The Bible is full of people- good and bad- and Jesus manages to use every single one of them for his glory in some way, shape, or fashion. Paul, the author of Galatians (and many other books of the Bible), is no exception to this rule. And he doesn't exactly have a shiny, sparkly past either. If you don't know, Paul used to be Saul- the ruthless killer of all people who were Christians. And he had support from Jewish leaders! He had "good people" (please take notice of those amazing quotes) telling him he was doing the good, noble, right thing.
Except God didn't agree and his opinion is the only one that really matters here. He paid Saul a little visit on Saul's trip to Damascus. He made the man blind, gave him a life changing message, changed his name to Paul, and taught him a vital lesson. And despite all of his yucky past, God decided that Paul was The Man that he wanted to use for the glory of his kingdom. Paul was to be the man that would write SO MANY books in the New Testament (you know, the second half of the Bible). It's commonly accepted that Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament! That's about as close to half as we can get!
And yet, Paul has a past just like all of the rest of us do. He was a murderer, which he acknowledges and actually points out almost right away in Galatians: "You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors." (Galatians 1:13-14 NLT)
As humans, we put sin on a scale (God doesn't do that, by the way). We, in general, actually think that murder is one of the worst imaginable sins. Don't believe me? Murder is one of only a few ways that you can get the death penalty in the United States. Ask around and people inevitably say murder in some form as the worst thing people can do. Either way, I'm making a point here. God uses Paul- a murderer- to reach an innumerable number of people. He is still using Paul to this day even though Paul has been dead for thousands of years!
I don't know about anyone else, but I look at my past sometimes and I think it excludes me from use for God's kingdom and glory. How could he possibly use a divorced teen mom to make any sort of difference? Why on earth would he want to? I have done so many stupid things and yet, he still shows me great grace. He gave me one of my greatest blessings immediately following a huge mistake- he gave me my oldest son and believe me, that boy is an amazing blessing! I did not deserve the amazing baby that he was and I still sometimes question how I can be so blessed to have the level-headed, sweet, almost-man that he is now. And God didn't stop there, in the years since, I have married my best friend (14 years this past May!) and have had 3 more awesome kids. All of this despite my screwed up, imperfect past.
Again, Paul is no exception to the rule. He is one of many imperfect people being used in The Bible and being used to this day. "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard." (Romans 3:23 NLT) The only perfect person to ever walk this earth was Jesus and he was only here for 33 short years. In fact, I've read more than once that his active ministry only lasted for 3 years! So since God continues to reach his people and see change now that Jesus has saved us through the amazing gift of his life, he has to spread that message through imperfect people like each and every one of us.
I love that Paul starts his letter (The Book of Galatians) with a few very important sentences:
1. He tells us who he is: "This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead." (Galatians 1:1 NLT) This is like the "describe yourself" section on your Facebook page. ;)
2. He tells us who he is with: " All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending this letter to the churches of Galatia." (Galatians 1:2 NLT) Wouldn't it have been great if he could have included a selfie here? That's totally what I'm picturing.
3. He extends God's blessing and reminds his readers of the gift they have already received through no act of their own: "May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen." (Galatians 1:3-5 NLT).
Why do these verses matter so much? Because Paul needs the Galatians to know that he is merely a man who loves God and is sharing God's truth with them, by God's own authority! He isn't some all-important Jewish leader. He isn't really a leader at all, but a follower- an imperfect follower of Christ who wants nothing more than God's "grace and peace" (Galatians 1:3) for the Galatians! Paul sums up our entire purpose as followers of Jesus in those five short verses. Isn't that amazing?