Chosen By God.
But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. – Galatians 1:15 NLT
In the eyes of the new believers living in the region of Galatia, Paul is just another man with another message. They can think of no reason to give his message any more credence than any other man’s. Yes, Paul had been to the Roman province of Galatia on his first missionary journey, and had visited Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. He had brought them the Good News of Jesus Christ, but there were others who had slightly different opinions regarding what it meant to be a Christ-follower. They were promoting the idea that it wasn’t enough to simply believe in Jesus as your Savior, you also had to be converted to Judaism and adhere to its laws and ceremonial requirements. These Judaizers, as they were called, were so zealous in their beliefs, that they had actually followed Paul on his first missionary journey, spreading their pseudo-gospel among the new converts. Now these new Gentile converts were faced with a decision regarding who to believe – Paul of the Judaizers. Both claimed to have the message of good news. Both claimed to be speaking truth. But who were the Galatian Christians to believe.
Paul presents his case clearly and concisely. He tells them that his gospel message is not some man-made invention or the product of his fertile imagination. He didn’t get it out of a text book or from a classroom. Instead, he had “received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12 NLT). The message he had preached on his first missionary journey to Galatia was exactly what Jesus had given him personally. Paul’s story was not an ordinary one. Prior to his conversion, he had been a hired bounty hunter, working for the Jewish religious leadership, pursuing and persecuting these new sect called Christian that had risen up after the death of Jesus. Paul was a well-educated Pharisee, trained under Gamaliel, a revered Jewish rabbi. Paul described his prior life by saying, “I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did” (Acts 22:3 NLT). He persecuted the followers of the Way, the term used to describe those who had become Christians or Christ-followers. It was his obsession to find them, arrest them, and make sure that they were punished for their heresy. Paul knew what it meant to be a fervent follower of the traditions of the Jews. He had been a law-keeper of the first order.
But something happened. He had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ while he was on his way to Damascus. Paul says, “Then it pleased him [God] to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16 NLT). For the next three years, Paul lived in Arabia. While there, he was isolated from the other apostles, receiving his instruction directly from God, not men. Paul’s message was from God, not men. Paul had been chosen by God to deliver a very specific message to the Gentiles, and it did not include conversion to Judaism and adherence to the Jewish laws and sacrificial system. The Good News Paul delivered was based on faith in Christ alone. Nothing more, nothing less. He had no problem declaring his message superior to that of the Judaizers, because he knew that his message was divinely given and not to be tampered with. Paul was not out to win friends and influence enemies. He was out to proclaim the Good News of faith alone in Christ alone. The era of works-based righteousness was over. Jesus had died to deliver men from the dead-end pursuit of earning favor with God through self-effort. It was His works that saved, not man’s. And Paul was chosen by God, even before he was born, to be the conduit of that message to the Gentiles.
Father, it is amazing to think that You had Paul in mind before he was even born. You had a job for him to do long before he even existed. Your plan of salvation is comprehensive and complete. There are no diversions or detours. You are never caught off guard or surprised. You know Paul was going to persecute the Church. But You also knew that he was going to accomplish for Your Kingdom, because that had been Your plan from eternity past. Your choosing of men is never without reason and our salvation is never without purpose. You have a job for each of us to do. We have been called and commissioned to serve You. Help us see our divine job description and take it seriously, just as Paul did. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men