Separated Unto Grace
I wanted to start with a comment about the Apostle Paul’s name. Paul’s name was not changed when he became a believer in Christ. Paul was also known as Saul, both names were always his names. So, rather than jump back and forth with Saul/Paul I will only be using the name Paul throughout this teaching.
Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.
Now, Part II of Separated Unto Grace…
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
This word aphorizo is used two other times in reference to Paul and these other occurrences help us understand Paul being set apart.
But when it pleased God, who separated [aphorizo] me from my mother's womb and called me by his grace.
In the context his mother’s womb is the “Jew’s religion,” otherwise known as the rituals of Judaism as interpreted by the sect of the Pharisees.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated [aphorizo] unto the gospel of God.
Paul was separated out, set apart, from what had become the religion of Israel to the Gospel of God. A Gospel God hid within Himself through the ages and administrations, the gospel God called grace. A mystery that had the Adversary known, he would not have crucified the Christ, the Lord of glory.
But Paul started his life on a vastly different path. As I said, Paul began life dedicated to his mother, Israel, the rituals of the nation according to the Law, as seen through the eyes of the Pharisees.
My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
Gamaliel was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling 70, who defended the apostles in Acts 5. He was also the grandson of Rabbi Hillel (60 BC-10AD). Rabbi Hillel’s interpretation of the Torah became the dominant view of Jewish Law for centuries.
It was at Gamaliel’s school where Paul learned God’s Word. That is the meaning of the idiom, “at the feet of.” Just as Gamaliel would have sat at the feet of Rabbi Hillel in his school. You can see the lenient teachings of Rabbi Hillel in the words of Gamaliel in Acts 5 when he defends the apostles.
We will get to Gamaliel’s words through the context.
Saying, did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men.
You can see how these words would set the Sanhedrin on edge and have them calling for the blood of the apostles. But fear of the Sanhedrin’s threats did not enter the hearts of the apostles as Peter gave the Sanhedrin the fulness of his witness.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
The response of those in the Sanhedrin that stood with the Adversary was typical.
When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
The bad guys in the room have a typical response, kill them! Then, we get our introduction to Gamaliel. These are the only words that God records of Gamaliel. Words for all generations to see and hear. Words that speak well of Gamaliel.
Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
Remember, I showed you the believers in Acts chapter 8 were diaspeiro, scattered as one who plants seeds in a prepared field. Gamaliel’s example here of followers being “scattered” is the Greek word dialyo, from dia meaning through or throughout, and lyo which means to release or let loose. Those followers were let loose throughout the land. In other words, they were sheep without a shepherd. The second group, when they lost their leader, were “dispersed.” The Greek word is diaskorpizo, meaning, they scattered in every direction out of fear.
If you allow it to speak for itself, God’s Word will dazzle you with its accuracy.
Gamaliel’s words to the council were sound spiritual wisdom, leave the matter in the hands of God. You can see why his grandfather’s interpretation of Jewish Law will eventually find favor with the Jewish people. The tyranny of the Pharisees and scribes wore thin as it removed God from the picture. Tyranny always wants to remove God from the picture.
This is the man from whom Paul learned God’s Word. But we do not always follow in the exact steps of those who teach us God’s Word.
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness, which is in the law, blameless.
Paul had all the physical credentials and the mental drive to advance in his religion.
And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
But climbing the corporate ladder, as Paul was doing, takes time. Paul did not begin his journey at the top, he started in the cloak room.
And cast him out of the city and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
After hearing God’s judgment against Israel from the lips of Stephen, Paul, received the clothes of the witnesses. The witnesses were always the ones to cast the first stones. Extra clothing would only hinder their ability to throw stones at Stephen.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem…
And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
The Adversary, through the direction of the High Priest, began attacking those who believed in Jesus as the Christ. Paul was willingly and determinately leading that charge.
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
We saw in earlier teachings the response of those who believed was the diaspeiro, moving out in an orchestrated arrangement to speak God’s Word. As Paul grew in authority and reputation as the persecutor, he was emboldened to go to the High Priest, looking to expand his sphere of persecution.
And Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests.
That brings us to that infamous meeting between Jesus Christ and the servant of the High Priest. It was about lunch time; Paul was on the road to Damascus and suddenly there was a bright light.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
Paul was dedicated to Judaism, and he was hostile to anyone who, in his mind, posed a threat to his religion. But Paul’s spiritual life could be summed up in words he later wrote to the nation of Israel in the Epistle of Romans.
Brethren, my heart's desire, and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Zeal, without an accurate knowledge, can be very harsh, even deadly.
