Liberated from Legalism - pt 4 [5-16-21]



Acts 9:1-2 refers to a common body of knowledge about what Paul was like. Word travelled. People knew what a horrible person he was. Paul was not hesitant to remind people about his negative baggage:

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Before Paul came to Christ, he was one of God's most violent enemies. He so hated the cross of grace and mercy that he lashed out with all his might.


Paul was obsessed with destroying the church. Here's how bad it got:

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

- Acts 7:54-8:3


Here's something you might want to remember:

What happened to Paul was such a radical transformation that it made people nervous.

The man who once terrorized the church is now willing to give his life in

defense of the one true gospel of grace. Amazing love, how can it be!


Here's the case Paul makes in Galatians 1:12:

For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Risen Christ appeared to Paul. His mission to the gentiles was given by direct revelation from the Risen Christ.


Before that happened, there was a common understanding about who Paul was. His reputation preceded him wherever he went. If you were not a Christian, you would have been impressed with Paul's resume. He was accomplished. He was a Pharisee of the highest order. He was hard working. And he surpassed every benchmark for achievement for a man of his training. Paul was an artist at hating Christians. And persecution was his canvass.


So you can imagine how hesitant people would have been to accept his transformation.


So here's the point of Paul's blunt biography. He tells us in verses 15-16:

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.

To get from who he was to who he is now had to involve supernatural intervention. He understood if people didn't trust him. It's one of those situations where you'd probably say, hey, I get it if you don't believe any of this. But here's what happened…


Paul then goes on to make it clear that his gospel came from Christ. While people in some of the churches wouldn't recognize him, they knew what he did. And his transformation led them to glorify God for His grace and mercy. Can you imagine? The man who made it his job to make your family and friend's lives a living hell is now sharing the gospel of grace and mercy with them. Astonishing. Something like that could only happen through the intervention of God.


And don't miss what happened after Paul's initial conversion. He didn't rush head-long into ministry and preaching. He didn't immediately go about

rehabilitating his reputation. No, none of that happened. Paul went from breathing threats and murder against the church…what was called the Way…to speaking words of grace and mercy. He went from offended Pharisee to preaching a message which was of utmost offense to the Pharisees. That's why, as word spread of his conversion, people were glorifying God. Which is exactly what we do every Sunday morning.


And here's the answer to the question we ended on last week. It took three years before people began to hear about Paul and the gospel of grace and mercy because God wanted things to settle with him and in him. Three years Paul simply sat quietly to be instructed by God. Three years.


In Paul's own words, from Acts 26:16-18, here is another telling of his conversion:

But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

As Paul explains to the Galatians, the story of his conversion is consistently told. And the truth is seen in the effect of his ministry. The persecutor becomes the preacher which in turn makes him a target for persecution. And his message doesn't change. There is consistency in his teaching. And it conforms with what Jesus taught…it conforms with what the gospels report. That's the benchmark - conformity to Biblical truth. That's our primary point of discernment with what we hear or read today. Whether it's Joel Osteen of Joyce Meyer or Bethel Church or Mormonism or Jehovah's Witnesses, where there's inconsistency and lack of conformity to God's Word, then it is wrong. That's Paul's point here. He doesn't change his message for convenience, or safety, or security, or profitability. Paul wants the Galatians to know that the truth of the gospel of grace and mercy is seen in the lives changed. It produced fruit.


So we're heading in a round-a-bout way back to what Paul was doing for three years. Paul said he didn't confer with flesh-and-blood. In other words, no bags of bones. He also didn't have study time with any of the apostles. No tutorials going on. He went to Arabia. Arabia was located in what is now Jordan. For three years he let what God had revealed to him through the Lord Jesus Christ work in his heart and mind. For three years. In fact, as he says in verse 22, "And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ." More of Christ and less of Paul.


As we get to the end of chapter 1, here's the question we are left with. It is asked by Paul. After he lays out the details of God's claim upon his life and the gospel of grace and mercy, he asks:

The gospel which I preach…salvation by grace through faith in Christ to the glory of God…is it from heaven or from men?


Paul was in bondage to sin. And then Jesus Christ appeared to him, taught him, and changed his life. That established his authority as a teacher of the gospel of grace and mercy. And so here we are today. Our lives have been transformed through this gospel of grace and mercy. We had all been in bondage to sin. Like Paul, we were once in rebellion against Jesus. Even when we seemed like really nice people, we lived for ourselves.


Then God changed us. Before you were born, God called you and chose

you to follow Jesus Christ. You are worshiping God today because of something He did before you were even born. That is grace and mercy. And as we learn together from Paul's letter to the Galatians, we will see how our sin has been forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we will see why our sin has been forgiven - so we could be with Jesus forever, love others and serve God. All of that rests on the one true gospel of grace and mercy given to Paul from the Risen Christ.


SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone!




May 16, 2021

"Liberated from Legalism"


Acts 9:1-2 refers to a common body of knowledge about what Paul was like. Word travelled. People knew what a horrible person he was. Paul was not hesitant to remind people about his negative baggage:

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Before Paul came to Christ, he was one of God's most violent enemies. He so hated the cross of grace and mercy that he lashed out with all his might.


Paul was obsessed with destroying the church. Here's how bad it got:

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

- Acts 7:54-8:3


Here's something you might want to remember:

What happened to Paul was such a radical transformation that it made people nervous.

The man who once terrorized the church is now willing to give his life in

defense of the one true gospel of grace. Amazing love, how can it be!