(Article for publication week of 10-31- AD 2013)
“But when it pleased God, Who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me…” (Galatians 1:15-16b).
One of the most soul destructive lies being told in your day and mine is the lie that a lost sinner can get saved any time he pleases. It is popularly believed and taught that a lost sinner can exercise his “free” will and be saved at his own leisure. This error is confirming multitudes in their pride and rebellion against God, and sealing them in their damnation.
Contrary to all this, the Apostle Paul declared that he was converted “when it pleased God.” No doubt it would have pleased the Church if Saul of Tarsus had been converted before he had consented to the persecution of so many Christians. Perhaps it would have pleased the martyr Stephen if Saul of Tarsus had been saved before he consented to his being stoned to death. I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but if Stephen had not been stoned to death we would not have that glorious account of his triumphant entry into heaven recorded for us in the end of Acts 7.
The conversion of the Apostle Paul (AKA Saul of Tarsus) is a prototype of every conversion (I Timothy 1:16). Paul’s account of his own conversion here in Galatians 1:15-16 tells us two important things about true conversion. First of all, we see that true conversion is a revelation of Christ to us. Secondly we see that sinners are converted at God’s appointed time, for Paul plainly says here that he was converted “when it pleased God.”
God Who works all things after the counsel of His Own will (Ephesians 1:11), has a set time for all things, including, and perhaps we ought to say especially, the conversion of every one of His elect. God will not fail to convert every one of His elect, and He will convert them when it pleases Him. Not one sheep for whom Christ died shall fail to be enfolded. In our text today Paul (as he does in all of his inspired writings) gives all glory to God for his salvation, and traces it all back to the eternal purpose of God. Paul was saved as every other sinner is ever saved, and that is by free and sovereign grace. Our text today completely destroys the idea that a sinner can cooperate in his own salvation by his so-called “free will.” Every sinner that has ever become experimentally acquainted with Christ (for that is what conversion is), had Christ revealed to him at God’s appointed time.
Conversion cannot be rushed. The modern day professing church is (I fear) being filled with those who have been rushed into pseudo-conversion by extra-Biblical methods. Preachers take warning and note well- you may rush a person into a “decision”, or into “accepting Christ”, or into “joining the church”, but you cannot rush true conversion.
Now, here is a sweet encouragement and cordial for downcast souls. Divine Omnipotence is on your side! Poor awakened sinner, have you been seeking peace for your soul, and have been unable to obtain it? Well, I will tell you that is a good sign that God has already begun a good work in you, and that your set time has come! Look to Christ the Saviour of sinners as He is revealed to you by the Holy Spirit.