It’s hard not to be filled with awe and wonder at our God as we read today’s verses from Galatians 1:15-17:
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
We’ve already read that Paul’s apostleship came through God (not man) and that the gospel of God came from God (not from man). Here we see that Paul’s salvation is also from God, a gift of His grace.
Look who is doing the work in these verses:
God – separated Paul from his mother’s womb
God – called Paul through His grace
God – revealed His Son in Paul
God gave Paul a mission to preach Him among the Gentiles.
Salvation is a gift from God, not as a result of our works. As we saw yesterday, Paul, before he was saved, when he was Saul, was zealous for the traditions of his fathers and was advanced in Judaism beyond his contemporaries. Yet those works did not bring him near to God.
If you have time, stop now to read Acts 9 and the story of Paul’s conversion. A blinding light and a voice from heaven. God asking Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?” Three days without sight. A visit from Ananias. A new calling, receiving back his sight, being filled with the Holy Spirit, being baptized, preaching Christ as the Son of God.
Look at Paul. When it pleased God to save him (not by works, by grace), God had a mission for Paul (to do good works). This mission was to preach Christ among the Gentiles, to spread the gospel of God.
Paul writes more about this in Ephesians 2:8-10.
We are saved by grace through faith, not by works, not by ourselves, but it is the gift of God that no one may boast. Though it is not by works, we are His workmanship, created for good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Paul’s description of this in Galatians 1:15-16 is similar to that of Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Isaiah 49:1b, 5a: “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name…. And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—”
Jeremiah 1:4: “Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
God created them, called them, appointed them for specific purposes. Isn’t that incredibly exciting?! That our God, who created us, sent His Son to save us from our sins, as a free gift of God, that by faith we could be saved and know God. This is not by works; it is all by grace. It is from God, not from man. It is the gospel of God.
And then, not only that, He has things for us to do after we are saved. Our good works don’t save us, but they are given to us to do by God. When we know how much we have been saved from (sin and death), we delight in the God who was pleased to deliver us as a gift of His grace, and we long to live for Him and do His will. He has callings for us, purposes for us, that will bring us great joy and satisfaction in Him.
They may come with a cost. In Acts 9, when the Lord called Ananias to go to Saul, the Lord told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Paul’s call came with great suffering. The one who had persecuted the church would become the one persecuted. Paul never drew back from his call, but moved forward as led by God’s Spirit into the work God had given him to do.
When Saul met the Lord on that Damascus road, Saul was looking for people of the Way to take them bound to Jerusalem. The one who had truly been bound by his sin was now set free. He changed directions and paths immediately. That’s what salvation does. It turns us around and redirects everything, now led by Christ and His Spirit.
Our verses today tell us Paul did not go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him. Nor did he immediately confer with flesh and blood. He went to Arabia and returned to Damascus. My Bible notes say he wasn’t looking to confer with other people to validate or receive his salvation. This very real experience on the road to Damascus was given to him by God Himself, and the reality of this changed Saul to Paul and the course of his life.
All the zeal that had at one time been directed against Jesus was now directed for Him. Paul was changed, converted, saved by grace, and set on a mission to preach to the Gentiles, and to suffer. And the New Testament records how faithfully he fulfilled his calling in the strength that the Lord gave and by the power of His Spirit.
We today benefit from Paul’s obedience and from all that God did in his life.
PRAYER: Praise You, God! You formed us in our mothers’ wombs. You provided a way of salvation for us through Christ. As a gift of Your grace, we can be saved by faith. Thank you for this gospel of God, for revealing Yourself to us with power, and for giving us callings to do as we walk in You and with You. May we walk with You and seek You and fulfill the callings You have for us in the strength You give and by the power of Your Spirit. We stand in awe of You, our great God. In Jesus’ beautiful name, Amen.