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Friday, July 7, 2017

Galatians (11-24) (Lesson 02)



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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (1:11-24)                                                      (Lesson 02)

Welcome to HBS.  Thank you for being here again today with your Bible, your heart, and your mind open prepared to receive the Holy Spirit’s instructions (John 14:26).

For those of you who are relatively new to our Bible study please note the current Bible lesson appears first.  They appear in series after that, according to date.  The new lesson is published weekly, on Friday morning. 

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Please open your Bible at Galatians 1:11.

Paul Defends His Ministry

Galatians 1:11: For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel (not a gospel, as if there is more than one gospel by which a person may obtain salvation today) which was preached by me is not according to man.  This phrase basically repeats the opening statement Paul made in Galatians 1:1.  Paul’s saying his gospel is not of human origin (The clearest expression of today’s gospel is found at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

Verse 12:

12: For I neither received it (the gospel) from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ - this remark was in response to the Judaizers’ accusations Paul gained his knowledge of the gospel from other people, since he did not know Jesus Christ personally, and he did not spend any significant time with the twelve. 

In our study of 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, we discovered the false apostles in Corinth had been attacking both the gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul’s apostolic authority declaring Paul had zero visions and revelations to add to his list of credentials. This prompted Paul to say, “Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord… demonstrating he was not without visions and revelations of the Lord.  He simply didn’t go around boasting about them as the false apostles did (Acts 22:1-21; 2 Corinthians 12:4), which actually brought theirs into question.    

Proving once again “there’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), Paul finds himself dealing with like-minded individuals in Galatia who were busy pushing their own religious agenda, i.e. adding works to God’s Grace and attacking the gospel of Jesus Christ amongst Paul’s converts.  In order to do this they had to simultaneously attack Paul’s apostolic authority and his character.  Paul’s dealt with this issue before. 

Therefore, to let the Galatians know where he’s coming from, Paul speaks of one particular revelation of Jesus Christ in which he received, the gospel (Ephesians 3:1-3).   When this happened this book doesn’t say.  From Paul’s writings we understand he received several communications from the Lord at various times (Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 12:1-12; 2 Timothy 1:12; Ephesians 3:8-9; etc.)   The point of Paul’s statement is clear he is not indebted to people for his knowledge of the gospel or of the 10 doctrinal mysteries the Lord revealed to him, which he in turn he revealed to the churches. 

Verses 13-14:

13: For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions (or my work’s-based religion Saul loved his Ekklesia = church.  If there had been a t-shirt vendor in the outer court of the temple, I believe Saul would have bought one and wore it, religiously).

For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism – how the Galatians heard of Paul’s former manner of life in Judaism is uncertain.  This information may have been common knowledge.  I say this because of Paul’s comment in 2 Corinthians 1:12:  For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the (what) world, and especially toward you. 

The social “grapevine” existed then as it does now.  Certainly not to the extent it does today because of the numerous electronic gadgets at our disposal.  But no matter what era people lived they met at the waterhole or the backyard fence to gossip, even though this book says this activity is sinful (Romans 1:29b-32; 1Timothy 5:12:13).   A good piece of gossip will spread like a brush fire from one person to the next, from one household to the next, from one city to another. 

Today you can see this happening on Facebook and other social sites.  It was quite a bit slower back in Paul’s day.  However, they all have one thing in common nothing is sacred and no one is spared.  A gossiper, according to the O.T. is one who reveals secrets; a scandal-monger.  The book of Romans reveals this to be a serious sin and these folks fall under God’s wrath (Proverbs 18:7-8), meaning, it is not a harmless activity. 

Then again, it’s possible Paul may have shared this information with the Galatians during his missionary journeys through their region.  This gets my vote, and I’ll explain why even though I’m getting a little ahead of the lesson by doing so.  Saul had built himself a reputation as the destroyer of God’s church (Ekklesia) in Jerusalem.  But he did more than that.  When these Jews fled, he pursued them into foreign lands, captured them, and put them in prison.  When the time came, he voted “yes” for them to be put to death.  He was a man to be feared, therefore people knew him by name and they knew what he was about, i.e. the destruction of these blasphemers.  Now, suddenly, this same Saul of Tarsus has been seen and heard preaching in the synagogue to his countrymen this same Jesus he used to renounce is the Son of God (Acts 9:20-21).

