by Herman R. Rocke

"I am commissioning you to open their eyes" (Acts 26:17,18).

THE CAREFUL READER who has thoroughly studied the various commissions as dealt with in the current series "The Secret of the Evangel," will be well aware of the difference between the "Previous Commissions" (volume 53) and the two commissions to Peter on the one side, and Paul's commissions on the other (volume 54). The twelve received definite commissions from the Lord while He was still on earth; Paul, however, received his commissions from the risen and glorified Christ in heaven.

      We all have read, time and again, what happened on the Damascus road when Saul was given his initial commission. The Concordant Commentary (Acts 8:1; 9:1-4; 1 Tim.1:16) offers this exegesis: "The following combines the three accounts (Acts 9:4-6; 22:7-10; 26:14-18) and probably includes all that passed between Saul and the Lord.

THE LORD: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? Hard is it for you to be kicking against the goads!
SAUL: Who art Thou, Lord?
THE LORD: I am Jesus, the Nazarene, Whom you are persecuting.
SAUL: What shall I be doing, Lord?
THE LORD: But rise and stand on your feet, for I was seen by you for this, to fix upon you before: for a deputy and a witness both of what you have perceived and that in which I will be seen by you, extricating you from the people and from the nations, to whom I am commissioning you, to open their eyes, to turn them about from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, for them to get a pardon of sins and an allotment among those who have been hallowed by faith that is in Me. Rise and go into Damascus, and there you will be spoken to concerning all which has been set for you to do.

      "With Stephen was interred the hope of the kingdom. Yet at the same time God begins to hint at another testimony of a very different character. The kingdom called for righteousness. It visited iniquity with swift judgment. In preparing for the new departure, God introduces Saul of Tarsus, not as a just or holy man, but as a malignant and vicious enemy. This is necessary because He is about to deal with those who are sinners and enemies, on the ground of grace. Grace cannot be shown to those who deserve aught. Merit mars it and hinders its outflow. Saul was, in very truth, the foremost of sinners. He exceeded the most rabid of the Sanhedrin in his hatred of Messiah and His people. If any man deserved to be damned, the man was Saul of Tarsus. Yet, eventually, he it is who is raised to the highest pinnacle of glory, far beyond the fondest hopes of Stephen or the twelve apostles. Such is the potency of grace when it is unhindered by human help!

      "Saul was at the stoning of Stephen. He endorsed his assassination, and seems to have been the leader in the persecution which followed, until Jerusalem was emptied of all disciples except the apostles. The call of Saul is the most marvelous of all the manifestations of God's grace. It is a pattern for us who believe in this day of grace. He was the foremost of sinners, yet God made him the foremost of His saints. The grace of the Lord overwhelmed him, with faith and love in Christ Jesus (1 Tim.1:12-16). The twelve apostles were called by the Lord on earth, before His ascension. Saul was called by the ascended glorified Lord from heaven. They were called in the land. He, was called outside the land.

      "Paul's case is a pattern of God's present ways in grace. Instead of reforming and repenting and seeking to gain God's favor, he was madly endeavoring to do all in his power against Christ and His people (Acts 9:1,2). He was the foremost sinner of his day, and deserved the direst doom. Instead, he receives the greatest grace. Once outside the land of Israel, where God's grace was unrestrained by the law and His dealings with the covenant people, God calls him and transforms him into His most brilliant exponent of grace. Corresponding to the gracious character of his call, he is assigned to the dispensation of God's grace among the nations, a ministry distinct and different from that of any of the twelve apostles. They had mercy for the nations as a result of Israel's blessing: he dispensed grace in spite of, and resulting from, Israel's failure."

      With this background information well understood, we will now venture to bring out three salient points in connection with Paul's initial commission:

(1) Witness Paul
(2) Deputy of Christ
(3) Administrator of God's Secrets

     As imitators of Paul and of the Lord (1 Thess.1:6) we will find out that aspect one of Paul's commission does not pertain to us. The Lord bids us, however, "attempt the same thing in the same manner" with regard to aspects two and three. He commissions you and me to open the eyes of others, as deputies of Christ, and administrators of God's secrets.


      The Greek for witness in Acts 26:16 is martura and reminds us of the English word "martyr" which denotes a person suffering for his convictions. In the scriptures, however, the Greek word is never used in this sense, but describes a person who testifies to facts which he has perceived (Keyword Concordance to the Concordant Version, page 330).

      The second occurrence of this word in Acts (1:21,22) is in connection with the qualifications of an apostle, such as the eleven were: "Then, of the men coming together with us in all the time in which the Lord Jesus came in and out to us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which He was taken up from us, of these one is to become a witness of His resurrection together with us."

      In other words, the twelve were to bear witness or testify to facts which they had perceived themselves, i.e., the Lord's earthly career from John's baptism to His ascension. Apparently they were not the only ones to whom Luke (at the beginning of his first account) refers as "eyewitnesses and deputies of the word" (Luke 1:2), for the disciples to which Joseph and Matthias belonged (Acts 1:23), had been eyewitnesses, too, since the day of the Lord's baptism by John.

      Because of their constant loyal attendance, and since they had left everything in order to follow the Lord (Matt.19:27,28), the twelve could qualify for the office of an apostle in the Pentecostal ecclesia which Peter was ordained to establish in Jerusalem "at the fulfillment of the day of Pentecost" (Acts 2:1-47).

      Saul of Tarsus definitely did not measure up to the fixed standard of requirements for the office of an apostle as the twelve did. This is why he said of himself, "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not competent to be called an apostle, because I persecute the ecclesia of God" (1 Cor.15:9). Authority to sit on twelve thrones and to judge the twelve tribes of Israel in the coming kingdom, had been vested in those who were fully qualified for this highest office on earth, ever to be held by human beings. However, there can never be a thirteenth throne in Israel for an unqualified apostle like Paul. But Christ in His celestial glory would eventually qualify him to judge celestial messengers and potentates, and thus occupy the bench in the highest celestial tribunal (1 Cor.6:2,3).


      Before His ascension, the eleven had asked the Lord, "Art Thou at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel?" And He had answered them, "Not yours is it to know times or eras which the Father placed in His own jurisdiction. shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in entire Judea and Samaria, and as far as the limits of the land" (Acts 1:6-8).

      Now Paul could never testify (or be a witness) to the facts which they had perceived. When he refers to these fundamental facts in the Lord's earthly career, he is careful to use a different pattern of words:

      "For I give over to you among the first what I accepted also, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day according to the scriptures, and that He was seen by...all the apostles..." (1 Cor.15:3-8).

      When Christ in His glory appointed Saul as a deputy and a witness (Acts 26:14-18), He selected him for a different kind of testimony which was in harmony with the situation. Saul was told to testify and bear witness of what he had perceived. In other words, the theme of his testimony was to be Christ in His glory. In addition, his testimony was to be progressive, so as to include that in which He would be seen by him in the future. This means that Saul was going to receive additional commissions and further revelations of things unheard of heretofore, thus progressing from glory to glory as had no mortal before him.

      As to the Lord's earthly service up to His ascension, Paul accepted the facts from others and passed them on to his listeners and readers, as we have just seen (1 Cor.15:3-8). But he did not go into the details of the life of Jesus. As a matter of fact, he was not concerned with His life at all, but rather with His death, burial, and resurrection. As soon as these fundamental facts were received, Witness Paul gave his own testimony of the celestial glories of Christ which he had perceived and which he calls "the testimony of our Lord" (2 Tim. 1:8).

      Since none of us were present when Christ in His glory was seen by Paul, he is the only eyewitness to its celestial splendor. We cannot testify to what he saw and what he heard. However, we are supposed to pass on to others what we have accepted from Paul, so that now we all, with uncovered face, viewing the Lord's glory as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the spirit" (2 Cor.3:18).

      As imitators of Paul and of the Lord, we are supposed to open the eyes of those who believe the fundamental facts of 1 Cor.15:3,4, and to uncover their faces, so that, in spirit, they can view our Lord's celestial glory as in a mirror, being transformed into the same image, thus progressing from glory to glory as Witness Paul once did himself. Hence his fivefold command to Timothy as to the word of Christ in His celestial glory: Herald the Word! Stand by it! Opportunely, inopportunely! Expose! Rebuke! Entreat! (2 Tim.4:2).


      The eyewitnesses of the Lord's earthly life were able to testify to the facts which they had perceived and to the words which they had heard. Hence they were called by Luke: eyewitnesses and deputies of the word. As many of these divine facts as are "beneficial for teaching, for exposure, for correction, for discipline in righteousness" (2 Tim.3:16), are recorded for us in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and elsewhere in the Greek Scriptures. Their knowledge provides most of the essential background information for a thorough understanding of those additional divine facts of which Paul alone became a deputy and a witness.

      Deputy Paul, too, became a deputy of the word, i.e., the risen Christ's word, progressing from the word of the cross to the revelation of celestial secrets. Hence he calls himself a deputy of Christ and administrator of God's secrets (1 Cor.4:1). Step by step, as he received the word from Christ in His celestial glory, he unfolded it in his epistles, beginning with the two letters to the Thessalonians, and then proceeding from Romans to Philemon.

      These additional divine facts and words, the Pauline "testimony of our Lord" are among those at which our Lord had hinted when He said to the eleven, "Still much more have I to say to you, but you are not able to bear it at present" (John 16:12). This means that their knowledge was not complete. Even their additional instruction prior to the ascension of the Lord was restricted to the "kingdom of God" of which the prophets of old had told (Dan.2:44; 7:27). The Lord never talked to His disciples about things which they could not yet understand, just as in Paul's initial commission, He did not make mention of any secrets to be revealed to him in the future. Hence there was no reason to mention the office of "administrator of God's secrets" at that time.

      Spiritually, Saul was still a minor then and, therefore, was unable to grasp anything except the fundamental facts of 1 Cor. 15:3,4, and the general outline of his own commission. But he made progress in his spiritual understanding when the risen Christ Himself lead him from glory to glory, until be was qualified to complete the Word of God which is now before us in the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures (Col.1:25). The Concordant Commentary explains this completion of the Word of God as follows:

      "Colossians was not by any means the last of the Greek Scriptures to be penned. Paul completed or filled up the Word of God in another sense. All the other scriptures were limited in their scope to the earth, as to space, and to the eons, as to time. They were concerned with a fragment of the universe. In them the nations could have only a subordinate place and position. As the secret of Christ breaks beyond the barriers of Judaism, these restrictions vanish. On earth, Messiah never left the land of Israel. Now, in spirit, He walks among the nations, dispensing blessing as He did in the days of His earthly sojourn. Christ, Who never went among the nations before His ascension, met Paul outside the land, on the Damascus road, not as the lowly Jesus, but as the glorified Son of God. Gradually, in spirit, through the apostle's ministries, He unfolds His secret purpose, to be to the nations, in spirit, all that He had been to Israel in flesh, and far more. This is the secret: Christ among the nations, a glorious expectation! Not a subordinate place in the earthly kingdom, but a pre-eminent place in His celestial domains."


      It is interesting to note that the literal meaning of the Greek word for deputy is UNDER-ROWER. This word picture is taken from the ancient galleys which were propelled with oars by the rowers, under the strict supervision of their taskmaster. In the Concordant Version, the verb is rendered to subserve (Acts 13:36; 20:34; 24:23). Hence the noun denotes a person in a subservant capacity, i.e., officially, a deputy (see Lexical Concordance, page 287). Deputy Paul had to forego his former independence. When he recognized Christ as his Lord, he said in complete subjection: "What shall I be doing, Lord? "This is also brought out by the manner of the call of Saul; Christ appeared in His celestial glory and subjected him under His feet, for glory and subjection go together, as the following quotation (from volume 29, page 315) shows.

