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Wednesday, July 17 2019
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
INTRODUCTION: In last week’s study, we considered the conflict at Antioch and how Paul handled it. How he made nonsense of the logical conclusion of the circumcision party - that keeping the law was sufficient to justify a person – because this wasn’t true! Christ died for this reason! We also learnt that It is vital that we stand for the principles of our faith, even when others don't understand. And finally, that it is best to serve the Gospel without any cultural inclinations.
In today’s study, we see Paul directing his argument from the circumcision party to the Galatians as he demonstrates to the Galatians that salvation is by faith, not by the law.
1. PAUL’S PAIN AND OUTBURST (VERSE 1)
" Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has hypnotized you and cast an evil spell upon you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had waved a placard before you with a picture on it of Christ dying on the cross." Emphasis mine
"Foolish" is not a compliment. Paul used this word to describe the Galatians because they had abandoned what Paul had so clearly portrayed for them! If they were struggling with it initially Paul would not have been surprised; but they used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death clearly! It's almost as if someone had cast a spell on them, to result in such a change of understanding. Paul had made clear to them that Jesus' death and resurrection changed everything! Jesus fulfilled the law, which is now obsolete. Rather than the Galatians needing to be circumcised in order to be saved, they need only to put their faith in Christ's finished work on the cross. Faith, not law, is the order of the day.
2. RECEIVING THE SPIRIT (VERSES 2-5)
“2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by trying to keep the Jewish laws? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you heard about Christ and trusted him to save you. 3 Then have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians? 4 You have suffered so much for the Gospel. Now are you going to just throw it all overboard? I can hardly believe it! I ask you again, does God give you the power of the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you as a result of your trying to obey the Jewish laws? No, of course not. It is when you believe in Christ and fully trust him.”
Paul's first argument of faith rather than law is drawn from the Galatians' common experience of the Holy Spirit. His argument is simple. They had received the Holy Spirit long before the Judaizers came trying to get them to observe the Mosaic Law. Therefore, the Holy Spirit came through faith rather than the law. His argument rests on two inescapable truths: that receiving the Spirit was both:
The Galatians experienced the Holy Spirit in two ways:
3. ABRAHAM'S JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH (VERSES 6-9)
“Abraham had the same experience—God declared him fit for heaven only because he believed God’s promises. 7 You can see from this that the real children of Abraham are all the men of faith who truly trust in God. 8-9 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would save the Gentiles also, through their faith. God told Abraham about this long ago when he said, “I will bless those in every nation who trust in me as you do.” And so it is: all who trust in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received.” Emphasis mine
Paul's second argument for faith over law comes from Abraham, the Father of Faith. His argument is as follows:
4. THE LAW BRINGS A CURSE (VERSES 10-14)
“ Yes, and those who depend on the Jewish laws to save them are under God’s curse, for the Scriptures point out very clearly, “Cursed is everyone who at any time breaks a single one of these laws that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever win God’s favour by trying to keep the Jewish laws because God has said that the only way we can be right in his sight is by faith. As the prophet Habakkuk says it, “The man who finds life will find it through trusting God.” 12 How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says that a man is saved by obeying every law of God, without one slip. 13 But Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). 14 Now God can bless the Gentiles, too, with this same blessing he promised to Abraham; and all of us as Christians can have the promised Holy Spirit through this faith.” Emphasis mine
Paul's third argument for salvation by faith rather than law is based on a concept of curses found in Deuteronomy 21:23. In this passage, Paul cites four verses and then argues from them, as might a rabbi, that Christ has freed us from the curse of the law on the basis of our faith. Here are the passages:
"'Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out. ‘Then all the people shall say, 'Amen!'"
"See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright -- but the righteous will live by his faith."
"Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD."
"If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance."
Other versions of verse 13 use the word “Redeem” instead of the word “Bought”. Here, Paul uses the word "Redeem" as a commercial technical term hence TLB translates it as “Bought”. In the Old Testament, the word "redeem" came from the concept of a kinsman-redeemer, whose responsibility it was as kinsman to redeem his kin from difficulty or danger, to keep their property in the family in case of poverty, to redeem them from slavery if they lost their liberty due to debt.
When we talk about Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, we get just a glimpse of what it cost the Holy One to bear upon himself our sin, "to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The cost both to the Father and to the Son can be seen in that lonesome lament from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46 and Psalm 22:1). And hence, the reason why Paul needed to be as firm as he was with the Galatians.
