Friday, 12 February 2016
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, Galatians 1:15
This verse falls into the biblical doctrine of “predestination.” God has a set plan which will come about and which cannot be thwarted. In the case of the calling of Paul, it is one which God knew would be the most effective calling, both in the individual selected and in the time-period in which his selection was made.
Paul begins with, “But when it pleased God.” This actually ties together with the words of the next verse which say, “…to reveal His Son in me.” There was a specific time in Paul’s life for his calling. However, though his calling came at a later point in life, the preparation for that call came at a much earlier time. Paul says that God “separated me from my mother’s womb.”
This is a common theme for those selected by God for His redemptive purposes. Samson’s calling was made even before his conception, as was Samuel (which is implied in the account), and John the Baptist as well. Isaiah’s words concerning the coming Messiah show the same –
“Listen, O coastlands, to Me,
And take heed, you peoples from afar!
The Lord has called Me from the womb;
From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.” Isaiah 49:1
Further, Jeremiah shows this was the case with him. The Lord said to him –
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
In the case of Jeremiah and Paul, they didn’t actually receive their commission until much later, and yet their designated paths were set from the womb. In Paul’s specific case, it was after years of learning under Gamaliel and after countless persecutions of Christians, among many other things. In other words, these things, which seem contrary to being a servant of the gospel message, were actually being used as a part of his ability to convey that message.
He could not well refute the Judaizers to those in Galatia without having the credentials that he possessed. And so even what we would consider as evil can be used for a good purpose by God. This same idea also permeates the Bible. What happened to Joseph was evil, and yet God used it for good. Thus, we can see that God has a plan which is far greater than any temporary woe or misstep on our part.
Paul was separated from the womb and at the perfect moment he was called “through His grace.” Every part of Paul’s life was leading up to that magnificent moment on the road to Damascus where he was shown grace. And that moment led to each subsequent moment of his life. The marvelous plan of God was working out exactly as intended in order to bring the world to a fuller understanding of the work of Christ.
The reason for Paul’s use of this verse is to show that it was by grace alone that he was saved. If this is so, then the pattern follows through with each other person who is saved. There is no works involved in the salvation of any person, except the finished work of Christ; a work which is of grace alone through faith alone.
However, this then asks us to consider, if Paul has to tell them this because they were falling back under works of the law, then free-will must be a part of the process, even if God is fully aware of it. There would be no need for Paul to even write these words unless there was the possibility that a different outcome would result if a different choice were made. This will become perfectly evident when a situation concerning Peter is introduced into Paul’s words in chapter 2.
It is clearly and perfectly evident that even though God knows all things that will occur in all people forever, He does not make our choices for us. Thus, predestination has a dual nature – God knows the choices man will make, but the free-will of man is a part of the equation. It is a complicated issue, but it is both reasonable and self-evident in the pages of the Bible.
Life application: Everything that occurs is known to God before it happens. Though that doesn’t take away any pain we may feel, it should give us great comfort to know that if we are in Christ, all things are heading to a very good end. Living through the present may be difficult, but it is only a weigh-station on the highway to glory.
Lord God, Your word shows that You are aware of all things and that You have predestined them according to Your foreknowledge. And yet, Your word shows that we have free will in the decisions we make. Help us then to yield ourselves to You and to make decisions which will be pleasing to You. And above all, hear our prayer for those who have not yet received the gift of eternal life through Christ the Lord. Open their eyes and prompt their hearts according to Your wisdom and love. Amen.