But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,…
"It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." He needed not to go to the traditions of the life of our Saviour. Christ was known to him in a more immediate way. He found in his own heart the living oracle, and needed not to travel further. One of his remarkable words is this: — Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven, etc. But, more closely, what was this process? It was the translation of the historical Christ into the present Christ; of the Christ according to the flesh into the Christ of spiritual consciousness. What is translation? It is was the extracting a thought from its visible, or representative envelope, and then(2) it is the recasting of this thought into another form of our own intelligent selection. By this process, faithfully carried out, you make the thought your own. You bring it out of its mere external relation to the mind as an object, and you make it a part of your mind, as subject. It is no longer now something that you contemplate merely with the mind's eye, and which passes from memory when your attention is withdrawn, but it is now bound up with your mind, and must remain a part of your conscious being. We are always performing this process upon some matter or other. In this way the student gathers the thought of a foreign author, throws it out again into the best form in which he can recognize it in his own language, and now it is his possession. The artist gazes for hours at a picture of which we see little more than the surface, and throws out the sense of it on the canvas of his brain, or in visible studies of his own. The friend watches the face of his friend, quickly seizes the thought that is playing in living expression on his brow and eye and mouth, and projects the meaning again into some image or some verbal expression. In whatever interests us we separate the form from the contents; we grasp these contents, we pass them through our mind in deep reflection, until of themselves they flow into a new shape, which is a form of our consciousness, and may be a permanent stamp of it. So St. Paul gazed at the cross and the resurrection of Christ, extracted a marvellous fund of Divine meaning from them, which in turn he threw out into forms of thought which are so mighty in their power over us because they were first so mightily realized in himself. Thus the significance of the cross, translated into his own consciousness, became a personal experience: death unto sin, because Christ died; or, a revelation of Divine love: "the Son of God who loved me." The resurrection in like manner, "raised up together with Christ," "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." There was something deeper even than this process of translation; there was an identification of himself with Christ (no other word will hardly express this deeper process). He felt that he was included in Christ. In the Sonship of Christ he saw his own sonship to God realized. As in Christ the Holy Spirit dwelt in a human body, so St. Paul realized the indwelling of God in himself. He saw a contrast of weakness with power in the crucifixion — he realized that contrast in himself. It seems no strain of language to say that in the consciousness of Paul, Christ was inseparable from himself. He could not abstract the ego, as metaphysicians would say, from a non-ego. He could not think of himself without thinking of Christ. "I am crucified with Christ," etc. He applies the same mode of thought to his converts and disciples.
(E. Johnson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,