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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Galatians 1

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Challenging a Different Gospel

A. Introduction to the Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians.

1. (Gal 1:1-2) The writer and the readers.

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia.

a. Paul wrote this book; his authorship of this magnificent letter is virtually unquestioned, even by more "liberal" scholars.

i. And what a magnificent letter this is!  Galatians has been called the "Declaration of Independence of Christian liberty."  The great reformer Martin Luther especially loved this letter; he called Galatians his "Catherine von Bora," because, he said, "I am married to it."  Leon Morris wrote, "Galatians is a passionate letter, the outpouring of the soul of a preacher on fire for his Lord and deeply committed to bringing his hearers to an understanding of what saving faith is."

ii. Many scholars believe that Galatians was written in the late 40's or the early 50's; an approximate date of 50 A.D. is often given.  It seems that Paul wrote this letter before the Jerusalem Council mentioned in Acts 15, because although he mentions several trips to Jerusalem, he makes no mention of the council.  Because the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 dealt with the exact issues Paul writes about, it would seem strange if it had already happened, yet he made no mention of it.  If it is true that Galatians was written around 50 A.D., then Paul would have been a Christian for about 15 years, being converted on the road to Damascus around 35 A.D..

b. Paul, an apostle: The emphasis on Paul's apostolic credentials is important.  Paul has strong words for these Galatians, and they must understand that he writes with authority, apostolic authority.  Every one of us must answer the question, "What will I respect as an authority in my life?" Paul expected that Christians would respect his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

i. "The word apostle as Paul uses it here does not merely refer to one who has a message to announce, but to an appointed representative with an official status who is provided with the credentials of his office." (Wuest)

ii. It is our duty to also respect Paul's authority as an apostle.  We do this by regarding this book as the Word of God, and taking it seriously to heart.

c. Not from men or through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father: Paul's calling as an apostle was not from man, nor was it through man.  It didn't originate with man, and it didn't come through man.  It originated with God, and came directly from God.  His standing as an apostle was not based on opinion polls or any human council.  It is based on a Divine call, made through both the Father and the Son.

i. "The bluntness of Paul's denial is due to the charge … that Paul was not a genuine apostle because not one of the twelve." (Robertson)

ii. "When I was a young man I thought Paul was making too much of his call.  I did not understand his purpose.  I did not then realize the importance of the ministry … We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God.  This is no sinful pride.  It is holy pride." (Martin Luther)

d. And all the brethren who are with me: Paul gives greetings from all the brethren who are with him; but the use of I in the letter (such as in Galatians 1:6) shows that it was not really a "team effort" written by Paul and his coworkers.  Paul is writing this letter, and sends greetings from his friends as a matter of courtesy.

e. To the churches of Galatia: This isn't written to a single church in a single city.  For example, 1 Thessalonians is addressed to the church of the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1).  But this is addressed to the churches of Galatia, because Galatia was a region, not a city, and there were several churches among the cities of Galatia.

i. "During the third century B.C. some Celtic peoples (or Gauls) migrated to this area and, after fighting with the people they encountered, they settled into the northern part of Asia Minor.  In due course they came into conflict with the Roman, who defeated them, and from this time they remained under the authority of the Romans as a dependent kingdom.  The name 'Galatia' covered the territory settled by the Gauls." (Morris)

ii. There were essentially two regions of Galatia, one to the north (including the cities of Pessinus, Ancyra and Tavium) and one to the south (including the cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe).  There has been considerable - though mostly unimportant - debate as to if Galatians was written to the northern region of cities or the southern.

iii. "There was a wide difference between North and South Galatia in respect to language, occupation, nationality, and social organization." (Wuest)  The northern region of Galatia was made up of small cities and mostly agricultural development.  The southern region of Galatia was full of cities and commerce.

iv. "It is clear that Paul intended his words to have a wide circulation in the region of Galatia.  The letter would be taken to each centre and read there, or several copies would be made and one taken to each church." (Morris)

f. Paul was in southern Galatia on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13-14:23), he went through northern Galatia on his second (Acts 16:6) and third (Acts 18:23) missionary journeys.

i. So was this letter written to the Christians of the northern region of Galatia or the southern region of Galatia?  In the end, we may not be able to know, and it doesn't really matter, because this is a letter that has something to say to every Christian. The debate between northern Galatia and southern Galatia is interesting for scholars, and adds some understanding to the letter, but not much.

