10For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
1Th 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
Whenever we are presented with an opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will either dance around the real issue out of fear of man, or we will speak the truth in love to please God.
Albert Barnes wrote, “A professing Christian, and especially a minister, should be alarmed when the world flatters and caresses him. He should fear either.”
What Paul is saying in verse 10 is that when a person professing to follow Jesus Christ seeks to please man (making pleasing man his or her aim), that ultimately will disqualify them from being a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.
To be a follower of Jesus Christ means that we regulate our conduct and conversation concerning the gospel according to the will of God, whether men are pleased with it or not. And it must be further noted, that the life and behavior of a sincere Christian will sometimes offend and oftentimes displease men, because light and darkness cannot peacefully coexist.
I think of Enoch, who in the days before the flood had this testimony that he pleased God. Pleasing God will many times displease fallen man.
- 11But I certify you, brethren that the gospel, which was preached of me, is not after man.
To certify means to declare, as in 1 Corinthians 15.1: I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you…..Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
Remember, the Judaizers who were attacking Paul’s authority and message were religious zealots who were saying that Paul’s gospel had left some very important parts out. Namely, adherence to the ceremonial law as necessary for salvation.
That is always the message of the legalist, the ceremonialist or the good works humanist. The work of Jesus Christ is not enough. There must be something else or something more to do.
Only someone with apostolic authority could have put a stop to this damnable heresy that was being thrust upon the Galatians. So we have Paul defending the fact that his gospel was not second-hand message that was inferior to what the other apostles were preaching, but the very same gospel.
- 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The gospel that Paul taught was not learned in a seminary or bible school. Paul is certainly not denigrating people being taught the gospel. He is simply stating that he had to clarify that the authority and message that he delivered came directly from the Lord and not from man.
The revelation that Jesus gave to Paul took place during the three years during which he sojourned in Arabia (Ga 1:17,18), in the vicinity of the scene of the giving of the law.
Paul’s apostolic calling was grounded in divine revelation from Jesus Christ. Just as Christ called the Twelve, so was Paul called. Just as the Twelve received the gospel directly from Christ, so did Paul (Acts 9:3–6; 26:13–18).
Revelation and Regeneration
Since the truth of God came into this world via revelation, the only way that it enters into our hearts is by illumination of The Spirit. Flesh and blood cannot reveal to us the truth of God’s Word. (Peter’s confession in (Matthew 16.)
- 1Co 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The Bible is not an impersonal book that is to be looked upon like any other great book. It is the revelation of God and as such, it can only be understood for the great redemptive that it is declaration when God opens hearts and sin- darkened minds. Acts 16.14 Lydia, whose heart The Lord opened.
Spiritual truth can only be understood by the illuminating work of The Spirit of God.
Salvation is God’s work, not ours. The command of the risen Jesus to the church is to go into the entire world and do two things:
- preach the gospel
- make disciples.
We are called to share our faith with the lost, but like of the Day of Pentecost, we are not responsible to make people believe; we plant and water but God it’s the Spirit of God that must convict a person of sin, righteousness and judgment, not my clever or eloquent presentation.
Before we move on, may we never forget that the Scriptures you and I hold in our hands are indeed the very word of God. The Holy Scriptures are His inspired revelation to us (2 Tim 3.16,17).
- They will last longer than the present heaven and earth (Matt 24.35).
- They testify of the salvation that is by faith in Jesus (John 5.39).
- They were written to give us comfort and hope (Rom 15.4).
- They were written to reveal God’s prophetic plan for the ages (Daniel, Revelation).
- Matt 4.4 Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Sola Scriptura, not sola church history.
By the time of the writing of the Revelation, the church had already begun to drift away from “Thus saith The Lord.”
In verses 13-16, Paul gives his personal testimony of the illuminating work of God’s Spirit in his own life.
