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Liberated from Legalism - pt 2 [5-2-21]

Updated: May 11, 2021

Here's how God called Paul. God revealed Christ to Paul while he was traveling on the Damascus Road. As Paul says in verse 16, "He was pleased to reveal his Son to me." But God revealed Christ in more than a blinding encounter. God revealed Christ deeply to Paul. The literal translation of verse 16 is, "He was pleased to reveal his Son in me." Not only was Christ revealed to Paul on the Damascus Road, but also in him as God gave him the life, light, and faith to believe in Him. Paul saw the beauty and worth of the Savior he had been persecuting. That is depth of revelation. Paul says, "God revealed his Son in me." In fact, the utter truth of who Jesus was and what Jesus did was so deeply imbedded into Paul's life that he would later say that everything he had accomplished in his life up to that moment was garbage. Jesus was and is everything.

So, here's where we're at today. What, next, would Paul do? After this defining, transformational moment, what next? What would he do? You can imagine what it would be like to be called by God to serve what you once tried to destroy. What would be Paul's next move? Where would he go?

These questions lead us to the third thing we learn from chapter 1:


That there is an amazing fact. Impulse might tell one to share the news with the apostles right away. But here's what Paul says happened in verses 15-21:

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

The point is that Paul did not consult with anyone while God was making

the gospel clear to him. There was no teaching or commissioning from the twelve. He waited three years before he met up with Peter. And that encounter only lasted 15 days.

Two important things flow out of Paul's experience from the road to Damascus to meeting Peter:

  1. His authority is from Christ, not the apostles.

  2. His message…the gospel he taught…is consistent with theirs.

That's what these verse show. In other words, independence in authority and unity in message.

I love how verse 18 makes clear the dynamics of Paul's relationship with Peter. It says, "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days." I love the literal translation of to visit = to become acquainted with. Paul wasn't there for an education. The Lord had been teaching him for three years. The 15 days with Peter was spent getting to know him. To make sure they were on the same page. And as we're going to learn later, there was a time when Peter seemed to turn away from the mission to the Gentiles that God had given

to Paul. Man, when there's a disagreement of that magnitude, you need some sense of a healthy relationship to work through it.

So here's where Paul is at. No one of flesh-and-blood called Paul or worked with Paul or finessed Paul's beliefs, or anything like that. He was not dependent on Peter or James or John. It was all God's doing. Which leads us to the fourth thing we learn from chapter 1:


Here's the result of God's call and Paul's three-year period of non-activity:

Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.

- Galatians 1:21-24

Paul, the persecutor of Christians, began preaching the faith he once tried

to destroy. Paul, once breathing threats and murder against the church, will now be threatened and persecuted for preaching the gospel. It is an amazing turn of events. Paul is now building up the movement he tried to wipe off the face of the earth. How does that even happen? And here is the answer, given by Paul:

There is no adequate explanation for my life, apart from the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Flowing out of that is the fifth thing we learn from chapter 1:


Let's return to verses 11-12:

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

First, we see one negative affirmation three times. The gospel he preached had no human origin, he did not receive it from an person, nor was he taught it by any person. How is that for emphasis?

And then Paul hits us with the most important point:

He received it through Jesus Christ.

This circles back to verse 1, "Paul, an apostle - not from men nor through me, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."

Don't let that point get away. Paul, whose life overlapped with Jesus, is claiming direct, revealed authority from Jesus. The Risen Christ, who is alive, is the source of Paul's radical transformation. It wasn't a hallucination or a delusion. It was an encounter with the Risen Christ himself that transformed Paul from a crusader against the church to one who willingly suffered for Christ. That is the foundational truth of chapter one.

Make no mistake. Galatians carries the heavy weight of establishing Paul's calling to preach the one true gospel to Gentiles. Essentially, your worldview is dependent on accepting his calling. Either the gospel Paul preaches was directly given to him by the Risen Christ or it wasn't. Paul is either a fool, a fraud, or a faithful friend in Christ. Either we embrace the gospel he teaches, or we don't. He either received from the Risen Christ, or

he didn't. That's what he's establishing in chapter one.

Out of that flows the sixth thing we learn from chapter one. And this has huge implications for us, as well:


What that means is Paul can say the hard things that need to be said. If you've ever said something with an eye to how others will receive it or perceive you, then you know how important this is. What a horrible way that would be to live. People will use guilt or shame or the push to conform in order to control you or change your mind. They use phrases like, "How dare you," or "You ought to know better." Paul heard it all. And he did not change. Remember, the only thing that changed Paul was an encounter with the Risen Christ.

Paul was one of those people who didn't live to please anyone but God. After his encounter with the Risen Christ, he put all his confidence in Jesus. He no longer cared what people thought about him. He didn't care about his credentials or positions or how people saw him. He stopped living for

his own publicity and started living for God's pleasure.

That's a question we all have to ask ourselves. Whose pleasure do I seek? If we live for ourselves or others, we are embracing a different gospel. We either please God or we please others. We cannot follow our ambitions and follow Jesus Christ at the same time. The prosperity gospel is based on the promise that you can do both. But it's the promise of a false gospel. The gospel isn't a bigger paycheck, a better job, a new romance, or some other personal accomplishment. The gospel is living for God. That's exactly what Paul did.

Consider what the gospel says. It does not tell us what we have to do to please God. Instead, it announces that God is already pleased with us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This liberates us from seeking the approval of others. At the same time, it frees us from trying to earn God's favor. What can we possibly do to earn the favor of that which has already been given us by no effort or merit of our own? In Christ, we already have God's eternal love. What more do we need? Nothing…which is why the gospel is good news.

Because of his confidence in Christ and Christ alone, the seventh thing we learn from chapter one is:


Here's how he puts it in verses 8-9:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

One of the powerful things stated here is that if Paul suddenly bowed to pressure and began preaching something different from what he has already preached, then they need to treat him as one accursed. What he means is that if anything he teaches doesn't line up with what he has already taught, or what they learned about what Jesus taught, then he is not to be trusted. That is direct and to the point.

Here's what he is telling them:

My message will not change.

Why would he ever change what he received directly from the Risen Christ? Paul's teaching was true. His life was flawed. But the gospel given to him by the Risen Christ is without stain or error.

Finally, the eighth and last thing we learn from chapter one is:


Galatians 1:6-7 says:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Here's the power of Paul's astonishment. It has nothing to do with people fleeing from his personal authority. He doesn't care about that. It's not about Paul. It's never about Paul. It's all about God. Paul is astonished that they are deserting God's grace. They are turning away from the all-glorious God. They are seeking satisfaction in something other than the grace of

God. Astonishing.

And what is this grace of which we speak? How did God provide this grace? Again, circling back to verses 3-5:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Here's what that means {you might want to write this down}:

Grace from the Will of God…Through the Cross of Christ…Leading to Rescue from this Doomed World Under the Wrath of God.

Paul says, why would you turn from that and step into the empty promises of a false gospel?

Let's end on that powerful affirmation. Like Paul, we will stand firmly before God under His grace. We will not be moved. We will not be distracted by a false gospel. We will not be weakened by a watered-down gospel. Instead we will remain in the inexpressible and glorified joy that our sins are forgiven and our righteousness is complete by grace alone,

through faith alone, because of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.


To the Glory of God Alone!

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