For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 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. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 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; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. – Galatians 1:11-17 ESV
Paul’s conversion story is indeed a rare one. He was not “seeking God” or “wondering about who this Jesus is” when he was saved by God, he was doing the opposite. Paul was sure, sure that those who followed the way of Jesus were wrong, and not just wrong, dangerous, and he was doing his very best to eradicate them. And yet in the midst of his sin he was chosen by God specifically for salvation and for persecution, for the spreading of the Kingdom and for suffering.
What amazes me in this is the way Paul was, on paper, perfectly suited and positioned, once saved, to be the missionary to the Jews, not the gentiles. Wouldn’t it have been wise to send him to them? He would be able to bridge the gap between the Jewish people’s expectations and the reality of Jesus. He would have been able to show them in the scriptures that he knew so well how Jesus was the promised Messiah. He was advanced in Judaism beyond many of his own age among his people; what a great fit as the missionary to the Jews he would have been!
It sounds like the wise choice to us, but God in his wisdom chose Paul to go to the gentiles, a people for whom the Hebrew scriptures were largely unknown, who would not have been impressed with Paul’s pedigree or his knowledge of the traditions of the Jewish fathers.
And through this man Paul God planted churches all over the gentile world.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 ESV