In the last blog on this site (Do You Have Any Rubbish? Aug. 13th) my writing partner astutely points out that the Apostle Paul considered all his religiosity to be worthless in regards to his salvation and sanctification. For Paul, and us, gaining Christ and knowing Christ through faith is of God. All else is of the flesh. It is absolutely essential that we understand that truth.
Here I would like us to consider another aspect of the Apostle Paul’s past. His life B.C. – before Christ – including his religious training, was actually quite instrumental in his ministry – for Christ – and his “turning of the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6)
Paul tells us that “it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…” (Gal 1:15-16) In fact, Paul’s preparation did begin at birth. He was born a Roman citizen in Tarsus of Cilicia. This saved Paul on more than one occasion during his missionary journeys. One instance occurred in Jerusalem when he was bound and about to be scourged. Paul said to a nearby centurion: “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?” The commander was summoned and inquired as to Paul’s citizenship, stating that his own had to be purchased. When Paul told him, “But I was born a citizen.” the Romans were scurrying to unbind him and provide protection. (see Rom 22:22-29)
The apostle was also a learned man. Paul was taught at the feet of Gamaliel, who was known as Judaism’s master teacher. The student became a shining star as Paul zealously learned the law and the prophets. Like his teacher he became a Pharisee. (Acts 22:3, 26:4-5) Paul spoke Hebrew (Aramaic) which was common to his Jewish audience. (Acts 22:2) He also became proficient in the Greek language which was considered the language of the educated. (Acts 21:37-39) Being multilingual opened many doors for the “Son’s revealer” from homes to synagogues to palaces.
Whenever Paul arrived in the next town his custom was to go to the synagogue of the Jews. There he would reason with them from the Scriptures concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:1-4) Using today’s modern vernacular – Paul would blow them out of the water. And just as easily, he could stand upon Mars Hill reasoning with the philosophical Athenians, even quoting their own poets and convincing some to believe. (Acts 17:16-34)
When we observe the life of Saul of Tarsus, we see providential hands busy preparing him to become Paul the Apostle. And Paul humbly states: “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (I Cor 15:10)
The same providential hands have been busy preparing me and preparing you. From the womb, our divine destiny is to gain Christ and know Christ through faith. God has given me and you the ministry of revealing His Son in us. We certainly may not feel worthy at times. We might even question whether the Lord has prepared us in vain? But remember, by the grace of God I am what I am and you am what you am – prepared. Let us live by His grace.