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What the Bible says about Paul's Calling
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Acts 26:14

Christ seems to be saying, "Saul, why are you beating your head against the wall?" Paul was zealously persecuting God's church, all the while thinking he was part of the true religion, but at that point, he did not even know the true God! God called him dramatically to change the source of his belief system so that he could guide the Gentiles in changing theirs from Satan to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)

1 Corinthians 9:16

Notice the attitude with which Paul presents his message here: He says that he had a need to preach the gospel, that "necessity is laid upon me." He is saying, "I've got to preach this. And if I don't, I'd better hide under a rock somewhere." His approach to preaching the gospel was that lightning could strike at any time if he stopped preaching it. Remember how Jesus started this apostle's ministry—by blinding him out in the middle of the road to Damascus! What Jesus did made quite an impression on him. Paul probably thought about that often—and about what would happen if he stopped doing the charge that had been laid upon him.

So, a true minister feels a compulsion to preach the gospel. On the flipside, he feels a certaindoom if he does not. He feels as though, if he tried anything else, he would be a fish out of water. In him would be an emptiness that was not being filled because the ministry of Jesus Christ is a calling. To a true minister of God, it is not just a job done for a paycheck, but a vocation that he feels compelled to do because the truth must be preached. The information cannot remain in his mind. Uncommunicated knowledge and understanding of God's way is absolutely useless to anybody else; it cannot help anybody take even one step along the road to the Kingdom of God. This is why God gives ministers mouths to speak.

Paul calls it "the foolishness of preaching" (I Corinthians 1:21, KJV), but God accomplishes a great deal through it. The serious, devoted servant of Jesus Christ must do it. He just must! It is almost like a man who has just walked out of the desert and has not had anything to eat or drink. He feels compelled, obviously, to find something to satisfy his need—particularly to drink. A true minister of God feels this way if he has not preached the truth in a long while. A "pressure" builds up after a time, and if it is not released, it explodes. The truth must be passed on because a compulsion from God Himself drives a true minister to speak the truth.

This may be dramatizing it a bit, but there is a feeling in a true minister's gut to let other people know the truth that he has been given to preach. In a true minister of God, the truth will out, to borrow a line from Shakespeare.

On the other hand, what does the minister get out of it? What does Paul say that he got from it? In verse 18, he says that, when he preached the truth, other people were helped. He was able to preach the gospel in love, without charge. He did not need anything for it personally because he was driven from the inside—not the outside. Thus, it made him feel good—it relieved that God-sent pressure and gave him the satisfaction that he had done his job.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears

2 Corinthians 5:16

The apostle Paul is writing about the same thing that happened in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve sinned, their perspective changed. They were moved away from God and began to look at the events and circumstances of life from a different point of view than they had before.

We know how this works. If we are standing beside someone and looking at an object, say, a tree, both are looking at it from the same perspective and see essentially the same thing. But if we step 20, 30, or 40 feet to one side, the perspective from which we now observe the tree begins to change. Now we see things that may not have been visible when we were side by side with the other person.

That is how it is with God. When we are one with Him, we look at things exactly as He does. When we are not in unity with Him, it is as though we have stepped away from Him, and we begin to see things from a different perspective.

This is the idea Paul refers to here. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Now that we have been converted, we do not look upon others as Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, Russian—this stereotyping begins to fade into the background in terms of importance. To a converted person, the important thing now is whether the other person is converted or unconverted. All that has changed is our perspective, which has changed because we repented in faith. God gave us His Spirit, and a new point of view has entered our thinking.

Let us consider the phrase, "even though we have known Christ according to the flesh." Paul recounts from his own experience that there was a time when he looked upon Jesus Christ as the great Satan—the enemy of everything that was Judaic. Then he was converted, and his perspective of Christ became, "He is my Savior! He is the greatest thing that has ever happened to humanity!" Same Paul, different mind—his perspective changed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement

Galatians 1:1

This epistle was one of Paul's first letters, if not the first. As such, it was early on in his ministry, and one of the first topics in this letter was his credentials. This is seen in his parenthetical statement that he was an apostle appointed by God and Jesus Christ and NOT by men. The other apostles ate, walked, and lived with Christ while He was on the earth, and thus their credibility was established in part by proximity and association with Christ. Paul did not fall into this category, but rather persecuted the true Christians until his dramatic conversion. However, at that time, he was instructed by Christ personally and thus had a legitimate claim to apostleship.

David C. Grabbe

Galatians 1:1-3

The bulk of this chapter is occupied with Paul's defense of his apostolic office. False teachers,the people who had access to the Galatian Christians' ears,were teaching them that what Paul had previously taught them had no authority from God because Paul did not meet the qualifications of being an apostle.

These people could come up with all kinds of things. They might say, "Well, Paul never met Jesus": that he had not been an eyewitness to Jesus' preaching, that he had received no commission from God to be an apostle, and that he had not even been chosen like Matthias. Paul's calling, conversion, and commission were done apart from large numbers of people. Nobody had seen him trailing around after Jesus as they had seen the Twelve. He had not been eyewitness to the miracles that Jesus did. "He had not been taught directly by Jesus," was what they were saying.

Thus, Paul spends the first chapter and more defending his position. Immediately, he states that his authority did not come through men. He confirms that he was an apostle, but his selection was not of men but by Jesus Christ. Right off he states his authority, and that it had come directly from God. By doing this, Paul puts himself in the same class as the Twelve, because even these false teachers were willing to concede that the Twelve's offices did not come through men either. Everybody knew that they were directly chosen by Christ. So Paul asserts, "So was I."

He also speaks of his experience on the Damascus Road as his commission, and then he references the resurrection, further linking his commissioning to the risen and glorified Christ. All of this is contained within the first three verses. He had to establish his authority quickly, and this is how he chose to do it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Four)

1 Timothy 1:16

God overcame Paul and saved him. Certainly there have been sinners far worse than Paul, but the sense of his thought is that nobody is beyond the reach of God's power to convict of sin and affect dramatic changes of behavior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 




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