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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Experience of God's Grace and Mercy (1:13-14)
Experience of God's Grace and Mercy (1:13-14)

Paul was fully aware of the change in direction that the grace of God brought to his life. Before encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), his life was lived for the sole purpose of persecuting the church right out of existence. He did this out of commitment to God! He was truly a religious, anti-Christian fanatic. In fact, we first meet him as he stood by in approval of the stones being thrown at Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7—8). Here is Luke's portrait of him: "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison" (Acts 8:3; see 9:1-2). To be honest, this brings to mind the terror of Nazi Germany or Idi Amin's regime. From his Christian perspective, Paul described himself in the past as a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man (1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13-14), yet he experienced God's mercy (v. 13). He was saved. The outpouring of grace from the Lord produced in him faith and love (v. 14)—that is, genuine spiritual life (see notes on 2:15).

Paul's references to faith and love and to his prior condition of ignorance and unbelief are again directed at the false teachers. On the one hand, he seriously questions any "Christian" spirituality that is not marked by faith and love, belief and godly response. On the other hand, the false teachers' Christian background—they know the gospel and have been members and probably even leaders in the church—makes the game they play an extremely dangerous one (compare Heb 6:4). Their history is marked by movement away from the faith, while Paul's life reflects growth in the faith. The false teacher and the Christian teacher are opposites.

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