The nature of calling and conversion can be tricky and confusing. There is a decent amount of confusion and disagreement among Christians today about the concept: is there a moment of conversion, or does it happen over a long period of time? Does God choose us, or do we choose him? What is the nature of God’s grace? Can we refuse it?
In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, he recalls his conversion experience:
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.
(Galatians 1:13-17 ESV)
Four things stand out to me here about Paul’s calling and conversion, and I think these things ring true about the conversion of each and every one of us:
1) He was set apart before he was born.
This is one of the most humbling things to me about Christianity and about our loving Father. He set us apart before we were born. How then, can we take even an ounce of credit for anything good or God-honoring that we do? I pray this biblical truth leaves you in complete awe, in total admiration, and in a massive state of appreciation towards our loving God.
2) He was called by grace.
Paul was not called by God because anything good that he had done. He was not deserving. He wasn’t even willing. In fact, he was persecuting the Lord Jesus. But God, by his great and unfathomable grace, called Paul to himself.
3) God was pleased to reveal his Son to Paul.
Romans 11:32 states that “God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” This immediately sets Paul into rejoicing as he writes this letter to the Romans: “Oh, the depth and the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” I think sometimes we forget the fact that God delights in showing us mercy. It pleases him to reveal his Son to us.
4) God revealed his Son to Paul in order that Paul might preach God’s Son to the nations.
What was the purpose of Paul’s salvation? What is the purpose of your salvation and mine? To preach Jesus to the nations. It wasn’t so that we could have a better, more enjoyable, more peaceful life. It wasn’t so people would think we were kind. It wasn’t so we could go to church. It was so that we could preach the good news of Jesus Christ and the Gospel to all people in all nations.
Praise God for his loving kindness, his infinite wisdom, and his unfathomable mercy because of what he has done for us and in us. To him be all the glory and honor and power forever and ever, Amen.