About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
in this portion of chapter one is trying to make a strong point that his
ministry and his revelation is very much independent from man, especially
from the apostles in Jerusalem. He says in verse 11, "I want you to
know". These are words of emphases. What does Paul want these people
to know? "The gospel I preach is not from man". No man either
spoke or taught him this gospel. He received it "by revelation from
Jesus Christ". In verse 17 he makes this point again by saying,
"I did not consult any man. I did not go up to
of the New Testament was written or influenced by the apostle Paul.
I have always said that if Paul got it wrong, then we as Christians
have one big problem, because more than any other New Testament
personality, and that includes Jesus, Paul has defined the foundation for
Christianity. I believe as
Moses was to the Jews in the Old Testament, so Paul is to Christians in
the New Testament times. Both
men formed the fundamental teachings for God's people.
Both men were in direct contact with God.
Both men had their ministry and teaching given them directly from
God. So if Paul's many visions
didn't come from the Lord, then we are in serious trouble as Christians.
in verse 11 the word "brothers".
This is important because Paul still considers these men his
brothers in Christ even though they were in the process of leaving the
gospel. In Paul's mind, the
Galatians, other then the Judaizers, had not left the gospel, or, the
brotherhood of the redeemed. There
is a line that is crossed where one leaves the circle of brotherhood, or,
leaves the gospel of salvation, thus loses salvation.
verse 11 and 12 Paul reasserts that no man taught him this gospel, and
when he says "no man", I believe he is speaking of the apostles
who came before him, like Peter, James, and John.
The context seems to suggest this.
It was Jesus Himself who first taught Paul this good news.
12 specifically states that Paul received this gospel through a revelation
from Jesus Christ, and we know from 2 Corinthians 12:1, that he had many
of these revelations. Jesus
literally and personally met with Paul and spoke many things to him, some
of which were not permissible for a man to speak. (2 Corinthians 12:4)
Paul certainly saw things we haven't seen, and I feel he is the
only one who has seen such things. If
someone today claims to have seen such visions as Paul had, I certainly
doubt their experience was from God.
verse 13 Paul reminds the Galatians of his former life in Judaism when he
"violently persecuted the church". Note the adjective
"violently" in older versions of the NIV, and the word
"intensely" in the newer versions. I
like the word "violently" better than the word
"intensely" because I feel it better reflects the Greek and what
Paul actually did. We do not
have much specific information in the Bible to give us any specifics on
how violent he was. We see him giving approval of Stephenís murder in
Acts 8:1. Also, in Acts 22:17
and following Paul says that he imprisoned and flogged Christians.
The word "flog" suggests violence.
Beyond this, Scripture is fairly silent. Maybe Paul did not want to
glorify his past sinful life, so that is why we donít read about his
violence. We simply know that he "violently persecuted the
church", of which flogging is one example.
Greek word translated as "violently" in its simplest form means
"to throw beyond". The
idea is that whatever is being described with the use of this adjective is
meant to portray an action that is way beyond normal.
This Greek word is often used as the power of God working in the
believer, as can be seen in 2 Corinthians 4:7 and elsewhere.
The same Greek word is used in 2 Corinthians 1:8 when Paul speaks
of his hardships in life go beyond that one could stand in his human
the persecution that came from the hands of Paul were way beyond
normal, way beyond what his superiors would have expected.
Simply put, Paul went overboard when it came to persecuting the
church. That's why I say he
could be seen as a "Judaistic extremist", as we would say here
can't say for sure, but Paul might well have even killed Christians.
I can't say this for sure because the Bible doesn't say he did.
That being said, Acts 9:23 and elsewhere tells us that the Jews
"conspired to kill Paul". If
the Jews tried to kill Paul, of which he was once apart of these same
Jews, it is then logical to suggest that Paul tried to kill Christians as
goal as stated in verse 14 was to destroy the church. Both words,
"persecuted" and "destroyed," are very strong words in
the original text. The verb tense used by Paul is an ongoing action. That
is to say, he continuously tried to persecute and destroy the church.
