The apostle Paul was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ gave Himself on the Cross for our sins, and to deliver us from sin, the flesh and the world. Sadly the Galatians were turning to an altogether different gospel based upon the Law of Moses. Paul warns that a curse is on anyone, even an angel, who preaches a false gospel. The true Gospel is not from men, but the direct revelation of Jesus Christ. The apostle testifies that he was separated from his mother’s womb by God, and was called to grace, and how the Message of the Cross was revealed to him
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1).
This greeting includes Paul’s bold claim for his apostleship. Why does he put himself forward like this? Is he overstepping his authority? Is he enforcing his position upon them? No, not at all, instead, we have to remind ourselves that it was the Judaizers who were challenging his God-given position by teaching an alternative gospel to the one he clearly taught. They were saying that because he was not of the original twelve apostles, then he was not truly sent by God, and therefore had no authority in the churches. This nonsense dogged Paul wherever he went, and he deals with the issue in 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12.
Here, in verse 1, he makes it abundantly clear that apostleship is not according to man-made rules or regulations, but upon the direct calling of Christ on a person’s life. The twelve apostles walked with, and were called by Jesus, but so was he equally called. He had met the Lord on the Damascus Road and received his apostleship. “The Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). It is very likely that Paul was the choice of the Holy Spirit for apostleship after Judas betrayed the Lord and committed suicide. We know, according to Acts 1:23-26 that the church cast lots and chose Matthias, but the fact that they needed a voting system to figure out who would become the new twelfth apostle casts some doubt on the procedure. Yes, they prayed about it, but then used unsound means to choose between Barnabas and Matthias. We should note that this vote was taken before Pentecost. Maybe they should have waited until after Pentecost as the Lord commanded. After Acts 1 we read nothing more about Matthias, so what did he accomplish to prove he was worthy of his apostleship? I think the early church leaders got this wrong and jumped the gun.
This is how the Judaizers tricked the Galatians, for they suggested, because they were Jewish Christians and authorised by the ministry in Jerusalem, that they were the natural successors to the apostles. The Bible nowhere teaches the notion of apostolic succession (exactly what the papacy claims for itself). Paul’s apostleship was not of men, or, as it can be translated, from men. No apostle in Jerusalem laid hands upon him to commission his ministry, instead the Lord Jesus Christ ordained him for the work. For this reason, especially in light of his background and heritage, he was called and sent by Christ to preach the Gospel of grace to the Gentiles. He undertook his mission knowing full well the personal cost. “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). How true this was! For as soon as he began to minister the Gospel, opposers quickly popped up to hinder him. Satan would much prefer people believing in salvation by works rather than through grace. Paul called the teachers of the Jewish gospel, false apostles. He did not care about who sent them, because if they were not sent by Christ, they were not of God.
Paul’s opening statement is powerful indeed, for he cuts through the body of religion, severs its bone and leaves it helpless and lifeless. He is making his stand for the truth, and was defending the church from the onslaught of error. He would resist all attempts by the Hebrew Roots proponents to introduce even the slightest diversion from the Gospel of Christ. His message was the Cross, and it was to Christ and Him Crucified he directed the wayward believers and the false brethren. As the apostle who was commissioned after the resurrection, he was no less called and sent by God than the original twelve. The Holy Spirit was leading him, so he was not going to be deterred by Satan or any means he might employ.
And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:2-3).
The company might be those mentioned in Acts 20:4, “And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.”
“All the brethren” possibly indicates that they were with him both in the greeting and in the reprimand. It obviously means that they were standing with him regarding his teaching on the Cross and how a person receives saving grace. “All” undoubtedly indicates that a good number of fellow believers understood the Gospel in exactly the same way that Paul did, which they would not have done if he was in error. Instead they believed and taught the gospel of grace. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 2:3).
Paul now gives his usual salutation. “Grace” here is for sanctification rather than salvation. Paul makes mention of this grace in his salutations in other epistles, see Ephesians 1:2 for instance. In such cases he is not referring to grace that saves, because they were already saved, instead it is the grace that keeps, preserves, sanctifies and enables for daily trials. It is what Hebrews 4:16 is speaking of, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” The Holy Spirit works this into our lives. Grace for the ongoing work of sanctification, and as such is overcoming grace.
“Peace” means freedom, liberty, safety, prosperity. This peace can only come from God. It is the same as the rest Jesus promised. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Many have the grace but few know the peace Paul is speaking of here. The Galatians were seeking this through the Law, especially since they had lost confidence in the message of the Cross. Once they had lost the peace that only Christ can give, they were troubled in spirit and sought refuge in false assurances of religion. The Law cannot bring anyone peace with God, instead it was designed to trouble the conscience of the sinner. Notice the phrase: “From God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Godhead planned this grace and peace. It is a peace this world knows nothing about, and it is certainly something that rules, regulations and rituals cannot give to the troubled soul. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27) … “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Two enemies are ever eager to torment us: Sin and Condemnation. Grace deals with sin. Peace deals with condemnation.
