Paul’s Conversion

Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Justification (New Studies in Biblical Theology) In studying Galatians 1:11-24, I came across a some good stuff from two church fathers.  Chrysostom said of Paul’s conversion: “[He] was sobered at the very height of his madness.”  Ambrose, reflecting on how the church in Judea glorified God because of Paul’s conversion, said of v.24, “By these words they ascribe all to divine grace.”  Mark Seifrid also has some helpful reflections on Paul’s conversion in chapter two (though I don’t agree with everything he wrote in the chapter).  Here are some quotes:

“…In this [i.e. his persecution of the church] he obviously regards himself as having been guilty of a fundamental sin.  It is impossible to miss the irony in his final statements in Philippians 3:6.  His zeal was such that he was a ‘persecutor of the church,’ to which he adds, ‘as to the righteousness which is in the law [I was] blameless.’  In looking back on his preconversion life, he sees that the law was capable of providing a righteousness according to human standards, but not before God and in the heart, where he now knows Christ as Savior (Phil. 3:7-8).”

“God’s choice and calling were unconditioned by Paul’s ‘progress in Judaism’ (Gal. 1:14).  From birth God had set him apart, like the prophets before him, prior to any works or worthiness on his part.  His ‘calling’ came by the sheer grace of God.  His coming to faith was a matter of divine revelation in which Paul himself played no role.  It was a ‘birth,’ indeed a premature one (1 Cor. 15:8). …This contrast [in 2 Cor. 4:4-6] which Paul draws between the absolutes of darkness and light, and his interpretation of his conversion as a new creation, make it clear that he regards this change as purely and utterly an act of God.  Paul’s heart was the ‘darkness’ in which the light of the gospel now shines.”

“…Prior to his conversion, Paul fought with heart and soul against the confession of a crucified Messiah.  His rage corresponded to his blindness.  The grace of God came to him like a ‘plumb-line from above’ without any preparation on his part, just as Paul himself indicates in his letters.”

Mark Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness, chapter one.

shane lems