be lawyers, but we want folks to have a chance to receive the very best inheritance possible – the one that comes from our Creator and Savior.
This inheritance is by faith in Jesus (26:18), and it is for the sanctified (26:18), that is, those who are “the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). What is this wonderful inheritance? It is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). An eternal inheritance in heaven – that is a Christian’s “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4). Thus, not only are we trying to help people become saved; we also are trying to help them stay saved/sanctified so they can join us in heaven!
Each Bible verse is connected with God’s plan to save sinners. Yes, every single verse. Why do we teach sinners the gospel? Acts 26:18 gives us the answers. Remember it. Meditate on it. Apply it.
— Roger D. Campbell