Paul was claiming to speak on behalf of God: “From God the Father”, and “From the Lord Jesus Christ”, the latter phrase points to the Cross. The titles “God” and “Lord” speak of Divinity, that is, the Godhead (Trinity). There is no point in mentioning “God the Father” if Jesus is not God also. The message of grace and peace is from both, for they are in perfect oneness and unity. This is exactly what Jesus said, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) … “Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (John 8:19). If Paul did not intend this meaning, then “Lord” should not be in the text. There is no grace or peace if Jesus is not indeed Lord.
Angels and preachers, no matter how holy and Scripturally correct they may be, cannot supply this wonderful grace and peace. It did not come from Paul or his company, instead it came from “God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore it only comes from the Sovereign Lord Himself. This is why Paul refused to preach religious observances, and was determined only to preach Christ. “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24) … “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Please note that Paul mentions the “churches of Galatia” (plural). These were the fellowships, probably house groups, that the believers met together with and in. Even the Jerusalem Church understood the need to meet together for worship, instruction in the Word, and communal fellowship. I do not grasp the foolishness of today’s brand of Christianity that sees no need to be amongst likeminded brethren. We are not going to agree on everything, but we will agree on nothing if we do not fellowship together. Many blame others for their lack of commitment to a local body of believers, but the real reason is one’s own lazy heart. There were “churches” in Galatia (plural), so surely at least one place could be found to fellowship with. How many churches are in our cities today? “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). While there is some disagreement about where the “churches of Galatia” were situated, we know that, according to Acts chapters 13 and 14, Paul founded the churches of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe during his first missionary journey, each of which were located in South Galatia.
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (Galatians 1:4).
Paul now gets to the reason for his letter to the Galatian Church and opens with the fundamental truth about the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. His statement is both concise and complete. It is the Gospel in a nutshell. The phrase “Who gave Himself for our sins” can be expounded, but it cannot be improved upon. It is the very kernel of Paul’s thesis, the driving force of his preaching, the mighty declaration of the revelation that God gave him regarding the Cross. A simple statement, yet eternally profound. Preach on it all you want, but you will never exhaust the richness of the words.
Salvation begins with God not us. Our part, if we can use that word correctly, is to simply believe the Gospel, and after that, we are called upon to tell others about the One who saved us. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). With this in mind, we can be absolutely certain that, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, regardless of what Calvinism might say, it is God’s will to save people.
Notice that He who died on the Cross for our sins, is able to “deliver from this present evil world”. He is able to rescue, set free, and give us liberty, and this is so much more than religion can offer. Religion binds people up in an ever tightening grip of condemnation, but Jesus came to set the sinner free. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).
“Deliverance” here refers to being redeemed from the clutches of a slave trader, that is, in this case, the world, which in turn is controlled by sin. We are delivered from an evil world, from its power, chains and torment. We do not have to live by the standards and values of the world like those around us do. We have an altogether higher standard and our values are eternally more powerful. Paul, writing to the Romans, exhorted, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). We can choose to be “conformed to this present evil world” or “transformed” by the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, regardless of what others think, you and I must choose, therefore it is a matter of the will that God has sovereignly given us. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1) … “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
The text tells us that Jesus gave Himself up in our place. The word “us” is used in both parts of this verse. The Galatian church had forgotten this truth. They had come to believe, by listening to the compromised gospel of the Judaizers, that salvation was possible by obedience to intricate laws. They accepted another way to please God other than through faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. But there was no other way to be saved or to please God. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). He would reprimand those being led astray with the false doctrine of the Hebrew Roots teachers by stating, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). If Christ’s sacrifice is ineffective in a person’s life because of obedience to the Law, then certainly grace is no longer working in any that follow it. They, as a results are in danger of total shipwreck of their faith. “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1 Timothy 1:19).
They were falling for the ‘working for salvation’ lie. Jesus offered Himself voluntarily for us, therefore salvation and sanctification cannot be bought by any fleshly means, religious or otherwise. In fact, Jesus came to fulfil the Law, thus taking it out of the way forever as a means of acceptance with God. The Law only required one person to keep it in its totality, and until Jesus, nobody could obey it completely. So through Christ the Law is no longer the means of seeking to please God, and through Him, that is, faith in the Cross, the New Covenant has been established. To live under the Old Covenant is, as Paul will put it, foolishness in the highest degree. “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9).
Salvation then is merited to us by faith because we believe that Jesus did the will of the Father and thoroughly obeyed the Law. The works gospel is a bloodless religion of selfeffort, Law-keeping, religious duty and intricate ceremonies. This was the religion of the Judaizers. They attempted to mix Christ and circumcision. They believed that Faith in Christ was not enough, and they thought that His sacrifice was insufficient to save anyone. They held to religion, rules and regulations. Sadly this is the way of religion even up to this present day. It does appear that some Christian groups either do not read Paul’s epistles, or reject them as being erroneous. Many years ago a new version of the New Testament was produced by those involved in the Hebrew Roots movement. This book did not contain the writings of Paul because, as the producer stated at the time, Paul was a heretic that led Christians away from Judaism. Astounding as that is, it is even worse when we think that after 2,000 years of Gospel Truth, some still cannot see what Christ did for sinners on the Cross.
