Thursday, July 1, 2010

Set Apart to Proclaim: the God-Glorifying Goal of Gospel Grace - Galatians 1:15-16

"... it pleased God,
who set me apart from my mother's womb,
and called me by His grace,
to reveal His Son in me,
that I might preach Him among the heathen..."
(Galatians 1:15-16)

I almost passed it by. I almost read right through it and never noticed how dear it was. I glanced at it as if it only applied to Paul and then it hit me. This isn't just about Paul and his calling, no - this is about me and mine and you and yours.

True, the context is about Paul's life and conversion and call to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, but I do believe there is an appropriate application of encouragement and exhortation to us as well.

Five things jumped out at me pretty quickly this morning. Again, they are statements Paul makes about himself - but they are statements that, to some degree or another, are true of all Christians.

First, "it pleased God" to save me, sanctify me, and set me in His service.
Does that not blow your mind? God - Almighty God - the holy One - the Maker of heaven and earth - the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords has been PLEASED to call me out as His own and to set me apart to serve Him.

I often don't find much pleasing or pleasant about myself but my heavenly Father does. I see my sin tangled up in everything and tend to get terribly frustrated at myself. God sees it even better than I do - and He loves me none-the-less. As a matter of fact, He loves me so much that He has been "pleased" to grant me all of the benefits of being adopted into His family. He is "pleased" to call me His daughter and He is "pleased" by me as His daughter! That is like a shot of encouragement straight to the heart this day!

Second, God has set His people apart for salvation and service, even from before the time they were born.
That which you are called to do and gifted to do and granted to do, He has set in motion even before you entered into this world.

Matthew Henry wrote:
"Every gift, be it small or great, spiritual or temporal, and every good thing we should ever do, God has ordained while I was in my mother's womb where I could neither think nor perform any good thing."
Truly, James spoke well when he said, "every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."

Know that your abilities are from Him and are to be used for Him.

Third, we have been called by grace. Truly it is THE repetitive theme of Paul. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast."

What did God see in us that would have moved Him to save us? Nothing! Nothing at all - He was simply "pleased" to do for us that which He had no reason to do for us. Our salvation is ALL of grace. Think upon the particular context here and listen to Martin Luther's take on it as he supposes to speak for Paul.
"Did God call me on account of my holy life? Or on account of my pharisaical religion? Or on account of my prayers and fastings and works? Never! Well, then, it is certain God did not call me on account of my blasphemies, persecutions, and oppressions. What prompted Him to call me? His grace alone!"
Friends, it is true of Paul and it is true of us. By grace we're saved - grace free and boundless! Grace solely and grace wholly!

Fourth, God has revealed His Son in us.
Our God, in sending Christ "to die for our sins and deliver us from this present evil age" has not merely revealed Christ TO us but also IN us. He's not simply some theoretical idea that empowers us, He is a real Person that indwells us and enables us.

Jesus is not merely a way to help us get where we need to go. He is not merely a map to show us the way, a light to lead us there, or even a cattle prod to prompt us when we go astray. No! Jesus has not only been revealed TO us but IN us. He dwells within. He is the very Root by which we are established and nourished and flourished!

He Himself tells us: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; He who abides in Me and I in Him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)

This is one of the cardinal truths that sets the message of Christianity apart from all other religions. It is not us getting TO God it is God getting IN us!

Fifth, these things have been done in us that He may be revealed through us.
Paul was called to preach. While we may not have the same formal calling that the apostle does, we do still have a calling. We are saved and set apart, as Peter reminds us, "that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

Christian, the God who has been pleased to set you apart from your mother's womb, and has called you by His grace, and has revealed His Son in you has done it with a two-fold purpose. That we should personally believe in the Son of God, and that we should publically proclaim Him to a lost and dying world.

Do you know Him and are you, by His grace working in you, making Him known?

In His glorious grace,

Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak

Lord, speak to me that I may speak in living eches of your tone;
as You have sought, so let me seek you erring children lost and lone.
O teach me, Lord, that I may teach the precious things you do impart;
and wing my words, that they may reach the hidden depths of many a heart.
O fill me with Your fullness, Lord, until my very heart o'er flow
in kindling thought and glowing word your love to tell, your praise to show.
O use me, Lord, use even me, just as you will and when and where;
until Your blessed face I see, Your rest, Your joy, Your glory share.
(Frances R. Havergal - 1872)

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