2. (Gal 1:3-5) Paul sends his apostolic greeting.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

a. Grace to you and peace: This is Paul's familiar greeting, drawing from the traditional greetings in both Greek (grace) and Jewish (peace) cultures.  Paul uses the exact phrase of verse three five other times in the New Testament.

i. "Grace is always first, peace always second. This is due to the fact that grace is the source of peace.  Without grace there is and can be no peace, but when grace is ours, peace must of necessity follow." (Lenski in his commentary on 1 Corinthians)

ii. Paul uses the word grace 100 times in his writings.  Among all the other writers of the New Testament, it is only used 55 times.  Paul was truly the apostle of grace.

iii. "These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity." (Martin Luther)

b. Who gave Himself for our sins: Paul wished grace and peace unto his readers from both God the Father and God the Son.  Now, Paul will briefly expand on the work of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing he says about Jesus is that He gave Himself for our sins. "Throughout the epistle Paul points the Galatians to the centrality of the cross.  He cannot wait to make this plain, and we find a reference to it in his very first sentence." (Morris)

i. Jesus gave.  We know from John 3:16 that God the Father so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  But the Father didn't do the only giving.  Jesus gave. Jesus is a loving, giving God, and a loving, giving Saviour.

ii. Jesus gave Himself.  What did Jesus give?  He gave the greatest thing anyone can give - Himself. Of course, one might debate if it was more a gift for the Father to give the Son (as in John 3:16), or if it was more of a gift for the Son to give Himself.  But that is like discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Jesus gave the greatest gift He could; He gave himself.  There is a sense in which we do not even begin to give until we give ourselves.

iii. Jesus gave Himself for our sins.  This is why Jesus had to give Himself.  Our sins had put us on a road to ruin and destruction.  If God did not do something to save us, our sins would destroy us.  So out of love, Jesus gave Himself for our sins!  The love was always there; but there would never have been the need for Jesus to give Himself if our sins had not placed us in a terrible place.

iv. The word for in this passage clearly has the idea of substitution. Someone who wrote a letter for someone else could use this word to say he did it for that one.  This meaning of the word translated for here is also clear from how it is used in passages like John 11:50 and 2 Corinthians 5:14.

v. Martin Luther on who gave Himself for our sins: "Let us equip ourselves against the accusations of Satan with this and similar passages of Holy Scripture.  If he says, 'Thou shalt be damned,' you tell him: 'No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins.  In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan.  You are reminding me of God's fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure.'  With such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil's craft and put from us the memory of sin."

vi. "These words, 'who gave himself for our sins', are very important.  He wanted to tell the Galatians straight out that atonement for sins and perfect righteousness are not to be sought anywhere but in Christ … So glorious is this redemption that it should ravish us with wonder." (Calvin)

c. Why did Jesus give Himself for our sins?  That He might deliver us from this present evil age.  In many ways, the Galatians were battle with and sometimes losing against this present evil age. They needed to know that Jesus had come to save them from this present evil age.

i. The particular word for evil denotes someone who is not content in being corrupt themselves; they also must corrupt others, and draw them into their same destruction.

ii. The idea behind the word deliver is not deliverance from the presence of something, but deliverance from the power of something.  We will not be delivered from the presence of this present evil age until we go to be with Jesus.  But we can be experience deliverance from the power of this present evil age right now.

d. According to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever: The purpose of this saving work is not primarily to benefit man (though that is part of the purpose).  Instead, it is to glorify God the Father.

i. False doctrine was a real problem in the Galatian churches, and their false doctrines robbed God of some of the glory due to Him.  By emphasizing the rightly recognized glory of God and His plan, Paul hopes to put them more on the right track.

B. The danger of a different gospel.

1. (Gal 1:6) Paul's amazement.