Many churches add works to both salvation and sanctification. Even those who see that works cannot save, go on to teach that works are required for sanctification. Let it be noted that works can neither save nor sanctify, for if they cannot bring salvation, then they certainly cannot sanctify either, since both are the work of the Holy Spirit. Any additions to the Gospel are nothing short of salvation by works and a rejection of the will of God in Christ Jesus. Adding anything, good or bad, is deemed evil and places the believer outside of the will of God. They deny that Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary is enough. Jesus fulfilled the Levitical Law completely, and He is the only acceptable sin offering. All the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant were only types and shadows of the true. All the rituals that were performed could not save a single soul. Most of the Jews failed to understand this fact, and thought that their performance and obedience to the Law, with all its many ceremonies and feasts, could merit salvation. They made a religion out of the sacrifices and ordinances of God. There were of course those who realised that all the sacrifices pointed to the perfect Saviour whose Blood would redeem them.
Paul rarely writes on the Life and Ministry of Jesus, instead the Cross and the Resurrection are his major themes. In his understanding, the Cross is the indispensable foundation of Christianity. Why? Because sin is worse than we can ever imagine, and the truth is that most Christians only view it as a fault in their morality, not something to get overly concerned about. The fact is that sin is destructive and deadly, especially when understood from an eternal point of view. Sin is so evil only Jesus could deal with it, in other words, our sin cost Him His life. Psychology, philosophy and religion cannot solve it, and in reality can only see the sin problem through fleshly eyes, and so they count it as one of society’s ills, or a blip in a person’s character. With all the soothing words from educationalists and experts, things have become worse rather than better. The answer, and there is only one, for which they are all seeking is found in the Cross alone. Freedom from sin comes through the Cross and what the Lord Jesus Christ did there. This is exactly what John the Baptist announced when he pointed the religious leaders, his disciples and the crowds, to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
So how do we obtain remission of sin? It is received by faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, that is it, no personal merits, works, rituals, religion, just the Cross where Jesus gave His all to redeem us. If He gave Himself, what can we possibly give to do the work ourselves? After 6,000 years of man walking on this Earth, no one has ever been able to put away sin. Those who have tried could never satisfy God’s demands, and nor could they satisfy their own consciences. Some have hid themselves in caves to escape the world, but all they did was get themselves into yet another hole. Sinners cannot dominate sin, it dominates them. So, then, we need a Saviour; someone pure and holy, totally sinless to free us from the power of sin. When a person admits this, that it was for our sin He died, then the power of the Blood of Christ avails for them. Notice Paul says, “our sins”, for everyone is included, none excluded.
Jesus died for all sin, not just the “big” ones. All sin, big or small, deserve God’s wrath.
Faith in a merit system must then fail, because we can never know if our good deeds have paid the price for all our sins. That is where condemnation steps in, for we can never be absolutely certain that we have done enough. Therefore faith in personal worth is no faith at all. Yes, we can try religion to soothe the guilty conscience, but all that does is obscure the message of the Gospel, and thus hinders the very thing God has given to cure our sin problem, which is grace. It is Jesus’ vicarious sacrifice alone, nothing added, nothing taken away. When He cried, “It is finished”, He meant it (John 19:30).
Look again, our text says that “He gave Himself”. Nobody forced Him, no one compelled Him, instead He went freely to Calvary to suffer there for the sin of all humanity. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18). What is more, He did it joyfully! “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). The Father, whose will it was, “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
It was not the nails that held Him there, instead it was His eternal love for sinners. What price could we pay in thanks for such a wonderful deliverance? How much do we owe Him for all He has done for us? He freely gave so we would not have to pay. Only His death was sufficient, and only our faith is required to make the great transaction personal. The Cross is the entire crux of Christianity!
Let us continue, for we cannot move from verse 4 just yet.
“That he might deliver us from this present evil world”. What an awesome declaration! What a mind-boggling promise! Emancipation from slavery to this world, its principles, ethics, religion, politics and morality. Man thinks himself as free, but in truth he is enslaved to Satan. There is absolutely nothing he might do that could possibly purchase his liberty. He tries education and psychology to no avail. Some spiritual experience might work, or so he thinks. It ends in the same way heartache, despair and eventually damnation, yet he keeps trying to improve himself. The answer to the sin problem has been stated over and over again for 2,000 years, but mankind turns a deaf ear to it. “Who hath believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1).
Paul had no problem repeating himself. He reiterated the cure for the sin-sick soul whenever and wherever he had opportunity to do so. Doctrine does matter, but the very centre, and life-force, for all Biblical truth is Christ. “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). When we get bored hearing and reading about our wonderful Saviour’s sacrifice, then we know for sure there is something wrong in our hearts. Spiritual failure must follow if we sidestep the message or divert our attention to something else. Those folk running about preaching some pet doctrine do not do the church any favours, and definitely do not bring lost souls to Christ. The Cross is the only message that saves, and eternity hinges on this truth. The only way to be born again is through the Cross. The only way to be free from the devil’s dominion is to cling to that old rugged Cross. The only way to really see what is going on in this evil world is to view things from the position of the Cross. 2 Corinthians 4:4, speaking of the lost and their spiritual blindness, states, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them”.
Of course, to avoid environmentalists going off on a tangent, “this present evil world” is not referring to the globe with its mythical global warming, water shortage and immigration, instead we are talking about unsaved humanity. One day King Jesus will set the Earth to rights, but until then we have no business involving ourselves with politics, human rights, animal rights or global issues. We must be Christ-centred, Cross-centred and wholly given over to preaching the Gospel. Christians who try to solve world and social problems through political means do not even know the problem, let alone the remedy.
The world system is corrupt; religion is corrupt; it is “evil” (Gk. poneros), meaning it is actively involved in evil. The world is a dangerous place because of this. It is not just man’s sinful nature, but because Satan and his demonic forces are constantly tugging humanity further away from God and the Bible. The powers of darkness are causing the darkness to increase, and to glorify those who proudly oppose the truth of the Gospel of Christ. Ask yourself this question, “Has the world become a better place in my lifetime?” Unless you are living in cloud cuckoo land, you have indeed noticed how bad things have become. They have kicked out the only answer. They totally and stubbornly reject the only one who can free them from their chains. So without Him they have no hope! Such were we before Christ saved us. “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
Paul states that Jesus is the Emancipator, who freed us from this present evil world. In delivering us, He set us apart from the world. It is our responsibility to stay free from it. “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). True citizens of Christ’s Kingdom do this, because this is God’s standard for the Christian life. How can we possible claim to be set free if we are still entangled in sin? “Deliver” is a verb denoting the result of an act, so unless it it a reality, we are deceiving ourselves and need to turn to Christ. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).
Because we have been delivered, and are destined to reign with Christ, the world hates and actively seeks our demise. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19). It hates us because it rejects Christ as Saviour. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).
Paul speaks of continuous victory in Christ, freedom from the works gospel, and freedom from those who peddle it. Only Jesus’ blood can cleanse from sin. Those who believe otherwise are in error, so it is vital to hold fast to this truth it is our freedom. To remain in this freedom, we must be guided by the Holy Spirit and refuse to listen to any other voice. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:14-18).
To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Galatians 1:5).
God gets all the glory for our salvation in Christ. If we had anything to do with our own salvation through good works or religious observances, then a certain amount of glory would be due to us. Would we not boast about our part and make a religion out of it, if we had aught to do with it? The Gospel is never, not even in the minutest detail, anything to do with us or what we could do. We could never be deserving of the grace God bestowed upon us. All we are expected of us is faith to accept.
Amen? Faith in the Cross glorifies God.
Amen so be it – The Cross is an awesome and eternal truth.
Amen also suggests that we need to totally and utterly agree with it.
Amen means we need to participate in it rather than merely give a nod of approval.
You know what? We are going to glorify God for ever and ever because of this saving grace offered to us through the precious Blood of His Son! It does not hurt to practice now. Can I get an Amen?
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel (Galatians 1:6).
Paul’s message is both urgent and straightforward. He severely reprimands the Galatian believers, and in fact there is not even a hint of praise in his opening remarks. He marvelled at their departure from the foundation of assurance. He was amazed at their spiritual stupidity. We could say, using a modern word, he was gobsmacked, that is, totally and utterly astounded. Their defection to a works based teaching was extraordinary to Paul. I do not think that we can fully grasp how he felt, but he must have been sickened by the news he heard, even angered at their abandonment of the Gospel. Better things were expected of this church, and he was highly disappointed in them.
“So soon” here means ‘so quickly and easily’. It seems that they did not need much persuasion to become followers of a false teaching. We can imagine Paul asking, “How is that even possible?” He was amazed at this turn of events because the Galatian church knew the Lord and were secure in the assurance of salvation. This just goes to show that even the strongest church can easily slip into heresy once it stops focusing on Christ. It only takes one person promoting a slight error to bring it down. Paul wanted to halt them sliding deeper into the quagmire of unbelief. He was angry with them and the false teachers, but he was desperately trying to rescue the church.
They had given themselves over to “another gospel”. Not another of the same kind, which is impossible anyhow, since the Gospel is one of a kind, but to a different gospel: a different one entirely. They were exchanging grace for works. The false teachers offered an alternative gospel, a different way to please God, a way to help them feel good about themselves. They could still believe in Jesus, but Moses, the Torah, feasts and rituals had to take prime place in their lives. They, through their adoption of Jewish practices, were removed from Christ, for they had transferred their allegiance to religion. Basically they were turncoats and traitors. They altered their beliefs in favour of a way that even Jews could not walk, and were now heading to total abandonment of the Truth.
Notice what Paul is saying here with the use of the little word “Him”. It was not that they merely had insight into a particular form of religious conduct, but they were “removed from” the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This means they were now rejecting Christ, for they had placed themselves outside of Him, and in so doing they were forsaking salvation. They were being removed from Him that saved them by His grace, through the Blood spilt on Calvary’s Cross, how soon before they were lost? This must be the worst possible error of all. Only judgement awaits such as these, unless they recover their position in Christ by returning to a Cross-centred life. We, no matter how long we have followed Christ, need to be constantly on guard, not just for ourselves, but also for others. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).
