Bible Passage: Galatians 1:10-24
The book of Galatians is Paul’s plea to the churches of Galatia in response to the threat posed to the gospel by those who wanted to insist on works of the law as a supplement to God’s grace. In this passage, Paul continues his defence of the gospel as he shares some of his own motivation for his preaching and part of his story.
The Gospel Is Not a Human Scheme: In verse 10, Paul asks whether he is seeking human approval and then answers his own question by saying “if I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The word ‘still here’ is significant as it suggests that Paul would characterise some of his past activity in this way.
In verses 13-14, Paul shares about this previous season of his life. He persecuted Christians, he quickly advanced through the ranks of Jewish apprenticeship and was very passionate about upholding the traditions of the Jewish law. In other words, he has experience with all of the things in the law that the false teachers are insisting upon.
Paul now sees that this way of legalism, building on rules and regulations, comes from a human origin in contrast to the gospel. It is easy to get caught up in human ideas of how to live well, and often these ideas might be called ‘Christian’ and even interact with Biblical passages, yet we must always be careful not to substitute in human ideas and wisdom in place of God’s gospel.
The Gospel Is God’s Revelation In His Son: In contrast with the human traditions that Paul had been taught growing up, he received the gospel as a direct revelation of Jesus. He is talking about the encounter that is recorded in Acts 9, where he was en route to Damascus to persecute Christians and the risen Jesus appeared to him and commissioned him.
As Paul tells the story of his interactions with the other apostles, it is clear that his message is not derivative of their teaching. God had revealed Jesus to him directly, and this made the gospel a very different revelation to anything else he had ever been taught. Paul twice mentions in this passage that the revelation was specifically of ‘Jesus Christ’ (v12) or ‘his Son’ (v15).
Most believers today are in a very different situation to Paul. The gospel we receive has been taught to us by other humans, and it is not the norm for Jesus to personally appear to each Christian in the way he did to Paul. We are in the same situation as the Galatian believers who are being told of this revelation of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is powerful to remember that the gospel is not simply the best of human ideas, but is divine in origin. We do not have liberty to add or take away from what God has given in Christ, but must simply hold fast to what we have received from him.
The Gospel Powerfully Transforms: Once Paul had received this revelation of the gospel fromJesus, his life changed. As he points out in first 10, his core motivation switched from trying to win approval with people to trying to please God. He also had a new purpose of proclaiming Christ among the Gentiles.
It was three years after his conversion before Paul went to see the other apostles in Jerusalem. He had spent those years in Arabia and Damascus, reflecting on the gospel he had received and teaching it to others. When he did finally go to Jerusalem, and then on to Syria and Cilicia he made a big impact on the people he met. His reputation as a persecutor of the church was well known, but when the believers saw the transformation that had happened in Paul, it led them to give glory to God.
When we meet with Jesus in the Gospel, it changes everything. Our lives become living testimonies to the grace that we have received. This is a great moment to think about how we have seen God transform those around us, and give him praise for doing so. It is also a moment to consider what change we have seen in ourselves since we received the gospel.
- Challenge people to think about what ‘human teaching’ they receive and how much confidence they put in these ideas?
- Lead a ministry time inviting Jesus to meet with people. It may not happen in exactly the same way that it did with Paul, but there is something powerful and transformative about meeting with Jesus.
- Invite people to think about their own testimonies of how Jesus has changed them through the gospel. Give praise for the change that they see and ask whether the Holy Spirit is prompting any next steps based on this.