Gal 1:15-18 “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.”
In verses thirteen and fourteen, Paul has just shared how zealous he was in the Jews’ religion. In following this way, he was persecuting the very people he now found himself ministering to with such love and compassion. He was now living a very different life than the one he once pursued with such determination. In verse fifteen, he begins to explain what made the change in him. He also gives instruction to the brethren concerning following men by using his own life as the example.
Like Paul, we go about seeking to do the things that we believe will gain us an advantage in this life. We realize early on that if we are going to do well in this world, then there are certain people that we will need to please (parents, teachers, employers, etc.). There is a way set forth in the scripture that tells us we should please those who are in authority over us and how to go about that (Col 3:20-23). While we are to yield ourselves to those in authority over us, it should never be at the expense of doing what God has commanded us.
When God moves, things change direction. Paul was deeply engaged in pleasing those that were in authority over him and persecuting those over whom he was given authority (Act 26:10). However, when it pleased God to move in Paul’s life everything changed. Notice that Paul did not point to a time when it pleased God to place His Son in Paul: he pointed to the time when it pleased Him to reveal His Son in Paul.
Paul testifies here that he has always been subject to God’s power. It was God who separated him from his mother’s womb. This could refer to Paul’s physical separation from his mother at birth: it could also refer to God’s work in separating him from the religion he had devoted his life to prior to God’s call. When God’s grace begins to work in our lives, we can be assured that it will separate us from the things that we once thought sustained us and give us a whole new perspective on what it means to live.
When it pleased God to reveal His Son in Paul, Paul immediately ceased to confer with flesh and blood. He did not go back to the high priest and the council to get their take on the situation. Neither did he go up to Jerusalem to seek the approval of those who were called to be apostles before him. I don’t mean to imply by this observation that there is anything wrong with having ministering brethren who act as mentors or to treat them with love and respect. What I am saying is that our ultimate reliance must be on God, the revelation of His Son in us, and His authority to call whom He will to preach His gospel.
The calling of God may require us to go where others have not gone. Our labor may not always be where others have labored. We may encounter situations where brethren will tell us we cannot go to this place or that to preach the gospel. I understand these scriptures to teach that we are to go wherever God sends us and preach His wonderful truth to whomever he sends us. This is not something that flesh and blood should be allowed determine for us.
Paul had been following the will and purpose of Jesus (Act 9:15) for three years before he spent any significant time in Jerusalem after his conversion. Then he spent fifteen days visiting and fellowshipping with Peter. Can you imagine the conversations between these two men? They were of totally different backgrounds, yet they had so very much in common.
Although the outward display was different, both had been called by Jesus to serve Him and preach His gospel. While the majority of Paul’s ministry was among the Gentiles, Peter was the first apostle to go and preach to a Gentile household. Paul had received a formal education, and Peter had been a fisherman. Yet, when called to stand and declare the truth of Jesus Christ, Peter’s eloquence amazed those that heard him (Act 4:13). Even though they had some disagreements (Gal 2:11), there was obviously a great love between them (2Pe 3:15).
Men don’t choose to change, but when it pleases God to reveal His Son in us we are changed. We lose our desire to please men and seek to please God. We lose our fear of what men might do to us or say about us: instead we learn to fear (reverence) God and give Him glory. The revelation and calling of God come from the great well of His grace.
May we have the enabling of God to put our full trust in Him and go according to His leadership!