Galatians Part 8 - Galatians 1:15-16
1. Paul here sets forth his conversion to Christ from the Jews’ religion and the bondage of sin’s deception.
A. As a Pharisee trusting in his own righteousness to justify him before God, he would have been convinced that he was free. JOH 8:33.
B. But his overlooking of the covetousness that condemned him before God made him also overlook that he was not free. JOH 8:34.
C. “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” (J.W. von Goethe)
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D. Only the truth of Jesus Christ can make someone free from this strong deception.
(1) The mind and will remain in bondage until one submits to the facts of his own corruption and of Christ’s perfection.
(2) The conscience of hypocrites is first defiled (TIT 1:15), then seared (1TI 4:1-2) to the point eventually that it is past feeling (EPH 4:19).
a. In this state, one is either convinced that he can do no wrong, or that it
doesn’t matter if he does wrong.
b. It may take a violent divine intervention to break one free of this bondage.
E. Paul was suddenly and violently interrupted by Christ and jarred out of his self-righteous deception.
(1) The transition between v. 14 and v. 15 allows for no gradual conversion process, as when one man teaches another. PSA 51:13.
(2) Paul seemed beyond man’s reach but he was not beyond God’s reach.
(3) Paul was suddenly drafted into God’s army. Sometimes the draft is what is needed
to straighten out rebels and make them useful. EPH 4:7-8 c/w PSA 68:18.
2. These verses about the Damascus road experience (ACT 9) set forth Paul’s conversion, not his
A. Nowhere is it here stated or implied that Christ stopped Paul to regenerate him, make him a
new creature with a new nature, pass him from spiritual death unto life, take up residence within Paul, make him into a child of God, etc.
(1) The common theory of the sinner’s reconciliation to God is that the sinner must be
presented with an offer of the Son of God made effectual by the sinner’s response (which variably would be confession, faith, baptism, sacraments, etc.).
a. This would mean that God halted Paul to REVEAL and OFFER His Son TO
b. But it says, “To reveal his Son IN me...” (not BY me nor THROUGH me).
c. The Son was already IN Paul and this needed to be revealed to him.
d. The Son being IN one is spiritual life which guarantees bodily resurrection
unto life eternal. ROM 8:9-11 c/w PHIL 3:20-21; COL 1:27.
(2) That Christ was in Paul shows that he was a regenerated child of God before his
conversion. Regeneration and conversion are not the same thing.
a. regenerate: (v.) trans. In religious use: To cause to be born again in a
spiritual sense; to invest with a new and higher spiritual nature.
b. convert: (v.) trans. To turn in mind, feeling, or conduct; to bring into
another state (of mind, etc.).
c. As a natural man is generated passively by the will of a father, the new
spiritual man is regenerated by the will of the heavenly Father so as to be
made a son of God. JOH 1:12-13.
d. In conversion, the will and act of the regenerated man is required. This is
the duty of those who are called to spiritual life by God’s will and power
when they are convicted by truth. MAT 18:3; ACT 3:19.
e. A regenerate man may not know he needs to be converted until instructed.
MAT 16:16 c/w 1JO 5:1 c/w LUK 22:31-32.
f. GAL 1:15-16 plainly state that two things occurred in Paul at some point
prior to his arrest by God on the Damascus road where God revealed His Son in him: he was separated from his mother’s womb and called by God’s grace. The call by God’s grace is the inward quickening of the spiritually
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dead unto eternal life, resurrection power applied inwardly.
JOH 5:21, 25 c/w JOH 11:43-44 c/w EPH 2:1, 4-5 c/w 1PE 5:10.
g. The purpose for Christ’s arrest of Paul is further stated here: “...that I might preach him among the heathen...” (v. 16). The conversion of Paul was not to make him a son of God but to make him a useful son of God who would declare Christ’s reconciliation of sinners unto the Gentiles.
ACT 26:16-18 c/w 2CO 5:18-19.
h. That Paul was so vigorously fighting against Christ prior to conversion shows that he was one of those elect Jews that belonged to God yet an enemy of the gospel. ROM 11:27-29.
i. Paul had been kicking against the pricks (ACT 9:15), the inward pricks that should provoke the regenerate heart to repentance. c/w ACT 2:37.
j. In his blind Pharisaic zeal he had been fighting against his God unwares, as Jacob had once done. GEN 32:24-32.
(3) These facts underscore a critical and fundamental theme of this epistle to the Gentiles: spiritual life comes from God alone by grace and precedes activity.
a. One’s activity is the evidence and result of life, not that which produces it.
b. One breathes, moves, thinks because he IS alive, not to make himself alive.
c. So also spiritual activity like faith, repentance, conversion, obedience and
love of God in Christ are evidences, not causes, of spiritual life and
justification before God. ACT 13:39, 48.
d. Therefore, if the Galatians’ repentance, faith, conversion to Christ, etc., were
all manifest in them and proofs of their sonship to God and possession of eternal life, how could the lack of fleshly circumcision even be a factor relative to their eternal justification? GAL 3:3.
e. New covenant faith concedes “live and do.” The weak and unprofitable old covenant (ROM 8:3; HEB 7:18) was “do and live.” GAL 3:12.
B. Paul’s words, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb...” further concur with the true purpose for Christ’s arrest of him on the Damascus road.
1. First note that the phrase, “But when it pleased God...” is referring to his conversion
a. Conversion is at God’s pleasure, not before.
LUK 24:16; ACT 14:16, 27; 2TI 2:24-25.
b. Since conversion is at God’s pleasure, we should be cautious about concluding that the lack of good fruit today is certain evidence of no life or the possibility of future fruit. LUK 13:6-9.
2. Paul may have simply been acknowledging God’s role in his natural birth. c/w JOB 10:18; PSA 71:6.
3. But here he is focusing on the reason for his conversion: to make him a minister.
a. Jeremiah was ordained a prophet while in the womb. JER 1:5.
b. Paul was similarly a chosen vessel. ACT 9:15.
c. Paul ascribed the Messianic prophecy of ISA 49:1-6 to his own ministry.
d. In due time the Holy Ghost separated Paul to the ministry. ACT 13:2.
e. He was thus by God’s ordination separated from the womb, by the Holy
Ghost’s direction separated for the ministry, “...separated unto the gospel of God” (ROM 1:1). God’s choice makes vessels of mercy and honour (ROM 9:21-24). All good comes from God’s election.
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