Many people these days who have a pretty bad past and who become
Christians share their testimony. Many
of these people spend more time on their "bad past" than they do
on Jesus, but not so with Paul. He
only wanted to speak about Jesus. He
did not want the personal attention that he would have gotten by speaking
of all the bad things he had done. Part
of the reason why some Christians like speaking about their bad past is
because of pride. It draws
attention to them. Yet on the
other hand, those who listen to such people like hearing of such bad
things. It's our human nature
to dwell on sin and not Jesus.
was one very driven
might note the word "Judaism" as Paul uses it in this context.
He is separating himself from the Jewish religion that he once gave
his life to. What we should
understand is that Paul is not separating himself from the teaching of the
Old Testament or from the God of Israel.
He is separating himself from what Judaism had become, a religion
of humanistic works, that resembled nothing like Judaism was to be.
Paul saw Christianity and the gospel of Christ not even as an
extension of Old Testament Judaism, but its fulfillment.
in verse 14 Paul says that "he was extremely zealous of the tradition
of my ancestors". Paulís use of adjectives such as
"extremely" is not by accident. He is making his point very
emphatically. Because he violently persecuted the church, he was saying
that he was not influenced by any man in the church to become a Christian.
verse 14 we see that Paul advanced in Judaism faster than others of his
age. He was working his way up
the ladder of success as a Pharisee very fast.
This shows us the mentality of the day.
Like today, men viewed ministry, not really as ministry, but as a
career where one could advance up the ladder to success.
This is not godly ministry. Godly
ministry is actually working your way down the ladder to be a servant.
the word "tradition" in verse 14.
It was the tradition of Judaism that really bothered Paul, and the
Judaizers were attempting to bring that tradition into the Christian lives
of the Galatians. The
Judaizers were attempting to do two things.
One was to bring non-Biblical tradition into Christianity, and two,
bring Biblical Judaism into Christianity as well, which in Paul's words
had been redefined.
verse 15 he says, "But when God, who set me apart from birth, and
called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I
might preach Him among the Gentiles..." It was God Himself who called
Paul to salvation, and not only to salvation, but also to be the apostle
to the Gentile nations. He did not receive salvation as a result of
Peterís, or anyone elseís preaching. God Himself preached to Paul. As
a matter of fact God had decided to call Paul long before He actually did.
Paul claims that he was chosen by God from his motherís womb.
I believe this is more proof that suggests that Paul is the New
Testament Moses. God calling
Paul from his mother's womb actually ranks Paul up with men like John the
Baptist, who when his mother heard of the soon coming Messiah, he jumped
in his mother's womb. Also,
both Jeremiah and Isaiah felt they were called by God from conception as
Christians note that God called Paul prior to his birth and so they claim
the same, but this is a poor attempt at interpreting this verse.
Paul is not saying that all people are called to service prior to
their birth. He is saying that
he was called prior to his birth, and, he was saying this in defense of
his apostleship. He was using
this pre-birth call of God to support the idea that he and his ministry
was legitimate. I would be
careful and not claim the same calling as Paul claimed here.
verse 16 Paul states that he "was called by God's grace".
As noted earlier, there are two aspects of God's grace found in the
Bible. One is His unmerited
favour and the other is the divine ability to do God's will. Both
can be seen in this verse. God's
love, compassion, and unmerited favour caused Him to call Paul to Jesus
and to reveal Jesus to others. This
was one very important mission. It
was also one very special mission that only he performed in human history.
Paul was therefore special, but being special could not enable Paul
to do God's will. He needed
divine help, the divine ability, to do what needed to be done.
Thus both aspects of grace are seen in this verse.
the words "reveal His Son in me" in verse 16.
This is really the goal of Jesus for the life of every
believer. God wants Jesus to
be revealed in us. In other
words, God wants us to reflect Jesus in every aspect of our lives.
This is something we need to take very seriously.
We are not to promote ourselves, but Jesus.
