Grace, Jesus’ Grace
“That’s Kuneitra. It was founded by the Ottoman’s to give travelers a break on the caravan route to Damascus, but after Israel took control of it in 1973, it was destroyed before the Israelis withdrew.” We were standing at a fence, and our Israeli guide was telling us his war stories as a tank commander in the Yom Kippur War. He went on, “And see this road stretching north? Damascus is only thirty miles up that road and this is the route the Apostle Paul would have taken as he came from Jerusalem with letters from the high priests to imprison Jewish followers of Jesus in Damascus. You all know the rest of the story.”
Looking at that road and then gazing into Syria toward Damascus not only helped us understand the strategic importance of the Golan Heights, but also the powerful transformation Paul experienced on that road when Jesus himself confronted him and asked, “Saul, Saul , why are you persecuting me?” But Paul assumes that the Galatians know his testimony. Instead of focusing on this event, however, he shares with us a fact that we would not learn from Luke’s account in Acts 9.
He left Damascus soon after his conversion and spent three years in the Arabian desert. Paul didn’t learn his theology from Peter and James or the other apostles down in Jerusalem. Jesus, himself, explained the Gospel to him and that he was especially chosen to declare it to the Gentiles.
“But when God, the one who set me apart out of my mother’s womb, was pleased to call me by his grace and to reveal his Son in me for me to proclaim the Good News, Jesus, to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood. And I didn’t go down to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. I went, instead, into Arabia, and then returned to Damascus.”
Like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5), John the Baptist (Lk. 1:15), and Jesus himself (Isaiah 49:1), God had his hand on Paul even before he was born. The fact that God already had plans to save Paul and commission him as his apostle to the Gentiles before he was even born is strong evidence that an embryo developing in the womb is far more than an appendage of the mom that can be discarded.
I’m also struck by Paul’s strong affirmation that not only his calling but also his message of grace was not something he learned from human teachers, even the great apostles, like Peter, John, and James, down in Jerusalem. Paul is claiming that he didn’t just see some light on the Damascus Road. He saw Jesus himself, and this same Jesus continued to teach him during his time in the desert. His Gospel of grace came directly from Jesus who Isaiah prophesied would be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6 God’s Servant would be a “light for the Gentiles”).
LORD, thanks that I’ve been accused several times for emphasizing grace too much. This is a powerful confirmation that you have helped me to understand that it is only by being intimately joined to you that we can become like you, and not by trying to obey a list of human moral principles.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!