We need to be careful with who we give audience and who we allow speak whatever kind of words over our lives! The Galatians initially used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death clearly! But their understanding had been darkened; and Paul needed once again to enlighten the eyes of their understanding. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!”
Parts of this study was culled from: http://www.jesuswalk.com/galatians/4_faith.htm
Thursday, July 11 2019
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
INTRODUCTION: In last week’s study we learnt about how Paul became accepted by the other apostles. We also learnt that we can serve together with believers of other viewpoints if we cooperate in areas we agree about. In today’s study, we will consider the conflict at Antioch and how Paul handled it.
First, let’s look at the background to this study. Paul and Barnabas have been labouring for years in Antioch to teach the new believers who had come to Christ out of paganism. There were many bonds of mutual love and caring. Peter, also, comes to Antioch to teach and mingles freely with the new believers. Then, some Jewish Christians, supposedly representing James, (Jesus ‘brother, head of the Jerusalem church), also came to check up on the progress of the mission in Antioch. But these men are strict in their observance of the kosher laws. They have special food prepared for them in the prescribed manner and won't eat meals with the new believers in the church.
THE JEWISH CHRISTIANS FROM JERUSALEM CAUSE SCHISM (VERSES 11-13)
" When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray."
Paul opposes Peter to his face; not behind him, not by spreading gossip because Peter was clearly in the wrong! It was not because of a rumour Paul had heard or for reasons he didn’t understand or aware of. He was clearly being a hypocrite and before long, it wasn't just a small group of Jerusalem believers who withdrew table fellowship from the new Christians, but all the Jewish Christians were now eating separate from the non-Jewish Christians! Barnabas too! Notice the reason for the separation: Peter "was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group" (2:12b). Peter wasn't acting out of conviction but out of fear of being smeared by the law-keeping Jews who threaten to ruin his reputation as the leading apostle of the Christian movement. As Peter wasn't acting from conviction, then he was therefore guilty of hypocrisy -- saying one thing but doing another. And this was a time to oppose the action!
PAUL CHALLENGES PETER (VERSE 14)
“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Paul found himself to be the only Jew who would now eat and associate with the Gentiles in the Antioch church. The Jewish-Christian circumcision party from Jerusalem -- who as yet didn't really understand the gospel to the Gentiles -- had staged a full coup.
So, Paul publicly confronted the situation. He wasn't just being difficult. There is a possibility that he may have privately tried to reason the whole situation out without any success. But the influence of the "men from James" was too strong. If he didn't publicly confront the situation, the mission to the Gentiles would shrivel up and die. Basically, Paul calls Peter a hypocrite publicly, acting one way when he's with Gentiles only, and another way when members of the circumcision party from Jerusalem are around. It was a potentially dangerous thing to do. After all, they were the "insiders" and "original believers," while Paul was a "newcomer" to the faith. But Peter's blatant hypocrisy was so inexcusable that Paul apparently won the day. He not only won over Barnabas, but eventually Peter and the others, too, but it required going back to Jerusalem to hash it out -- and apparently that didn't take place until after Paul's First Missionary Journey.
BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH (2:15-16)
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Next, Paul tells the Galatians the theological argument he used when confronting Peter and the others over their refusal to associate with the Gentiles. The primary theological issue is how a person is justified before God -- by the law or by faith. "Justified" is dikaioō, generally, "to render a favourable verdict, vindicate." Here, it means, "be acquitted, be pronounced and treated as righteous."
These Jewish believers accepted that Jesus died for their sins. The reason they still kept the law was because it was their culture, their way of life. But sometimes they would slip back into their old thinking that their observance of the law somehow was enough to make them right in God's eyes. But Paul's logic is relentless: if they need Jesus to die for their sins to make them right with God, to justify them, then it stood to reason that keeping the law had not justified them. They hadn't thought it through -- as many Christians haven't. Being good doesn't justify us or prepare us for heaven. We are saved by Jesus dying for our sins -- period! The law is good, but it doesn't save. It isn't the core of the gospel -- Jesus the Messiah is.
