Ephesians 1:1-2 (see also 1st Corinthians 15:9-11)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being Christ’s apostle “by the will of God” recollects the Damascus encounter, when Jesus personally called Paul into the ministry, “‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.’” (Acts 9:5-6) Ananias was shocked at the news that Jesus would call Saul of Tarsus into the ministry for Christianity, the religion he tried to destroy: “‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’” (Acts 9:15-16) Paul apparently must have wrestled with the basis for why Jesus would have called him into the ministry, and here is what Paul concluded: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” (1st Timothy 1:12-14) Paul adds: “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” (1st Corinthians 15:9-11) Paul concludes: “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” (Acts 26:19-20)
Question: Could Paul have resisted or rejected the will of God?
Answer: The rich young ruler did (Matthew 19:22), and Paul had been resisting too: “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 26:14) Jonah also resisted God’s will for him to preach to Nineveh, but instead of using an Irresistible Grace (i.e. preemptive regeneration), God used a storm and a whale.