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.

a. I marvel that you are turning away so soon: Paul seems amazed not so much that they are turning away (this might alarm him, but not amaze him), but that they are turning away so soon.

i. Missing here are the expressions of thanks or praise that Paul often wrote in the beginning of his letters.  Romans 1:8-15, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, Philippians 1:3-11, Colossians 1:3-8, and 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 are each example of Paul giving thanks and praising the churches in his greeting.  But not here.  Paul gets right down to business, essentially saying "We need to talk."

ii. "This is the sole instance where St. Paul omits to express his thanksgiving in addressing any church." (Lightfoot)

b. They are turning away from a Person (from Him who called you) as they turn to a false idea (to a different gospel). To turn away from the true gospel is always to turn away from the Person of Jesus Christ.

i. From Him who called you in the grace of Christ also connects their turning away to a turning away from the principle of grace.  However the Galatians were turning, it was away from the grace of God, not towards it.

2. (Gal 1:7) Three facts about this different gospel brought to the Galatians.

Which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

a. Galatians 1:7 tells three things about this different gospel.

First, it is an illegitimate gospel (which is not another).
Second, it is not good at all but trouble (who trouble you).
Third, it is a distortion of the true gospel (pervert the gospel of Christ).

b. Which is not another: Paul recognizes that this different gospel is not really another gospel at all. Those who promoted this different gospel perhaps said, "We know our message is different than Paul's message.  He has his truth, and we have ours. He has his gospel, and we have ours."  Paul rejects the idea that their message is a legitimate "alternative" gospel in any way.

i. The word gospel literally means "good news."  Paul is saying, "There is no 'good news' in this message.  It is only bad news, so it really isn't a 'different good news.'  It is bad news.  This is not another gospel at all."

ii. The King James Version translates this passage like this: unto another gospel: Which is not another. Actually, the New King James Version translation is much better, because it makes a distinction between different and another, because there are two distinct Greek words used.  Different has the idea of "another of different kind" and another has the idea of "another of the same kind."  It is as if Paul writes, "They brought you a completely different gospel.  They claim it is just an alternative gospel of the same kind, but it isn't at all.  It is all together different."

c. There are some who trouble you: Those who brought this "other gospel" to the Galatians brought them trouble. They didn't advertise their message as trouble, but that is what it was.

i. Some who trouble you means that someone brought this false gospel to the Galatians. False gospels don't just happen.  People bring them, and the people who bring them may be sincere, and have a lot of charisma.

ii. "Note the resourcefulness of the devil. Heretics do not advertise their errors.  Murderers, adulterers, thieves disguise themselves.  So the devil masquerades all this devices and activities.  He puts on white to make himself look like and angel of light." (Martin Luther)

d. To pervert the gospel of Christ: The "other gospel" was really a perversion or a distortion of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  It didn't "start from scratch," making up a new name for God and pretending to have a new Savior.  It used the names and ideas familiar to the Galatian Christians, but it slightly twisted the ideas, and this made their message all the more deceptive.

i. The gospel of Christ: Notice that Paul is really not contending for the gospel of Paul, though it is his gospel also.  But Paul's gospel was only worth defending and fighting for because it was in fact the gospel of Jesus.

e. Want to pervert the gospel of Christ: Paul plainly says that these people want to distort the good news of Jesus.  Why would anyone want to pervert the gospel of Christ?

i. It is hard for us to understand sometimes, but there is something about the message of the true gospel that is deeply offensive to human nature.  To understand this, we should first understand what the true gospel is.

ii. Paul states his gospel most succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved … For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

iii. What is there in that message that would make anyone want to pervert the gospel of Christ?  What is there in that that is offensive to human nature?  First, the gospel offends our pride.  It tells us we need a savior, and that we cannot save ourselves.  It gives no credit to us at all for our salvation; it is all the work of Jesus for us.  Second, the gospel offends our wisdom.  It saves us by something many consider foolish - God becoming man and dying a humiliating, disgraceful death on our behalf.  Third, the gospel offends our knowledge.  It tells us to believe something which goes against scientific knowledge and personal experience - that a dead man, Jesus Christ, rose from the dead in a glorious new body that would never die again.

