This is the first part in a series on the life of the apostle Paul. First off, using the term, “the apostle Paul” may conjure up images of some holy man, spiritual mystic, saintly statue or iconoclastic portrait, but in the original language of the New Testament (Greek), the term apostle really means “one who is sent out.” That is exactly what happened to Paul in the New Testament, he was called by God and sent out with a message. That is what we read about in the book of Acts; Paul and his missionary journeys take up most of the book’s content.
The passage today is from Galatians 1:15-16, where Paul tells us that he was set apart from birth and called by God; that the Father revealed the Son to him so that he might preach to the nations. The question comes, what may have been the upbringing of Paul? In what sort of home was he raised? Taken from Scripture and the Code of Jewish Law (which for centuries has been the foundation of Jewish life), Paul’s life was surrounded by Jewish custom and tradition, and guided his Jewish moral, social and religious behavior.
In Galatians 1:15-16, since Paul mentions being set apart from birth, he describes the rite of circumcision, which is the sign of the covenant (going all the way back to Abraham, Genesis 17:2, 7, 9, 10, 14). Paul includes in his testimony that he was the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), a topic on which I will follow up next time.
The Jewish household was surrounded by Scripture, even from the very front door of the home. A mezuzah (the little container attached to the doorpost) contained a portion of sacred Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. These are the bedrock of the Jewish faith.
There were three priorities for the devout Jew: study of the Torah (the Law of Moses), marriage, and doing good deeds. I’ll save the look into Paul’s boyhood home for next time.
So, what does this all have to do with us today? When was the last time you looked at your spiritual past? From where did you come? How far has the Lord brought you? You know more than anyone where you have been, and out of what God has saved you. Do you understand that what he has done in your life is no accident? We can also have the same response as Paul, that we have been called from birth. Circumcision is not the issue, but once we have come into a relationship with Christ, we can begin to see that He has guided us down a path that includes providential care and provision. We might not see it during the early or dark days, but hindsight is always 20/20, we can see how God has led us to where we are today. Take time this day to rejoice in what God has done in your life.
Secondly, how committed are you to the Word of God? Does your soul hunger and thirst for the things of God? Do you long to hear from Him? Do the Scriptures comfort your soul and fill your spirit? How do you handle the Word of God? Do your kids know how much the Bible means to you and your spiritual life? Do they see you reading from it and do you teach its principles each day?
One last question: do you sense the need and urgency to make necessary changes to become all that God desires for you to be? Not just for your own sake, but for your family’s sake.