Paul speaks of the grace that brought them into Christ, which is the goodness of God freely given to everyone that believes. It is saving grace in this instance, the very foundation which the Cross is planted into. Grace is directly opposite to works. It is a grace that is received by the outstretched hand of faith. Grace unmerited, rich and freely given. Grace received on the basis of simple, childlike faith in the Saviour who died to set them free from sin and this evil world. They were abandoning this grace. They were rejecting the Cross as the only means of salvation. They were putting themselves under a Law that was not designed for them. They now believed that the Law saved and sanctified them and would make them spiritually superior to others who walked merely by faith. The Law was given to convict sinners, that is for sure, but it was for the Jews rather than other nations. This does not imply that the Law, as contained in the Old Testament, does not apply to all people, for indeed it does, but the ceremonial part of the Law was never given to those outside of Judaism. That is all the Law can do, convict of sin. It, as the apostle will later explain, points the sinner to Christ, but, in and of itself, no part of the Law has the ability to save even one lost soul, and it cannot offer grace to anyone. The Law is work, work, and more work to become holy, which is entirely opposite to grace. They knew this, so Paul was bewildered at their desire to follow Judaic laws and practices.
Let us take the time to investigate the absurdity of this other gospel which the Galatian church were following, and in doing so, we might get closer to seeing that some of the teachings that were being propagated at that time are still with us today in the 21st Century.
“Another gospel” – one which nullifies grace. As already mentioned, this kind of belief depends solely on personal merits or achievements for salvation. It pretends to be the Gospel of Christ because of praying, fasting, good deeds and morality. This is the type of belief system that will go on pilgrimages to so-called holy sites, recite long prayers, wear special clothing and attach some credibility to religious items such as candles or blowing a ram’s horn. I know of some who built tents in their homes at the Feast of Tabernacles or who will not turn on a light on the Jewish Sabbath.
The Galatians had begun well, but now were failing. They were listening to falsehood after the Christianised sect of the Pharisees came and taught that it was needful to circumcise them, and that they must keep all the law of Moses. “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). Was Moses finishing the work Jesus started? If Jesus finished the work Himself, what could Moses do? Therefore they were falling from grace, and since salvation is not possible outside of grace, they were slipping into an accused life and destruction. That was the effect of the false gospel they were listening too, for it could not bring life and blessing, then it must bring the curse and death.
Notice that it was more than just a different gospel. Satan could not get a completely different gospel by them, for they would have thrown it out without a second thought. It was another, a similar gospel, and initially it would have sounded like their new teachers truly loved the Lord, but in fact Satan was seeking to corrupt the church. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). It is no marvel that Satan works like this, but it is a marvel that good, solid, Bible-believing Christians and churches fall for the Hebrew Roots deception.
Every other gospel contradicts the true Gospel in some way or form. It twists and questions the Word of God to make the teaching plausible enough to believe. Satan has done this from the beginning. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). Then, as a consequence of listening to a false interpretation of Scripture, further errors are introduced. Eve’s reply to Satan reveals this, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 1:2-3). Of course, God never commanded the final point of her statement, she added that herself. She gave the devil the foothold he needed to defeat her and bring sin into the world. “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). In other words he was saying that his version of the gospel truth was correct, everything she had heard from Adam was incorrect. His way would make her more spiritual and make her superior.
Listen to false teaching leads to a works religion. It started with Eve, and continued with her firstborn son. “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:3-5). Cain thought he could bring his own sacrifice of hard work to the Lord as an alternative to the lamb sacrifice that was commanded. He rejected the blood sacrifice for sin, and considered his ‘harvest festival’ offering was enough to please the Lord. God gave him chance to repent and set things straight, but instead he rebelled against Him, and then went off to kill the one who was already pleasing God through faith in the blood sacrifice.
Paul considered the false teachers to be evil workers in the employ of Satan. “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 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; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:26). He calls them savage dogs whose only thought is to rip faith and grace from the believers who trust in Christ alone for salvation. Paul could have easily turned out like them, for he used to be Pharisee that hated all things Christian, but he saw the light, and Jesus set him free from Judaism. He knew more about Hebrew laws, customs, rituals and ceremonies than they did collectively, yet the Galatians were choosing to believe the Judaizer’s interpretation of the Scriptures.
This another gospel becomes the ecclesiastical traditions of our day. False teachers who elevate themselves to positions of priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. These religious leaders who deceive people by hiding the true light of the Bible from their congregations. Just as the false teachers opposed Paul, so they oppose us today. Religious people do not understand the atonement of Christ, for they think that their rituals protect them from the wages of sin. They love their rites, holy days and prayer books too much to trust in Christ. “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Galatians 4:10). Their whole view of what is true Christianity is skewed.
These false teachers were not saved, for salvation is always by grace through faith, and there can be no compromise here. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Why did they teach differently? It is because they believed differently. Things that appear on the surface to be the same can be highly dangerous. China counterfeits almost every piece of technology, but the United Kingdom will not endorse the products. Those who think they have bought a bargain are in for a hasty surprise.
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:7).
