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; 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.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.
Comment: In some ways this is a difficult passage for some Western minds to easily understand. Quite clearly Saul as he was initially called was very zealous for the Jewish religion, a rising star and a violent persecutor of Christians. Without going into a long discussion about God’s foreknowing or predestining things to happen, he simply says that God had His hand on him from his time in his mother’s womb, and God revealed His Son to him. No doubt this is a reference to his experience recorded in the book of Acts of Jesus meeting him as he travelled to Damascus. He had a special calling to preach to the Gentiles; he had a lengthy (3 years) private time of reflection and Divine revelation apart from the early church leaders; He already knew the old Testament very well and he would have rethought this again after his meeting with Jesus. Then he went to a private meeting to be ‘checked out’ by those leaders; he received their blessing and went on a preaching tour through Syria and Cilicia. The church which he had previously been persecuting, now praised God for his changed life. Paul later is going to have some hard things to say to the believers in Galatia and here he is establishing his right to be listened to.
Prayer: Thank you for revealing Yourself so clearly in Nature, the Bible and through Your people, my God.