Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 5
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|We’re going to see Paul in defense of Paul. He doesn’t do that much. He does it in 2 Corinthians when he even says there “I’m doing something foolish.” But, you see, he has been falsely accused. He has been backed into a corner and now he’s going to come out and defend himself.|
Paul in Defense of Paul
Well, would you turn with me to Galatians 1 and I hope your Bibles are getting more and more trained. Galatians 1. And today we’re going to see something rather rare. You don’t see it much in the life of the apostle Paul. We’re going to see Paul in defense of Paul. He doesn’t do that much. He does it in 2 Corinthians when he even says there “I’m doing something foolish.” But, you see, he has been falsely accused. He has been backed into a corner and now he’s going to come out and defend himself.
The apostle Paul is seen in Galatians as a man who loves the gospel of grace. He is totally committed to it. You could not get a clearer picture than that as you study Galatians. In fact, he says in Galatians 6:17, “From now on” he says, “let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand marks of Jesus Christ.” He would ultimately die for his commitment to the gospel of grace.
Now this devotion that Paul has—and it is very clearly seen—is set in contrast to the wishy washy believers of Galatia, who had walked away from that wonderful message of grace and chosen instead the ridiculous message of religion. They chose to set aside, or frustrate the grace of God. Remember it is going to be in chapter 2, verse 21 when Paul says I don’t frustrate the grace of God. And that word means set it aside. As a believer he says I’m not going to walk away from that message. I cannot. God never said I could. He can. He always said He would. He said that is where I’m going to live from now on. I have been the religious route. I’m not going back to that religious route.
Paul shows his righteous anger towards those who preach the message of law. And he beautifully clears himself up as to how he thinks. It is not beautiful what he says, but it is beautiful in the fact that you have no doubt where he stands in verses 8 and 9. Even though the Galatians were at fault for listening to these people, the apostle Paul says these false teachers should be accursed, separated from God forever! Now, that is strong words, folks. That shows you how strongly he’s committed to the message of grace that completely transformed his life.
In verses 10-12 what we’re going to see today is Paul defending Paul. But in verses 10-12 we see Paul defending the gospel of grace. He defends it beautifully. First of all he begins, and remember this, please pay attention, that he’s making a contrast. He is not idly saying anything. He did not have some spare time to sit down and wrote the Galatians. This is under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God. And everything he says is a rebuke to the false teachers that are coming at them.
And it starts off with a motivation of the gospel messenger. Who are the people who preached the gospel message? What should be their motivation? He says in verse 10, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?” You see, there is a contrast there. You watch your contrasts. “Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” You see, the false teachers, what he has just told you by implication, is that a false teacher, a religionist, people who try to put us back up under a set of rules, that if we obey them we can attain righteousness, he said those people are doing nothing more than pleasing men. That’s all they’re doing. And he said you cannot do that and be a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. What is the motivation of the gospel messenger who is Paul in this case? He said, “I’m a bond-servant. I do what I do because I get to. I do what I do because I want to. I don’t have to do this. This is a choice I have made. God changed me. I have something different in my motivation.”
Secondly, he shows the origination of the gospel message. If you will think about it, how many times has he done this in chapter 1? You see what he’s doing? Piece by piece by piece by piece he’s building a foundation for the rest of the book. The origination of the gospel message, verse 11, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.” Now, this is in contrast, again, to the false teachers that were preying upon the Galatian believers. They preached a message of works and that message, now listen, did not come from God. It came from men.
You see, this is what religion is. I wish we could understand that. All religions—I don’t care what religion it is— you have to do something in order to attain something from whatever god you put out in front of you. And this is what religion is; it is all of man and man’s rules. But the gospel is not according to man, it is according to God. You see, men in religion make up their own standards, but those standards anybody can attain. In fact, the Pharisees got bored and added 613 more. But, you see, Christianity is based on God’s standards that no man can attain. That is why Jesus had to become a man, not to destroy the law that condemned all of us, but to fulfill it. And when He fulfilled it as a man, our representative, He went to the cross for us, paid a debt He did not owe, when we owed a debt we could not pay. That is your difference in Christianity and any religion. I don’t care where it is, or what form it is in, or what name it has behind it.