What brought about this abrupt change in Saul?  He met the risen Lord on the Damascus Road.  Anyone who has had a true encounter with the Savior has come away from that experience a changed person:  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away.  Behold, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:17 – Berean Literal Bible)

Verse 13b:

How I used to persecute the church (Ekklesia, i.e. a called out assembly; see Acts 19:32) of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it – here Paul is referring to his zealous, destructive activity described in Acts 8:1-3.  Let’s all turn to that book now.  I prefer you read from your Bible rather from this page:  Saul was in hearty agreement with putting them to death.  And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  Some devout men buried Stephen (See Acts 7), and made loud lamentations over him.  But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house (Believers met in houses), and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

While we’re all in the book of Acts, flip on over to chapter 26, verse 10:  “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having (what) received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.  And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme (these were Jewish folks who came to believe that Jesus was in fact the Son of God.  Their salvation had nothing to do with believing Jesus died for their sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, according to the scriptures – see Acts 8:25-37), and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. 

So I’m saying Paul gave the Galatians, as he did everyone else he preached to, his testimony, i.e. he spoke of his former life without Christ, the one which I’m sure they’d heard of (see verses above), and his most recent life, the one they probably were not aware of, when he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), becoming the first member of the Body of Christ.  The change in him was obvious; he was truly living for and serving the Lord Jesus Christ as the steward of  God’s Grace (Ephesians 3:2).

Verses 15-17:

15: But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace – here Paul alludes to a biblical truth some of you may be aware of if you’ve spent some time studying the O.T.  God chooses His servants, they’re not volunteers.  The LORD God knows all His servants before He formed them in the womb as He said to His servant Jeremiah:  Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5).

The Lord Jesus Christ chose the twelve, they didn’t choose themselves.  Of course, Judas was lost to Satan, but before His crucifixion Jesus spoke to the remaining eleven saying: “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16; Acts 1:2).

Like Jeremiah and Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1), a time came when our Apostle Paul realized he was separated for the gospel from his mother’s womb (Romans 1:1).  This is just one more way in which Paul asserts his apostolic authority is not from men (Galatians 1:1).  The “concept” of being called by God is emphasized in Paul’s personal testimony found in Acts 9:1-19, 13:2, 22:1-16, and 26:9-18.  (See also Romans 9 and Ephesians 1).

 Through His grace – here Paul speaks of his salvation experience which occurred on the Damascus Rd., specifically mentioning how it occurred.  Paul was traveling under the authority of the chief priests to persecute the Jewish Believers in Damascus, when suddenly, God’s grace, i.e. His undeserved “favor,” “blessing,” or “kindness” reached out and saved him, even though he was Jesus Christ’s enemy.   In truth, it’s a biblical fact that every unbeliever who opposes God is His enemy.

To reveal His Son in me (v16) – this also took place on the Damascus Rd. and later on in Arabia.  This is when Saul became acquainted with the risen Lord or when the Son of God was revealed to him.  Compare this phrase with 2 Corinthians 4:6:  For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  This initial revelation was meant to convince Saul that Jesus Christ was indeed the risen Messiah.  We discovered in our study of 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, Saul not only saw the Lord, he heard Him during this encounter.  We don’t know long how long the event lasted, but we know it was a life-changing experience. 

That I might preach Him among the Gentiles – here we have the reason why God called Saul or the leading cause for Paul’s conversion:  Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:15, 22:21; Romans 1:5).  For those who are unaware, the term Gentiles means anyone who is not a Jew. 

I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood (v16b) – Paul said he didn’t consult with any human being.  This revelation was of divine origin.   There is a similar account in three of the synoptic gospels.  Turn to Matthew 16:13-14 where Jesus asks His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  Without hesitation, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-22)  Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ was due to the revelation of God.  Likewise, Paul understanding Jesus to be the Savior of all mankind is a revelation of Christ Himself.   