3. (Gal 1:8-9) A solemn curse upon those who bring a false gospel.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

a. But even if we, or an angel from heaven: Paul doesn't care who brings a false gospel.  Even if it is himself, or an angel from heaven, it is to be rejected.  Any person who spreads a false gospel is worthy only of a particular curse from God (let him be accursed).

i. "The gospel preached by Paul is not the true gospel because it is Paul who preaches it; it is the true gospel because the risen Christ gave it to Paul to preach." (Bruce, cited in Morris)

b. Let him be accursed: Paul seems to have in mind the solemn curses pronounced by God upon those who break His covenant (Deuteronomy 27).  For Paul, it wasn't enough to say, "Don't listen to these people."  It was more than just not listening to them.  Paul soberly thought that they should be cursed!

c. So now I say again: The curse is repeated for extra emphasis; it is really impossible for Paul to express this idea with any more strength than he does here.

d. It might be fair to ask, "Where is Paul's love?"  He asks for a "double curse" on people - people who spread a false gospel.  He doesn't just ask God to curse the message, but to curse the people who spread the message.  So, where is Paul's love?  Paul's love is for souls that are in danger of hell.  If a gospel is false, and not "another good news" at all, then it can't save someone.

i. Think of a sinking ship, and the waters fill with people about to drown.  Two ships come to rescue people in danger, but one of the rescue ships carries a load of dynamite, and for some reason you know that that ship will explode before it reaches port, and everyone on it will be killed.  The most loving thing you could do is help everyone to get on the right rescue ship!  Getting on the wrong rescue ship would seal your doom!  Paul looks at this false gospel, this perverted gospel, and says, "That is a rescue ship about to sink!  It can't save anyone! I want to do everything right before God to warn people away from the wrong rescue ship!"

C. The Divine source of the gospel Paul preached.

1. (Gal 1:10) Paul's gospel did not come from a desire to please man.

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

a. For do I now persuade men, or God?  Paul's idea is not "I want to persuade God to my point of view."  The idea is God is his audience. When Paul speaks, he speaks first to God, not to man.

b. Or do I seek to please men?  Paul's first obligation was to please God, not to please men.  He would not fashion and shape his message just to please his audience.  He was more concerned about pleasing God.

i. Though it is not specifically said, we sense that Paul is making a contrast between himself and those who brought the different gospel.  Apparently, in some way, that different gospel was built around the idea of pleasing man.

ii. "There have always been preachers who have sought popular acclaim above all else, and there are some still.  It is part of fallen human nature that even those charged with the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel can fall into the trap of trying to be popular rather than faithful." (Morris)

c. For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ: For Paul, it was one or the other.  He could not direct his ministry towards pleasing men and at the same time direct it to pleasing Jesus Christ. And if his concern is not first to please Jesus Christ, then he is not a servant of Christ.

i. Servant perhaps is not the best translation here; it may be better translated slave. "It is unfortunate that … our English translations should so consistently fail to give this word its true meaning, thereby encouraging the false conception of Christian 'service' (as something essentially voluntary and part-time) so characteristic of modern religious idealism.  The 'bond-servant of Christ' is not free to offer or withhold his 'service'; his life is not his own, but belongs entirely to his Lord." (Duncan, cited in Morris)

2. (Gal 1:11-12) The Divine source of Paul's gospel.

But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

a. The gospel that I preached to you: "Paul makes a play on words when he refers to 'the gospel that I gospelled to you.'" (Morris)

b. Is not according to man: In contrast to the different gospel brought by others, Paul's message was a revelation from God.  Paul's message was not a man's attempt to reach up and understand God; it was God's effort to bow down and communicate with man.

i. Men may have many marvelous things to teach us, but God's revelation has all things which pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3); now more than ever, the world does not need the good advice and wisdom of man, it needs a revelation from God.

ii. Did Paul's message - the message of the Bible - really come from God, or is it a fine achievement of man's spiritual and moral search for God?  If Paul's gospel, the message of the Bible, really came from God, then it is the most important fact in the world.  If it is just a human invention or achievement, then it is the most dangerous lie in the world.

iii. There isn't any shortage of people who claim that they have a revelation from God.  But we have to be careful to not regard a message as being from God if it isn't.  How can we know that the Bible is really from God and not man?

iv. First, we know that the Bible is reliable, accurate and trustworthy as an ancient document.  We know this because the text itself is reliable (we know this from the study and comparison of ancient manuscripts).  And we know this because archaeology has consistently confirmed and supported the Biblical record, and has never contradicted the Bible. People, places, and events in the Bible are repeatedly verified by archaeology.

v. Second, we know that the Bible is unique, and special among all books ever written.  It is unique in its continuity, being written over 1600 years, over 60 generations, by more than 40 authors, on three different continents, in different circumstances and places, in different times, different moods, in three languages, concerning scores of controversial subjects, but it speaks with one united voice.  It is unique in its circulation, being the most published and popular book ever.  It is unique in its translation, being the first book translated, and having been translated into more languages than any other book.  It is unique in its survival, having survived the ravages of time, manual transcription, persecution, and criticism.  It is unique in its honesty, dealing with the sins and failures of its heroes in a manner quite unknown among ancient literature.  It is unique in its influence, having far and away a greater influence on culture and literature than any other book in existence.

vi. Third, the Bible is a book of predictive prophecy, literally fulfilled.  For example, there are some 300 prophecies concerning the Messiah that were exactly and literally fulfilled by Jesus, such as His birth at Bethlehem, His manner of death and burial, and so forth.  Another example is that the Bible describes the rise of four successive world empires (Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome) with such accuracy that all critics can do is claim that the passage was actually written after the events happened.

vii. Fourth, the Bible is a book that has profoundly changed the lives of millions, irrespective of their race, class, era, sex, locale, age, or social status.

viii. One might look at all this evidence and still say, "It doesn't prove that the Bible came from God."  The point is granted; but it does give us a reason to believe that it did.  In the end, believing the Bible is from God is a step of faith. But it is a step of intelligent and informed faith, not a leap of blind faith.

c. I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ: Paul's own relationship to this gospel was unique.  Most everyone hears the gospel from someone else; this is God's "normal" way of communicating the gospel (Romans 10:14-15).  But Paul was not "normal" in this respect.  He received the gospel in a dramatic, direct revelation when He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.

i. Acts 9:1-9 describes this remarkable incident.  The Lord Jesus spoke to Paul directly on the Road to Damascus, and then Paul spent three days without sight, before a Christian named Ananias came to him.  It was probably during this time - either on the road or during the three days - when Jesus brought His gospel to Paul.  Paul certainly had the gospel right away, because he was both saved and began to immediately preach the message Jesus gave him (Acts 9:20-22).

ii. "Paul did not receive instruction from Ananias.  Paul had already been called, enlightened, and taught by Christ in the road.  His contact with Ananias was merely a testimonial to the fact that Paul had been called by Christ to preach the gospel." (Luther)

3. (Gal 1:13-24) Paul proves that his message did not come from man.

For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God in me.

a. For you have heard: Everyone had heard how Paul came to the Lord! Paul's story was familiar to Christians in general and especially to those he had personally ministered to.  We can trust that if Paul was among a group a people for a while, preaching the gospel to them, it wouldn't be long until he shared his personal testimony.

i. The value of a personal testimony is not restricted to those who have a dramatic conversion story like Paul did.  We can see the glory of God's work just as much in those who think they have a "boring" testimony.

b. My former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it: Paul's credentials as a zealous Jew, persecuting Christians, are beyond doubt.  Acts 8:1-3 and 9:1-2 describe Paul's energetic persecution of Christians.

i. This shows that Paul was not looking for some other truth when he was first confronted with the gospel of Jesus. Unfortunately, many of those who are seeking a "new revelation" will find it - and find deception that draws them away from Jesus Christ (like a young Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church).

c. But when it pleased God: Paul did not come to Jesus because any man decided that he should.  It wasn't at the pleasure of any man, but when it pleased God.  Additionally, God did not choose Paul because there was something in Paul that pleased him; God called Paul through His grace, God's unmerited favor.

i. We know this call wasn't because of anything Paul did, because he said he was called from my mother's womb.  Therefore, God called Paul before Paul did anything to deserve it.

ii. Before Paul was a Christian, the emphasis was on what he had done: I persecuted … I advanced … (I was) more exceedingly zealous.  Once Paul follows Jesus Christ, the emphasis was on what God had done: God, who separated me … called me … reveal His Son in me.