And then Paul also shows the revelation of the gospel message. You see you can teach religion, but the gospel has to be revealed to the human heart. It says in verse 12, “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it.” You see, like I said, you can teach religion; you can teach principles; but you cannot reveal Christ. Only Christ can reveal Himself. “But I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” It must be revealed. It had to be revealed to Paul. It had to be revealed to the Galatians that he’s preaching to. In fact, when he was preaching to them at the first time he was there God was revealing Himself through what Paul was saying. Paul did not have a clue what was going on, but God was using the message to reveal it to the human heart. Man can convince a man of the gospel, but only God can convict him that he’s a sinner.
Now, something precious happened in our family this past week. My little granddaughter was riding in the car with her mother. And I think it was John McArthur was preaching on the radio, and she leaned over and she said to her mother, she said, “Momma, if I died today, I don’t know that I would go to heaven.” And she said, “Momma, I’d like to be a Christian. How can I be a Christian?” Her mother said, “When we get home, we will talk about it.” And so her mother and father met talked with her, and she got down on her knees and prayed to receive Christ in her life.
That had to be revealed by the Father. Do you realize she has heard that message every day since the day she was born, although did not understand everything she was hearing? Every day, but why was it that this week on that particular time at that particular moment, in that car, on that program did it finally come to understanding and the revelation came? That is the way salvation works. You can sit down with your child and you drop over in the floor, but until God reveals Himself that truth lodges in the brain and that is what religion does. It goes no further than the brain. You can teach religion, but God has to reveal the message of Christ to the human heart.
That is what happened to Paul. That is what happened to the Galatians. He said the gospel I’m preaching to you, it did not come from man. It did not come out of some seminary. It did not come out of some book. It came from God Himself. That is what He is trying to do in defense of the gospel. These men were preaching a message that came from men. He is preaching a message that came from God.
Well, today Paul is going to give us a narrative. If you will notice something, when I’m in something real heavy doctrinally we camp out, and some of you think we bog down. No, we don’t, we just stay there a while. But, you see, when you get into a narrative, it flows like a river. This is story form and it carries us all the way down to the last of chapter 2. So it is going to move quickly. You wait till we get to chapter 3. But this will move quickly.
What a change had come into apostle Paul. Now, what he’s going to do now in defense, first of all his message and secondly his apostleship, is going to show that it is totally in contrast to the legalizers. He had been completely turned inside out. And he’s going to show them that what these false teachers are doing, he used to be one of them. That is what he’s going to tell them. And he’s going to show them how grace changed him, and we’re going to walk with him through this journey that he takes us on in Galatians 1 and then on into chapter 2.
Let me read for you what we’re going to try to cover this morning, beginning in verse 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. But when God [Don’t you love that phrase?], 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. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. I did not see any other of the apostles except James the Lord’s brother. Now in what I’m writing to you, I assure you before God that I’m not lying. Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 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.”
There are two things that I want us to see this morning. First of all, I want you to see Paul’s humiliation. You know, it is humbling when you go back and try to admit to somebody what you used to be before Christ came into your life. Have you ever discovered that? Now, I have found some people arrogant enough to spend more time there than they do what God has made them. And I understand that, but it is humiliating. The apostle Paul is so transparent. I want you to know that when you live under grace you can be transparent. Some people have even said from time to time, “I like the fact that you are transparent.” Listen, let me tell you something, there is no secret to this. If God already knows it then what do I care if anybody else knows it? You see, what we have always done is reverse that. We don’t want anybody to know. Well, buddy, God knows. And Paul is honest about his salvation, before his salvation.
But in Romans 7 he’s even honest about his salvation and his struggles with the flesh. He wrestles with himself all the way through the last part of Romans 7. It is so humbling to do this. He says in verse 13, here we go, “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.” Now he starts off and says, “For you have heard.” Now let me ask you a question. How did they hear? You see, these were over in the southern province there of Galatia. How would they have ever heard? Well, the only obvious answer to that is that Paul had to tell them. That is the only way they could have heard.
