How Paul Became
11My friends, I want you to know that no one made up the message I preach. 12It wasn't given or taught to me by some mere human. My message came directly from Jesus Christ when he appeared to me.
13 You know how I used to live as a Jew. I was cruel to God's church and even tried to destroy it. 14 I was a much better Jew than anyone else my own age, and I obeyed every law our ancestors had given us. 15 But even before I was born, God had chosen me by his gift of undeserved grace and had decided 16to show me his Son, so I would announce his message to the Gentiles. I didn't talk this over with anyone. 17I didn't say a word, not even to the men in Jerusalem who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went at once to Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.
18 Three years later I went to visit Peter in Jerusalem and stayed with him for 15 days. 19The only other apostle I saw was James, the Lord's brother. 20And in the presence of God I swear I am telling the truth.
21Later, I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22But no one who belonged to Christ's churches in Judea had ever seen me in person. 23They had only heard that the one who had been cruel to them was now preaching the message that he had once tried to destroy. 24And because of me, they praised God.
He who once persecuted the church became one of the church’s greatest theologians. Indeed, no one, except Jesus himself, has had a greater impact on the church’s theology than Paul.
What caused the change in Paul? An apocalypse. That is the word Paul uses to describe his conversion. He had an apocalypse.
In our day when people hear the word apocalypse they think, “Oh, no, something really bad is about to happen.” This is how most of the media use it. So we hear storms having “apocalyptic proportions.” But that is not how people of the first century would have reacted to the word. When they heard “apocalypse” they thought, “Oh, good, something wonderful is about to happen!” For the word was used of the lifting of a cover off a box, the opening of a door, or the pulling back of a curtain, revealing what was otherwise hidden.
Paul is humbled by the fact that in God’s mercy and grace, God gave Paul an apocalypse. “My message came directly from Jesus Christ when he appeared to me” (1:12). Appeared – apocalypse. To paraphrase Paul, “My message came directly to me when Jesus chose to open the door, pull back the curtain, and show me himself.” Paul rejoices that God loved him enough “to show me his Son” (1:16) – apocalypse. Jesus Christ, who is ordinarily hidden behind the curtain, so to speak, chose to open the curtain, and break through from the hiddenness. And in the breaking through, laying claim on Paul as proclaimer of the gospel. And the world will always be grateful!
Merciful God, how we praise you for breaking through to the persecutor of Jesus and his church and making him the great apostle to the world. Will you also grant us ever fresh apocalypses that we too may declare your good news? In Jesus’ name. Amen.