Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Did God Work Around Paul's "Free-Will"?

It occurred to me,as I have been reading the Letter of Paul to the Galatians, that God would indeed be doing some interesting things if He had to juggle his sovereign plans with the sovereign will of the Apostle Paul.

Galatians 1:11-17 11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And 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. 15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

So God set apart, or consecrated Paul even before he was born. Paul had a divine mission to preach the Gospel even before his DNA existed! His life had already been mapped out. Look at the personal history of the apostle: he had a glowing career in Judaism, as a Pharisee's Pharisee. Yet even while he was studying Rabbinic theology, God planned to make him a gospel witness.

So, did Paul have a choice here? Is that really fair of God anyway? Can God just take people and predetermine their lives like that? What if Paul had tried to excercise his "free-will" in this matter?

Either God waited to see what Paul would do, then determine to make him an apostle.The problem is, the text says that it was IN ORDER that Paul might preach the Gospel to the Gentiles that God set him apart from before his birth. It doesn't suggest that God had this plan before he was born,and hoped that Paul might respond and be what God wanted him to be.

Paul was already appointed to the task. God revealed Christ to him. It was a supernatural revelation. Apart from that intervention on the Damascus Road in Acts 9, he would have continued to persecute the Church. Of course, Saul's conversion is anything but an invitation by decision evangelistic effort! Christ appeared in blazing, holy light and blinded Saul, and immediately Saul called him LORD. From there on we read that the Lord gave him instructions to do what was already planned.

Nothing in all this about a God who "looks down the corridor of time" to see what men might respond. The response is willed in God's will. Paul's life was as intricately designed as the DNA that God gave him. God purposefully created both.

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