Paul went from house to house, dragging men and women away from their children and their homes. Throwing them in jail, to face a counterfeit trial before the Sanhedrin, maybe even to face stoning from a self-righteous mob.
Paul knew, of all the people he knew, he was righteous. He knew he was doing God’s will to keep Israel holy. Religious zealots are like that, earning their own righteousness while foregoing the righteousness God offers.
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutes: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Build this picture in your mind. Consider what is happening on this road to Damascus.
Put yourself in Paul’s place.
You are laying on the ground, one arm propping you up, as you search for a body to go with this voice, the other hand shielding your eyes against the brightness of this light.
What would be racing through your mind?
Then the voice identifies himself, Jesus of Nazareth.
What? Who? Oh…!
A multitude of things can occur in a mind in less than a second.
When an ox was used for plowing a field the farmer would use a goad to motivate or direct the ox. The goad would be a stick, or pole, with a metal prick at the end to re-direct or move the ox. When the ox rebelled, he would kick at the prick. The greater the stubbornness of the ox, the more pokes from the goad.
God was trying to move Paul to the accuracy of His Word, God knew Paul’s heart, God knew Paul’s great love for God and His Word. But Paul was kicking against the pricks. Pricks is in the plural, so more than one time God tried moving Paul in the right direction.
One time would obviously be when Stephen stood before the Sanhedrin and held forth God’s judgment of Israel’s rejection of God’s Word, God’s Messiah, and God Himself. But pricks is in the plural. When else could God have tried moving Paul to the accuracy of His Word?
Consider the possibilities; what did Paul hear from those he arrested and brought to prison; was Paul standing there in Acts 5 when the apostles stood firmly and unafraid before the Sanhedrin; did Paul hear the words of Gamaliel, his teacher; did Paul witness the day of Pentecost, it happened in the Temple; was Paul at the Temple any of the times when Jesus taught there?
The possibilities are interesting. Perhaps the answer to the plural is in God’s Word and we have simply not seen it yet.
After Paul understands who he is speaking with, Paul’s changed attitude is understandable.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise…
…rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Paul is sent into Damascus to await further instructions. While Paul finishes his trip to Damascus, Jesus has a conversation with a disciple named Ananias.
Meanwhile the men who are with Paul are utterly confused.
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
And they that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
In Acts 9:7 hearing is in the genitive case, it is a genitive of origin, meaning they could hear the voice but could not identify the source or origin of the voice. While in Acts 22:9 they could understand something was spoken, but they did not understand what was said.
And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
Paul, being blind, is led to Damascus by the party of men who accompanied him from the High Priest. While Jesus begins to work with Ananias.
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street, which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
Revelation always comes from God, for He is all-knowing and knows the end from the beginning. But Jesus is the one who accomplished God’s Will; therefore, God works all things through Jesus the Christ.
Further, a study of this interaction between Jesus and Ananias would give the student of God’s Word greater insight into the power in manifestation of Joel’s prophecy that Peter quoted in Acts chapter 2. This is what God’s Word meant when it said “…young men shall see visions...” Also notice we are not speaking of an apostle, or someone the apostles laid their hands on; Ananias is a simple disciple.
So, Jesus appearing to Ananias in a vision, gives revelation to Ananias concerning Paul. God wants Ananias to minister to Paul. Notice the detail of the information Ananias is receiving. Notice also more was said on the road to Damascus between Jesus and Paul. The conversation between Jesus and Paul that we have read from Acts 26, says nothing about a man named Ananias coming in and placing a hand on Paul.
Be patient. Allow all the records of a certain event to draw a full picture. When different accounts of the same event share distinct aspects, it is known as scripture build-up, not contradictions.
When Jesus finished telling Ananias what he wants Ananias to do, Ananias has some thoughts of his own,
Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
If you have questions about something God has asked you to do, go back to the source and let your concerns be expressed. That includes something God has asked you to do in His Word. It is His book. It is also revelation. If you need to know how, then ask. If you need to know why, then ask.
Ananias took his concerns back to Jesus.
But the Lord said unto him, go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
So, Ananias obeyed the revelation and went to meet Paul.
And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
Paul receives God’s gift of holy spirit. Then he has a meal since he has not eaten since meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. We have already seen his credentials in the study of God’s Word. Therefore, it should be no problem for him to immediately begin teaching that Jesus is the Christ. He has firsthand proof that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead!
Verse 19 said Paul spent “certain days” with the disciples at Damascus. The Greek word is tis.
and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
New International Version
And after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some days.
