Freedom Fighter for Truth
On Sunday morning Pastor Benny reprised his excellent intro to the Book of Galatians by focusing on the Apostle Paul as a “freedom fighter for truth.” Judaizers from Jerusalem had come to the churches Paul had planted in Galatia making three accusations against Paul:
1. He was not an apostle.
2. He was not preaching the true gospel.
3. The gospel (of grace) he preached would lead to loose living.
Paul wrote his letter to the Galatian Christians in response to their confusion about, and acceptance of, these false accusations. He defended his apostleship and the gospel he preached.
The Judaizers were communicating a gospel that was not the gospel. They believed in Christ’s atoning death and his resurrection, his payment for sin and his resurrection. But they taught that unless Gentile believers were circumcised–obeying the traditions of Moses–they could not be saved. Paul said that is no gospel at all. The gospel he preached to them–that there is nothing we can do, nothing required of us to gain the salvation earned for us by Christ, and his righteousness freely credited to those who believe–naturally led to the question: “Why not sin more so grace abounds more?” Paul was saying, if you truly understand what grace is, you will no longer continue to sin, because you have been freed from that sin.
Truth matters. What we believe and how we believe it matters. Our culture says just the opposite. It says, “Yes, that is your opinion. I’m OK with that.” We are eager to state our opinions, to blog them. The cultural value is, the more outraged you are, the more truthful what you say.
Our behavior greatly matters to God. God is in the process of making us holy. He has declared us righteous (in Christ), and now he is making the truth of what he has declared happen.
In this passage Paul jumps from his initial response to the Galatians’ gospel compromise right into his autobiography. He’s explaining how he got to this point and why his gospel and apostleship is so important to them.
After meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, he spent three years in the desert. He knew he would be opposed at first by those he had previously sought to kill.
He went to the desert of Arabia, where he learned directly from Jesus. Then he returned to Damascus. After three years, as an unknown he made a trip to Jerusalem to spent 15 days with Peter. Not to learn the gospel, but to confirm they were in agreement on it. From there Paul began his mission to the Gentiles in Syria and Cilicia. He was still unknown to the church in Jerusalem, except they were saying the former persecutor now was preaching the faith he had tried to destroy. After another 14 years Paul went to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, Gentile believers he had won and discipled, to confirm with James, Peter and John that his gospel preaching to the uncircumcised Gentiles was entrusted to him from God just as was Peter’s preaching to the Jews. They “perceived the grace that was given to me,” Paul wrote, and they encouraged him to preach this gospel to the Gentiles.
Three points stand out in this passage.
Truth comes by revelation (Gal. 1:15-17)
Every time Paul met with Peter, his gospel message was affirmed as being in agreement with the Jerusalem apostles. Paul insists, “I got it by revelation.” On the Damascus road, when Christ encountered him, Paul saw he had been trying to stamp out the promise the Scriptures made to him. Paul was a bigoted, racist fanatic. But after meeting Jesus he went from persecutor to persecuted. From ready to kill to ready to be killed.
You cannot explain your conversion by your wisdom to choose the Lord. We say, “I found the Lord.” You didn’t find anything. God found you. I didn’t find God. I was a juvenile delinquent about ready to go to jail, and God backed me into a corner. It was a glorious rescue.
Paul’s three years in the desert prepared him to be a freedom fighter. He went to see Peter to find out if the gospel was still being preached, that we are “Free at last.” Free from rule-bound religion. Proclaiming emancipation (liberty) and living in liberty are two different things.
Truth comes via authority (Gal. 2:1-2, 7-10)
Paul was confident in his gospel and laid it before the apostles three times. The Judaizers had come to Antioch to spy on him (Gal. 2:4), wanting to restore slavery to religion. Paul said circumcision is not the issue, not the proof that one is a Christ-follower. His commission was not from the Jerusalem council, but he could not proceed without the approval of Jerusalem. His authority came directly from Christ. He too was an apostle.
James, Peter and John all acted as if they approved Paul’s gospel, but when Peter acted otherwise (Gal. 2:11-14, next week’s message), Paul opposed him to his face.
It would not be good news if I contributed anything to my salvation. Paul called his good works “filthy rags.” The good news is that God sent his Son Jesus Christ to pay for my (and your) salvation, so that I (we) could be free from slavery to sin and imputed with the righteousness of Christ. I want to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ till my very last breath.
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