Paul Defends His Ministry(Galatians 1:11-24)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, November 11, 2018
Sometimes the uniqueness of the revealed Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ is seen most clearly when contrasted with other spiritual beliefs.
Lauding the Dalai Lama as one of the world’s 100 most influential leaders, author Deepak Chopra wrote in Time magazine:
The most inspiring thing [the Dalai Lama] ever told me was to ignore all organized faiths and keep to the road of higher consciousness. “Without relying on religion, we look to common sense, common experience and the findings of science for understanding,” he said.
The Dalai Lama sounds wise, and his words certainly fit the mood of our culture. But we must see clearly what his advice means. It means you ignore Christianity because it is an organized religious faith. It means you ignore the church of Jesus Christ, which Jesus himself said he would build. It means you reject the gospel of Jesus Christ—the Son of God in the flesh, crucified for our sins, raised from the dead—because the gospel flies in the face of all common sense, human experience, and science.
Make no mistake, the gentle-looking man in the maroon robe is offering advice that will lead you far from the only way of salvation.
We are continuing our sermon series on Galatians. As we get to Galatians chapter 1:11-24 we see Paul defend himself a little bit. What is important is he is defending himself so that they can be confident in the Gospel he taught them and the Gospel they committed to. Remember that a major theme in Galatians is grace. Paul is encouraging them that they do not have to keep the Jewish law and they are saved by grace and not works. We are made right with God by grace through faith.
Today my theme is:
The Gospel comes from Jesus (We see this in verse 12).
Let’s read Galatians 1:11-24:
For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.
- In verses 11-12 we see that Paul’s revelation came from God and not man.
- In verse 11, we see that this Gospel is not according to man.
- This gospel was preached by Paul.
- This is a really important truth that we need to take in. Why is this important right now? It is important because these Judaizers had followed Paul and tried to tell them that they had to keep the whole law. They are claiming the Jewish tradition, but recognize the Gospel comes from Jesus and He is the highest authority.
- Paul still uses a term of endearment, calling them “brothers.” This could be translated as “brothers and sisters.”
- Paul says he also wants them to know the following information.
- The ESV Study Bible summarizes:Paul received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. His gospel was not derived from Peter or any other human authorities. His gospel was validated by the “pillar” apostles (2:9) in Jerusalem. The authority of Paul’s gospel is evident in his rebuke of Peter when he failed to live in accord with the gospel (2:11–21).
- Paul apparently is responding to criticism that he is peddling a gospel received from man, not from God, and that he is doing so simply to please man rather than God. Paul does not simply defend himself out of resentment or wounded pride but shows a pastoral concern: to reassure the Galatians that the gospel they received was the authentic one, not a false message delivered by an untrustworthy messenger(e.g.,2:5).
- In verses 13- 14 Paul speaks about his life before Christ.
- Acts 8:3 it records some of Paul’s past, also Acts 22 and 26.
- Verse 14, Paul was advancing in Judaism more than his contemporaries. Paul was very zealous. The NET Bible shares: The traditions of my ancestorsrefers to both Pharisaic and popular teachings of this time which eventually were codified in Jewish literature such as the Mishnah, Midrashim, and Targums.
- One source adds “Advancing” (v. 14) is the technical language of philosophical schools for progress in one’s studies, but it was also current in Diaspora Judaism and could naturally be applied, as here, to a rabbinic student. The Palestinian Jewish image of “zeal” was commonly rooted in the models of Phinehas (Num 25:11) and the Maccabees, who were willing to kill for God. “Traditions” could refer to general community customs, but given Paul’s Pharisaism (Phil 3:5), it probably refers to Pharisaic traditions, on which Jews discussing Pharisaism generally commented. (Pharisees were known for their adherence to oral tradition.) Paul actually understands the Palestinian Jewish piety of his day far better than his opponents do. His position and activities are reported in greater detail in Acts 8:1–3 and 9:1–2.
- Paul was very much set on the rules and rituals of Judaism. We like rules, don’t we? Rules give us an adrenaline boost. Think about this:
A constant state of adrenalin arousel, although physically damaging, is often experienced as pleasant excitement and stimulation. And it is this that makes it most dangerous, because we can come to think of the arousal state as “normal” and to depend on the high it gives us to get anything accomplished. I believe there is a corresponding spiritual danger.
Becoming dependent on adrenalin arousal for the good feelings of life can create an association between spirituality and high arousal. In other words, one doesn’t feel “spiritual” unless one is being stimulated by adrenalin arousal. Many expressions of spirituality have become linked to adrenalin arousal, and this can be very harmful. A great many of the true saints of God have found their peak spiritual experiences in quietness and solitude. But many modern “saints” look for it only in exciting challenges or emotional catharsis.
- Paul is giving them the Gospel which is about grace and this comes from Jesus.
- In verses 15- 24 Paul talks about his early Christian life.
- In verse 15, this is comparable to Jeremiah 1:4-5 which was about Jeremiah being called from the womb.
- God set apart Paul from the womb in order to declare the Gospel to the gentiles. This calling came from God, so Paul did not consult a human being.
- In Acts 9:15 Paul had his calling and God talks about Paul’s mission to the gentiles.
- Verse 17 is recorded in Acts 9:19-22.
- The ESV Study Bible summarizes: The journey to Arabia and back to Damascus takes place in the gap betweenActs 9:25 and 9:26.
- Paul goes to Arabia and Damascus to spend time with the disciples and then he preaches.
- The NET Bible adds: As a geographical region Arabia included the territory west of Mesopotamia, east and south of Syria and Palestine, extending to the isthmus of Suez. During the Roman occupation, some independent kingdoms arose like that of the Nabateans south of Damascus, and these could be called simply Arabia. In light of the proximity to Damascus, this may well be the territory Paul says he visited here.
- He goes to Jerusalem and was acquainted with Peter.
- In Acts 9:26 it records him coming to Jerusalem and the people afraid of him.
- Paul stayed with Peter 15 days.
- In verse 19 he specified that the only other one he saw was Jesus’ half brother James.
- This is important in context because Paul is making the case that he received the Gospel of grace from God and not from the other apostles.
- Though he was affirmed by the pillars of the church is Gal. 2:9.
- Verse 21: Paul travels to Syria and Cilicia. Acts 9:30 shows that he travels more to Ceasarea and Tarsus. Acts 15:23 and 41 records Paul’s travels in Syria and Cilisia.
- One source adds: Whether or not Paul means the whole province of “Syria-Cilicia” (as he could have in this period), Paul spent time both in Cilicia (Tarsus) and Syria proper (Antioch, its capital); cf. Acts 9:30, 11:25–26 and 13:1.
- This chapter concludes with a really awesome statement: but they were hearing that the one who persecuted them is now proclaiming the faith they once tried to destroy (We see this in Acts 9:21) and they glorified God because of Paul.
- Can we be content to trust in Jesus and the Gospel of grace? Or, do we always want to go back to a gospel of rituals and rules?
- Can we trust verse 12, that the Gospel comes from Jesus?
- Also, can we give God the glory? Notice verse 24, they gave God the glory for the transformation in the Apostle Paul.
- They saw a changed life in the apostle Paul. Here is a question, do people see that Jesus changed your life?
- Are you living for Jesus?
- Give God the glory.
Robert Webber writes:
I was traveling on a plane from San Francisco to Los Angeles a few years ago. I was sitting next to the window, reading a Christian book. The man next to me, obviously from the Eastern hemisphere, asked, “Are you a religious man?” “Well, yes,” I said. “I am too,” he responded. We began talking about religion. In the middle of the conversation I asked, “Can you give me a one-liner that captures the essence of your faith?” “Well, yes,” he said. “We are all part of the problem, and we are all part of the solution.”
We talked about his one-liner, a statement I felt was very helpful. After a while I said, “Would you like a one-liner that captures the Christian faith?”
“Sure,” he responded.
“We are all part of the problem, but there is only one man who is the solution. His name is Jesus.”
Jesus is the solution and Paul is proclaiming to the Galatians that the Gospel is about the grace of Jesus.
Do you know Christ?
God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus forever. (Rev. 22:5)
Craig Brian Larson, editor of PreachingToday.com; source: Deepak Chopra, “Dalai Lama,” Time(5-12-08), p. 43
Mishnah Mishnah, a codification of Jewish rabbinic oral tradition collected c. A.D. 200–220
Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 1:14.
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 1:13–14.
Archibald D. Hart in Adrenalin and Stress. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 1
Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 1:17.
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 1:21.
Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? (IVP, 2008), p. 26