Holman Christian Standard Bible
Certain days, several days, some days…not a long period of time. Every translator carries the same concept of a few days. Galatians adds more to the account.
But when it pleased God, who separated me 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; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem…
For three years Paul is in Arabia and Damascus. We know when Paul is in Damascus he is teaching. But what is he doing in Arabia? In Arabia, Paul was learning. God, through Jesus Christ, was teaching Paul the mystery.
The twelve apostles had the privilege of walking with Jesus for the acceptable year of the Lord as declared in Isaiah and Luke chapter 4. What the twelve experienced was amazing but it was also a time of pressure and stress. But Paul had the opportunity to learn from the risen Lord, in the quiet and solitude of the Arabia wilderness for parts of three years.
…to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The doctrine the Apostle Paul was given to bring to the world had to be learned by revelation from Jesus Christ. No man could teach Paul the doctrine because no man knew the doctrine given to Paul, it was a secret hidden in God.
Paul was the first to hear the doctrine and Paul was the first to believe the doctrine for the Administration of Grace.
Now, 1 Timothy becomes clear.
1 Timothy 1:12-13
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
I have already shown you how grace and mercy are attached at the hip. Here they are once again standing side by side.
Paul was faithful to learn the gospel of grace from his time on the road to Damascus, around 34 AD, until he was sent out in Acts 13, around 46 AD. Twelve years of learning the depth of God’s secret and teaching the greatness of what God had accomplished for Israel through His son.
Remember, Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24), and as a minister of the circumcision to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (Romans 15:8). Jesus fulfilled the Law given to Moses thereby freeing Israel. But his shed blood goes all the way back to Adam, long before the Covenant with Israel.
Remember, not even the Devil understood what God was planning with the accomplishments of Jesus and the Administration of Grace. The doctrine given to Paul does not appear anywhere in God’s Word, it was a secret God hid within Himself. Therefore, Paul can only draw upon that which is already written if he employs figures of speech.
1 Timothy 1:14-15
And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation [acceptance], that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Christ came into the world to save sinners, not only Israel, but the world. Consider John 3:16.
Christ came into the world to save sinners, and Paul was the chief sinner?
Does that sound odd to you?
Sounds odd to me also.
The Greek word translated “chief” is protos. Now protos, is also used in 1 Timothy 1:16 and is translated “first.” In fact protos is used one hundred and four times in the New Testament and is translated “first” eighty-four of those times.
Men count sins.
God’s count goes no further than the perfect sacrifice.
1 Timothy 1:15b should have been translated:
“…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.”
That is amazing…outstanding…overwhelming…and utterly fantastic!!!
Of course, Paul would be the first person saved! Paul would have been the first to hear the doctrine and the first to believe the doctrine, therefore he would be the first sinner to be saved by the doctrine.
1 Timothy 1:15
Faithful [is] the word, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom *I* am [the] first.
1 Timothy 1:15
stedfast [is] the word, and of all acceptation worthy, that Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners -- first of whom I am.
Young’s Literal Translation
Paul was the first to receive salvation in our age, our administration. You will see how important this is later when we look at the package of salvation God has presented to those who believe during our administration.
1 Timothy 1:16
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ [Christ Jesus in the text] might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
Paul is the pattern; the Greek word is hupotyposis. The Greeks used this word when speaking of the original sketch an artist would put on his canvas to begin his painting. Paul is the pattern of the grace and the mercy received in the longsuffering of Christ Jesus.
Remember, temperance is control exercised over oneself; patience is enduring situations; while longsuffering endures the repeated mistakes people will make. Jesus pointed out to Paul that it was pricks he had kicked against. Repeated mistakes equal longsuffering.
How many times does God endeavor to re-direct a person to see the Truth?
God still wants “all” men to be saved and to come unto a knowledge of the Truth.
In Arabia Paul learned about grace.
He recognized that everything worth having was by the grace of God.
Now that God’s manifestation of grace, the man Jesus, had come and accomplished the Will of God, the fulness of God’s grace could be given and received.
It is called the Administration of Grace, which is the purpose of the Ages.
Paul’s declaration to the Corinthians says it entirely.
1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God, I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
“I am what I am” is in the present tense, a continuous reality in the life of Paul, the pattern.
The Epistles addressed to the church, The Body of Christ, are Romans through Thessalonians. Each epistle begins with “…grace to you and peace…” and each epistle ends with the word grace and the Greek preposition meta. Meta means with the mental attitude; our mental attitude should be grace.
As it was with the Apostle Paul, it should be with us. We should start and end everything with the grace of God.
© Auxano Ministry 2021