- 13For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14And profited in the Jews’ religion above many of my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
The best commentary on verses 13 and 14 are found in Acts & Phil 3.5,6
- Php 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Paul was a Pharisee, he was well educated, he exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the Jews, but he was a fierce opponent of Jesus Christ and those who were born again.
Paul made a determined effort to destroy Christianity.
- Ac 9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
- Ac 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
- Acts 26:10 many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
Observe here, saints, that Paul was doing everything that he could to stamp out Christianity and destroy the church. And he was doing it for the Lord; or at least he thought he was. His motives for destruction were pure in his mind. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ was the last thing Paul would have considered on his own!
Paul was perfectly satisfied with his own religious practice and saw no need for the message of the gospel. He was comfortable being zealous for all of the ancestral traditions found within Judaism.
Jesus Christ, in His glorious Person and saving work, was a mystery to Paul until Jesus revealed Himself to him.
What I find interesting is that, even though Paul was extremely religious to the bone, his own testimony regarding his true spiritual condition before he was born again is 1Ti 1:13 “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.”
Do you know what Paul called these religious zealots who were attacking his apostleship and the gospel of the grace of God?
- Phil 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
- Phil 3.18 The enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
Paul did not hesitate to point out to his opponents, like those in Galatia, that being a Jew, even a zealous Jew, is not sufficient for salvation.
- 15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb (merit in an individual has nothing to do with their salvation or their calling into the ministry),
Paul tells us here that “I was once a Pharisee, which means a separated one, but God in His wonderful grace has separated me to something far better.”
God had this to say about Jeremiah, Jer 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
Even though this separation was from his mother’s womb, we see this separation process unfold in human history on the road to Damascus and then was confirmed in Ac 13:2 “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
- Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.
Please note that Paul’s primary calling was to be a servant, or bond slave of The Lord Jesus Christ.
- His separation was unto the gospel of God.
- He lived totally for His Lord Jesus Christ.
- and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen (Gentiles); immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Note that it was by the grace of God that Paul was called into the ministry. Paul’s call to be an apostle, like the faith of every believer, was the product of God’s grace. No one can earn God’s call; it is a free gift.
- 2Ti 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
Please note in vs. 16 that Paul says that his calling was to reveal Jesus through him.
- Gal 2.20 Christ liveth in me is what authentic Christianity is all about. Beloved, the primary purpose for God redeeming us is that Jesus Christ would be revealed in your life. Christ in you, the hope of glory!
Both Paul’s salvation and his life-purpose were bound up in the pleasure of knowing and pleasing God. To whom much is given, much is required.
Our vocations and callings may vary, but our one purpose in life as a Christian is that the Jesus Christ be revealed and glorified in us and through us.
- 17Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia (not recorded in Acts, but this period of isolation fits between vv. 22 and 23 of Acts 9.), and returned again unto Damascus.
We do read that when he returned to Damascus Ac 9:20 “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.”
To say that seeing and hearing Paul preach Christ took the people by surprise is an understatement. That would be like the Pope standing in St Peter’s Square and declaring, you must be born again or you will not enter into the kingdom of God.
- 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
Paul spent the first 3 years after his conversion alone with The Lord, during which time he received this revelation of the gospel of the grace of God. Note that after Paul received his calling from Jesus, it was not necessary for him to confer with flesh and blood (vs 16).
Why then do we read about Paul’s meeting with the original apostles of Jesus that he tells us about here and in chapter 2? It was not to get approval from them, but to do things decently and in order.
The purpose of Paul’s visit to Peter was to become acquainted with him rather than to confer with him.
Even though Paul was called directly by Jesus Christ, he did not run around like a “loose canon” unaccountable to anyone. In fact, in his pastoral epistles, Paul lays out quite clearly the qualifications and lifestyle that is to be sought after of those called into the ministry.
These men that were called and anointed by God’s grace to preach the gospel were men who were in fellowship with other believers and accountable to the authority placed over them by The Lord.
- 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
Contrary to the myths of the Catholic Church, the bible clearly teaches that Jesus had siblings.
