by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 5 January 16, 2011 Dayton, Texas
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus.
I. God's Purpose For His Dealings With Saul of Tarsus.
A. The dealings are laid out as "having separated him from his mother's womb" and "having called him".
B. The purpose is a stacked reality.
1. The first level of this stack of God's purpose is couched in the phrase "to reveal His Son in me" (AV).
a. The primary questions involved in this level of the stack involve the meaning of "to reveal" and the particular meaning of "in" (a word that has both extensive use in the New Testament and a wide range of meaning).
1) The word translated "to reveal" is not an unusual term (used 26 times in the New Testament). It seems to always have the idea within it that something is "hidden" and is "brought out of that hiddenness". The word etymologically meant "to remove the cover" (that made a thing "hidden"). It seems to have stuck pretty close to that etymology in its uses. In the New Testament much is declared to be "hidden" and the "covers" vary. Likewise, the removal of the covers is a figure that signals several different, specific things. In Matthew 16:17, for example, Peter's recognition of Jesus as "the Christ of God" is deliberately declared to be the result of special work of the Heavenly Father and deliberately denied to be the result of any skills of flesh and blood. In this use, the question of "hiddenness" is not a matter of any absence of evidences but of an inability on Peter's part to draw the proper conclusions from those evidences. In another use, Luke 17:30, there is a tacit awareness that the "revelation" of Jesus has still not been accomplished because there is a day coming in which that "revelation" will take place. This has to suggest to us that "understanding" is a multi-tiered reality wherein certain truths come to light at each step of our progress into a greater grasp of the "revealed" reality. Clearly, if the Father had actually "revealed" to Peter that Jesus was His Christ, this "revelation" did not, at that time, include any grasp by Peter of the significance of that identity in terms of resurrection from the dead, or the principles of the Kingdom regarding the links between death and Life (note Jesus' rebuke of Peter in Matthew 16:23 in the immediate context of Peter's avowal of Jesus as the Christ). This indicates that "revelation" is most likely an on-going, never-ending process. In fact, the communication of understanding by the Omniscient to the finite minds of men almost demands this never-ending deepening of understanding. In Paul's case, it is indubitable that Jesus' words to him on the road to Damascus, "I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting" was the beginning of a "revelation" that enabled Paul to preach Him to the heathen. But it is just as indisputable that that single reality was not a sufficient basis for Paul's subsequent preaching. Paul went away into Arabia in order to get "more revelation" regarding Jesus before he began to preach Him.
2) The main issue of this phrase ("reveal His Son in me") is the precise meaning of "in". The problem Paul's phrase presents is the fact that the word translated "in" is a word that is enormously flexible in Greek. It could mean "in" as "within" so that God's purpose was to unveil His Christ "within" Paul so that Paul's meaning was that Christ was "within" him and God wished to reveal that. That could be understood in harmony with Paul's general theology of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, a phenomenon that Paul taught is shared by every believer (Romans 8:9) and would signal that Paul was thinking in terms of God making this indwelling reality more clear for him after the fact of his conversion to Jesus. On another side of the issue, "in" might signify "in respect to" so that Paul was writing of God's intention of revealing His Son "in respect to" Paul particularly because of His plans for him as an apostle. This would boil down to a statement of God's intent to reveal His Son "to" Paul. With some thought, other possible nuances of "in" might be made to fit Paul's phrase. This means that we need to see if we can understand the phrase within Paul's purpose statements about why God "saw fit" to reveal His Son in his case. I think the clearest indicator is that the second element of this stack of God's purpose is simply not possible without Christ being "within" Paul as a living presence. For Paul to preach Him, He must be "in" him because everywhere in the writings of this man is this theology: "for the Life of Jesus to be expressed by a person, the Spirit of Christ must be within that person" because the expression of the Life of Jesus requires the active work of the Spirit of Jesus. Additionally, this understanding of "in" fits Paul's claim that when God saw fit to reveal His Son "in" Paul, he immediately went into Arabia. This departure was post-conversion and was intended to get Paul some quiet space to get his head together and resulted in having an extended opportunity to have the "revelation" occur so that it was not Paul who got his head together, but God. The outcome was that he returned from Arabia ready to preach Christ -- meaning the "revelation" had occurred. Being a post-conversion reality lends credence to the fact that the issue was Christ "in" Paul as the basis for preaching Him.
b. Seeing this as the primary level of the "stack" simply means that we understand that the upper level rests solidly upon it.
2. That upper level is stated as "that I might preach Him among the heathen".
a. The "heathen" are the non-Jewish nations of the world. In the 1611 English of the AV, "heathen" seemed to be an appropriate word to those 1611 translators, but we of the twenty-first century better understand it as "nations that have never been a major part of God's focus in history since the summons of Abraham".
b. Paul's place in God's program has been shown by later developments to be a place of critical uniqueness. Paul so identifies it in Galatians 2:7 as that place of the primary individual to whom a primary task had been assigned.
1) This program of God is, by this phrase, a program of significant change. God, Who focused an amazing amount of His attention upon Israel for 2,000 years, had shifted His focus to the entire world -- the nations beyond Israel -- and Paul was to be His chosen vessel to take a message of redemption to them.
2) This "new" focus of divine mercy was to be implemented by the proclamation of His Son beyond the boundaries of the special nation of Abraham's physical seed.
c. That Paul's purpose was "proclamation" is "revelatory". God's "revelation of His Son" in Paul was going to be expressed by Paul's preaching of that revelation to others so that they also might possess an understanding of the meaning and significance of God's Son within their own history.