“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace…”
But when it pleased God,
The word “but” is an about-face word. In stark contrast to his earlier position as a foe of grace, Paul now embraced it with all his being. Up to this point in his life, it was all of Paul and none of grace. The foremost opponent of Christianity became its outstanding proponent.
God did three things for Paul:
1) separated him from birth for a particular purpose,
2) called him by grace and
3) revealed the Lord Jesus through him.
God did all this so that Paul would preach Christ among the Gentiles.
Paul ascribed his call to God’s pleasure; it “pleased God.” This is God’s motive for saving him. Paul’s conversion put a smile on the face of God.
who separated me
The word “separated” denotes marking off by boundaries or limits. It comes from two words: to separate and from. God set Paul apart for a particular purpose. He knew Paul’s call from eternity and set prescribed limits around his destiny.
The last possibility in Paul’s mind was to become a Christian, but God set him apart for that very work. He was no longer what he was; he experienced a radical transformation. This is all because God put a limitation on him.
from my mother’s womb
“From my mother’s womb” does not refer to physical obstetrics but spiritual obstetrics. “God knew from before I was born that I would be the apostle to the Gentiles.” This is sheer grace (Jeremiah 1:5).
and called me through His grace
Paul’s call came strictly through grace. God did not call him because he was better than others because grace is the opposite of merit. Instead, God chose Paul before he had a chance to offer any merit.
Paul did not instigate his salvation; it was God who took the initiative to save our souls. God chose him out of unadulterated grace. No work by Paul added anything to his call. God’s grace turned him around. God never faces a dilemma, for He knows what He wants to do from eternity. Our call is never capricious; it is always premeditated. It is part of God’s eternal plan.
God is in the business of turning antagonists into catalysts for the cause of Christ.
When God touches our lives, He turns our lives around 180 degrees. If God can change a murderer and persecutor like Paul, He can change us. God will do this in His own sovereign way. He saves us by sovereign grace.
None of us earns or deserves salvation. God would consign us to the Lake of Fire if He gave us what we deserve. Everything on this side of Hell is undiluted grace. God can take His most bitter enemies and turn them into His greatest champions. Note Paul’s description of his salvation.
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:12-17).