The Apostle to the Gentiles
“The Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel’” (v. 15).- Acts 9:1–31
From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals Himself as the Creator who works to bless all the peoples of the world. Despite the fact that in Adam we rejected Him in Eden, our Father did not cast all of us aside; rather, He purposed to redeem His creation through the seed of the woman, a righteous people totally devoted to Himself. The woman’s seed would be empowered by God to defeat the serpent and his descendants — all who never repent and trust in the Lord (Gen. 3:15).
Although for centuries God’s special revelation was confined to the nation of Israel, God did not intend to limit His salvation to the physical descendants of Abraham alone. Instead, it would be through his offspring that salvation would be brought to the world (22:1–18). The Israelites, of course, failed in this task, and so the Father sent His only Son to ratify and inaugurate His kingdom with His death at Calvary. As the new Israel, Christ succeeded where His people failed, atoning for sin and then being raised from the dead to bring eternal life to all who repent (Matt. 27:45–54; 28:1–10). This good news was largely given to the Jewish people during His earthly ministry, but before ascending to heaven, Jesus made it clear that the gospel must go to all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike, so that God might save all who trust in His promises through Christ (vv. 16–20).
In His marvelous providence and through one of the most unexpected role reversals in all history, the Almighty chose a former enemy of Christ to be the Savior’s greatest ambassador to the Gentiles. On the road to Damascus, sometime around AD 33, Jesus changed Saul of Tarsus from a legalistic, self-righteous persecutor of the church to Paul, the Christ-exalting, grace-proclaiming, pastor, theologian, and apostle to the nations (Acts 9:1–31). Until his death some thirty years later at the hands of Nero, Paul worked to establish the foundation for world evangelization by planting churches throughout the Roman Empire.
Tabletalk’s daily Bible studies will focus on Paul’s career and thought in 2009 through an exposition of the letters that frame his ministry. Galatians, the first epistle Paul wrote, and 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, the final epistles he gave us, will be the source texts for our study of God’s glory in Christ.
Take some time in the next month to reacquaint yourself with Paul’s career, perhaps through skimming the book of Acts or reviewing a book that gives a summary of his life and ministry. Consider how God’s unexpected grace was operative in the apostle’s life, and also consider how it has worked in you. Offer praise to the Lord for the wealth of wisdom and revelation He provides to His church through Paul’s letters.
Passages for Further Study