People should see more of Jesus in us than they do of us, but that
is not normally the case. With
many Christian ministries today, they promote themselves more than they
the word "reveal" in this verse; it's from the Greek word "apocalyto",
meaning, "To unveil". Paul,
and us too, are meant to draw back the drapes that prevent those in the
world seeing Jesus.
verse 15 we note that Paul believed God set him apart at birth.
Then, in verse 16 we note that God revealed Himself in Paul.
This revealing began in Acts 9 on the road to
see the main thrust to Paul's ministry in verse 16.
It was to preach the gospel of Jesus to the Gentile world, which he
did, and, which caused many problems for him and the early Jewish
orientated church. Paul was
not the first to preach to Jews. Peter
was, which is seen in Acts 10. Unlike
Peter, Paul's main focus was to the Gentiles.
That being said, Paul set forth the Biblical principle that states,
"to the Jew first and then to the Gentile".
Paul always went to the Jews first when he entered a city but
eventually would preach to the Gentiles.
preaching to the Gentiles concerned the Jewish Christians greatly.
They simply could not get their heads around Gentiles being part of
the church and finding salvation by faith in the grace of God. This issue
finally got resolved in Acts 15 when those opposed to Paul's preaching to
the Gentiles came around to see it was God's will, but sad to say, is now
becoming an issue once again in certain parts of the church.
verse 17 Paul says that after his conversion he went out into the
how Paul uses the word "
verses 18 and 19 Paul says that he never went up to
19 mentions James, and in my thinking, the sentence structure says that he
was an apostle. He obviously
was not one of the original twelve. This
James was Jesus' brother and He did not give himself to Jesus until after
Jesus died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven.
I often wondered how James must have felt.
He knew Jesus in a human sense, since he was His brother.
But now, knew Jesus as the risen Lord.
What a strange sequence of events for James.
I'd like to point out here for those who do not believe there are any
apostles outside of the twelve, well, James was one of many.
I do believe that the original twelve apostles are distinct from
the other apostles. You might
call the original apostles the "A" (capital A) apostles, while
the others were "a" apostles.
Paul, I believe he considered himself, and I
believe it is valid, that he was one of the original apostles, who,
in his words was "abnormally born out of season', meaning, Jesus
called him personally, although at a later date than the others. (1
20 simply states that Paul would stand before God and repeat what he just
said. He is telling the truth.
He is telling no lie. It
is a bit sad that Paul has to actually make this statement.
He had to tell his brothers in Christ who were leaders among the
early disciples that he was not lying. This is how controversial his
ministry was in the early church.
verses 21 to 24 we see that Paul says that later he went to
the word "personally" in verse 22.
Paul is making the point that even though believers might have
heard about him in the
are actually some who teach that each modern day apostle teaches his own
brand of gospel and those who he has authority over must submit to that
gospel. That's not Biblical.
There is only one gospel, which all the first century apostles
preached, despite the use of the phrase "my gospel" that Paul
uses a few times in his writings; Paul was not using that phrase as if he
owned the gospel, or, as if he had his own brand of the gospel.
He was using that term in a possessive since.
He embraced the gospel of Christ and claims it as his own, like
Peter, James, John, and the other apostles.
who teach that modern day apostles have their own gospel that people must
submit to, view the gospel in a wider sense than I do.
I see the gospel as those doctrines that comprise what constitutes
salvation. These teachers
would say that one's end time thinking, for example, would be part of the
gospel. So, if an apostle over
you does not believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, which he would consider
part of his gospel, then you would be compelled to believe the same.
I donít believe that any teaching on the rapture of the believers
is part of what makes up the central gospel message.
I don't believe that how you think about the rapture qualifies you
or disqualifies you from being a true Christian.
24 states a fact. The people,
and most likely the people of
Note the words "the faith" in verse 23. Most of the time when you see the word "faith' in the Bible, it means to trust. Faith is an action. Faith is trusting. Faith is more of a verb than a noun, although here it is used as a noun. There are a few places in the Bible where the word "faith" is used as a noun. "The faith" is the set of doctrines that comprise the Christian gospel. Ephesians 4:5 is another example of this usage of the word "faith" when Paul says that there is "one faith".