Things that are different cannot be the same, therefore an ecumenical Christianity which endorses everything but the Gospel, will damn both the teachers and their followers. This is what the apostle is referring to by “which is not another”, or if you like, ‘there is no other gospel’. It’s interesting to note that the Book of Mormon is subtitled “Another Gospel”, which supposedly transmitted to Joseph Smith through the fiction angel Moroni. Is this, or any other gospel, to be added to the Holy Bible? Certainly not! Excuse the intended pun, but you would have to be a moron to accept that. Every other gospel is a perversion, yet each one seeks to be added alongside Bible truth. The church today thinks it is ok to add Hebrew Roots, Catholicism, Yoga and even Islam. How stupid!
There is not, and there can never be another gospel instead of, or placed alongside, the Gospel of Christ, because wherever there is religion, you will find a Cross-less approach to God. Very specifically, the Gospel is Christ and Him Crucified, everything else, no matter how pleasing to the eye or ear, is a counterfeit. This “another” is a cancer of corruption. How can the other gospel be equally good news then? Salvation by works is bad news to the soul. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:57). Think about it, just how many works should we do to have the assurance of forgiveness and a place secured in Heaven? How could we know we’ve done enough? The religion of the works gospel offers no assurance. Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians wrote, “If you do nit build your confidence on the work of Christ you must build your confidence on your own work”. This is exactly what all religionists do.
The Jesus that the new gospel teachers were promoting was unrecognisable by those who knew better. “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:4). Those listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit can never fall into error, and as such will not be troubled by alternative gospels. But the Galatians were in deep trouble: it was caused by what the false teachers were indoctrinating them with. They stopped being guided by the Spirit of God, but were listening to another spiritual entity, one that pretended to speak for God. As stated earlier, the Hebrew Roots adherents are in spiritual trouble, and they bring trouble with them wherever they go.
Pervert the Gospel of Christ? Of course, in the truest sense, that cannot be done, for it will remain pure for all eternity. But this is exactly what false teachers seek to do. They cannot actually corrupt the incorruptible, but they can persuaded people to listen to accept something that sounds the same, and as a result turn them around and point them in another direction. Through this they are able to pervert the faith of many, change grace into works, rituals, feasts, point to personal morality and away from the Cross. Grace and works are incompatible. The word used for “pervert” here is ‘metastrephai’ in the Greek. It is used in Scripture to speak about a complete turn about. In Acts 2:20 it is used to say that the sun will be “turned into darkness”, and also in James 4:9 where “laughter” is “turned to mourning”. They turned God’s free grace into salvation by works, thus they perverted the Gospel of Christ. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).
Would the false teachers purposely deceive? Were they merely sincerely wrong? They obviously worked hard, travelled long to teach others, and were determined to establish their own brand of Christianity. They must have had at least a basic knowledge of Scripture, Christ and salvation, so how did they miss grace? What were they studying? Christ or the Law? If they studied Christ they would have taught grace themselves and delighted in the message Paul was preaching. They relied upon rituals for salvation, and thus placed themselves in the realms of evil. This is what Paul clearly states next.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8).
Paul’s critics said that he invented the teaching of unmerited favour in the Cross. They claimed they were the official teachers of the Gospel. He vehemently denounced and cursed them. “Accursed” means ‘damned, condemned, anathematised’. Today he would be deemed to be unloving, intolerant and politically incorrect, but this is how strongly he felt about the issue. Anyone who teaches a doctrine that undermines the Cross is damned. The Glory of Christ and salvation are at stake, and the false teachers were diluting grace and faith. “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21). So if the false teachers are right then Christ’s sacrifice was totally meaningless and utterly insufficient to save sinners. Therefore faith in Him is ridiculously insane if religious works can redeem.
What was Paul’s attitude to the Judaizer’s version of Christianity? Surely condemning someone to Hell for preaching alternative ways to God is not something Jesus would do, or is it? “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Since Paul was right, then the false teachers are indeed doomed. Not only has he the words of Jesus to back him up, but even the Law of Moses states something similar (see Deuteronomy 13:1-10). At least the Judaizers in Paul’s day could be thankful that true Christians did not place themselves under the Old Covenant!
God’s angels would not speak error, but we know that the fallen angels do. Even if an angel of God spoke something contrary to the Cross, he would have to be rejected. Angels supposedly gave both Joseph Smith and Mohammed new teaching (Book of Mormon and the Qur’an), which are designed to keep people from Christ. Where the Galatians were unaware of the seriousness of what they were involving themselves with? The Gospel is grace plus nothing. Not Moses, the Law, rituals or ceremonies in addition to the Cross. There is no room for man’s opinions regarding the way of salvation.
Any other gospel, coming from within or outside of Christianity, is always satanic in nature. The word “any” is absolutely vital in this context, for no deviations or departures from the Gospel is permitted. Everything else, no matter how similar, is false. Avoid preachers who teach a works gospel or anything that inspires doubt in the sufficiency of Christ or the infallibility of the written Word of God. Anything like this must be totally ignored and rejected. We do not even have to debate the issue with them. What they teach is a curse on the church, therefore all of us are accountable here. Cooperation with false teachers is perilous. God cannot bless us if we fellowship with them or assist them in any way.
