Recapping last weeks sermon (Gal 1:1-10): Shortly after returning to Antioch from his missionary journey to the region of Galatia, Paul had gotten word that these new believers had an enemy in their camp: false teachers called Judaizers
They had attacked the Gospel that he’d preached while on his first missionary journey and had sought to discredit the message by discrediting the messenger himself.
The Judaizers believed that if they could cast doubt on Paul's character or calling, then the message that he had preached could be doubted as well.
Because of this, Paul went to great lengths to identify himself as an Apostle – one sent, commissioned and given authority by the Lord Himself.
He continues in Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Though it’s not directly stated, Paul is implying a contrast here between himself and the Judaizers. He’s pointing out a key difference between the message that he preached and the one that they had offered.
The message preached by the Judaizers was works based, effort centered, man exalting.
The Gospel that had transformed Paul's life and that he’d preached in Galatia was grace based, Christ centered, God exalting.
Paul is saying that if his goal was to please men, or to win human approval, if he was shooting for acclaim or popularity, he'd have preached a message that allows men to receive credit for their own redemption.
But the Gospel he preached only exalted God and it came from God.
Galatians 1:11-12 “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Here’s Pauls dilemma:
This young church in Galatia is deeply confused. The Judaizers had worked hard to convince them that the Gospel that Paul had preached was insufficient and they could know that it was insufficient because the man who delivered it to them was a fraud.
What could Paul say that would prove his trustworthiness?
He could tell his story and let it speak for itself and that's exactly what he does. In verses 11-24 we find a three point outline for effectively telling the story of personal redemption.
1.PAUL’S LIFE BEFORE JESUS
In the book of Acts, we find the Sanhedrin enraged by the bold stance that a young, Greek speaking Deacon named Stephen takes as he stood trial before them for the high crime of following Jesus. This young brother is given opportunity to recant and live, yet instead, he preaches the Gospel.
Acts 7:54-57 “When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him. Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him”
Acts 7:58 “They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul”
This proved to be a pivotal moment in his life.
In his own words: He had no peers – Was unrivaled in his respect for the traditions of his fathers, his zeal for and understanding of the law and in time, his hatred for the Christian Church
As a lawyer, it’s probable that he was in the audience that heard Stephen’s Gospel appeal and it’s shortly after the trial that the Bible first mentions Saul of Tarsus, as he holds the robes of those throwing stones.
Acts 8:1 “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”
That day, widespread persecution against the Christian church began and people were fleeing for their lives and we find in Acts 8:3 “Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison”
Before Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles, He was Saul of Tarsus, nothing short of a domestic terrorist. A rising leader in militant Judaism and avid hater of Christ and His followers. Saul felt no remorse over this persecution. He regarded it as an act of righteous service to God.
He was a religious fanatic. A Zealot. A man completely given over to stopping the spread of Christianity.
Galatians 1:13-14 “For you have heard about my former way of life in Judaism: I intensely persecuted God’s church and tried to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among my people, because I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors”
For the Galatians, Paul paints a picture of his life before Jesus as one that is extraordinarily dark – because he knew that it’s often through that darkness that the brilliant light of the Gospel would shine brightest.
2.HOW PAUL MET JESUS
The man that is writing this passionate letter to the Galatians is radically different from the one who was ravaging the Christian church in Acts 8, isn’t he?
Galatians 1:15-16a “But when God, who from my mother’s womb set me apart and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me, so that I could preach him among the Gentiles”
Notice the shift in focus. When Paul speaks of his life before meeting Jesus, there's a focus on self...I was zealous, I was climbing the ladder in Judaism...yet when be begins to share the story of his conversion, – there’s a shift in focus. It's all about the Lord!
On his way to Damascus to rip Christians from their homes and cast them into prison, Saul of Tarsus met Jesus the Messiah
WHY DID GOD SAVE THIS TERRORIST? – Paul told us – “To reveal His Son in me so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles so that Christ might be magnified “
3.PAUL’S LIFE WITH CHRIST
Galatians 1:16b-24 “I did not immediately consult with anyone. I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days. But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. I declare in the sight of God: I am not lying in what I write to you. Afterward, I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I remained personally unknown to the Judean churches that are in Christ. They simply kept hearing, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me”
HE WENT TO ARABIA
While we don't have the exact details as to why Paul was in Arabia and what he was doing there for three years, we can know is that those who were used greatly by God were often prepared for ministry by extended periods of isolation and obscurity.
I believe that it was in the barren obscurity of Arabia where Paul’s theology was developed, His prayer life strengthened, His character forged and where he’d experience God intimately.
His life with Christ – encapsulated with one word – CHANGE!
- The people he once hated, he now desired fellowship with
- The truth he once despised, he now lives by
- The Gospel he once loathed, he now preaches
That massive change was used by God to bring Himself glory!
REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE, YOU’RE NOT BEYOND HOPE
YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMAIN AS YOU ARE
YOU HAVE A STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD