Today we’re reading Acts 26.
Our reading from chapter 25 ended yesterday just as Paul, in prison in Caesarea, was about to speak to Festus, a Roman governor, and Agrippa, a Jewish governor / client king over the same area as Festus). Here in Acts 26 we read what Paul said to these men and their responses. Paul followed the same pattern that we’ve seen before in this speech. He simply recounted his personal testimony of salvation in Christ (vv. 1-21), then tied his experience to Old Testament prophesies (vv. 22-23) and applied all this truth to his listeners (vv. 25-29). After Paul’s speech, Festus and Agrippa agreed that Paul was being held and charged unjustly (v. 31) and could have been released (v. 32).
Verse 18 of our text today contains one of the most concise descriptions of the Christian gospel and of our mission once we become Christians: “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Let’s unpack this powerful verse; remember that Jesus is the one speaking these words (v. 15).
Paul was sent “to open their eyes.” This refers, of course, to spiritual vision. It is a way of describing one who understands the truthfulness of the gospel. This is a reference to the doctrine we call “regeneration” -- giving spiritual life to the spiritually dead. It is the only way anyone ever becomes a Christian. Unbelievers may understand the facts of the gospel but until God “opens their eyes” they will not and cannot believe it. Becoming a Christian is--first and foremost--a spiritual act that God unilaterally does for a sinner he has chosen.
After a person has his or her eyes open they turn “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” This “turning” is the doctrine of repentance. Repentance isn’t about being sorry for sin (although some sorrow usually accompanies repentance). Repentance is about a change of mind. Once God opens a person’s eyes, that person chooses to think differently about everything spiritual--God, himself, his sin, etc. At that moment, the unbeliever is extracted “from the power of Satan” by God himself. This makes a person want to follow God and to begin following him instead of living obediently to Satan’s wicked ways.
The result (“so that”) of the spiritual transformation described in verse 18a is “that they may receive forgiveness of sins.” This is the point at which the blood of Christ--his sacrifice as our substitute--is applied to the believer by God. God credits the person who believes the gospel message with the perfect obedience of Christ and he treats us as if we were actually perfectly obedient.
In addition to receiving “the forgiveness of sins” Jesus gave the person described in this verse, “a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” The word “sanctified” means “set apart.” Once we receive all of this spiritual work and transformation, we then have “a place.” This refers to our new state of belonging to God and waiting for his kingdom to arrive.
And how does a person become “sanctified?” Verse 18 says, “by faith in me.” Faith in God’s word about salvation “sets us apart” for Christ. Now we now belong to him and to his mission.
This is how a person becomes a Christian. It seems unlikely, but it is possible that someone reading this devotional today isn’t even a Christian . Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Have you received his free gift of eternal life? That’s a vital question, one every person needs to believe.