Paul had already told them, and you see this is something they don’t want to be reminded about, of how the law had once been what Paul had believed. He so believed that the law was the way to righteousness that he had taken it to the extreme; he had even killed those who sought to disagree with him. Now that is taking it to the extreme. He was no deceiver. He did not come in and say, Oh, let me tell you something I have found. No sir, buddy, if you were a believer he put to you death. He stood there and held Stephen’s garments when Stephen was stoned to death and no telling how many more not even recorded in God’s Word.
“For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God.” The word “persecute” there is dioko. Dioko means to pursue with the intent to kill. That is what it means. Remember 2 Timothy 3:12, if you seek to live a godly life you will be what? You will be sought after by somebody, who if they are not trying to kill you physically will try to ruin you spiritually in your walk with God. They are going to be on our trail till Jesus comes back.
One day I was up in the office and I caught a movement. There is a guy over walking his dog, but the mistake he made he did not put a leash on him. And that dog had a mind of his own, and as it was walking around out jumped a rabbit. And this dog; I don’t know, it looked like a retriever of some kind, it took out after that rabbit. I wish somehow we could get that dog to talk and I would bring it in and introduce you to it and let him sit here for a minute, feed him a bone, and then I would say, “Let me ask you a question; let me ask you a question, Fido. What were you doing with that rabbit?” And I guarantee he would say “I was chasing it with the intent to kill it.” And that is exactly what that dog was doing” Pursuit with the intent to kill.
You see, let me share something in a spiritual sense now. Religion doesn’t tolerate anybody who doesn’t agree with them, and they will kill you to look at you. I want to tell you something, in the church of Jesus Christ those that are living under the message of grace, but turn back to law, become as spiritual terrorists in the body of Christ. They will cut you down. They will slander your name. They will lie about you. They will divide the church. They will take their agenda and do whatever is necessary to kill the Spirit of God that is moving in that body of believers. That is what religion does to you.
Look what is going on in our news right now. Somebody would stuff a pack on their back with innocent people, you are talking about cowards and get on a bus and blow themselves up and kill everybody else! You think that is not in the name of religion? Wake up folks and smell the roses! Now, Paul was one of these kind of people. “You disagree with me, I will put you to death.” And he was on the Damascus road when God finally changed him. He says in verse 13, he says, “how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” Paul pushed it to the extreme, far beyond what his contemporaries would do. He uses the term “beyond measure.” The word “beyond” is kata, and the word “measure” is huperbole. That is where we get that word, pushing it beyond measure. He said “I took it to an extreme that these people who are deceiving you Galatians have never thought about before. I have been everywhere they have been, but I have been far beyond where they have been.”
This hateful motivation is exactly what these false teachers had. Instead of killing the believers physically, however, their tactic was a little differently. Their tactic was to deceive them and kill them spiritually, mess up their walk, their spiritual fellowship with Christ. Law kills the fellowship that you could have in Christ.
Paul stood out among his contemporaries. In verse 14 it says, “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” Paul says “I was advancing in Judaism.” The word “advancing” we have seen before, prokopto. It is the word that means to cut forward, to blaze a path, a pioneer who goes where no one else have ever dared to go. Paul had excelled his contemporaries in Judaism. As a matter of fact, if you have studied him much he was the star pupil of Gamaliel. Gamaliel was the greatest teacher of the law that ever lived in his day. And he was the star pupil; he was actually more religious than the religious.
Have you ever known anybody like that? You say, what are you talking about? This doesn’t relate to me.” Oh, it doesn’t? I have known people that are so Southern Baptist they have to have it tattooed on their arm. I have known people that were Methodist and Presbyterian the same way, so you all just relax, okay, we’re going to get us all. I mean, I’m telling you the history of the church. They know the by-laws and the constitution. They know the letter of the law, but they have not got a clue about walking with God, and they push it to the extreme and drive it down your throat. This is what these people were like.
And, you see, Paul says, “I used to be even beyond that. You think these people are religious, they are trying to deceive you; man, I was more religious than the religious.” In fact, Paul says, the phrase “ancestral traditions” there, he says that the word “traditions” “ancestral traditions” refers to the traditions of the fathers. And let me explain something to you. By the time that Paul wrote this, those ancestral traditions had become so infected with man’s input that it caused Jesus in Mark 7:6 to say something. He says in verse 6, “And He said to them, ‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you [listen to this] hypocrites. As it is written this people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
Now how could these believers in Galatia possibly miss what Paul is trying to do here? What he’s doing is he’s putting one up against the other. He is saying, “Let me just give you a little history here. Let me just share with you where I have come from.” He is pointing an accusing finger at these false teachers. Now he turns around and says “they are pitiful compared to what I used to be, and I know exactly their heartbeat. I know their motivation. I know where they are coming from.”
I wonder how many of us would be willing to be as transparent as the apostle Paul. I will tell you what, we clean up good, don’t we? We come to church and we’ve got our little clothes on and we’ve got our smile on our face, but are you willing to be honest enough to tell people what you used to be? And even more than that, are you willing to be honest enough to tell people the struggles you have every day? “Oh, no. We cannot let people know that.” We’d better start letting them know it, because that is what is keeping them from even being interested in what we have. It is not about us, it is about Christ.
How many of us used to hold the message of attaining righteousness by what we do? I will tell you what, I’m ashamed to admit it, but when I was in youth work for 17 years I used to go on these youth camps. When we would on Wednesday nights they are worn out. They are emotionally drained. We know that. And so we have an emotional service, a lot of music to make them feel good about themselves, etc., make them tender and then tell them a death bed story of a dead dog someplace and they come forward to give themselves to a tree. I mean, they have not got a clue what they did. And they go home. And I would say, now listen, if you are going to walk with God you have to have your quiet time at 4:00 in the morning. You are going to do this, you are going to do this, you are going to do this.
And I took them home and put them right back up under law and did it for years and did not know the difference until one day I tried to accomplish the same standard I was putting on them. And I got so frustrated with my life and I bowed before God and said “God, what is wrong with me?” And God said, “You are what is wrong with you.” God overwhelmed me with this message. And I will tell you what, maybe I’m not as committed to it as the apostle Paul, but I’m on my way, friends. And I will tell you, I will not tolerate it. I will not tolerate it. When people bring law into the church they are spiritual terrorists, and I don’t want you to ever forget that. I want you to be able to spot them a mile off and I want you to immediately begin to pray for them. We don’t want that here. We want a God of grace to permeate this congregation.
You say, Wayne, you talk down works. No, I don’t talk down works. In fact, if you want to know somebody who worked, it is the apostle Paul. But the difference is this, if you heard Dr. Zodhiates last week, he said you better go out and work. He said if you are under grace, grace in you will cause you to work, the doing of the Word. What do you think that is? The commands of Scripture. But the motivation is not to attain spirituality; the motivation is not to earn righteousness; the motivation is because we love Him. We’re bondservants and we just want to say, yes, to Him. That is what Paul is trying to show these people. You have gone back to trying, trying to earn something that only God can give to you and that is the difference. There is works, yes, but the motivation is entirely different.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I have been there and I feel just as humiliated about it as I’m sure Paul did when he had to share this with these people. But he said, “folks, I’m not telling you something I don’t know.” I have learned how to play church a long time ago. I did not get saved until I was eight years into the ministry. It is a good thing to have saved pastors as the ministers, isn’t it? That is what changed me. That is why I can spot it so far off when somebody is trying to accomplish righteousness by what they do. No sir.
You heard that little thing when “Mary had a little lamb, it could have been a sheep, joined a Baptist church and died for lack of sleep.” Better go to work, son. No, I change that around. Listen, you’d better learn to love Jesus, and if you love Jesus you will go to work and I will tell you what, you will work till your fingers are numb. But it will be in the energy and the power of the Holy Spirit of God and it will not be to attain righteousness. It will be because He has already attained it for you.
