ESV Galatians 1:11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 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
God “set [Paul] apart before” his birth and called him “by his grace.” God revealed his Son to Paul because it pleased Him to do so (v. 16). The language here is very similar to Matthew 11:27 where Jesus says, “no one knows the Father except the son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (c.f. Luke 10:22; John 17:1-2). The Lord did this in Paul’s life so that he might carry the message that transformed him, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the Gentiles.
The most common argument leveled against the fact that Paul was set apart before he was born is that Paul is a special case because he was an apostle and therefore his conversion was predestined whereas others’ are not. The major problem with such an interpretation is that the Bible never makes such a distinction between the election of the common man and the apostle. Paul speaks of the entire church at Ephesus as having been “chosen in [Christ] before the foundations of the world” and “predestined [them] for adoption as sons” (Eph. 1:4-5). Paul also sees Timothy as having been chosen in Christ “before the ages began” and Timothy was not an Apostle (2 Tim. 1:9). In fact Paul doesn’t mention his Apostlehood here in Galatians 1:15-he simply says that he was set apart before birth and called by God’s grace and that the Son was revealed to him by the Father–is that not the gospel of Jesus Christ? I fear that if we give into the idea that God elected only the apostles, there is nothing to keep us from thinking of evangelism as a task given to only to a special group of people in the church-i.e. certain church leaders similar to Apostles. However, if we see God electing all men in the same way, then it is clear that all who are elect are given this same charge to take the gospel to the nations.
2 Timothy 1:8-10 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
God saved us because of his grace and purpose which He gave us before the ages began. These verses clearly refer to those who have faith in Jesus Christ and therefore cannot be referring merely to the corporate election of the nation of Israel. God saved and called us to a holy calling–not because of works but because of His own purpose and grace. Therefore if you are a Christian and you are reading this–the grace you have received in Christ was purposed for you before the ages began! Salvation lies in the hands and purpose of the God of the universe–God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ!