“. . . to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).
PAUL WAS AN APOSTLE AND WE ARE NOT, BUT THE MISSION ASSIGNED TO HIM IS ONE WE CAN LEARN FROM. He was given the task of taking the gospel to the Gentiles, and in the text above, God was telling Paul what the purpose of his preaching would be. We, no less than Paul, need to understand the purpose of the gospel. Indeed, there is nothing more important for us to understand.
To open their eyes. The gospel provides the solution to our worst problem, the remedy to our worst illness. But in order to help us, the first thing the gospel has to do is open our eyes to the truth about our situation. We must see our need for the gospel.
So that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. If our problem is sin, and if God is offering forgiveness, what we need to do is turn around. In denial of the truth about God, we’ve been going in the wrong direction. We’ve submitted ourselves to the power of Satan. That can change — and God will forgive us — but not without a real conversion (or “turning”) to Him.
That they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. Here are the two things that result from the gospel. First, the forgiveness of sins. This is why Jesus died, and it is what the gospel is about. Second, those forgiven have “a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” This is what is unique about those who are faithful to Jesus Christ. They still struggle, as all do, but they have a hope based on “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).
All of this is a wonderful plan, of course, but it requires life’s most serious choice and its greatest love. For those living under the deadly power of Satan, no moderate remedy will do. Jesus Christ can save us, but we must turn to Him decisively. In sin, we took our hearts away from our God. We must give them back. For after all, there are only two alternatives, only two possible “fathers” waiting for us in eternity. We must choose between them.
“There is no heaven with a little of hell in it — no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather!” (George MacDonald).