But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, (Gal 1:15-16 NIV)
How is someone set apart from birth and called by grace?
Obvious issues swirl around this question. If we are set apart from birth, then why do we need grace? If God has already chosen us for a purpose, do we really need anything else?
And if we are called by grace, does that mean we were predestined to find grace because we were set apart from birth? As well, are the only people who are called by grace those who have also been set apart from birth?
In my humble opinion, and in full recognition of the fact I am dabbling in one of the most profound theological debates in human history, we can be set apart for a purpose from birth, but our decision to live for God and step into that purpose is a choice. In other words, I am convinced many people have not fulfilled the purpose for which God set them apart because they insist on living for themselves.
When we make our decision to live for God, we need grace. Imperfect human beings cannot face a holy God without it. In addition, grace involves more than forgiveness. It includes everything God gives to equip us for our mission.
Thus, I would say the apostle Paul was set apart from birth to be a special minister to the Gentiles. God brought circumstances together in his life to prepare him specifically for that purpose. However, had Paul refused Jesus on the road to Damascus, or ignored Ananias who later said, “And now, what are you waiting for? Arise and be baptized!” he would have missed out.
That’s right…I think one can miss his destiny. Oh, we will all have a destiny, as we will all arrive at a destination. But the decision to make it the one God has in mind is up to us.
Admittedly, even after we accept the saving grace of Jesus, it can be hard to discern the purpose for which God has set us apart. And I personally believe not everyone has a single purpose for which they have been called. For example, God might have set me apart at birth to show compassion on the broken-hearted. But he may have left it up to me to figure out where and how I was going to do it. On the other hand, He might have designed an entire ministry for the needy and given me the passion and gifts to start it. It is possible I might miss the plan because I reject grace, or because I fail to consider any of the promptings God has brought into my life.
The bottom line is God has plans. He has all kind of plans. In most cases, I think He even has options, all of which are honorable.
So how do we figure out where He wants us? Well, first, we give ourselves completely to Him and let Him wash us with His grace. Then we start the process of discernment. I don’t know about you, but I’m still processing.
Dear God, reveal Your plan to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.