Who separated me from my mother's womb - Him whom I acknowledge as the God of nature and the God of grace; who preserved me by his providence when I was a helpless infant, and saved me by his grace when I was an adult persecutor. For some useful remarks on these passages see the introduction, sec. 2.
But when it pleased God - Paul traced all his hopes of eternal life, and all the good influences which had ever borne upon his mind, to God.
Who separated me - That is, who destined me; or who purposed from my very birth that I should be a preacher and an apostle. The meaning is, that God had in his secret purposes set him apart to be an apostle. It does not mean that he had actually called him in his infancy to the work, for this was not so, but that he designed him to be an important instrument in his hands in spreading the true religion. Jeremiah Jeremiah 1:5 was thus set apart, and John the Baptist was thus early designated for the work which they afterward performed. It follows from this:
(1) That God often, if not always, has purposes in regard to people from their very birth. He designs them for some important field of labor, and endows them at their creation with talents adapted to that.
(2) it does not follow that because a young man has gone far astray; and has become even a blasphemer and a persecutor, that God has not destined him to some important and holy work in his service. How many people have been called, like Paul, and Newton, and Bunyan, and Augustine, from a life of sin to the service of God.
(3) God is often training up people in a remarkable manner for future usefulness. His eye is upon them, and He watches over them, until the time comes for their conversion. His providence was concerned in the education and training of Paul. It was by the divine intention with reference to his future work that he had so many opportunities of education, and was so well acquainted with the “traditions” of that religion which he was yet to demonstrate to be unfounded and false. He gave him the opportunity to cultivate his mind, and prepare to grapple with the Jew in argument, and show him how unfounded were his hopes. So it is often now. He gives to a young man an opportunity of a finished education. Perhaps he suffers him to fall into the snares of infidelity, and to become familiar with the arguments of sceptics, that he may thus be better prepared to meet their sophisms and to enter into their feelings. God‘s eye is upon them in their wanderings, and they are often allowed to wander far; to range the fields of science; to become distinguished as scholars, as Paul was; until the time comes for their conversion, and then, in accordance with the purpose which set them apart from the world, God converts them, and consecrates all their talents and attainments to His service.
(4) we should never despair of a young man who has wandered far from God. If he has risen high in attainments; if his whole aim is ambition; or if he has become an infidel, still we are not to despair of him. It is still possible that God “separated” that talent to his service from his very birth, and that God still means to call it all to His service. How easy it was to convert Saul of Tarsus when the proper period arrived. So it is of the now unconverted and unconsecrated, but cultivated talent among the young men of our land. Far as they may have wandered from God and virtue, yet much of that talent has been devoted to Him in baptism, and by parental purposes and prayers; and, it may be - as is morally certain from the history of the past - that much of it is consecrated also by the divine purpose and intention for the noble cause of virtue and pure religion. In that now apparently wasted talent; in that learning now apparently devoted to other aims and ends, there is much that may still adorn the cause of virtue and religion; and how fervently we should pray that it may be “called” by the grace of God and actually devoted to His service.
And called me by his grace - On the way to Damascus. It was special grace, because he was then engaged in bitterly opposing Him and His cause.
In his letter to the Galatian believers Paul briefly reviewed the leading incidents connected with his own conversion and early Christian experience. By this means he sought to show that it was through a special manifestation of divine power that he had been led to see and grasp the great truths of the gospel. It was through instruction received from God Himself that Paul was led to warn and admonish the Galatians in so solemn and positive a manner. He wrote, not in hesitancy and doubt, but with the assurance of settled conviction and absolute knowledge. He clearly outlined the difference between being taught by man and receiving instruction direct from Christ. AA 386.1
The apostle urged the Galatians to leave the false guides by whom they had been misled, and to return to the faith that had been accompanied by unmistakable evidences of divine approval. The men who had attempted to lead them from their belief in the gospel were hypocrites, unholy in heart and corrupt in life. Their religion was made up of a round of ceremonies, through the performance of which they expected to gain the favor of God. They had no desire for a gospel that called for obedience to the word, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. They felt that a religion based on such a doctrine, required too great a sacrifice, and they clung to their errors, deceiving themselves and others. AA 386.2
To substitute external forms of religion for holiness of heart and life is still as pleasing to the unrenewed nature as it was in the days of these Jewish teachers. Today, as then, there are false spiritual guides, to whose doctrines many listen eagerly. It is Satan's studied effort to divert minds from the hope of salvation through faith in Christ and obedience to the law of God. In every age the archenemy adapts his temptations to the prejudices or inclinations of those whom he is seeking to deceive. In apostolic times he led the Jews to exalt the ceremonial law and reject Christ; at the present time he induces many professing Christians, under pretense of honoring Christ, to cast contempt on the moral law and to teach that its precepts may be transgressed with impunity. It is the duty of every servant of God to withstand firmly and decidedly these perverters of the faith and by the word of truth fearlessly to expose their errors. AA 387.1Read in context »