iii. Martin Luther summarizes Paul's idea: "Did God call me on account of my holy life?  Or on account of my pharsaical religion?  Or on account of my prayers, fastings, and works? Never.  Well, then, it is certain God did not call me on account of my blasphemies, persecutions, oppressions.  What prompted Him to call me?  His grace alone."

iv. "He wanted to show that his calling depended on the secret election of God, and that he was ordained an apostle, not because he had fitted himself for undertaking such an office by his own industry or because God had discerned that he was worthy of having it bestowed on him, but because, before he was born, he had been set apart by the secret purpose of God." (Calvin)

d. Separated is an important word.  The Greek word aphorizo is related to the word used as a title for the religious elite in Paul's day, the "separated ones" known as the Pharisees.  Before Paul came to Jesus, he was an important Pharisee (Philippians 3:5), but he wasn't really separated to God.  Now, through the work of Jesus, he was really separated to God!

i. "The word is akin to that for 'Pharisee', and the Pharisees were in no doubt about it: they held firmly that they were 'separated' to God." (Morris)

e. To reveal His Son in me: In Galatians 1:12, Paul speaks of how Jesus was revealed to him (the revelation of Jesus Christ).  But here is something different, and perhaps more glorious: Jesus revealed in Paul.  God wants to do more than reveal Jesus to us; He wants to reveal Jesus in us.

i. "What begins by being a revelation of Christ to Paul becomes a revelation of Christ in Paul as the Spirit produces his fruits in unaccustomed soil." (Cole, cited in Morris)

f. That I might preach Him among the Gentiles: Does God have a sense of humor?  He selects a man before he is born for the job of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.  And that man grows up hating Gentiles, and believing that the only reason God made Gentiles was so they would fuel the fires of hell.

g. Additionally, upon his conversion, Paul did not immediately confer with flesh and blood (even the eminent apostles in Jerusalem) to discover the content of the gospel.  He didn't need to, because the gospel was revealed directly to him by Jesus.

i. We shouldn't think that Paul is saying here that it is wrong to hear of the gospel through others, or that those who do have an inferior salvation.  The point is simply that the gospel Paul preached was not a gospel of man, and this is settled forever because he did not receive it from any man.

ii. Paul did not travel to what we would call Saudi Arabia.  The area known in that day as Arabia in his day extended all the way to the city of Damascus.  Paul probably lived in some quiet desert place outside of Damascus.

h. Then after three years: Paul did not learn the gospel from the apostles, because he had been a Christian for three years before he even met the apostles Peter and James.

i. "A new convert, especially one who had been foremost in persecuting the believers, would surely touch base with the leaders of the movement he was now espousing, if only to make sure that he now had a correct understanding of what the Christian movement was teaching.  But Paul did not do this." (Morris)

ii. Nor was Paul "commanded" to appear before the apostles in some kind of examination.  It is indicated when Paul wrote, "to see Peter."  The word for to see speaks of someone coming as a tourist. "'A word used,' says Chrysostom, 'by those who go to see great and famous cities.'" (Lightfoot)  The idea is that Paul was not commanded to come to Jerusalem to give an account to Peter or the other disciples, but he came of his own accord, and visited as a "tourist."

i. They were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy." If Paul did not learn the essential content of the gospel from any man, then it is also true that the early Christians were slow in learning just who Paul was in Jesus.  All they really knew was that he had been dramatically converted - for which they glorified God.  After his conversion, Paul was a "normal Christian" for many years.

i. Paul's status as unknown is certainly different from our own habit of puffing up any prominent convert as soon as they come to Jesus.  Paul was happy and well served to spend many years in obscurity before God raised him up.

ii. In this whole section, Paul shows there was enough contact between him and the other apostles to show that they were in perfect agreement, but not so much that it would show that Paul got his gospel from them instead of God.

iii. Paul's whole point in the second part of this chapter is important.  His gospel was true, and his experience was valid, because it really came from God.  Does your gospel come from God, or have you made it up yourself?  Does your Christian experience come from God, or have you made it up yourself?  Only what comes from God can really save us and make a lasting difference in our lives.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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