11 “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” (Galatians 1:11-17)
There is a lot of debate and discussion among biblical scholars and pastors regarding the events in Saul’s life following his conversion and his first missionary journey with Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3). Paul provides some insight in his letter to the Galatians.
Today’s text not only affirms Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road but also his pre-converted life of persecuting the church of Jesus Christ. Paul was adamant that he single handedly tried to destroy the church. His reason for attempting to do so was because of zealousness for the traditions of his fore-fathers.
Paul then affirmed the sovereignty of God in his salvation when he wrote, “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,” (Galatians 1:15). Paul was not referring to his physical birth but rather his spiritual birth. God had chosen Paul not only before he was born, but prior to creation or the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-4). God sets his servants apart unto salvation even before birth. This is clear from Jeremiah 1:5 (see also Genesis 25:23; Psalm 71:6; Isaiah 44:2; 49:1); Paul presented his own conversion in light of the Old Testament prophets.
Additionally, God’s effectual call in the salvation of Saul on the Damascus Road was not based upon any prior merit or effort on the part of the future apostle. It was totally based upon God’s grace alone, through God given faith alone, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
Following his conversion, Paul did not immediately travel to Jerusalem, or remain in Damascus for that matter. Rather, he traveled to Arabia before returning to Damascus and beginning his preaching ministry (Acts 9:20-22).
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Rather than immediately travel to Jerusalem to be instructed by the apostles, Paul instead went to Nabatean Arabia, a wilderness desert that stretched east of Damascus down to the Sinai Peninsula. After being prepared for ministry by the Lord, he returned to minister in nearby Damascus.”
The events in Saul’s life were sovereignly orchestrated by the Lord. The events in your life are also sovereignly orchestrated by the Lord. God is in sovereign control of our lives.
Soli deo Gloria!