Reading Galatians 1 this morning. Reading about the gospel of Christ — about those who seek to distort it, of Paul who would defend it, and of the Galatians who so quickly deserted it. But rather than being caught up with the Christology of the One “who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age”, I’m preoccupied with the chronology of the one who came to faith.
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 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. But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace, 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.
(Galatians 1:13, 15-16 ESV)
Set apart to be a follower and messenger of Christ “from his mother’s womb” (ESV margin). Called not according to the merits of his character or any good thing he might do, but according to the matchless character of God — the One who is in essence infinite grace — and the works He had purposed to do. The Son was revealed, Paul’s redemption was sealed. And all this “when it pleased God” (3:15 NKJV).
And that’s what I’m chewing on. The when of when it pleased God.
It was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). After Paul had hit his stride in persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it. Why not before? If God had set apart Paul from before he was born, if God knew the plans He had for him (Jer. 29:11), why wait until after Paul’s murderous rampage against followers of Christ?
Why not save him as a child sitting on his mother’s lap as she read from Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53? Gracing him with the gift of childlike faith in a suffering Savior even before that Savior was revealed as Jesus from Nazareth? Or why not translate him as a young student leaving rabbi school — converting his zeal for the traditions into an equivalent zeal for the truth? If set apart from before he was born and called by God’s grace, then why wait until after he became such a goof? If God always knew Paul was going to be sent, why allow him to rack up so much sin?
I don’t know.
How the will of God and the ways of man intersect is a mystery. How the timing of a God who transcends time works in concert with the toils and transgressions of those bound by time is more than this brain can noodle on.
All I know for sure is that God is God.
And so, when it pleased God, God had His Son intercept Paul on a road. And a persecutor became a proclaimer. Zeal for the ways of men became zeal for the wonder of the gospel. He who once was on a mission to destroy the church did a 180 degree turn and instead went into all the world making disciples adding them to the church. When it pleased God.
Behold our God!
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?”
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)