When Was St. Paul Sanctified?
Seeing that good men differ concerning the place and time of Paul’s sanctification, this writer can scarcely hope to answer the question to the satisfaction of all, but may be pardoned for giving what seems to him the most reasonable view, even if it should not accord fully with the views of some other writers on the subject. As to the fact of Paul’s sanctification, in view of his own testimony and teaching on the subject, we think there can be no difference of opinion. Surely, Paul would not urge upon others what he did not possess himself. And, of course, the fact is the more important matter. It may be immaterial as to when or where a person obtains this experience, so long as there is the assurance of the fact.
And yet, when men undertake to prove that regeneration and sanctification take place simultaneously, and that Paul so obtained the experience, the question assumes a more serious aspect, as it affects a vital doctrinal truth. For it is safe to assume that if Paul was sanctified simultaneously with his regeneration, that others may be thus sanctified; or, that if he obtained the experience subsequent to his regeneration, we in like manner should be sanctified subsequent to our regeneration.
The answer to this question is closely allied with another question, namely, “Where or when was Paul regenerated?” We believe that the answer to this latter question is, Paul was regenerated out in the big road, while on his way to Damascus, when the light shone “round about him,” and Saul said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do,” and the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest,” thus revealing Himself to him. It seems incredible that a man who has had such a revelation of Christ, and who has evidently fully surrendered as evidenced by his question, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” should be left under the burden of guilt and condemnation — unsaved — for three days.
It is urged that in view of the fact that he was “three days without sight,” and that not until under the ministry of Ananias did the scales fall from his eyes, he must have remained an unregenerated sinner until that time. But it is well to remember that his blindness was a physical blindness, and not spiritual blindness, as some infer, and that he himself said he “could not see for the glory of that light” (Acts 22 :16); that his blindness was due, not to sin, but the very “glory of that light” that shone around about him. We can scarcely conceive that a man should have such a revelation of Christ, and have “the glory of that light” so shine upon him and yet remain a lost and unregenerated sinner for the space of three days.
When afterward Saul was come to Jerusalem and “assayed to join himself to the disciples,” and they were all afraid of him, “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord IN THE WAY, and that he had spoken to Him” (Acts 9 :27); here Barnabas made no mention whatever to what had taken place in the city in the “house of Judas,” under the ministry of Ananias, but evidently dates his experience back to the big road. Not only so, but Paul himself, when relating his experience before King Agrippa (Acts 26), tells what happened in the big road, while on his way to Damascus, and makes no mention whatever of what transpired three days later, thus proving that Paul himself dated his conversion to the time he was stricken down “near Damascus.” And he in like manner tells the king that he received his commission at that time –in the road — and not after an interval of three days. We could not conceive that such a commission would be given to a man who was yet unconverted or unregenerated. But that another experience came to him three days later, in “the city of Damascus, in the street which is called Straight,” “in the house of Judas,” when Ananias was sent to him, no one could deny; it was then “there fell from his eyes as it had been scales, and he received his sight forthwith.” This surely marked a distinct crisis or epoch in his experience.
May we not learn the nature of this later or second experience from the language of Ananias as he spoke to Paul? He said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, AND BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST” (Acts 9:17.) This writer believes that this is where St. Paul was sanctified.
First, because no man can be “filled with the Holy Ghost” until after he is regenerated. When Jesus gave the promise of the Spirit, He said concerning Him, “‘Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.” (John 14:17.) A sinner may be convicted by the Spirit, and a penitent may be born of the Spirit; but only a regenerated soul can “be filled with the Spirit.”
Second, we would date his sanctification to the time when Ananias came to him, when he was filled with the Holy Ghost, because it is the baptism with the Holy Ghost that sanctifies.
The prayer of Jesus in behalf of the disciples that they should be sanctified, and the promise, “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence,” had its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost, when it was said, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” And Peter so understood it, for he declares it was at that time they received the purifying of their hearts (Acts 15:9). That it is the baptism with the Holy Ghost that sanctifies is also implied by the symbol of “fire,” which always suggests the refining and purifying work of the Spirit, and never stands for regeneration.
The complete restoration to sight that came in this connection rather confirms the idea that it was here he received the second touch — the experience of entire sanctification. Jesus taught by an object lesson in the opening of the eyes of the blind man, that it was not until after he had received the second touch (Mark 8 :22) that he “saw every man CLEARLY.”
The common experience and testimony of all who are sanctified as a second experience is that they never saw clearly — never had clearness of vision — until they had obtained the second touch. Whereas, they had never been able to see the teaching of a second experience in the Bible previous to their sanctification, they could now see it almost everywhere. Yes, sanctification is the greatest eye-opener on earth.
So it seems clear to this writer that Paul was converted out in the big road, when Jesus was revealed to him, and sanctified three days later, under the ministry of Ananias, when he was “filled with the Holy Ghost.”