But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:15–17)
On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus experienced a radical conversion.
And with that conversion, he received a new calling on his life. No longer was he to be Saul the persecutor of the church; he would become Paul, Christ’s Gospel-witness to the nations.
There is, however, a very important part of what happened in those early days of Paul’s new life in Christ—a part which is often overlooked, but which may contain crucial insight into how Paul came to understand both the Gospel and himself as its witness. Paul, it says in his letter to the Galatians, went to Arabia.
Why Arabia? Why is Paul mentioning this to the Galatians? And what exactly is the significance of this for us?
New Testament scholar N.T. Wright suggests that when he went away to Arabia, Paul journeyed to Mount Sinai (a.k.a. Horeb)—the very place where the law was given to Moses (Ex. 31:18) and where Elijah retreated to hear from God after his face-off with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:8). According to Wright, “Saul wanted to be clear that the shocking new thing that had been revealed to him [on the road to Damascus] really was the fulfillment, the surprising but ultimately satisfying goal, of the ancient purposes of [Israel’s] God…in which the [law] itself would be seen in a whole new light.”
Wright continues, “Saul, like Elijah, was told to go back and get on with the prophetic task of announcing that Jesus of Nazareth was the true anointed King, the Messiah, the world’s rightful sovereign.”
Paul wanted the Galatians to know that he was the real deal, that he had exited the noise of this world and had set out for the divinely appointed place of revelation, Sinai, for his conversion and calling to be confirmed by God.
As God’s people, we too must ascend the heights of His revelation in order that our place in His purposes might be confirmed. Weekly gathered worship is one of the ways we do this, because it helps us to “be clear” on what matters most for our lives. When we gather as worshipers and witnesses, we reinforce for one another that Jesus is indeed the world’s Messiah and true King. Because He descended to dwell in flesh among us, we can ascend into God’s presence, receive His revelation, and walk together as His witnesses in the world.
That’s why Paul set out for Arabia and it’s why we must gather this Sunday—to be clear on what matters most so that we can take part in God’s purpose. If we are going to be the real deal, we too need confirmation.
PRAYER AND REFLECTION:
- If Jesus is the world’s true King, He must be Lord over all of life. What area of your life might you need to submit to His lordship as you gather with the church this Sunday? In what specific ways might the Gospel address that area?
- Is there anything that would hinder you from full participation in LifePoint’s gathered worship this Sunday? Are there any distractions or attitudes that you need to lay at the feet of King Jesus before coming to worship with His church?
- After Arabia, Paul went back to Damascus to share Christ with others (see Acts 9:19-20). With whom do you need to share Jesus? Will you tell them? Will you invite them to church so they can hear the Gospel? Are you praying that they might be converted?
Set List for Sunday, August 04, 2019:
- Who You Say I Am (B. Fielding, R. Morgan)
- Holy Ground (J. Cravity, M. Fieldes, M. Malone, B. Younker)
- Before the Throne (C. Bancroft, V. Cook)
- O Come to The Altar (M. Brock, C. Brown, S. Furtick, W. Joye)
- Build My Life (P. Barrett, K. Kaple, K. Martin, M. Redman, B. Younker)