The apostle Paul from the beginning was a proclaimer of predestination. He was “separated from his mother’s womb” (1:15), by an act of God. He had nothing to do with it. This was not an afterthought of God. This was pure grace. It was not about Paul, this grace. But about Jesus. Jesus was to be revealed through Paul. The revelation of Jesus was to be passed on to the Gentiles.
From the womb to the childhood in a good Jewish home to the training in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, to the appointment by the Jewish authorities eventually, to become a missionary against the Christian heretics, with the intent of wiping them out altogether. All of this was ordained of God.
Then comes the Acts 9 account of his conversion. The blinding light on the Road to Damascus. The confusion. The introduction. Christ is now revealed inside of Paul and called to preach to the Gentiles (1:16).
Martin Luther, 1500 years later, can relate to the grace of God revealed to Paul, though Paul was a persecutor of Christ Himself. Luther says that he was crucified Christ daily in his cloistered life, “and blasphemed God by my wrong faith.”
Outwardly he says, he kept himself chaste, poor, and obedient. He was “much given to fasting, watching, praying, saying of masses, and the like. Yet under the cloak of my outward respectability I continually mistrusted, doubted, feared, hated, and blasphemed God. My righteousness was a filthy puddle… “
Luther was Catholic through and through. He “stood in awe of the Pope’s authority.” For Luther, to dissent from the Pope was “a crime worthy of eternal death.”
When he heard the name “John Huss” he thought “cursed heretic.” He was not even allowed to think of such a man as this, or any of the earlier saints who had brought the Word of God to a darkened generation.
Luther says he “would gladly have furnished the wood to burn” such heretics.
Then came grace. The Light of Scripture, no less powerful than Paul’s revelation on his way to imprison the saints. Jesus is the Word of God, in person and on paper. The Word changes things, changes people. The Word awakening inside a man is evidence that grace has been showered upon him and he can live forever.
From V-I-le to L-I-ve in an instant of time. Man can be born again, can start over. This is the Gospel of grace.
“Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that can pardon and cleanse within… “