11 For 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.
13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
14 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.
15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
16 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;
17 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 1:11-17 (ESV)
As Paul is establishing his apostleship before the Galatians church in order to counter the (apparent) false Judaistic teaching, he gives us an idea of his understanding of grace. Wen you consider Paul walking along on the Damascus road, full of confidence and venom toward the Christians, he felt he was living out God’s calling on his life. He loved persecuting Christians, defending Judaism, and he was good at it.
Paul didn’t reckon any deep theological treatise when Christ appeared and, somewhat violently, apprehended him for another purpose. He went blind, was initially discipled by Ananias, and eventually taught much over many years. His understanding of God’s apprehending grace was developed as time went on. His understanding of God’s sovereign purpose for his life was altered. Why? Because his understanding of God changed.
Remember, Paul was an expert in the Law. When he understood that Christ was the fulfillment of that Law, the fulfiller of God’s promise, everything changed. In a sense (a very real one), he realized he really didn’t know god at all before that point.
Paul came to understand that God’s gracious deliverance from the law of sin and death (Romans 7-8) was something that occurred before the foundations of the world. God has a purpose and He is working it out. Paul was so overwhelmed by God’s grace that any attack on that grace was vile and worthy of being condemned.
This is what was happening with the Galatians. When you consider Paul’s writing, you see a pattern of defense. Upon defending apostleship, Paul has to regularly defend the gospel by saying what he’s not saying. What I mean is that many were accusing Paul of promoting licentious living because the Law and it’s demands did not have to be held to for redemptive purposes. Grace so abounded his ministry that people (religious people) were constantly accusing Paul of telling people they could sin all they want and still be okay (see Romans 5-6).
So, as we offer free grace, rooted in God’s sovereign pleasure before the foundations of the earth, to the lost world, would the religious on the outside listening in accuse us of promoting sin? God will be glorified in the redemption of His people. There is absolutely nothing that can keep us condemned, if we are indeed His own. There is nothing we can do to undo His before-the-foundation-of-the-world work of grace. Does this promote sin in the truly redeemed? To the contrary, we become more like Paul on the way to becoming like Jesus…
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.