Called to preach
Paul was firmly convinced that he received his gospel from “a revelation of Jesus Christ” when God revealed his Son to him in the Damascus road experiencethat we commonly call Paul’s conversion. Therefore, at the beginning ofGala-tians, when he must defend his Torah-free gospel to Gentile converts at Galatia,Paul writes, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by meis not ofhuman origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was Itaught it, but it came through a revelation ofJesus Christ” (Gal 1:11-12; all Scrip-tural quotations are taken from
The New American Bible
).Paul makes three points in this statement.
his gospel did not originatewith human beings. It was not something that he or others devised, but some-thing that God accomplished in Jesus Christ.
Paul did not receive this gospel fromthose who were apostles before him or from anyother human being. Rather, he received itthrough a revelation whereby God disclosedthat the cruciﬁed one was his Son.
, sincePaul did not receive his gospel from anotherhuman being, it follows that no one taught himthe gospel that he preached. Rather, when Godrevealed his Son to him, Paul immediatelyunderstood that Christ was the fulfillment of the Law, the new human being in whom God justified, sanctified, redeemed, and reconciledhumanity to himself. Because ofthis revelation,Paul never doubted the truth ofthe gospel thathe preached.Thanks to this Damascus Road experience,Paul knew that God had called and set him asideto preach the gospel. And so he begins his letterto the Romans, “Paul, a slave ofChrist Jesus,
to be an apostle and
for the gospel ofGod” (Rom 1:1). His preach-ing, then, was rooted in a “call,” and that call dedicated and set him apart forservice to the gospel he would preach. Because ofthat call, Paul viewed himself as a prophet like Jeremiah or Isaiah, both ofwhom had been called and set apartto preach God’s Word. To those who did not understand his commission—orwho refused to believe what happened on the Damascus road—Paul must haveappeared stubborn, arrogant, and self-willed. But in light ofhis call and conver-sion, it was apparent to Paul that he had been commissioned to preach a gospelthat was not his own. Exactly what that gospel was, we will discuss in a fewmoments. But before doing so we must turn to another indication ofPaul’sDamascus Road experience.
FRANK J. MATERA
His preaching wasrooted in a “call,” and that call dedicated and set him apart for service to the gospel he would preach.