Well, first of all his humiliation and that was humbling for Paul to say that. And secondly, Paul’s vindication. Boy, God is going to vindicate him and he’s going to vindicate himself. Paul did not leave it there, no sir. He did not leave it back what he used to be. He wants them to understand what grace has changed him to be and what they had experienced in their own lives if they would think about it. He says in verse 15, “But when God.” Think back when you got saved, just right now. Just forget anybody else is here and draw a circle around yourself and think back to the day that you got saved. That is “But when God.” I guarantee if we had time we would have testimonies in here today that would rock every one of us. What were you like when God entered your life and changed you?
“But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.” How clear the message of God’s grace is right here. “But when God, who had set me apart from my mother’s womb.” I love this. Paul did not seek after God. And I want you to know straight out, there is no if’s and and’s about me. I believe the seeker-sensitive movement has done more damage to the church of Jesus Christ in our day than any other movement. I will tell you why. We’re not seeking for God; God is seeking for us. The true seekers are believers. What is wrong with our mentality in the day that we live in? He said, “He set me apart in my mother’s womb.” God knew me before I was ever born.
Do we understand this about salvation? Like Jeremiah, even before Paul was ever born, God had a plan for his life. “But when God, who had set me apart.” And the word “set apart” is aphorizo. Aphorizo means to mark off boundaries, to define boundaries, to select with a specific purpose in mind. Now, I would love to have been a fly in the wall in heaven. There are no flies in heaven, okay, but I would have love to have been there when the godhead was looking down at man and the religious bondage that men had put other men under. And I can imagine God saying, you know, we need a preacher of grace. They don’t understand grace. We have got the law. That will frustrate them. They are certainly frustrated. We need a man to preach grace.
I tell you what, we need a man who knows law like nobody. We have so many legalists, but when they see the message of grace, I would rather have one of them than anybody else, because they understand sin and they understand confession, they understand cleansing. I will tell you what, they understand freedom and what it means to walk in the fullness of Christ. I love that. And Paul was the greatest legalist. I can just see God in heaven saying “I need a legalist. I need him to be the extreme. Let us push him further than anybody else has ever been pushed. Let us let him go further than anybody has ever dared to go. And, I see him. There he’s right there. He is in his mother’s womb right there. Paul, that is what his name is going to be later. It will be Saul of Tarsus to begin with. We will change his name to Paul later on.”
Paul was born never knowing that God was after him. And all those years he grew up and grew up and grew up and he thought he was really gaining in the law. Philippians told us that as we studied it. And he said, “those things that were gained to me,” he said, “I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” And then one day on the Damascus road going to arrest Christians, the Christ of Christianity arrested Paul and he was never again the same. And God said, “Pow, right on target, right on time and now we have got him. Now we have him where we want him. He’s going to be the preacher of grace like nobody has ever known.”
Paul says “But when God, who had set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.” The idea of called is to appoint, appointed me. It seems here to point to salvation. That is what our calling is all about. But in that salvation comes the purpose that God had for him in the fact that he was divinely appointed to be an apostle. “Through His grace” means by the virtue of His grace, by the means of His grace. Do you realize what the apostle, apostle Paul has already admitted? There was nothing about him that deserved salvation. It was only by the means of God’s grace. And that is true for all of us here today. “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called be through His grace was pleased to reveal His Son.” I love these little words. “In me that I might preach Him among the brethren, or the heathen rather, to reveal His Son in me.”
The word “reveal” apokalupto, to take the cover off of something that has previously been hidden. When the gospel was revealed to Paul, buddy, he was never again the same. That little phrase, “in me,” I checked on that and some of the people believe that it might mean in my case. That is possible. But I don’t think so. I think it has to do in me, because others believe it is the inward revelation of Jesus Christ to the human heart which we talked about earlier. That is essential to salvation. I choose that latter meaning because to me it, it is far beyond what the other idea is, even though it could be implied. The inward revelation of Jesus Christ to Paul. I want you to ask yourself again, when was that, when was Christ revealed in you, not so much to you by somebody, but in you, in the inside of your life He just revealed Himself? And by the way, He revealed Himself in Paul as salvation and now He is revealing Himself through Paul in sanctification.
