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Sat, Jun 20, 1998

7 - Paul's Conversion

Galatians 1:15 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 16 secs

Paul's Conversion; Gal. 1:15


As Paul faced his problem with the churches in Galatia he realised that his apostolic authority was under attack. They accused him of not having any relationship with the apostles down in Jerusalem and therefore whatever he taught had no authority, that he was just a maverick out there on his own and really didn't have the backing of the apostles in Jerusalem and therefore he was not someone who ought to be listened to or obeyed. This is typical of anyone who comes in and wants to start stirring up trouble as they immediately begin to attack the authority of the person who is teaching. That is the number one tactic that Satan uses all the time: try to destroy someone's credibility, wipe out their credentials, and then no one will listen to what they have to say. So the first problem that Paul faced was an attack on his apostolic authority.


The second problem, or the first part of the doctrinal problem, was that they were teaching that salvation was by faith plus works, specifically keeping the Mosaic Law and circumcision. They were Judaizers. They said that it was all great to think that Jesus is the Messiah but don't think that just because you believe Him you don't have to continue to believe the Law and everything in the Old Testament and to continue to practice the Law and the traditions of Jews.


The third thing that they taught was that not only was salvation faith plus but the spiritual life of the church age was also based on works, not faith.


Paul's defence of the gospel, Acts 26:4ff.

Paul explains what he stood for and what he did. This was common knowledge. Acts 26:4 NASB  "So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my {own} nation and at Jerusalem; [5] since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived {as} a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion."

Then in the next three verses is a little parenthesis where he talks about the issue of the hope of rhe resurrection. He grounds his argument in Old Testament promises. Acts 26:6 NASB "And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; [7] {the promise} to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve {God} night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. [8] Why is it considered incredible among you {people} if God does raise the dead?" The gospel account includes understanding the doctrine of the resurrection; it is not just something extra. The resurrection is God's testimony and authentication Christ's substitutionary death on the cross and demonstrates His victory over death.

Then he explains his former hostility to Christianity. Acts 26:9 NASB "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. [10] And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. [11] And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. [12] While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, [13] at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. [14] And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' [15] And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. [16] But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; [17] rescuing you from the {Jewish} people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, [18] to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'"

Darkness is representative of Satan's domain. The unbeliever is in Satan's kingdom which is described as darkness. God, we are told, is light and He exists in unapproachable light; in Him there is no darkness at all. Darkness represents sin and evil and the cosmic system. At the point of salvation the believer is transferred immediately from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. So we are in light as believers. But John in 1 John 1 is going to say (and Paul does, too, in Ephesians 4) we are now in the light and are to walk as children of the light. As a believer we can be in the light positionally because we are a child of God and yet be walking as though we were an unbeliever—walking according to the power of the sin nature, the power of the flesh.

Paul is witnessing to Agrippa and the interesting thing is what Agrippa says to him: Acts 26:28 NASB "Agrippa {replied} to Paul, 'In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian'."


In Acts chapter 22 Paul gives his defence to Festus. Acts 22:1 NASB "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense [a)pologia] which I now {offer} to you. [2] And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said,  [3] 'I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. [4] I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, [5] as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. [6] But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, [7] and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" [8] And I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, "I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting." [9] And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. [10] And I said, "What shall I do, Lord?" And the Lord said to me, "Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do."


Ananias tells Paul:

Acts 22:14 NASB "And he said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will [his apostolic commission] and to see the Righteous One [Jesus Christ] and to hear an utterance from His mouth. [15] For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.'" Objective data. [16] "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." The term "wash away your sins" is a participle and is a bad translation. It almost sounds here as if baptism is part of salvation. It is an anartharous (The designation given to a substantive when the definite article in construction is absent and with emphasis on the quality of the thing given) present participle. When it lacks the definite article that means it is going to be an adjectival or adverbial participle. There are about nine different categories of adjectival participle and here it would be a participle of cause. Therefore the correct translation is, Arise and be baptised because you have washed away your sins by calling [another participle] on His name. In other words, this is referring back to the fact that at the moment of gospel hearing, when he is confronted with the Lord Jesus Christ, he has called on the name of the Lord for salvation—faith alone in Christ alone—and the result is that he is cleansed from all of his sins. That it how it took place.

Galatians 1:14 NASB "and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions." In other words, he is at the head of the pack, is highly competitive, and he wants to make sure that he is ahead of everybody else. And we have another adjectival participle here which should be translated, "by being more extremely zealous." What was causing him to advance? By being more zealous. He was obsessed with being the most zealous.       

Galatians 1:15 NASB "But when God, who had set me apart {even} from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased. [16] to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, [17] nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus." So in vv. 15-17 what we have is Paul's salvation and how it is not at all connected with those in Jerusalem.


Verse 15 needs clarification. "Set apart" has to do with God's elective purposes and their outworking in human history—every believer is set apart. This is not the term for sanctification, which also means to be set apart, but is the Greek word aphorisas [a)forisaj] which has to do with the fact that God had  aspecific and special plan for the apostle Paul. And God was at work in Paul's life even before he was a believer. "Even from my mother's womb" is more directly translated by the NIV. It is the phrase ek koilia [e)k koilia]—ek plus the genitive of separation. This phrase is really what is called a Hebraism, i.e. a Greek phrase that translates a Hebrew idiom. In the Old Testament is the phrase mi beten. It is a compound of the preposition min and beten—from the womb. In the Hebrew language there is no noun for the word "birth". There is a verb for birth—to be born—but there is no noun. So when there is a phrase "from birth"—from is a preposition; birth is a noun—if there is not a noun for birth you can't say that, you have to use an idiom. The idiom in Hebrew is mi beten. It doesn't mean "inside the womb." The NIV accurately translates this phrase in a number of places. As an idiom is doesn't just refer specifically to birth but from an early age. The reason for saying that is because if we look at the episode in Luke 1 where it talks about John the Baptist and it says he was filled with the Holy Spirit ek koilia: a) John the Baptist cannot be, unless it violates every other doctrine of Scripture, filled with the Holy Spirit prior to salvation. The NIV correctly translates it that he was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, but there is even a problem with that because you still have John the Baptist being filled with the Spirit before he is saved. So it can mean from birth or it can be from an early age, but it doesn't mean prior to birth. The Bible clearly sets the parameters of human life between birth and death. It does not say that the parameters of human life are from conception to death. What goes on inside the womb during the nine months of gestation is God the Father working with biological life, according to Psalm 139, forming the biological life. Then at the moment of birth God the Father breathes the soul life into that individual, into the biological life.


What we are to understand here is that from the moment of Paul's birth God's plan for his life was special. He "called me." That brings us to the doctrine of calling, from the Greek word kaleo [kalew].