Psalm 100: 1-2
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
God of my salvation,
when my soul is a parched land, summon me to drink deep from your living waters.
When the ﬂoods rise up to my neck, rescue me from sinking in the mire.
When the storms rage around me, anchor me to the rock of your enduring love.
And at all times, keep before my sight those brothers and sisters for whom drought
and ﬂood and storm are more than metaphor.
Help me to live simply so that others may simply live.
Rachel Parkinson, Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District Chair
Over the past two weeks we have considered Grace being declared in Paul’s message (He explained his authority, expressed his anxiety, and exposed his adversaries.) Now we move on to consider Grace demonstrated in Paul’s life.
Galatians Chapter 1 verses 11-24.
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[a] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
Paul’s enemies pointed to his nonconformity as proof that his message and ministry were not really of God. ‘He claims to be an apostle,’ they argued, ‘but he does not stand in the apostolic tradition.’ In verse 11 and 12 Paul states that his message and ministry are of divine origin. He did not invent the gospel, nor did he receive it from men; but he received the gospel from Jesus Christ.
Paul choses to make his point by reaching into his past and remind the churches in Galatia of the way that God had dealt with him. He shares in three pictures from his past as evidence that his apostleship and his gospel are truly of God.
The Persecutor (1:13-14).
Paul begins with his past conduct as an unconverted Jewish rabbi, he mentions how he intensely he persecuted the church and tried to destroy it. He also points out that he had a reputation for being extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers.
Then something happened: Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the church became Paul the Apostle, the preacher of the gospel. How could the Judaizers explain this sudden transformation? The amazing change in Paul was a spiritual miracle. Paul argues that his past conduct as a persecutor plus the dramatic change that he experienced prove that his message and ministry are from God.
The Believer (1:15-16b, 24)
Having discussed his past character and conduct, Paul now explains his conversion. He uses his conversation as a template for all conversions.
God did it (1:15a, 16a)
God did it by grace (1:15b)
God did it through Christ (1:16a)
God did it for the sake of others (1:16b)
God did it for His glory (1:24)
Paul has pictured himself as a persecutor and has reviewed his character and conduct. He has also pictured himself as a believer, reviewing his conversion. Now he presents a third picture.
The Preacher (1:16c – 23).
Paul points out that he had no personal contact with the apostles right after his conversion experience on the Damascus Road, (‘I did not consult any human being’). Paul’s ministry was to carry the Gospel to the Gentile masses, and for this reason God had kept him separated from the predominately Jewish ministry being conducted by the apostles in Jerusalem.
Paul preached ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto than that you have received, let him be accursed!’ (1:9)
Paul’s gospel can be summed up in this way:
When a sinner trusts Christ and is born again, they are ‘born free’.
They have been redeemed – purchased by Christ and set free.
They are no longer in bondage to sin or Satan.
They shouldn’t be in bondage to human religious systems.
Or as John puts it ‘If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36)
I hope you find this study both challenging and encouraging. God’s word is amazing!