      "Paul never met our Lord in His post-resurrection body, as He presented Himself to His disciples. When he saw Him, it was enveloped in a glory which the eyes of the disciples never could have borne. To the disciples on the way to Emmaus our Lord presented no outward evidence of His glorified position. This was dimmed, and invisible in His intercourse with the kingdom saints. This was not the body which pertained to His glory. This is not the prototype of our future frame. Even the transformation on the holy mount, though His face shone as the sun, seems to have been bearable to their sight (Matt.17:2). But when Saul saw Him on the Damascus road, the light irradiating Him was above the brightness of the sun (Acts 26:13). Its beams were too bright for Saul's poor eyes, and blinded them, scorching the sclerotic coat into scales (Acts 9:18). Such is the body of His glory.

      "Contrary to our conceptions, glory and subjection go together. Now our flesh is not subject and is inglorious. Then it will be endued with power and effulgent in its splendor. This is because it is once more connected with the source of life and power and fully under the sway of Christ. Independence and insubjection drag down to degradation and death. Dependence and subjection lead to life and glory. The transfiguration of our bodies will inaugurate a similar operation to include the whole universe, for He is able to subject all to Him. In each case it will involve glorification, so that, at the consummation, when all will be subject, He will hand over to God a universe glorified as well as subject."


      In his second account, Luke reports of a deputy who was not subservient, i.e., he was willing to serve the Lord, as he saw fit, but not under Paul. He was willing to row in the Lord's galley, but he did not like the role of an UNDER-ROWER, subject to directions given by his senior teacher, Deputy Paul.

      "Now they had John also as deputy..yet John, departing from them, returns to Jerusalem...the man who withdraws from them from Pamphylia and comes not with them to the work..." (Acts 13:5,13; 15:38). Like John Mark, most of us are willing to serve; some are willing to be subservient as humble imitators of Paul, but few can stand the humiliation of being ignored or disfellowshiped, or any kind of humiliation whatsoever. Coming with Paul to the work demands a subservient deputy, for the apostle has already laid down the work rules in his epistles. As A.E.K. once said (volume 39/17), "The tide is against the truth. The desire for fellowship, for a living, for popularity, for gain and for fame, and many other motives not only discourage a teacher in standing for the truth, but tend to turn him against it. Those who stand firm, must count on apostasy and opposition."


      In the Scriptures, the term administration (literally HOME LAW) denotes an orderly arrangement for the management of affairs. The administration of the grace of God, and of the secret (Eph.3:2,9) is the same. It is the administration characterized by the grace of God and by secrecy. As per instruction, Administrator Paul was the first to enlighten all about it and open their eyes. As imitators of Paul and of the Lord, we are supposed to do just the same, even at the risk of being ignored or disfellowshipped.

      Young Timothy seems to have been a faithful deputy within limits. However, when his senior teacher, Administrator Paul was no longer present and when all the ecclesias in Asia Minor had turned away from Pauline truth, he showed symptoms of timidity and was even ashamed of the special testimony which the Lord had commissioned to the apostle of the nations. Hence Paul wrote him, "You may not be ashamed, then, of the testimony of our Lord, nor yet of me, His prisoner, but suffer evil with the evangel...of which I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher of the nations" (2 Tim.1:8-11).

      Paul himself was a faithful administrator (1 Cor.4:2), for he closely followed the orderly arrangement of divine facts, just as he had learned them from the risen Christ in His glory. The apostle of the nations presented this new truth in an orderly manner and carefully arranged, as we find it, for example, in his epistle to the Romans. He did not omit anything about justification (which was no secret), nor about conciliation, "hushed up in times eonian" (Rom.16:25).

      Administrator Paul went into all the details of the WORD OF THE CROSS which requires our appropriation of such divine facts as faith righteousness, negative righteousness, and positive righteousness (Rom.4:5,6:17,18; 8:9,10). THE WORD OF THE CROSS also requires the appropriation of Christ's death (Rom.6:6) and of "peace through the blood of His cross" (Col.1:20), which is the reconciliation of the universe Unsearchable Riches, volume 52, pages 129, 132, 167, 174). Paul's orderly arrangement is by far more comprehensive than the fundamental fact which he had originally accepted from others (1 Cor.15:3).


