Friday, January 10, 2014

Galatians 1:10-17 “What are your credentials?”

When you go into a doctor’s office for the first time, you may want to know what his credentials are. You want to assure yourself that your cardiologist is board certified and went to a credible university and medical school. You don’t want to see a diploma from the AAA Automechanics School on the wall. Knowing that he graduated from Harvard for his undergraduate degree, then was in the top of his class at Duke University Medical School, and continued with his residency at the Mayo Clinic would certainly help you trust his judgment and skill level.

Well, in the rest of this chapter and most of chapter two in this letter to the Galatians, Paul lays out his credentials as an apostle. He feels the need to justify his preaching authority because those who were undermining his teaching in the region of Galatia were questioning his credentials. Paul had not attended the Jerusalem University of Christian Ministry and had not received a formal ordination from men, so these preachers of the “other gospel” were attempting to sabotage his work. So this morning we’ll start to look at Paul’s defense:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. 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. (Galatians 1:10-12)

Paul’s goal in life was not to please men! His heart’s desire was to honor God and to obey the call of God on his life. He was responsible only to God for his teaching. Paul reminds the Galatians that the gospel is not man’s gospel. It is God’s plan of salvation. And Paul was not taught it by any man. He did not receive it through a masters program. He received it directly from the Lord Jesus, who stopped him dead in his tracks on the road to Damascus. (See Acts 9:1-31 to read about his conversion)

Now, this is not to say that Paul was not educated in the scriptures. He was taught the Jewish scriptures from his childhood, studied under the great teacher of his day, Gamaliel, and obviously was very bright. And, while Paul’s intent is not to boast in himself, he does feel the need to remind the Galatians of his background:

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. (vs.13-14)

Paul loved being Jewish. He loved the rituals and the traditions and was passionate about keeping the Law. He had been at and gave assent to the stoning of the first church martyr, Stephen, because he believed that these new believers in Jesus were blasphemers. He was on his way to Damascus to destroy those who were followers of Jesus. But when Jesus grabbed ahold of him, his life’s direction was turned completely around. Instead of going immediately to Jerusalem to sit at the feet of the other apostles, however, he did some personal training with Jesus:

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. (vs.15-17)

Even though Paul knew his Scriptures backwards and forwards, he needed to study them all over again with spiritual eyes. He needed to have the Holy Spirit’s training to see how it was Jesus who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, and to see that justification before God had always been by faith. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes this statement:

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:3)

No man’s teaching convinces someone that Jesus is Lord. It must be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. It’s as if the Holy Spirit gives us new eyes to finally see. If you have never really grasped the gospel of grace, ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see it. When Paul described his conversion he talked about how the “scales fell off” his eyes. He had been blinded to the simplicity of the gospel with years of indoctrination in rules and rituals. But when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, it became as clear as day. It can be that way for us, too. Instead of relying on the teaching of men, we need to look at the Scriptures through the Spirit’s eyes. Ask Him to help you see what God has for you each time you study His Word. HE is the best teacher of all.  

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