And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
There are three distinct accounts of the conversion of Paul. In the first we are simply told that it was a light from heaven; in the second, that it was a great and glorious light; and in the third, that it was above the brightness of the noonday sun. It is of that light we desire to speak.
I. THE EXCELLENCE OF THY LIGHT. We have nothing definitely recorded as to the nature of the light. To assert, as some have done, that it was a mere electric phenomenon is absurd. Equally unsatisfactory is the theory that it was only a vision peculiar to Paul (Acts 26:13). The "minute particulars" given of the light evince "the objective reality of this heavenly manifestation." To us the most reasonable explanation is that which regards this light as the Shekinah — that visible and miraculous glory which was a symbol of the Divine presence. As Dr. Bonar has well said, "It appeared at sundry times and in divers forms for various purposes — now of mercy, now of judgment. It was the light that blazed out in the flaming sword; that appeared to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees; that was seen by Moses in the burning bush; that shone out in the pillar of cloud and compassed the top of Sinai; that dwelt in the tabernacle and temple; that showed itself to Gideon's father; that kindled the fire on Solomon's altar; that was seen by Ezekiel departing, and by Daniel in his visions; that for four hundred years left the earth, but reappeared at Bethlehem to the shepherds and to the wise men; at Christ's baptism; at the Transfiguration; at Pentecost; at Stephen's martyrdom; and now at Saul's conversion, and afterward at Patmos. Such is the history of this wondrous light — the representation of Him who is light, and in whom is no darkness at all." Whatever that light may have been, we do know most certainly that at every conversion there is light — the light of the glorious gospel of Christ and the illumination of the Holy Ghost. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus." Between the visible glory that shone around Saul and the invisible brightness that shines in upon every converted soul there are several points of likeness.
1. It was a light from heaven. Not merely streaming from the firmament, but actually emanating from the dwelling place of the Divine Being. It shone from that city where they have no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And so is it with gospel light. It proceeds alone from God. His wisdom devised and His grace first contrived the way to save rebellious man. "The Dayspring from on high hath visited us." Our calling is in every way a heavenly one. We needed a Divine revelation. The light of such a revelation is far brighter than that of human reason. The light of reason is utterly insufficient to lead one soul in the way of holiness.
2. It was a light above the brightness of the sun. This is very remarkable. It was midday, the sun had reached its zenith. It was an Oriental sun, the heavens were ablaze with light. So the light of the gospel is superior to the brightest light of nature. Revelation exceeds Nature at her best.
3. It was a light which revealed Christ. This light revealed Christ. There is no doubt that Saul had an actual sight of Jesus. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." "And last of all, He was seen of me also." It was the greatest glory of the light that it brought Jesus into view. And this is the glory of the gospel, that it brings Jesus before us, and herein is its superiority not only to reason and nature, but also to the law of Moses. "For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." The law makes known the spotless holiness and inflexible justice of God, and thereby renders us conscious of sin. But the light of the gospel tells of grace as well as truth, and mercy as well as righteousness.
II. THE EFFECT OF THE LIGHT. "I Could not see for the glory of that light." A strange effect, surely! Yet there is such a thing as being dark with excess of light. And right through his Christian career he might constantly have said, "I could not see for the glory of that light."
1. He was blinded to the world. He became blind to the world's glory, pride, pomp, wealth, and pleasure. The light of heavenly glory was so dazzling that he could not see lesser lights. And thus it is with every converted soul. Earth has no attractions for such an one. Faithful walked through Vanity Fair with averted eyes, so does a true believer pass through the world.
2. He was blinded to his old views of religion. There was never a more remarkable change of opinion and creed than in his case. He preached the faith which once he destroyed. Oh, it is a blessed thing when the light of truth blinds us to error! There are people now embracing false ideas which seem to them wonderfully plain. They see certain things (as they imagine) with the utmost clearness. We cannot convince them that they are wrong. But let this heavenly light shine upon them, and what a transformation will be effected!
3. He was blinded to his own greatness and goodness. Before his conversion he had a capital opinion of himself. Now he is "less than least of all saints" and the chief of sinners. He cannot see that well-satisfied, boastful, righteous self. The glory of the Divine light has blinded him to his own glory.
4. He was blinded to his former companions. He could not see those with whom he journeyed. "He saw no man," we read. And when his eyes were opened, the first face that greeted his regained vision was that of a follower of Jesus. He chooses the people of God, and bids farewell to those with whom he once consorted.
(C. W. Townsend.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.