GALATIANS 1: 10-24
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.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.
What is your testimony of God’s amazing grace?
In our text, Paul is sharing his testimony. He recounts his conversion and early Christian experience. His experience is recorded for us in Acts 9:1-9. As he writes to the churches in Galatia, he is not sharing his story for general inspiration or to point to himself. He’s using it to refute claims of those who are “perverting” the gospel to these Christians and undermining his message. He wants it all to point to the God of amazing grace.
Paul’s account eliminates the claim of the Judaizers like:
- That’s what Paul thinks - he’s what we think, and it’s just as valid.
- Paul’s message is fine, but incomplete.
- Paul’s message is simply his message - it’s not what the church teaches in Jerusalem.
Paul’s testimony doesn’t only establish his authority as a gospel teacher, it also illustrates some aspects of what gospel grace is. Throughout Galatians, Paul will keep coming back to this gospel grace; and so should we, in our lives, our prayers, our thoughts, and our witness.
Who Paul Was
Paul had done many terrible things. He had, “persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (verse 13). By the time he met Jesus on the Damascus road, he had killed many innocent people. He was filled with hate and on the way to arrest and imprison more.
Paul had also done many religious deeds. He spent years seeking to live according to Jewish customs and traditions. He was zealous and accomplished beyond his peers (verse 14). And yet, it had not made him right before God.
Paul is addressing the Judaizers and at this point is really saying, “I’ve been there and done that! I know all about this subject. You cannot make yourself acceptable to God by the most zealous and detailed following of moral, ethical, and cultural codes.” Before conversion, Paul was a great religious rule-keeper and full of pride. Yet, despite all of this he was not only saved by Christ, but also called to be a preacher and leader of faith. There is hope for all of us!
The gospel calls us out of religion as much as it calls us out of irreligion. No one is so good that they don’t need the grace of the gospel, nor so bad that they can’t receive the grace of the gospel. Paul was deeply religious, but needed the gospel. Paul was deeply flawed, yet he could be reached with the gospel.
What God Did
As Paul looks back at his story, he sees that God was working in his life long before his actual conversion (verse 15). Paul had been resisting God, yet God used his Old Testament knowledge, his zeal, his training, and his efforts to oppose God and His church to break him and to equip him to be God’s instrument for building His church. Tim Keller wrote, “The gospel gives us a pair of spectacles through which we can review our own lives and see God preparing us and shaping us, even through our own failures and sins, to become vessels of His grace in the world.”
Paul refers to his “former life” (verse 13). The power that is present in God’s gospel in Christ is the power to transform our current life into a former life. God’s gospel in Jesus puts an offer on the table: Regardless of how you’ve walked in here today, you don’t have to leave like you came. Like Paul, once you receive the gospel offered, you can talk about your life as a former life, regardless of what it’s filled with right now.
Paul literally murdered people, oppressed people, and had men and women arrested and thrown into prison. This isn’t hyperbole. Paul’s testimony takes away your ability to say, “God can’t love me. God can’t save me. I’ve gone too far.” God will place His grace on you (reveal His Son Jesus to you) not because you are worth of it, but simply because God takes delight and pleasure in doing so (verse 15-16).
Our Gracious God Simply Loves Us Because He Loves Us!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.