Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint are two of the great missionaries of the twentieth century. They served among the Auca Indians of Ecuador, teaching them the gospel and paving the way for many in the tribe to come to Christ. How did two white American women come to live and minister among a remote, violent South American tribe? Because this very tribe murdered Elisabeth’s husband and Rachel’s brother. In January 1956, five men entered Auca territory to proclaim the gospel. Their mission failed, however, and these men, including Elisabeth’s husband Jim and Rachel’s brother Nate, lost their lives. Yet in the midst of great darkness, there was one flicker of hope: Dayuma, an Auca woman who had come to Christ, had a vision for carrying the gospel to her people. And so in 1958, Dayuma opened the door for Elisabeth and Rachel to return to the Aucas—to live and minister among the tribe that had brought them such personal devastation.
From a human perspective, Elisabeth and Rachel were in the right place at the right time. But from God’s perspective, they had been uniquely positioned to serve Him among the Aucas. The apostle Paul experienced this unique positioning in his ministry too. His story gave him credibility to influence the debate that rocked the young church.
In Galatians, we learn about this debate. A group of teachers—sometimes referred to as Judaizers—believed that Christianity was not Jewish enough. Paul had taught the Galatians that faith in Jesus was enough for salvation. But the Judaizers disagreed; to be right before God, one needed to have both faith in Jesus and to obey the Law of Moses (including things like circumcision, dietary restrictions, laws of separation between Jews and Gentiles, and the celebration of Jewish holidays).
To correct this false teaching that was spreading across Galatia, Paul addressed the issue head on: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1–3). Paul put it to them plainly. What had produced supernatural change in their lives? Was it faith in Jesus, which brought justification in the eyes of God and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit? Or obeying the Law of Moses? Clearly it was not following the Law of Moses but believing in Jesus that had changed the lives of the Galatians.
Remarkably, Paul was the best person to have entered into this debate for several reasons. First, Paul was a well-trained Jewish scholar (Galatians 1:13–14). He was able to go head-to-head with these Judaizers who were using their knowledge of the Jewish law to distort the gospel. Second, Paul had received a specific mandate from God to proclaim Jesus among the Gentiles (Galatians 1:11–12, 15–16; 2:7). He had been given a clear message to preach that did not include obedience to the Law of Moses (contrary to what the Judaizers taught). Third, Paul’s theology had been tested and approved by the apostles at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:2–9). The Judaizers had no such support among the church leadership of their day.
God wastes nothing that has happened in our lives. He uses every thread—our personalities, experiences, tragedies, training, desires—and weaves each one into a bigger story that brings Him glory. Paul was the right man for the job of confronting the Judaizers’ false teaching and preserving the true gospel. Elisabeth and Rachel were the right women for the job of taking Jesus to the Aucas. You are the right woman for the job the Lord has given you. The ups and downs, the twists and turns, the joys and sorrows of your story have led and will continue to lead you to unique places where only you can minister.