Paul in Galatians 1:15 gives us a theological explanation as to the reason for our salvation. Paul is discussing how God saved him and called him to preach the gospel. It is an amazing treatise on the sovereignty of God in salvation. In language reminiscent of God’s similar work in the life of Jeremiah, Paul states first “when it pleased God.” What Paul is about to describe is rooted not in the will of Paul but in the sheer good pleasure of God. What God did pleased himself. Some have a problem with God enjoying himself in such a way! That is not God’s problem, but theirs. Paul then adds a relative clause that adds two more important facts. God had, Paul says, “set me apart even from my mother’s womb” as well stating that God had “called me through His grace.” God set apart or appointed (ἀφορίζω) Paul before he was born. In other words, God called him by his grace. Paul then adds that this pleasure of God in calling him to salvation by grace was so that Christ might be revealed in Paul. God sovereignly saved Paul in this manner for his own glory. We should not miss the words here in the sacred text. Paul employs the terms pleased, set apart, called, grace, and reveal. They all point to actions of God, not man.
The great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon said of this passage that it is important that we correctly observe the order and source of God’s work. In a sermon on this passage cited in Ian Murray’s book The Forgotten Spurgeon, Spurgeon declared,
You will perceive, I think, in these words, that the divine plan of salvation is very clearly laid down. It begins, you see, in the will and pleasure of God: “When it pleased God”. The foundation of salvation is not laid in the will of man. It does not begin with man’s obedience, and then proceed onward to the purpose of God; but here is its commencement, here the fountain-head from which the living waters flow: “It pleased God”. Next to the sovereign will and good pleasure of God comes the act of separation, commonly known by the name of election. This act is said, in the text, to take place even in the mother’s womb, by which we are taught that it took place before our birth when as yet we could have done nothing whatever to win it or merit it. God separated us from the earliest part and time of our being; and indeed, long before that, when as yet the mountains and hills were not piled, and the oceans were not formed by his creative power, he had, in his eternal purpose, set us apart for himself. Then, after this act of separation came the effectual calling: “and called me by his grace”. The calling does not cause the election; but the election, springing from the divine purpose, causes the calling…. They do err, not knowing the Scriptures, who put any of these processes before the others, out of Scripture order. They who put man’s will first know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm (72-73).
Our salvation: It pleased God!
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