- Mt 13:55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us?
James, the Lord’s brother, at first did not believe in Jesus (John 7:5) but later was converted, perhaps as a result of seeing the risen Lord (1Cor 15:7).
- 20Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
As he traveled through the regions of Syria and Cilicia, he founded the churches that he subsequently returned to and confirmed in the faith (Ac 15:23,41).
- 22And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
• Verse 23 tells me that I should never write a person off as someone who will never come to the saving knowledge of Jesus because he or she presently is vocally opposed to the gospel.
The one time archenemy of the gospel was saved and converted by the grace of God to proclaim very gospel and Jesus that he set out to destroy.
- 24And they glorified God in me.
Please note that the people glorified God for the work that God was doing in the life of Paul. This is what a proper understanding of the grace of grace does. It causes one to glorify the Giver of the grace, not the gift or the instrument through whom the grace of God flows. Paul rebuked the church in Corinth for talking more about Peter, Apollos or him than Jesus Christ.
Paul’s testimony is one of God’s grace from start to finish, so that all of the glory in salvation belongs to the Lord God. Such is true of every sinner who is saved by grace. To God be the glory, great things He has done!
The testimony of the apostle Paul clearly reveals that nothing blinds a person from the knowledge of the truth more than religion. Paul’s pre-Christian religious zeal was not only insufficient; it actually blinded him from seeing his need for Christ. Like many of his lost fellow Jews, who zealously sought to establish their own moral righteousness (Rom. 10:2–3), Paul had formerly been zealous “for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1:14).
Listen to the personal testimony of Martin Luther, taken from page 35 of his commentary on the book of Galatians. “Before I was lightened with the knowledge of the gospel, I was as zealous for the papistical law and traditions of the fathers as ever any were, maintaining and defending them as holy and necessary to salvation. Moreover I endeavored to keep them myself, as much as was possible for me to do, punishing my poor body with fasting, watching, praying, and other exercises, more than all they which at this day do so bitterly hate and persecute me, because now I take from them the glory of justifying by works and merits. For I was so diligent and superstitious in the observation hereof, that I laid more upon my body, than without danger of health, I was able to bear…. but whatsoever I did, I did it with a single heart, of a good zeal, and for the glory of God. But those things which were then gain unto me, I now, with Paul count to be but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord.”
- Both Martin Luther and the apostle Paul would be the first to admit that neither Judaism nor Catholicism (or Protestantism) could save them. So do we.
- They both knew that there was nothing good or worthy within themselves to merit salvation. So do we.
- They both knew that they deserved the judgment of God. So do we.
- Neither Luther nor Paul had any power to save themselves. Neither do we.
- Neither Luther nor Paul understood the way of salvation until the Spirit of God revealed the majesty and salvation that is in Jesus Christ revealed alone.The same is true in our lives as well.
That is the message of free, unmerited grace, beloved.
The Bible is clear that all men are called upon to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Scripture says to examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?
Have you been born from above? Have you been born again? Religion is fallen man’s futile attempts to earn or merit fellowship with God based upon observing religious rituals or ordinances or by doing good works.
Religion is a form of godliness with no power to forgive sin or save your eternal soul. Salvation by my good works is saying that the holy blood of Jesus Christ is insufficient to save my soul.
Only the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ can save our souls and give unto us eternal life.
- 1Jo 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
Religion will make you sour instead of soar….it will bum you out instead of bless you….and that is because the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.
When a person tells me that they are a Christian but their walk is one series of sour experiences and one bummer after another, something deep in my heart tells me that what they are experiencing is a form of Christianity that denies the power of a real relationship with Jesus Christ….that is the entire message of the book of Galatians.
Loving Jesus makes worship a joy….serving a joy….prayer meetings and fellowship, a joy…..joy unspeakable and full of glory. Count it all joy. Do not accept any cheap substitutes.
It’s not about religion; it’s about a relationship with Jesus.