Innocent Bystanders

August 20, 2012 at 11:48 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 6 Comments
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And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

Acts 22:17-21

The Apostle Paul was almost killed in a riot, but he was rescued by Roman centurions and allowed to address the crowd. Not only did Paul see Jesus alive, but Jesus spoke to him and told him what to do. Paul wanted to go back there very badly, and he even tried to talk Jesus out of sending him somewhere else, stating that when Stephen, the martyr, was killed, Paul had been a bystander. Paul called himself a bystander, but he did not consider himself to be an innocent bystander.

By doing nothing – just safeguarding the coats of those who stoned Stephen – Paul had consented to his death. The Apostle Paul knew that he was guilty, and he did not pretend that just standing by and watching absolves one from sin or guilt. Now that he had been born again, and had been appointed as God’s missionary to the gentiles, he was saying, in effect, “I can’t go where You want me to go, Lord, and I can’t do the things You want me to do, because I have to go back and make amends for my sins. I have to make up for what I did in the past.” Paul never wanted to go back to the role of a “bystander.”

Are you a bystanding Christian? Do you believe you can’t do anything for the Lord because of what you’ve done in the past? Jesus told Paul to “depart,” to stop being on “stand-by.” Jesus reminded Paul of exactly Who it was Who was sending him. Do you think God doesn’t know about your past? Your sins? Your failures? Do you think He’s making a mistake by calling you to get involved in ministry? To do His work?

Among Christians, there are no “innocent” bystanders. We’re all guilty before the sinless Savior, but our sins are forgiven. Our past is (not “will be“) forgiven. It’s time to stop being a “bystander” and to start departing.

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

II Timothy 1:9

We weren’t called because of what we did or didn’t do before we were saved – or because of any works God thought we might be able to impress Him with afterward. We were called according to His purpose and grace – before the world began.


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