He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.

Why is it so important to know the gospel of Christ?

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the GALATIANS – Chapter 1

1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead —
2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.- Galatians 1:1-5

This epistle was probably written before 50 AD as there is no mention of the Council of Jerusalem, which was held at that time, which dealt with the question of do Christians need to keep the Jewish laws and traditions. Martin Luther especially loved this book and its theme of Christian liberty. Galatia was a region, not a city, so this letter was addressed to several churches. Paul had visited there during each of his missionary journeys. He begins the letter in the tradition of the time by stating who he is. As letters were on scrolls it was necessary to put who it was from at the beginning. Paul, an apostle appointed by God and the brothers who were with him. He did not operate alone. He was hidden in the body of Christ and always had co-workers, as we should also, to keep us from straying away from the true message of the gospel. He wished them grace and peace. In order to have peace with God we need to have the experience of the grace of God in our lives. Shalom, meaning peace, was the traditional greeting of the Jews and Charis, meaning grace, the traditional greeting of the Greeks. Paul used the word grace to mean the loving-kindness of God by which He gives us what we do not deserve. Verse 4 summaries the gospel message: Jesus was given to us as the gift of God to to redeem us and deliver us from this evil age, by the will of God. What did Jesus come to do? Although Jesus came to bring us salvation, forgiveness of our sins and to reconcile us to God His primary aim was to glorify His Father. What is the purpose of creation? To give God the glory.

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” And what was the work? “I manifested Your name to the men You gave Me out of the world” – John 17:4,6

that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Rom 8:21

whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen – 1 Peter 4:11

Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples. -Psalm 96:2-3

Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Give to the LORD glory and strength.
Give to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him,all the earth – Psalm 96:7-9

In all things we should give God the glory He deserves, for ever and ever

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-
7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:6-9

Paul was concerned because the churches in Galatia were being deceived into believing that you could earn your salvation by the things you did, your good works. But the gospel Paul preached was that salvation is by grace alone:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10

Ther is no other gospel. The good news is that God has given us what we do not deserve. Eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

People were believing a distorted gospel and this was abhorrent to Paul. We see in the life of Jesus how angry he got with the Pharisees. People who thought their salvation was through following laws and traditions. Paul also feels this righteous anger towards deceiving angels and false teachers, so much so that twice he repeats “let him be accursed” let him be anathema which means:

a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction.

Strong language communicating strong feelings. We have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and we can experience the mind of Christ on matters:

“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:16

Jesus was a passionate Man and so also was Paul. Full of feelings directed by the Spirit of God and we too can be filled with godly, instinctive and intuitive feelings.

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 of Christ.
11 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. – Galatians 1:10-12

The Gospel is not written by man. Men wrote it down but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The whole essence of something being included in the New Testament in the Bible was that the book, letter or document was recognised by the early Church Fathers to be written by someone who was with Jesus or one of the apostles and that it proclaimed the gospel in purity, without any additional teaching. Paul was converted to Christ by the amazing experience he had on the road to Damascus (Acts 9):

15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
16 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,
17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles-to whom I am sending you
18 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.’ – Acts 26:15-18

Paul was given a ministry and mission during that one encounter with Jesus. He then spent years with other believers as the Lord revealed Himself more clearly through the Torah, the Jewish Scriptures, (the Old Testament). Paul learned the gospel through revelation of Jesus Christ. God uncovered that which was there from the beginning opening his eyes to the truth so that he could turn others from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, to be forgiven and redeemed. That is what the Lord does in all our lives. He reveals Himself to us so we can be part of revealing Jesus to others that they might be set free.

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. – Galatians 1:13-14

Paul was a Pharisee. He was trained to the highest standard in the Jewish law and traditions:

5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;
6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. – Philippians 3:5-7

But when he encountered Christ he learned that none of that mattered any more in the sense that he could not count on it for salvation. What do we trust for our salvation? In nothing other that the person of Jesus Christ? Nothing we can do for God will save us, just total dependence on His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul thought he was doing the will of God when he persecuted the early church. But he was doing what HE thought was the will of God. In a true relationship with God we humbly seek His will on every matter:

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! – 1 Chronicles 16:11

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” – Psalm 27:8

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; – Isaiah 55:6

Paul was mistakenly zealous for the traditions of his fathers but he became zealous for Jesus Christ. He sought the Lord and he heard Him:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. – Psalm 34:4

He gave up his life for the Son of God that the life of Christ became manifest, revealed, seen thorough him. He wanted the glory of God be revealed through them. Just as Jesus prayed:

22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. – John 17:22-23

When we give up on doing our will and seek the Lords will then He is glorified in all that we do.

15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
16 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;
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. – Galatians 1:15-17

The Lord had a plan for Paul. Paul was not called because of anything he had done he was called by grace. The Lord knew before Paul was born what He wanted him to do. Following his dramatic conversion he did not go to Jerusalem initially. Paul was well known in the top religious circles and it seems the Lord wanted him to spend time learning the truth before he had to face the trials that awaited him in Jerusalem. We need to do things in the Lord’s time. We can be inclined to get caught up with initial enthusiasm and try to achieve what the Lord may want us to do but in our own strength which will fail. Wait on the Lord:

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. – Psalm 130:5-6

Paul spent time waiting on the Lord and seeking His face which built a strong foundation for his faith that would endure through the testing and trials that lay ahead for him. He learned that nothing mattered but Jesus Christ. The relationship he had with God through Jesus, who revealed Himself to Paul was the prime way Paul learned the truth of the gospel of grace as he was taught by the Spirit of God. We need our relationship with Jesus to be our number one priority, as we seek the Lord and wait on Him.

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. Galatians 1:18-24.

It was three years after his conversion that Paul first met the apostles, Peter and James. He went to see them by choice and was not called to give account of himself. The Lord worked in his heart for three years then he met the apostles. The meeting was facilitated by Barnabas (the son of encouragement – Acts 4:36) who smothed the way for Paul who still had the reputation of being the one who persecuted the church.

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. – Acts 9:26-27

Barnabas is a great example of someone who encourages others and is willing to get along side someone who may be having a difficult time just as the Lord through the Holy Spirit gets alongside us as our comforter.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. – John 14 16-17

Through all this God was glorified. When we see someone turn to Christ then God is glorified. When we see that person grow in grace then God is glorified. When we see that person share their faith or preach the gospel then God is glorified.


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