The reason Paul said this was to prove his gospel did not originate from man and this is the running theme of the first two chapters for  he brings the subject up again and again, driving this point home for two basic reasons. 

#1, it’s essential to his argument.  The false teachers received their gospel that the Galatians must perform certain works to be saved and then progress on to maturity from men.  Paul did not receive his gospel from men, but by revelation from the Son of God.   Knowing this, who should the Galatians listen?  To the ones who were taught by men or the one who was called, sent, and taught of God? 

#2, Paul freely admits to being a religious zealot.  All his life he had been taught the only way to approach God was through obedience to the Law from God.  Meeting the risen Lord on the Damascus Rd not only shook Saul to his very core emotionally it rocked his foundation of belief.  Putting this in a nutshell, he could no longer trust what men had to say.  He had to know the truth from God’s own mouth. 

Verse 17:

17: nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. 

The details surrounding Paul’s departure into Arabia are not found in scripture.  Therefore we can’t say for certain what he did during those three years or if spent the entire time in Arabia or only a portion of those years.  We can say the reason he mentions it here is to show he did not receive the gospel from the twelve nor was it authorized by them.  Paul received it from God by revelation (Galatians 1:1, 11-12). 

Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me – here Paul recognizes the leadership of the twelve in Jerusalem, and in the same breath asserts he too is an apostle of the Lord.  But note he said he did not go up to Jerusalem.

A lot of people assume Paul traveled to Jerusalem and met with the original twelve apostles for the purpose of gathering as much information as possible about what Jesus had taught them.  After being tutored by the twelve, he would be updated as to current events, so to speak.  But that would be incorrect thinking because that’s not what God wants and that’s not what the Holy Spirit, the author of scripture, is making so plain here.  Both these members of the Holy Trinity want our Apostle Paul separated from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the twelve.  The fact that he was converted outside the borders of Judea, on gentile ground, is an indicator of this.  God’s doing something brand new and as I keep pointing out because scripture makes this so clear, Law and Grace do not mix.  But here’s the thing, men here on earth are quite good at mixing things up, including the Law or works based religion, and God’s Grace.  However, beginning with the call of Saul, God mandated a very clear division. 

But I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus – the Apostle Luke does not mention this journey into Arabia so nothing is known about it.  As you might imagine, speculations abound.  I have my own theories on the subject but when all is said and done a theory is nothing more than a belief based on opinion arrived at through speculation; absent of truth.  And we’re searching for truth, so I return to what we know.  Paul brings this item up for the purpose of showing the false teachers and the Galatians too, probably; he received his apostleship from the risen Lord.  He wasn’t like Apollos, Barnabas, Timothy, or Titus who were Paul’s apostolic representatives sent to deal with certain conditions and people who were threatening to hurt the work and ministries of the churches.  And Paul wanted them to know the twelve did not grant him an honorary title it came from the risen Lord. 

Verse 18:

18: Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days – Paul freely admits traveling to Jerusalem for a period of fifteen days.  He also gives us the reason for this trip - to become acquainted with Cephas (the oldest apostle, Peter).  For the record, it’s the first time Paul goes to Jerusalem after his conversion and it’s the first time Cephas had the opportunity to meet Saul of Tarsus, now the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:26-27). 

But, as Paul states here, while he was in Jerusalem for those two weeks, he stayed with Cephas.  I can only imagine the conversations that took place between these two gentlemen, but I’m certain they were centered on their experiences with Christ.  I base that comment on the phrase “to become acquainted” in verse 18.  In the Greek language it is translated Historeo (his-tor-eh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2477, meaning:  to examine, to investigate, to give an account of what one has learned, and to gain knowledge of by visiting face-to-face.  So, what did Paul have in mind these fifteen days?  We know he wasn’t there to learn about the teachings of Jesus, right.   So the definition, “to give an account of what one has learned” appears most likely.  He’s there to bring Cephas “up to date” about his ministry to the gentiles and his message of grace.    

Verse 19:

19: But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.  Paul is still saying he did not see any other of the apostles with the exception of one and that was James, the Lord’s brother.  This book doesn’t say why.  Whatever the reason, Paul spoke to James and this is where it gets interesting.    Who is James?