The gospel of Christ is remarkably simple. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that 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” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Nothing more, nothing less than this is the soul-saving Gospel once delivered to the saints. False teachers cannot grasp this, for they, like all religionists, manipulate the truth and hide behind complicated rituals and mystery concepts. Those who trust in Christ do not find the way of salvation mysterious nor complicated. It is not a difficult doctrine to grasp, for it is understood to be the free unmerited favour of God towards us. It is no more difficult to grasp than the extended hand towards a drowning man. He does not question if the procedure will be difficult, and he would not ask his rescuer if there is a charge for the service being offered. It is no different from the dying thief who was promised a place in Paradise with Christ on the basis of faith alone. He did not start practicing Judaic laws, ask to be covered with a prayer shawl or blow a shofar. He simply believed in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. That is it. Full Stop. It is Finished! Jesus paid the price in full for our salvation. Never allow the Gospel to be diluted, and do not feel obligated to debate with false teachers. I have yet to find anywhere in Galatians anything that suggests that we should pray for the promoters of falsehood who bring damnation instead of life. Of course we should pray for them, but it just goes to show how seriously Paul took this attack on the Cross of Jesus. In fact, he is going to repeat himself regarding this.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:9).
Why the seeming repetition of verse 8? In reality it is not repetition as we shall see, instead it is a sequel. The fact that Paul is restating his view proves that he is making his teaching very personal. If we were to consider even minor alterations to the Gospel to accommodate works based teachings, then we would not be taking the Gospel very seriously at all. We simply cannot budge from the significance of the Cross, and we will not reconsider grace in light of what other religious notions might state. “Any man” means ‘anyone’, whoever they may be. Not just the false teachers, but everyone who promotes or distributes a false gospel is cursed. The Gospel that Paul taught was not the result of intensive study or personal wisdom, instead it was given to him by God through revelation, therefore it cannot be modified in any way.
The Galatians were heading towards spiritual slavery. Paul knew this because he had once lived under the Law, therefore he had no choice but to condemn this error in the severest possible terms. Everyone can preach what they want, but it does not make what they say the truth. So Paul firmly emphasises the true Gospel, and those with him fully endorse his teaching. Notice “we” at the beginning of verse 9, for the message was not just his point of view.
Some have suggested that Paul was being highly negative and too critical of those who could be deemed his fellow ministers. If Jesus alone is Saviour, then all others who claim to be able to deliver a soul from damnation are false. So if that is being negative or critical of other people’s beliefs, then so be it. When the eternal destiny of souls is at stake, there is no room for sugar-coated pleasantries. All erroneous ways to God are cursed, as negative as that might sound to the liberal ear, it still remains true. But if we want the positive side of the Gospel, then we must believe John 3:16 as God’s way of salvation: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. What an amazing positive that we can share with others! Let us tell the world about God’s love, but we cannot divorce it from the fact that only faith in His Son and what He accomplished for us on Calvary’s Cross, is the means of eternal life. What us more, we cannot ignore John 3:18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son”.
If Christ is rejected, then there is no hope for anyone. Justification by faith is the only valid way, and therefore all false teachings must be denounced. Christians must be warned against false teachers, not given a series of studies on what the cults teach. Think about it … if we know the Word of God, we will spot heresy and have a Scriptural reason why we reject it. But do we. not need to arm ourselves with information about the teachings of the cults? As valuable as that might be, in reality we are already armed when we firmly grasp the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (see Ephesians 6 and Hebrews 4:12). The Galatians did not have any book on the Kingdom of the Cults, but they did have the Word of God, and ought to have known better than to be mislead by alternative gospels. They had been delivered from pagan bondage and idol worship. The Gospel had set them free from idolatrous rituals, ceremonies and feast days. Now, because of the Hebrew Roots teaching, they were retreating back into darkness. If they continued and gave up on the sufficiency of the Cross, then they were lost. Remember what has been stated many times so far, false gospels do not save but damn people.
Notice how Paul once again reapplies the curse. False teachers proclaim blessings if their doctrines are adhered to. This is true of the Word of Faith preachers who deceive Christians into thinking that they can be debt free. The Hebrew Roots teaching promises that one can become more spiritual if Jewish customs are practiced and if the Hebrew language is learnt. But they can only produce a curse on people, so many end up mentally ill and spiritually destroyed when they realise they cannot achieve the high standards of the works gospel they have bought into. God’s judgement is on all who twist the truth, so the results of falsehood are unavoidable. “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:1819).
For 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 (Galatians 1:10).
Is grace designed to please sinners? Is grace a way of overlooking sin? Some see it as easy-believism or an attempt to shirk personal responsibility. Those who take the doctrine of grace to unBiblical realms, especially those involved with hyper-grace, are certainly guilty of this. That position is just as extreme as the works gospel. What Paul presents is not the middle ground between the two, for the Gospel of the Cross is the only ground, and it defines all others as sinking sand.