What was Paul’s, what was God’s purpose for Paul? That I might preach Him to the heathen. Now that word for “heathen” there is the word ethnos. It is a word, it refers to the ethnic groups of the world. It is mentioned as heathen at times, nations at times, Gentiles at times. The definite article is used here to refer to the Gentile nation specifically. Paul supports this in chapter 2 in verse 7. He says, “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter has been to the circumcised. Uncircumcised refers to the Gentiles, ethnos. Circumcised refers to the Jewish people which was Peter’s assignment. So you have two groups here. Peter was assigned by God, appointed to go to those Jewish people with the gospel of Christ. Paul was appointed to go to the Gentile world.
Now Paul was going to answer his critics as he shows how the gospel he preached did not come from man. Now this is significant, and I don’t know if I can get it out right. But this is very significant. He says, after he says this, “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.” Now, that is important. That is so important. You will not see it right at first, but you will in a minute hopefully. Paul had most likely been accused, and here is what he had been accused of; by his answer you see what his accusation was. He had been accused of copying the apostle’s doctrine and gospel and message and then masquerading as an apostle: He did not have credentials; he had copied their message. And Paul wholeheartedly disagreed. He did not consult with anybody. He did not go get a degree so he could hang it on a wall. He did not want any kind of authenticity from men.
But he says, “nor did I go up to Jerusalem even.” He did not even go to the apostles. He says, “nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me.” So what did he do? When he got saved what did he do? It says in verse 17, “but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.” He said he went away to Arabia. Now, he returned once more to Damascus. At first glance if you know anything about Acts 9, and when he was saved, that appears to be a contradiction.
Do you not love it when people say the Bible contradicts itself? R. A. Torrey said, “When I first got saved the Bible had 1,000 contradictions in it.” And right before he died he said, “I can only find one, but I’m too thick-headed to let God show me how clear it really can be.” It is amazing, if you ever think that something contradicts, back off, take a longer look because this is God’s Word; 66 books that were written in a different time by different men. It is incredible, though, the beautiful line that follows all the way from generation, Genesis to Revelation. No man could have ever come up with this.
But in Acts 9:17 let me pick up the story with you when he got saved and show you where it seems to be an apparent contradiction here. He went to Arabia. Verse 17: “And Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me to, so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” That is his salvation right there. “And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus.”
Now wait a minute, wait a minute. He just got saved, the scales have come off his eyes. And he says he’s with the disciples in Damascus. But it says in our text that he went to Arabia. Now Luke doesn’t say anything about Arabia. What do we have here? It is really simple and I don’t know why I’m even bothering to stop, but sometimes these things are helpful to work out for you. Galatians 1:17, “then he went to Arabia,” and if you will follow the wording it is very clear; “and then” what is the next word? “Returned to Damascus.” Oh, he had been there before. Well, I’ll be. We have no way of knowing how long he stayed when he was in Damascus. Acts 9:19 says several days. Several days in the Greek word is an indefinite period of time. It could have been a short or it could have been long.
But the point is here there is no contradiction. He had been in Damascus and one emphasized one part and the other emphasized the other. But the main thing he’s doing here is that, and the main point he’s making is, nobody told me the gospel message. God revealed it to me. Nobody walked up to me, handed me a tract and explained it to me, nobody did that. God revealed that to my heart. That is what he’s trying to show them. In verse 18, “Then three years later.” He waits three years. He said, “I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas.” That’s the Aramaic name for Simon Peter. “And stayed with him fifteen days.” You see Paul was not mentored by any man. He was not approved by any man. He was not taught by anyone except God Himself.
Now, you say, why is he bringing this up? Hang on. When he finally goes to Jerusalem he sees Simon Peter and then James comes over. James, you know, was not saved till after the resurrection. First Corinthians 15 said God had to appear to him and that is when he became the elder with the church of Jerusalem. “Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.” That word “acquainted” he did not go and say Simon Peter, “Is what I’m preaching correct? Will you put your stamp of approval on it?” No. The word is historia, and historia means you find out facts about somebody. He just went to get acquainted. That is all he wanted to do, , to get to know Simon Peter. Why? Because Simon Peter walked with Him.
