12 Feb Galatians – A Call to Freedom 2. Called by God
Key Text: Gal 1:10-24
Our test tonight is Galatians 1:10-24
Galatians 1:10-24 (ESV)
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[a] of Christ.
Paul Called by God
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel.[b] 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. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,[c] and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to[d] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;[e] 17 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.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
We are going verse by verse, section by section through the book of Galatians. And it is a gem of a book to be going through as it challenges us on one of the most fundamental realities we can be challenged; how can I really be saved. Do I know the gospel?
Last week we looked at how can I know that I know the gospel? This week we ask How can I know the gospel is true?
This is an important question to ask especially in this time. The world we live in states that all truths are valid all that matters is that you truly own your narrative.
In a world where all truth is valid how can we ever make a claim that there is only one truth?
To put it the way the thinkers of this age put it. You simply cannot be binary (thinking in terms of us and them); there is a multiplicity of views in the world.
However, to show the absurdity of that statement; it is in itself a binary statement; it says you have the inclusive world view and the exclusive world view. Those who state there is truth (and they are wrong) and those who don’t (they are right and are us). So; they have contradicted themselves by their very belief.
I want to argue that there is objective truth in the world; there is a right way of thinking and a wrong way; and I hope that in communicating this; we don’t become hateful with our knowledge but gracious. But I hope to show you as well that the gospel is not just another story in the history of man; it is not just a way of life to accept or not accept; it is true in the truest sense of the word.
So how do we know that the gospel is true?
1. It’s backed up by fact
Paul spends from verse 11-12 and then from vs 15-20 Paul goes into great detail that the message he received is not simply a story; it is not made up by men; but in Paul’s words;
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
In other words the message Paul preached – the gospel – isn’t his idea; it came from God.
Now you might be saying; there are many through the ages who have claimed that they have had a message from a god. What makes Paul’s claim any more valid; any more objective than any other of these people.
Well; firstly Paul uses a peculiar term when he says “I did not receive it from any man”
He says in the Greek; “it was not after man.”
Meaning literally this truth was beyond the capacity of man to come up.
John Calvin states of the Gospel and of Scripture that not other truth in human history has ever so humbled man and so glorified God; it therefore must be of God.
But again; your sceptic mind would argue; of course that is what a self-proclaimed guru would say; how does that justify this as true.
Well, Paul states that when he received it he went off into the dessert. In verse 17 Paul says;
, I did not immediately consult with anyone;[e] 17 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.
For 3 years Paul went to be alone in the desert of Arabia. Now it must be said that we do not know what happens there; Luke’s account in Acts gives us no details to this. And in fact, without this personal account in Galatians; we would have never know that Paul went to be alone in the desert.
However, something powerful is stated here; I did not consult anyone on the revelation I received; but went away to ponder on it.
On a side note; we know that something is real when it becomes more real when we are alone. Paul went off to be alone and it became a solid reality to Him. But he doesn’t stop there. If he did; we might conclude that what he had was like any other subjective spiritual epiphany.
No! Paul states that he received this message from Christ and he did not consult with anyone on the detail; however, he was justified when he met up with the church again and with Peter and John (the Lord’s brother).
In chapter 2 we see this more clearly as we see how the leadership of the church affirm that the message Paul was preaching is the same that they had received independently from Jesus Himself. Remember the Apostles had all personally been with Jesus.
Church there is a historical, objective reality to our faith; in fact, Christianity is a faith based in history.
If Christ didn’t really exist; then our sins have not been dealt with and then we are lost. It is a faith that is completely and utterly dependant on objective and historical reality.
The church could not have spread in the first century if it had not been rooted in historical reality; and, in fact, the church cannot exist today if it denies its historical roots.
So, I know the gospel is true because it is objectively true; it is based on fact. However, it is also profoundly experiential.
So I know the gospel is true because…
2.It’s backed up by my experience
Christianity is deeply subjective; unless you have experienced grace; you don’t know it.
Paul spends from verse 13 to the end of the chapter speaking of his experience of the gospel.
He talks clearly of the change he experienced; from verse 13 and 14 he speaks of who he was; and take note of all the I’s that he uses through these verses.
I persecuted the church.
I was advancing in the Jewish faith more than any of my peers.
I was extremely zealous for God and the traditions of my fathers.
However, all this changed, when in Paul’s words “But when God who set me apart from birth called me by his grace.”
Now there is a lot to unpack in this statement; but the first thing I want to address is the fact that Paul was account a deeply personal and subjective reality here. He was moved by Christ; he experienced Jesus!
If you know the story from Acts; Paul was literally blinded by a vision of Jesus on a journey to Damascus.
And if we personalise that reality; it is true that if we know grace; we have experienced it; it is as if Jesus has gotten hold of us.
And that is the other thing that I want to address from this reality; Paul says God who set me apart from my birth. Now look at the life of Paul up to his conversion. It was against Jesus! He was a killer of the church. And yet he says; once God got hold of me, I could see that he had been using every aspect of my life to lead to that moment!
I titled this message called by God because it is here that the central issue lies. Paul clearly states his conversion was so deeply subjective; at the end of this chapter everyone saw the change in Paul and gave glory to God. So, he experiences it deeply; which is the key aspect of the gospel, but he never once doubts that it was something that was acted upon him.
God who set me apart from my mother’s womb. Paul saw himself as the object of God’s action upon him.
You see church; you don’t take up Christianity; it takes you up. To put it in another way you don’t get into Christianity it gets into you.
When grace comes upon you; you can look back upon your life and see God in your life the whole time!
This is only a problem for the western mind with the great influence of the enlightenment and modernistic thought. We say either I had free will or God predestines. It cannot be both.
To the eastern mind these were not mutually exclusive realities; they were realities that fed into each other. All my life God was working all things to get me to the point of my conversion, however, all my life I was doing things against God.
Look at Paul’s account; I persecuted the church; God got glory from this! Paul spends much of this passage saying I did this, I did, that and then concludes that God had called me from my conception.
And that is the powerful and undeniably subjective reality of Christianity; it gets into you so much that every action both good and bad become points of God’s grace in our lives.
Think about it; you will further the plans of God! That is the objective fact! Either that terrifies you (if you don’t know Him) or it delights you (if you do know him) and that is the subjective reality.
So here lies the crux of the matter tonight; the gospel is true because it is undeniably reasonable, it is routed in historical fact, it is rational. However, it also is only true if it has you, if you have personally experienced it.
If we look back in the history of our country; a few years back many people claimed to be religious; they went to church every week. We still feel the conservative nature of that in our country. But it was done for social acceptance. Religion was a part of the life of people in this country but it was never their life.
They knew God, but had never been moved by him. The gospel is true because it moves us. This is why Paul would say in Rom 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
The gospel has deep personal experiential power in our lives. Church; have you known it?
The facts are there you can test them, but the reality is here have you felt it?
I would encourage you to seek Him, for His word declares: He who seeks finds, he who asks will receive and whoever knocks the door will be opened. And again it says in John;
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Will you come? He won’t drive you away!