Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 1:15-24 we see the formation of Paul’s apostleship. As we consider these verses, we need to see not only how Paul’s apostleship was formed, but also how we can be formed into today’s apostles, God’s present-day sent ones. In the Life-study of Ephesians we pointed out that all the believers in Christ can be apostles, those sent by the Lord to fulfill His purpose and to carry out His plan.
We should not hold the concept that we cannot be an apostle like Paul. The apostles are examples of what all believers should be. Paul was not an extraordinary person, and he did not reach a state that no one else can attain. The concept that the apostles are unique is a Roman Catholic tradition. This tradition is related to the concept that Peter was the unique successor of Christ and therefore the first pope. What a devilish concept! Far from being unique, Peter is an example of one who followed the Lord. In particular, he is an example to Jewish believers in Christ. Paul is a pattern especially for Gentile believers. In 1 Timothy 1:16 he says, “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” Since Paul is our pattern, none of us should say that we cannot be like him.
Although the brothers may believe that they can be today’s apostles, the sisters may find it very difficult to believe that this also applies to them. As a help to the sisters, we need to point out that in God’s household there are no daughters. God has only sons, not daughters. Christ, the firstborn Son of God, has brothers, but He does not have sisters. This indicates that, according to life, all the believers, including the sisters, are sons of God and brothers of Christ. For this reason, in his Epistles Paul addresses the brothers, but not the brothers and sisters. The sisters, of course, are included in the term brothers.
According to life, all the believers are males. However, according to love, we all are females. Christ is our Bridegroom, and we are His Bride. The relationship between the Bride and the Bridegroom is a matter of love, not a matter of life. Love is the unique requirement of married life. Therefore, we are living sons of the living God, whereas we are the loving Bride of our dear Bridegroom. How, then, would you answer this question: Are we, the believers in Christ, males or females? The proper way to answer is to reply that according to life we are males, but according to love we are females.
Paul was made an apostle not according to love, but according to life. It was as a matter of life that he was made a pattern for all the believers, the brothers and the sisters as well. This indicates that by taking Paul as our pattern, we all, brothers and sisters, can be God’s sent ones today. Paul’s status was that of an apostle, and ours should be the same. Hence, as we study the formation of Paul’s apostleship, we are also studying the formation of our own apostleship.
All of us in the Lord’s recovery need to be sent ones. At the least, a young sister can be sent by the Lord to her parents to testify to them about the Lord Jesus. Are you ready to be sent by the Lord? We all should be prepared to be sent forth by Him. Concerning this matter of apostleship, our minds need to be renewed. Therefore, as we consider the various points in this message, we need to see how we can follow Paul’s pattern and be formed into apostles. All the points we shall cover are prerequisites for the formation of our apostleship.
In 1:15 Paul says that God set him apart from his mother’s womb. The Greek indicates being designated or distinguished for a specific purpose. This setting apart took place before Paul was born.
When we read about Paul being set apart from his mother’s womb, we may have the concept that this was true of him, but not of us. This was my point of view when I read these verses years ago. According to my concept, Paul had been set apart, but I had not. This concept, however, is wrong. We were chosen, selected, before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Surely to be chosen from before the foundation of the world is more crucial than to be set apart from our mother’s womb. Since you have been chosen from before the foundation of the world, do you not believe that you were also set apart from your mother’s womb? Certainly you were. As we shall see, this refers to the carrying out in time of God’s eternal selection.
Some teachers of the Bible have different opinions concerning the time that Paul was separated from his mother’s womb. According to one school of thought, he was set apart from the time he was conceived. But according to another school, he was set apart at the time of birth. There is no need for us to split hairs concerning this. The main point here is that according to His selection we were chosen by God in eternity, before the foundation of the world. This means that we were chosen before the beginning of time, in eternity. However, there was the need for us, at a definite time, to be separated from our mother’s womb. To be set apart from our mother’s womb is related to the accomplishment in time of the selection God made in eternity. It was necessary for us to be born at a certain time. We thank the Lord that Saul of Tarsus was not born a hundred years before the Lord Jesus, nor six hundred years afterward. He was born at just the right time and in the right place, in the city of Tarsus. It was sovereign of the Lord that Paul was not born in Galilee, where Peter was born. Both Peter and Paul were chosen before the foundation of the world, and both were set apart at precisely the right time. According to God’s timing, He caused these two of His selected ones to be conceived in their mother’s womb. The same is true of us today. We were selected from before the foundation of the world. Then God waited until the time was right for us to be born. Hence, regarding our birth God had His timing. We all were selected in eternity when Paul was selected; however, we were set apart from our mother’s womb at different times. Therefore, to be set apart from our mother’s womb is to have God’s selection carried out in a practical way.
Do not think that Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb, but that you were not. Because Paul was made a pattern, what happened to him should happen to us also. Whenever I recall my past, I worship the Lord. As I consider my youth, I sometimes weep before Him. How I thank Him that He caused me to be born at just the right time and in just the right place, more than seventy-four years ago in a small village in China. We all can say, “Lord, thank You for setting me apart from my mother’s womb.” I hope that we all shall have a full realization of this. We need to realize that God set us apart in order to carry out His eternal selection. This was true of Paul, and it is just as true of us today.
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