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"And Ananias said, The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, for thou shalt be His witness to all men, of what thou hast seen and heard, and to hear a voice from His mouth."—Acts xxii. 14, 15.
WHEN Saul said: Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do? the reference was to personal immediate duty. When Ananias, after three days, spoke of his call from God " to know His will," the thought was a much larger one. Saul had been prepared of God as His chosen vessel, to whom he could intrust "the mystery of His will," "the mystery of Christ," "which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God," "that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel" (Eph. i. 9, 10, iii. 3-9).
I have previously spoken of the need of not confining our knowledge of God's will to the commands and promises which have special reference to ourselves. All God's children are called to enlarge their hearts, to take a personal interest in the great work God is seeking to carry out in the world, and so to be ready to take their part in the fulfilment of His purpose—the winning back of the world to Him, to be the kingdom of His Son.
In studying Paul's surrender to Christ's will in conversion, we saw how closely that was linked to his vision of the Lord in heaven. Here we find the same connection: "Appointed to know His will, and to see the Kighteous One." The mystery of God's will is the mystery of Christ: to know the will is inseparable from knowing the Eighteous One, who put away sin, and is to rule in righteousness on the earth. In the life and writings of Paul we see how firmly be holds the two truths together. It is ever "Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of the faith among all nations, for His name's sake." As one who had seen and heard him, Paul's Gospel was ever a personal witness. He never preached the will of God as a doctrine, or a decree, or even as a revelation, apart from the living person of that Lord Jesus in whom that will had revealed all its riches and blessings, and in personal contact
with whom alone its salvation could be realised. To know the will, and to see the Eighteous One, let these ever be inseparable. The living Christ Himself can alone fit us to know and do the will of God. To know the will and not see the Eighteous One would make it a new law of Moses, a burden heavy to be borne. To see Him is to know the will in the light of God's love, to know it in its Divine beauty and perfection, and to receive the power to do it.
All that God did in Paul was "for an ensample unto them which should hereafter believe." Like him, and through him, each of us is called, in our measure, to know this larger will of God, His purpose for all men, that the Gospel should be preached to every creature. There is no sadder proof of how little it is understood or preached that, just as Christ, so His Church is only in the world to carry out this Divine will, than the lack, in the great majority of Christians, of anything like enthusiastic devotion to the cause of missions. Even among those who do give them a measure of support, there is so little sense of the overwhelming prominence which ought to be given to this will of God. It is not one command among others. It is the one thing in which the will of the Father includes everything: That all men should know and honour Christ. It is the one thing for which Christ died and lives. It is the one thing for which the Church exists, to be a light of them that are in darkness. It is the one thing by which a child of God can prove that he lives not unto himself but unto Him that died for him and rose again. It is the one truth that above all else needs to be restored to its place, and which assuredly will bring the revival of every other truth of the spiritual life as its necessary condition. This is in very deed the very will of God, that the Church as the body of Christ, and every believer as its member, is to seek first, absolutely first, the kingdom of God, and to labour that His will be done throughout the earth as in heaven.
And what can be the reason, if this be the will of God, that the Church has so little apprehended or fulfilled it? If Paul was divinely illuminated to know that will, and to make it known to the Church, how comes it that it has so little possessed the Church of Christ? The answer is not far to seek. Just as in Paul this will of God needed a very special spiritual revelation, so still. It is easy, when once a truth has been seen and pointed out by spiritual men, for other Christians to see and accept it too. And yet it may be an article of mental belief, that does not really, through living faith, master and possess the heart. The will of God is a living spiritual energy; we do not know that will truly until it has entered and filled our will. As love alone can meet love, and heart alone touch heart, so will alone can apprehend will. Anything less is but a mental image, a conception of the truth, not the thing itself in its reality and power. And so a great deal of the missionary interest of our day proves, by the feeble hold it has, and the little sacrifice there is made for it, and the need of continual appeal to minor motives, that the knowledge of this mystery of God's will is not held in the power of the Spirit.
Paul speaks of "the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is only as the mystery of Christ in us, the experience of an indwelling Christ is truly known, that the glory of the mystery will be seen to be this, that it is the will of God for all the Gentiles. The more truly I know by the Spirit what it is to have Christ in me, the more I shall long and labour that it may be Christ in all.
"God hath appointed thee to know His will, and to see the Eighteous One, and to hear a voice from His mouth, and to be His witness of what thou hast seen and heard." God gave Paul as an ensample; in thy measure this word is for thee too, my reader. Do believe that in this mystery of God's will for the Gentiles the glory of God, of Christ, of the Church, of every believer is centred. All God's wisdom and power, His holiness and love and faithfulness meet in it. And thou art appointed—what a privilege—to know His will, and have it possess thee, and use thee as its instrument and messenger and witness. Fear not to yield thyself utterly to it, a living sacrifice. "Appointed to know His will, and" (here is thy strength) "to see the Eighteous One," who Himself wrought that will, and now works mightily in all who see Him and receive Him as their Lord who dwells in them. Oh, cast thyself into this mighty stream of Divine love—the will of God for the salvation of the ends of the earth! Look up and see and worship the Eighteous One, the Lord our Eighteousness, the King of Eighteousness, whose rule is to bring peace and blessing to the world; to do all God's will for the establishment of the kingdom will become thy one ambition.