CHRIST'S DEATH FOR SIN LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD (2:17-18)
“But if, while we seek to be justified in Christ [by faith], we ourselves are found to be sinners, does that make Christ an advocate or promoter of our sin? Certainly not! For if I [or anyone else should] rebuild [through word or by practice] what I once tore down [the belief that observing the Law is essential for salvation], I prove myself to be a transgressor.” [AMP]
The inevitable conclusion of this line of thinking is, since they are trusting Christ for salvation, not the law, they are now on the same level before God as the Gentiles. Christ's death for our sins -- which all believers acknowledged -- puts us all on an even playing field. Thus, not associating with Gentiles is hypocrisy, a way of pretending we are better, rather than recognizing that we are all the same under grace. So, Paul is saying, if I now depend upon Christ for my justification, it suddenly makes me realize that I'm a sinner needing his justification, no longer a Jew that seems secure in being "righteous" within the covenant. I'm suddenly aware of my sin and vulnerability because of it. Does this mean that Christ somehow makes me a sinner where I wasn't one before? No. That's foolishness! For if I build again — By my sinful practice; the things which I destroyed — Or professed that I wished to destroy, by my preaching, or by my believing; I make myself a transgressor — I show that I act very inconsistently, building up again what I pretended I was pulling down. In other words, I show myself, not Christ, to be a transgressor; the whole blame lies on me, not on him or his gospel.
DYING TO THE LAW, CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST AND THE NEW LIFE (VERSES 19-20)
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
First, Paul introduces a new idea to this letter -- dying to the law. How did we "die to the law" through or "by means of" the law? What Paul was referring to is that he is forever dead to the legalistic and Pharisaic notion that he can save himself by devotion to keeping the law. He is now forever dead to a legalistic understanding of salvation. For him it is now grace -- all grace -- a grace he will not "set aside." Then he goes further to indicate being crucified with Christ, that Christ has redefined his life and entire motivational system. Where once he acted as if he directed his own life, now Paul sees that this old life is dead. His life in this physical body is energized by Christ and his Spirit and lived on the principle of faith in Christ as his Leader and Saviour. That's the overall idea. But now let's examine the pieces of this remarkable statement.
"Christ lives in me" is another piece of the compelling evidence that the law has been superseded by the Spirit that the Messiah sends. This is an amazing truth: Christ lives in us by his Spirit! This is more than Christ living in us in a figurative sense because we share his values. This is the Spirit of Christ actually living within our bodies. Amazing! And then he brings every believer to the realization that our “new lives” must be lived by faith in Jesus who died for us!
CONCLUSION (VERSE 21)
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! "
We shall look at three parts in conclusion. First, Paul’s amazing conclusion of this section of his letter with a summary verse that combines in a single sentence his main themes: grace, righteousness (or justification), law, and Christ's death. The logical conclusion of the circumcision party was that keeping the law was sufficient to justify a person. But if this were true, says Paul, then Christ died needlessly.
Secondly, church politics can be ugly. We see that in Paul's day it was ugly too. What is however important is that Paul did not “wash” his hands of all church politics, instead he addressed issues where they existed. It is vital that we stand for the principles of our faith, even when others don't understand.
Finally, the root of the conflict in Antioch is a common issue of mixing the gospel with culture. We should be able to decipher between what the core gospel is, that we teach new believers and how much of our own culture we import into it when reaching out to other cultures. It is therefore best to serve the Gospel without any cultural inclinations.
Parts of this study was culled from http://www.jesuswalk.com/galatians/3_justified.htm
Thursday, July 04 2019
Contributor: Leye Olayiwola
In our study last week, Apostle Paul gave a detailed account of his journey into salvation – the revelation of the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles, his zealousness when he was in Judaism, how the grace of God found him and made him the carrier of the gospel to the Gentiles, his period of preparation etc. So much to learn from this uniquely humble, yet fiery servant of the Most High God. We will continue in our study of the book of Galatians today as we learn some more life applicable lessons from the account of Apostle Paul during his visit to Jerusalem to meet with the reputable apostles.
Galatians 2 vs 1: “Then after a period of fourteen years I again went up to Jerusalem, [this time] with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.”
This probably refers to the events taking place during the Jerusalem Counsel. See Acts 15:1-2 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised in accordance with the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Paul and Barnabas disagreed greatly and debated with them, so it was determined that Paul and Barnabas and some of the others from their group would go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders [and confer with them] concerning this issue.
About Titus - To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior (Titus 1:4 AMP)
About Barnabas - Now Joseph, a Levite and native of Cyprus, who was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement) (Acts 4:36 AMP)
Galatians 2 vs 2: “I went up [to Jerusalem] because of a [divine] revelation, and I put before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles. But I did so in private before those of reputation, for fear that I might be running or had run [the course of my ministry] in vain.”
