But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,…
The vision which St. Paul saw on the way to Damascus, followed him through his whole life. There was one image which hovered over him, one thought which urged him onward, one spirit which he breathed, one life which he lived — the image, the thought, the spirit, the life of Christ. In the ruder times of Christianity we have heard of saints whose eyes were ever fixed on the material image of the crucified Redeemer, who bore in their body the marks of the Lord Jesus. What is true of them in a grosser and more literal sense, is true of St. Paul figuratively and spiritually: he felt himself and all other Christians to be crucified with Christ. In all His affliction they are afflicted, even as they are the partakers of His glory, dying with Him in sin and to sin, buried in baptism, filling up in their body the measure of His suffering, partaking of His hidden life in the grave, that with Him also they may rise again. If the apostle rejoices, he is as one risen with Christ; if he suffers, he is crucified with Him; if at one and the same instant he suffers, and triumphs, and is a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men, he is but as Christ was, Who was lifted up from the earth that he might draw all men after Him. He is as one stricken to the earth, at the same time that he partakes of the vision of the Divine glory. It is this thought and image of Christ, not freedom or faith, or any form of the subjective principle, which is the primary idea of the gospel in the mind of the apostle, Neither is it the belief in Christ as an object without him, to whom he is to transfer all his sins, but the ever-present consciousness of Christ within him, Who is one and inseparable from him, that is the support and anchor of his soul. As it is to the apostle more than any other human teacher we trace back the great doctrine of righteousness by faith, so to this event in his life we must refer that impression of Divine truth, which opened the kingdom of heaven to all mankind by the sight of Christ Himself. St. Paul was the human medium through which it was conveyed; an apostle not of man, neither by man, but of Jesus Christ, in whom it pleased God to reveal His Son. As it was necessary for the other apostles that Christ should go away, or otherwise the Comforter would net come unto them, so also it was in a certain sense a preeminence that he possessed over them, that as one born out of due time he had not known Christ according to the flesh, but only in a heavenly and spiritual manner.
(B. Jowett, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,