Everyone wants to be good at something, but what if you are good at being bad? Paul says he was cruel to God's church, but he was a much better Jew than anyone else his age. Before I became a Christian, I was good at being bad too, but I didn't call my bad "good". Here is what Paul said:
"You know how I used to live as a Jew. I was cruel to God's church and even tried to destroy it. I was a much better Jew than anyone else my own age, and I obeyed every law our ancestors had given us. But even before I was born, God had chosen me by his gift of undeserved grace and had decided to show me his Son, so I would announce his message to the Gentiles. I didn't talk this over with anyone. " Galatians 1:13-16 CEVDCUS06Religious people call their bad "good". The murder others and say they are "serving God". They burn down houses and drive people of other faiths from their towns and villages and say they are "cleansing evil from their midst". They burn the sacred writings of other faiths and say they are "serving God." The most horrible thing about religious people is how they cloak their evil and relabel it as "good." It's not good. It's evil. There is not much hope for religious people because they think they are "good". Well there's not much hope for any of us, unless the Lord intervenes.
Paul also says that "before I was born, God had chosen me". He acknowledges that in spite of his religious evil God, in his sovereign plan, had chosen him for something special. It wasn't because of his religion, his being good at being bad, or his being good at being good, but rather God chose him based on God's undeserved grace alone.
We imagine that God chooses us because of something He sees in us. Maybe that is so, but the Bible doesn't say that. The Bible says that God chooses people for His own reasons and purposes that we may or may not ever understand. It's not about us, but about God. In this case God chose Paul to take the good news about Jesus to the non Jewish peoples of the earth. Perhaps his religious bigotry and zealotry prepared him for this task. I think it did, especially since he ended up on the other side of the bigotry - the receiving end - and was able to endure it graciously. Still the main thing is that God chose him before he was even born. Wow, talk about destiny.
I wonder how Paul would describe his motivation before and after meeting Jesus. He was highly pro-active and dedicated before and after meeting Jesus, but at the same time, he experienced a heart transformation. Before he was motivated by religious hate cloaked as zealousness. Afterwards he was motivated by love and compassion. Both of these fundamental motivations were powerful, but one enslaved and other freed people. One controlled through fear, the other gave up the goal of controlling others, and depended on the Holy Spirit to do that through love. One drove out those who disagreed, the other served them and sacrificed for them. One shrunk the heart of man, the other enlarged it.