To those who were of reputation – Namely Peter, James, and John. Remember that Paul is defending his apostleship. During this trip to Jerusalem, his stance on circumcision and legalism was at stake. He did not doubt that what he was preaching was true since it was revealed to him directly by God. It seems some of Paul’s attackers were claiming that these three apostles were real apostles, while Paul was not. The next few verses describe their conclusion on the gospel Paul was preaching. He didn’t need their endorsement since he knew what he was preaching was directly from Christ, but their endorsement would act to give “his gospel” more credibility in front of those false teachers and the church at large. The church in Jerusalem was still considered the Mother church by many and the apostles’ opinions who served there might sway some people who weren’t swayed by Paul.
Paul met privately with these three apostles. This was not because he wasn’t sure if the gospel he was preaching was genuine or not. It is clear that it was revealed to him directly by Christ and he was willing to stake everything on it. Instead he wanted to meet privately with these three, probably to make sure they agreed and would support him during the full counsel. During this first meeting he didn’t want everyone there with lots of opportunity for debate and/or disagreement. Instead he preferred to keep the circle small and limited to the leaders who would be deciding the issue (Let’s take a cue from this. Jesus did same. Sometimes, it’s wise to deliberate matters in a smaller gathering than in a bigger one, why?) This was an issue worth fighting for, and yet Paul realized there was a right way and a wrong way to fight for it. See 1 Corinthians 14:40 - Everything should be done decently (appropriately) and in an orderly fashion.
Galatians 2 vs 3: “But [all went well, for] not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled [as some had anticipated] to be circumcised, despite the fact that he was a Greek.”
Paul won a resounding victory. Titus was not compelled to be circumcized! Circumcision was a key issue among the Judaizers. They believed that one could not be saved without being circumcised. However, circumcision is a work. If circumcision was required for salvation, then salvation would at least be partially by good works. We must also realize today that salvation is not by good works. Some people almost equate baptism with salvation. They don’t believe that they are a true Christian until they have been baptized. If that were the case, we would be falling into the same trap of endorsing a type of good works salvation. The results of this teaching would have been devastating because;
Care must be taken by teachers of the Word to avoid this pitfall of salvation by good works.
Galatians 2 vs 4: “My concern was because of the false brothers [those people masquerading as Christians] who had been secretly smuggled in [to the community of believers]. They had slipped in to spy on the freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us back into bondage [under the Law of Moses].”
The false brethren secretly brought in. Satan is sneaky and devious. He often doesn’t attack head on. Rather he sneaks and spies. His attacks tend to be more subtle. He still sends false teachers into the church. These don’t always identify themselves immediately. Sometimes they observe for a while. They blend in. Then when they think the time is right, they lay the snares. They promote division. Their goal was to enslave them to false teachings and ruin their Christian freedom.
We must always be alert. Satan has not given up. A wounded lion is the most dangerous kind. We must diligently study the Bible so that we can recognize false teaching. Beyond that, we must diligently stand up to and fight against false teaching wherever we see it.
Galatians 2vs5: “But we did not yield to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel would continue to remain with you [in its purity].”
No compromise! For the sake of the gospel, Paul would not budge or compromise one inch. One might question why Paul didn’t just let Titus be circumcised. After all, it is not sinful to be circumcised. The problem is that if he gave in, the false teachers would take it as proof that circumcision was ALWAYS necessary. They would say even Paul required his disciples to be circumcised. Then the true gospel would be in danger of being forever tainted by a works-based foundation.
Application: There are many areas we can and should compromise. We should compromise when our personal preferences or convenience is at stake. For example, I shouldn’t always demand that my family eat what I like or go where I like. But on Biblical issues, where the Bible speaks clearly, we must not compromise. How do we balance Christian unity with no compromising on truth? Notice that Paul refused to compromise on a gospel essential issue. The entire gospel is at stake. We should not compromise on our Biblical convictions, but neither should we promote disunity or gravitate to conflict.
This is a difficult balance to maintain. Many believers go off on one side or the other. Some enjoy arguing. They will latch on to any disagreement with other believers, even on small issues, and argue about it. Their attitude is often prideful, and they will look down on others if they don’t agree with them. Their first solution to many problems is to divide and start their own group/church. Others prefer an ecumenical approach (encourage unity among Christian churches). They can seemingly accept any and every doctrine and position. Doctrinal issues are not very important to them. In turn, they may look down pridefully on those who emphasize doctrine. How can we balance these issues?
We can serve together with believers of other viewpoints if we cooperate in areas we agree about. For example, two believers with different viewpoints about speaking in tongues as one of the evidences of Holy Ghost baptism, can go out and share the gospel together. But it is not advisable to hold an end times seminar together with a believer who doesn’t believe in the rapture. We can still fellowship together and partner for some activities. Don’t compromise, but also be diligent to maintain unity. Ephesians 4:3. John 13:35. 2 Timothy 2:15. Perhaps humility is the most important ingredient for dealing with believers who embrace different doctrines.
Galatians 2vs6: “But from those who were of high reputation (whatever they were—in terms of individual importance—makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality—He is not impressed with the positions that people hold nor does He recognize distinctions such as fame or power)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me [that is, they had nothing to add to my gospel message nor did they impose any new requirements on me]”
Paul mentions their reputation not because he cares about it, but because some would respect and believe what the apostles in Jerusalem said. I would say that the apostles had very good credibility. Today, we should not believe something just because a famous preacher said it. It is not a good argument to say, “I believe…because Pastor Jones Swagalo said…” One huge point of the entire Protestant Reformation is that every person can come to the Bible, read it, understand it, and apply it on their own. God does not show favoritism. It is unhealthy to attach ourselves as followers of people. Paul was not happy with the Corinthian church because they divided into camps based on their favorite preacher. They said, “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Paul.” Neither should we identify ourselves based on which preacher or speaker we like. That would create problems and disunity.
Galatians 2vs7-8: “But on the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised (Gentiles), just as Peter had been [entrusted to proclaim the gospel] to the circumcised (Jews); (for He who worked effectively for Peter and empowered him in his ministry to the Jews also worked effectively for me and empowered me in my ministry to the Gentiles).”
What task has God entrusted you with? Do you know what God has called you to do? Have you been faithfully doing it this past week? We should be as clear in our own minds as Paul was in his what our calling is. This big picture goal can help you make decisions on little things. For example, if my calling is to train and equip believers for sharing the gospel and starting groups I would likely decline if the church asked me to become a choir member. We would do well to have a clear vision of how we believe God wants to use us. We must also learn to appreciate and encourage people to know and pursue their call and RESPECT their unique callings, regardless of how insignificant this may be perceived to be.
Galatians 2vs9: “And recognizing the grace [that God had] bestowed on me, James and Cephas (Peter) and John, who were reputed to be pillars [of the Jerusalem church], gave to me and Barnabas the [c]right hand of fellowship, so that we could go to the Gentiles [with their blessing] and they to the circumcised (Jews).”
Remember that Paul’s point in all of this is defending his apostleship and the gospel he has been preaching. Here he notes that the pillars of the Jerusalem church agreed with him and extended to him the “right hand of fellowship.” This “represented a solemn vow of friendship and a mark of apostleship.” Clearly, they affirmed Paul as a true apostle and the gospel he preached as the true gospel. This is also confirmed in Acts 15.
Conclusion – Galatians 2vs10: “They asked only [one thing], that we remember the poor, the very thing I was also eager to do.”
Remember the poor. The poor are sometimes easy to forget. We get comfortable in our own worlds and don’t always think of those who are in less fortunate positions than we are. When we do think of them, we sometimes even blame them for their misfortune and say trite things like “he should work harder.” You don’t need to look far to realize this is an issue the Bible talks a lot about. Proverbs 19:17, Matthew 5:42, Luke 3:11.
Some parts of this study was culled from https://studyandobey.com/inductive-bible-study
Wednesday, July 03 2019
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
In last week’s study, we saw the urgency with which Apostle Paul addressed the situation reported of the churches in Galatia. Where those who live by Jewish practices persuaded the Galatians to adopt Jewish practices—circumcision in particular. In the first few verses of chapter one, Paul rebuked the Galatians for their fickle turn away from the Gospel which they had been taught—and he pronounced a curse on those who had seduced them to observe Jewish practices or anyone who preached a contrary gospel for that matter. In today’s study, we see how he defends both his apostleship and the Gospel he preaches in the hope that what he writes will persuade the Galatians to forego the practice of observing Jewish law.
NOT BY MAN, BUT BY REVELATION – Verses 11 -12
“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”
Paul continued here by making it clear that the Gospel preached by him was not the product of human thought or human instruction. There were, of course, people involved in Paul’s conversion and maturing in the faith. After Jesus appeared to Saul (who later became known as Paul) on the road to Damascus, Jesus called Ananias to lay hands on Saul so that Saul could regain his sight and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:12-19). When Jews tried to kill Saul, disciples lowered him in a basket through a hole in the wall so that he might escape (Acts 9:23-25). In Jerusalem, where the disciples knew Saul’s reputation and were afraid of him, Barnabas served as Saul’s advocate so that Saul could proclaim the Gospel there (Acts 9:26-30).
The content of Saul’s preaching came through revelation of Jesus Christ. This revelation began on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, and continued thereafter. Paul had not learned his theology by sitting at the feet of more experienced apostles.
EXCEEDINGLY ZEALOUS, PRE-ENCOUNTER - Verses 13-14
“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
Saul had been a persecutor of the church prior to seeing a vision of Jesus on the Damascus road. He had been present at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). He might or might not have been one of those throwing stones to kill Stephen, but he clearly approved of that action (Acts 8:1).
He “ravaged the assembly (church), entering into every house, and dragged both men and women off to prison” (Acts 8:3) and, “still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
Saul’s reputation as a persecutor traveled quickly, and Jesus’ disciples feared him. See Acts 9:13-17 and 27-31).
CALLED BY GRACE, SENT TO THE GENTILES - Verses 15-17:
“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.”
Paul makes several important points here:
In verse 16b Paul established that the Gospel that he preached was the product of direct revelation rather than by sitting at the feet of more established Christian leaders in Jerusalem which was, for a time, the chief city for Christian disciples. It was where the church was established at Pentecost (Acts 2). It was where the Jerusalem Council met (Acts 15:1-35), and it was a gathering place for the church’s leadership.
Note that Paul speaks of “those who were apostles before I was”—not “the senior apostles.” He doesn’t speak of them disrespectfully, but neither does he speak of them reverently. They have their place in the church, and Paul has his. He felt no need to seek out their guidance and counsel, because he had learned what he needed to know through divine revelation. He also went on a personal retreat in Arabia located to the east and south of Damascus; seeking solitude to pray and to consider how he might proclaim the Gospel.
THE PERIOD OF PREPARATION - Verses 18-19
“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas (Peter) and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”
Paul went to Jerusalem to visit Peter, who was the leading disciple/apostle from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry through Acts 12. Paul’s point in telling of his visit to Arabia and the three-year time period was to tell his readers that he had been active in considering the revelation that God had given him—and what he would do with it. In other words, he didn’t visit Peter until his faith and understanding had matured.
But Paul could nevertheless profit from the time he spent with Peter. Peter had been one of Jesus’ first disciples (Matthew 4:18)—and remained with Jesus until Jesus’ ascension. Paul had not seen Jesus until after Jesus’ ascension, so Peter could relate details from his day-to-day walk with Jesus throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth. He also met James, the Lord’s brother. James was not a disciple of Jesus prior to the crucifixion and resurrection, but became a disciple and a leader of the Jerusalem church after Jesus’ ascension. As a measure of his importance, he was a decision-maker at the Jerusalem Council, and gave the final report of the Council’s findings (Acts 15:12-21). Paul refers to him as an apostle (Galatians 1:19).
THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH AND AMAZING TESTIMONY - Verses 20-24
“I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.”
Paul knows that his opponents will challenge his account, so he adds this note about his truthfulness. Paul’s statement skirts on the edge of violating of Jesus’ injunction against oaths and vows (Matthew 5:33-37)—but it also shows Paul’s seriousness in defending himself. He and his readers understand that it would be a gross sin to make this kind of statement if it were not true. In his travels, Paul preached the Gospel on these visits, still depending on the revelation given him by God rather than other apostolic influence. Paul had met with Peter and James, but was unknown to the disciples of Judean churches. The disciples didn’t know Paul by sight (v. 22), but were aware of his reputation as a persecutor of the church. They glorified God for transforming the former persecutor into a disciple and an apostle.
This is a perfect example of a time for everything - a time to be silent and a time to speak. (Eccl.3:7b). This was a time to speak for Paul! When we evaluate what is at stake; we should not be afraid or ashamed or too “humble” to speak out! The churches in Galatia were not aware of the process Paul had gone through and his encounters with the Lord and other apostles that would rebuff his critics and give assurance to the Galatians of the authority he had in preaching to the Gentiles so he needed to write this letter. Paul’s motivation was clear. Knowing that the glory of Christ and people’s souls were at stake didn’t hold back even if it appeared that he was “blowing his trumpet”. If that’s what it would take to convince the churches in Galatia not to be led astray, he was ready to do it.
This study was culled from https://www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/galatians-111-24/