      The orderly arrangement is easily recognizable anywhere in God's Word, hence we find it in Paul's epistles too, as their skeleton index shows. The order is being destroyed whenever any aspect of Pauline truth is missing in our presentation. As a faithful administrator, the apostle was FULLY discharging his service, and he warned his deputies to do the same (Col.4:17; 2 Tim.3:10; 4:5,17). But ever since "all those in the province of Asia were turned away from" Paul's teaching and his terminology (the pattern of sound words which we hear from him, ever since the word of others "spread as gangrene," the ears of the majority have been tickled by the presentation of one myth after another, as a substitute for Paul's sound teaching, until today (2 Tim.1:13; 2:17; 4:3,4). If a myth were a flagrant error, it would be easily detected; but very often it is rather a distorted truth, where one aspect is being overemphasized so as to more or less obscure other vital aspects of the truth.

      "Outstanding spirituality" is often claimed by those whose emotions are moved by a myth, who are carried away from Paul by a new wind of teaching (see Eph.4:14), who are "deluding the hearts of the innocent" (Rom.16:18) by man-made adulation. Even though adulation is the same in Greek as blessing (eulogia), it differs radically from our "spiritual blessing among the celestials" (Eph.1:3). Even though myth (muthos) belongs, in Greek, to the same word family as secret (musterion), the most "spiritual" myth is just as man-made as the "outstanding spiritual" adulation that goes along with it.

      What is being sought in administrators? Is it spiritual understanding, a clean heart, a clear conscience? As a matter of fact, Paul did not claim the latter for himself as an unfailing criterion (1 Cor.4:4). In view of the many traps of the Adversary during this perilous period of the last days, only FAITHFULNESS is mentioned, since you can check it against the rules laid down by Paul and thus find out how faithful you have been as an administrator of God's secrets (1 Cor.4:2). There is no such scriptural yardstick for checking on the "spiritual attitude" of a believer. But no one would ever arrogate it to himself or others, if he were heeding the divine em>sequence of requests which include "growing in the realization of all wisdom and spiritual understanding" Unsearchable Riches, volume 51, pages 131-135).

      Anyone who FULLY follows Paul's teaching should be able to distinguish "spiritual adulation" from spiritual blessings among the celestials, and men's myths from God's secrets, as long as he nurtures himself daily with the words of faith (many of them given as prayer guides) and with Paul's ideal teaching (1 Tim.4:6). Now, do you pray daily for a spirit of wisdom and revelation, for the transcendent greatness of God's power, for boldness to make known the secret of the evangel, for the realization of God's will, and for an open door to herald the secret of Christ? Or have you ceased praying and requesting? Paul never ceased! All scripture is inspired by God; so are the prayer guides which Christ Jesus in His glory had Paul write down for us; they are beneficial for the correction of our prayer habits, that the man of God may be equipped with the right words for petitions, pleadings, and thanksgiving.

      At one time or another every one of us has not been FULLY following Paul's teaching, or heralding, or praying. Therefore, we are all reminded to remain in what we learned from him and verified, and to rekindle God's gracious gift which we accepted from those who made it a point to closely listen to Witness Paul and imitate him as deputies of Christ and administrators of God's secrets.


      A tradition, in scriptural use, is what is added by report (Lexical Concordance, page 137). Paul speaks of the tradition of his fathers (Gal.1:14), of human tradition (Col.2:8), and of "the traditions which you were taught" (2 Thess.2:15), which the risen Christ had added to the fundamental facts (1 Cor.15:3,4).

      Concerning these additions, as reported in his epistles, the apostle of the nations wrote the following reminder: "Consequently, then, brethren, stand firm! and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether through word or through our epistle! Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, our Father, Who loves us, and is giving us an eonian consolation and a good expectation in grace, be consoling your hearts and establish you in every good work and word" (2 Thess.2:15-17).

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