PASTOR DON'S CHRISTIAN ED NOTES
When Different Religions are Vying for your Allegiance
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Sunday, October 18, 2009 -

Galatians 1:11-24

The issue of these verses is the defense of truth. Paul can’t understand why these people hadn’t reacted as strongly as he did against the error of these false teachers (Galatians 1:6). Notice his amazement in this verse. We are shocked at Paul’s strong reaction against false teaching. Paul is shocked at our indifference. Paul can’t understand how anyone who claims the gospel as unique and precious can remain emotionally unmoved when it is distorted or belittled in the slightest way.

Paul is not ready to let go of this theme yet. Today’s text continues his argument for the truthfulness and the authority of his message:

1) PAUL’S GOSPEL WAS NOT “MAN’S GOSPEL”

Galatians 1:11-12 - “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. [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.”

“....is not man’s gospel.” Paul means at least two things by this. One thought is more primary, the other secondary:

a) Primarily, Paul means his message wasn’t his own mental concoction. That is, it came out of God’s heart, not Paul’s head. This is the way Paul repeatedly described his reception and proclamation of the gospel - Romans 1:1 - “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God....”

b) Secondarily, Paul probably means his message wasn’t tailored to meet with human desires and instincts. The gospel strikes the natural mind with a certain offensiveness. The implication here is that the false teachers had “tuned” their message to cater to man’s sense of accomplishment and religious pride - Galatians 6:12 - “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

2) PAUSING TO GET THE BIG PICTURE FROM GALATIANS CHAPTER ONE

Two different messages are competing for reception in these believers’ minds and hearts. Both are claiming to be true, but because they contradict each other, both can’t possibly be true. And for Paul, and for all who will faithfully follow Jesus Christ in this age, the quest for absolute truth was the most important thing in the whole world.

Because we are so bombarded with opinions on everything from how to have the whitest teeth, to which new car has the most sex appeal, our culture is losing its quest for absolute truth. Everyone has a message to sell into your mind and we are buried in a mountain of useless opinion and rhetoric. And as the messages multiply and trivialize there is nothing to press our minds to dig for truth. All opinions seem alike. Nothing is very important.

The danger in all of this isn’t that we don’t all know full well that not all of these messages are true. We all know better than that. The danger is much greater. The danger is we will actually come to think that nothing is true in an absolute sense - that all statements are about equal, depending on the value any one of us assigns to them. The quest for truth is disappearing from the landscape.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (prophetic words offered to the commencement at Harvard University in 1978) - “Truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it.”

3) PAUL OUTLINES HIS LIFE BEFORE HIS CONVERSION AND AFTER HIS CONVERSION

In supporting his claim that neither his message nor his office was of human origin, Paul describes the facts of his own history before and after his conversion to Jesus Christ:

a) Before his conversion Paul was a violent persecutor of all things Christian (Galatians 1:13-14). Remember, Paul is offering verse 13 as the proof of what he has just said in verse 12. It’s important to keep these two verses together - Galatians 1:12-13 - “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.”

“Look at my changed life!” Paul is saying. Here’s proof my gospel was of divine origin. There must be an adequate cause for such a dramatic effect. Do you honestly think my life was so turned around because I liked the religious ideas of some human teacher or lecturer?”

Such an explanation is grasping at straws. Paul’s own explanation is given in clear, straightforward testimony in Acts 26:12-19.

b) After his conversion Paul refused immediate consultation with any other of the apostles (Galatians 1:15-24). Yet, strangely, his message lined up precisely with theirs. Paul’s obvious point is he made no conscious effort to corroborate his account with the other apostles. The churches in Judea wouldn’t have even recognized Paul if they had seen him! (1:22).

So we come back to the core issue of truth in religion. Paul’s message is to be received, and the false teacher’s rejected. Only truth can save. Sincerity is never enough. And heaven and hell hang on knowing the difference.