There can be no doubt the James referred to here was an apostle because the context is clear, but which James of the N.T. is it?  If we turn to Matthew 10:2-3 in our Bible and read through the apostles named in these verses, we find two of them bear the name James.  There is James, the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle John; Jesus called these two “the sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17) because of their fiery tempers.  James the brother of John was martyred by King Herod Agrippa I early on (Acts 12:2).  So, Paul didn’t see him. 

The other James is the son of Alpheus (Matthew 10:3), and his mother was Mary (Mark 16:1).  He’s known as James the less either because he was younger or shorter than the other James; it was a way of identifying him.  Scripture doesn’t reveal much about James the less even though his name appears about ten times in the N.T.  We know he was in the upper room as the disciples prayed for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:12-13), but then he disappears from the scene.  Some people have tried to put him in charge of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), also saying he is the brother of Jesus, but I’m not on board that train simply because the Bible doesn’t support it.     

However, there’s another James that was not one of the twelve, but he truly was the brother of the Jesus (being born of Mary and Joseph).  He is one of four brothers mentioned by the Jews in Nazareth (Matthew 13:54-55; Mark 6:3).  This James would be included in the brothers of Jesus who did not believe in Him during His earthly ministry (John 7:5).  However, he had a change of heart and mind after Jesus Christ’s resurrection because Jesus visited him (1 Corinthians 15:7)!  Then He visited Mary, His mother, and then His brethren, those who prayed in the upper room before the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:13).  After James saw Jesus, He became a Believe and a disciple of the Lord.  Why did James have a change of heart?  The Jews required a sign! 

Why did the risen Lord visit James and not the other three brothers?  Why did He visit James first before his beloved mother Mary?  Interesting questions and the answers would be interesting as well, but the Bible doesn’t come right out and say.  I have my opinions and I’ll keep those to myself because I can’t support them using this book.  However, we find this James mentioned later on in scripture.  King Herod Agrippa I had this Apostle James, the son of Zebedee arrested and beheaded to ingratiate himself with Rome, and it also pleased the Jews (Christians weren’t favored under the reign of Claudius).  The angel of the Lord released Peter from prison.  He goes to the home of Mary, the mother of the Apostle John Mark, interrupting their prayer meeting being held for him and told them, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.  And he departed and went to another place” (Acts 12.17).  Clearly, Peter leaves the area because King Agrippa I and others are seeking to kill him.  Here Peter transfers leadership or prominence in the church in Jerusalem to James.  Later, our Apostle Paul confirms this authority shift in Galatians 1:19: and recognizes James as one of the apostles for he had met all the requirements of being an apostle, including having been a witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).   

Verse 20:

20: (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)
This is an oath and Paul’s written them before (See Romans 9:1).  This one as do the others simply verify his words to be true. 

Verse 21:

21: Then (after I left Jerusalem) I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia – these were Roman provinces (See Acts 15:41).  Because of the opposition in Jerusalem (Acts 9:28-30) Paul went to work in Cilicia first, probably because this was his hometown. This may be recorded for us in Acts 9:30.  Imagine the surprise of his friends and relatives when he began preaching Jesus Christ amongst them.  Paul’s time in Syria is recorded in conjunction with his work in Antioch, the capitol of Syria (Acts 11:25-26). 

Verse 22:

22: I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;

Paul said he only visited Jerusalem, which means, although he did not come right out and say it; he did not visit any of the other Christian churches in the area, and this is his point.  If he had been a student of the twelve, in Jerusalem, these are the churches where he would have worked and been known.  Here he comes right out and says, “I was still unknown by sight…”  It also means his contact with people who could have helped him gain knowledge of the gospel was zero. 

Verses 23-24:

But only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”  And they were glorifying God because of me.

Although Paul did not seek support from these early, Jewish Christian churches, they gave it to him (Galatians 1:24) when they heard about his successful ministry among the Gentiles.  And if you think about this fact it adds fuel to Paul’s fire or argument against the false teachers who said he did not have the proper authority.  They praised God because of me; not only because the Lord’s ministry had marked success among the Gentiles but because one more soul was saved from eternal condemnation.    

(To be continued)

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