The Pleasure of God in Conversion

In Galatians 1:15-16 Paul writes an astounding statement, “But when [God] was pleased… to reveal his Son in me…,” (emphasis mine).

The verb translated, was pleased (eudokesen), means “to accept,” “to be pleased with,” “to take delight in,” or “to see fit,” “to consent,” “to choose,” by implication for the purpose of being kind or gracious towards someone or something,” (Burton, Galatians, p. 52).

By this phrase, Paul emphasizes the gracious character and initiative of God the Father’s good will toward sinners.

Immediately in light of Galatians 1:13-14, someone may be tempted to ask, “Why did God reveal His Son to Paul? Why would God save and use such an evil sinner? Why did God bestow grace on Paul rather than judgment?”

The answer for God’s motive is that Paul’s conversion as well as his commission as an apostle lies in the gracious, loving pleasure of God! As Wilson notes, “The good pleasure of God is the farthest point which a man can reach, when inquiring as to the causes of his salvation,” (Galatians, p. 504).

God the Father revealed His Son to Paul because He takes great delight in revealing His Son to sinners! In Ephesians 1:5, Paul uses this same word (eudokeo) and writes, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention/pleasure of His will,” (emphasis mine).

As previously noted, the contrast between vv. 13-14 and vv. 15-16a are striking!

This God, whom Paul hated and rejected, saw all the evil he had done (cf. Acts 9:13). For example:

God saw how Paul was an unrivaled persecutor of the church:

  • He watched Paul go from house to house and drag out men and women and beat, kill and imprison them (cf. Acts 8:3; Acts 22:19).
  • He watched Paul try and force believers to blaspheme (cf. Acts 26:11).
  • He saw Paul give approval to the murder of innocent human life (cf. Acts 22:20).
  • God knew Paul was a zealous religious fanatic:

  • He saw Paul fill his mind with worthless human traditions and attempt with unrivaled zeal to earn God’s favor by living according to them (cf. Gal. 1:14).
  • In Galatians 1:13-14, Paul says while he “13 continually persecuted the church of God,” “continually tried to destroy it,” “14 was continually advancing in Judaism,” and was “continually zealous for the traditions of his fathers,” God was pleased to reveal His Son to him! Amazing!

    In light of so much evil, Paul knew that he didn’t deserve God’ grace. As he wrote to the Corinthians, “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God,” (1 Cor. 15:9; emphasis mine).

    Yet, despite all his evil, because of the grace of Christ (who gave himself for Paul’s sin, cf. 1:4 and called him by grace, 1:15b), Paul says it pleased God the Father to reveal His Son to him (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10)!

    Though Paul’s life was characterized by religious fanaticism, though he was driven by blind rage and murder, and even though at the moment of his conversion he was breathing murderous threats in his heart and was steadfast bent on persecuting and destroying the church none of this was an obstacle to God’s grace.

    Instead of much deserved judgment, it pleased God to bestow grace on Paul!

    On the Damascus Road, Paul’s violent, murderous persecution and raging hatred of Christ was suddenly brought to an end and the whole course of his life was entirely changed in a moment all because of God’s good pleasure!

    Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ was the result of God’s kindness and gracious will. What God the Father had planned from all eternity (v. 15a), He was now pleased in the present to carry out.

    Left to himself Paul would have continued on his murderous rampage. But, God the Father took delight in revealing His Son to Paul.

    What kind of God is this? What hope! What Kindness! What love! What mercy! What grace! Paul was conquered by grace and unspeakable love. On the Damascus Road, he was overwhelmed by lavish grace (cf. Eph. 1:7-8)!

    Here we see the divine initiative of grace! None of Paul’s sin was held against him. It was all forgiven and his slate wiped clean! Listen to Psalm 103: 8-12,

      “8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

    Whereas Paul was continually trying to destroy the church he now lived to build the church! Whereas Paul hated Christ he now loved Christ.

    Because of the cross of Christ, you never have to doubt God the Father’s good will toward you. “God [the Father-J.F.] shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8).

    Through the gospel, we come to see God the Father’s free, undeserved and eternal love to us. “But God [the Father-J.F.], being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…(Eph. 2:4)!

    And in Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul says God the Father desires to bring believers into an ever-increasing knowledge of His love for them (Eph. 3:14-19).

    John Owen says that this is the great discovery of the gospel (John Owen, “Communion with God,” in The Works of John Owen, vol. 2, p. 19).

    Apart from the gospel, God the Father is only known by the unconverted as being full of wrath, anger and judgment against sin (cf. Rom. 1:18; Isa. 33:13-14; Ps. 5:4-6; Eph. 2:3; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).

    But, through the gospel, God the Father is now revealed especially as being full of grace and love. The gospel reveals to us that God the Father takes great delight in revealing His Son to sinners. The gospel announces that God is now pleased with sinners, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased,” (Lk. 2:14; eudokia; emphasis mine)!

    Therefore, because of the Cross you never have to doubt God the Father’s good will toward you. John Owen writes,

      “…for eminently the Father himself loves you. Resolve of that, that you may hold communion with him in it, and be no more troubled about it. Yea, as your great trouble is about the Father’s love, so you can no way more trouble or burden him, than by your unkindness in not believing of it,” (John Owen, “Communion with God,” The Works of John Owen, vol. 2, pp. 20-21).

    When you begin to doubt God’s love to you, look to the cross and fill in the blank with your own life: “I_____, but God was pleased!”

    Even while Paul was a raging lunatic (cf. Acts 26:11), God the Father took great delight in revealing to him how Christ took a crown of thorns and loved him through the nails that He bore.

    God the Father took delight in revealing to Paul that Christ’s blood washed over him and in an instant wiped his slate clean. God the Father was pleased to reveal to Paul that Christ came to seek and save the lost.

    God the Father was pleased to reveal to Paul that Christ’s love and grace was stronger than his sin and rebellion. God the Father took great delight in revealing the truth that Christ paid for all of Paul’s sin upon the cross.

    God the Father was pleased to reveal to Paul on the Damascus Road His Son in all of His resurrected glory!

    Because of Christ, we never have to doubt God the Father’s good will toward us. Give Him your sin and take His forgiveness and grace! Have no fears or doubts about his love for you.

    The gospel fully assures our hearts that the Father loves us. He takes great delight in revealing His Son to sinners! Therefore, enjoy fellowship with the Father in His love!

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