And then he mentions James. Why would he mention James? Because James grew up with Him and he wanted to know more about this Christ that had met him on the Damascus road. Well, seeing James would probably be to learn that wonderful years before that we don’t have fully recorded in God’s Word. Now, why all this effort for Paul to bring this out? To show that he did not get his message from the apostles in Jerusalem.
Well, in verse 20 it seems to suggest somebody has lied about him. “Now, I know where you got your message. You got a tape from the tape ministry and you just copied it word for word and you have been preaching that and, and you have been masquerading as somebody you are not.” Well, he said, “I did not get it off a tape.” I’m being facetious. He did not get it from somebody. He got it from God. He says in verse 20, “Now in what I’m writing to you, I assure you before God that I’m not lying.” He takes a solemn oath and he assures them that he’s not lying. Somebody has accused him of being a liar and he says I assure you I’m not lying. They were saying that he had no authority from the Twelve. He stole the message from them.
And then he continues to enforce the fact that he did not get the gospel message from any man. He got it from God. In verse 21, “Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.” You say, why would he go there? Because God said you go to the Gentile world and he did. These are Gentiles and he preached the message God had given to him. And then it says in verse 22, “And I was still unknown by sight in the churches of Judea which were in Christ.” He has shown that he did not get it from man. He did not get it from the apostles.
Now he says I did not go over to Judea and get the message from the churches that were there. He shows them. But verse 23 clears it up, “But only, they kept hearing, He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” They had heard about him and they were rejoicing. But they did not know him; they would not have known him in a crowd. And he said, “I want to make sure you understand this. I did not go to the apostles. I did not go to any man. I did not go to any church. God revealed that message to me.”
Now you say, why is this so important? Oh, now don’t miss this. When God reveals the message to your heart and to your heart and to your heart and to your heart it will be a message that is exact. When you hear somebody preach a message that is distorted, it did not come from God. He is not the author of confusion. You see, somebody has added something to it and that is what Paul is trying to get across. This message of the gospel did not start with the apostles. It started with God Himself and God reveals truth to the human heart. And when that happens it is exact.
You say, Wayne, prove it. I’m glad you said that. You heard of Helen Keller? She was born deaf. She was born blind. You know, it is heard to communicate with somebody who is deaf and blind. Is that correct? Very difficult. As a matter of fact, they finally were able to communicate with Helen Keller. And you know what they asked her? Do you know? Somebody asked her, “Do you know Jesus Christ, God’s Son loves you and died for you?” And she said, “Oh, Jesus, is that His name? I did not know His name, but I know Him. He lives in my heart.” Where do you think that came from?
Well, I will tell you what the skeptics that sit out there in the world that say we’re preaching something that came from man, have not got enough sense to get in out of the rain. Those are the people whose education far exceeded their intelligence. This message did not come from man. This message was revealed by God. And Paul is so committed to it one day he will give his life for it and die for it. That is how important it was to Paul.
Now let me ask you a question. How important is it to you? How important is it to you to live it, to share it, to understand it; how important is it to you? Aren’t you glad Christianity is not a religion, man-made for the favor of men, with standards that man can achieve? No sir, it is a message of grace. It is a message of I cannot, God never said I could; He can; He always said He would. And it did not come from man. It came from God.
Well, you don’t want to miss next time because next time this really gets exciting. This story doesn’t stop now. Next time we’re going to see Paul’s confrontation. He is going to get hot and bothered with Simon Peter. He is going to get right in his face and rebuke him. You are going to begin to understand when it gets down to verse 20 and says “I’m crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Why does he say that? You are going to see that. He starts with his humiliation. He enters into his vindication of who he’s and the message he preached. But then we’re going to get into a confrontation that you, you never dreamed could take place, but it is going to take place, first with the big three, Peter, James and John. And then it is going to be with Simon Peter himself. That will be next week. But what does the gospel mean to us this morning? What does it mean to us? Is it something that has overwhelmed us, changed us?
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.