Headed for Damascus, the Jewish Pharisee Saul intended to persecute followers of Christ (vv. 13–14; see Acts 9:1–19). But while he was on the road, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.”
Saul, also known by his Greek name Paul, received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ (vv. 10–12). This direct commission mattered, because in order to claim apostleship, he had to be an eyewitness to the risen Savior.
Apparently Paul’s enemies in Galatia had been suggesting that he was not a real apostle, and because oFtheir accusation, the gospel he had preached was losing authority and credibility with the believers there. After all, they reasoned, if he lied about being an apostle, how could they trust his message? Therefore, Paul defended his apostleship in order to defend the authority of the gospel.
As Martin Luther succinctly explained in his commentary on Galatians: “We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.”
Paul knew God had set him apart and specially called him to be an apostle to the Gentiles (vv. 15–16). Before he even met the other apostles, he had been tutored by the Lord during a three-year period in Arabia (v. 17, see Acts 9:22– 23). As Jesus Himself said, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
Apply the Word
Paul gladly admitted that the entire course of his life had been determined by God (v. 15). The same is true for each of us. As Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” This truth can be a source of encouragement. The Lord holds your yesterday, today, and tomorrow in His hand!