“Now” reveals Paul’s present position. As a Pharisee he sought to please the high priest, and he curried the favour of the religious. “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 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” (Acts 9:12). He was now a servant of Christ, and because of this he had to speak the truth. His authority now was the Word of God. His commission now was to preach the Gospel. Back then he hated the Church of Christ, now he loved it with a passion only the Spirit of God could give.
Men or God? Where did his message originate? Paul suffered much for his dedication to Christ, so basically, he did not care what man thought. He was not going to be silent about grace. As with Paul, we do not seek to please men but God alone, and as a result we often must speak out against false teaching. If something is dragging souls down to Hell, we cannot keep silent. If Paul was a manpleaser he would not have condemned anyone. If he merely wanted to move up in the ranks of authority in the church, he would not have spoken so harshly about those in Jerusalem who condoned the preaching of the Judaizers. If he was a pleaser of men, why did the false teachers hate him so much? He did not preach the doctrines of men or remain silent when they taught things contrary to sound doctrine. His message was from the power of the Holy Spirit, and this irritated the false teachers. All they could do was slander and belittle him before others. In fact, it was the false teachers who were the menpleasers. They pleased themselves and each other. “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).
Paul, the onetime servant of the high priest, was now the servant of Christ. He was enthralled with Moses, now he loved the Lord and His people. He was dedicated to the One who met him on the Damascus Road. Therefore he could not serve both men and God at the same time. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Neither did he seek flattery. We get the impression that he would have been perturbed if he had received it. “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Have you noticed how the false teachers flatter each other so that they will be invited to speak at each other’s churches and conferences?
The Christian’s joy is to please God, and like Paul, live to glorify Christ. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man (Galatians 1:11).
Paul’s teaching in all his letters comes from the Holy Spirit. The Gospel he taught is the Gospel of Christ and Him Crucified. He preached the grace of God, and it is certain that grace is not the invention of man, for no one in any religion since the dawn of time had ever come up with the doctrine of unmerited favour, the free gift of salvation for simply believing the message. This truth was not concocted while studiously following Judaic rules and regulations, instead it began to be powerfully revealed to him in that life changing moment on the Damascus Road.
“Certify”, a guarantee of truth. Paul is reminding the Galatians about the facts. He had already told them, including his life as a radical Pharisee, and how the Lord Jesus Christ had changed him forever. They knew that he used to be locked into the spiritual darkness of religion. Here he is simply restating his testimony. If they believed that Christ had delivered him, their teacher, from bondage to the law of Moses, why on Earth were they believing the Judaizers? It did not make any sense to him.
In the midst of his rebuke, the tenderness shines through by calling them “brethren”. As brethren they belonged to Christ, so he had not lost hope for their recovery. He loved them and wanted to be in perfect unity with them in Christ.
Paul is here laying out the facts of his commission. What he preached was God’s Word. This is either blasphemy or absolute truth. The Judaizers claimed that he had no apostolic authority, since none of the leaders of the Jerusalem church had laid hands on him or given him their approval. If he was not commissioned by Team Jerusalem, then he was not to be regarded as a bonafide preacher. Paul is stating that he needs no man’s approval, pat on the back or right hand of fellowship. “I certify” makes this very clear.
“Not after man” – the word “man” here is borrowed from racial terminology rather than simply being a figure of speech. He was under no human, religious or ethnic authority. His teaching was neither Jewish nor Gentile. Therefore the Gospel of the Cross cannot be measured by human thought, philosophy or religion. The Judaizers were preaching a purely Hebrew gospel that could in fact not please either Judaism or Gentiles. We see then that the Hebrew Roots teaching finds itself with a huge dilemma, in that it is actually racially motivated. They are eager to create Jewish Christians from Gentile stock. I know some in that movement who call themselves Jewish Christians, but they have not a drop of Jewish blood in their veins. It is the sheer madness of self-deception. The crazy part is that the church is largely Gentile, yet no one goes around promoting Gentile Roots. Also, have you noticed that the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation are all Gentile churches, not a Jewish one amongst them? Sadly the believers in Jerusalem were allowing religion to direct them. The Gospel had been diluted by the Law there, because they were heavily influenced by the Pharisee sect.
Paul is stating that he had been authorised directly by Christ. The claim that he was not an apostle is foolishness. Yes, he was not ordained by men. He needed no certificate of ordination from Jerusalem. His message did not come from his own mind, for until Jesus stopped him in his tracks, he was steeped in Judaism. Because he was transformed by Christ, he did not conform to man’s ideals or religious aspirations.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it , but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12).
Paul taught New Testament truth, which is the revelation was New Covenant, thus all about Christ and Him Crucified. He majored on Jesus as the Messiah, not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles too. He declared that faith in Him alone is sufficient for salvation. The sacrifice on the Cross both fulfils and supersedes the Law. This revelation was revealed to him while he was in Arabia.
He did not learn the truth from his Pharisee theology, instead he received it from the Holy Spirit by direct revelation. Gamaliel, the Jewish master of theology, could not teach Paul these truths. Paul says, “I did not receive it from any human being”, which must include his own very capable thought processes. This also indicates that he was independent of the twelve apostles in Jerusalem. No one there taught him the body of Christian knowledge. Judaism taught him the Law rather than grace, so his doctrine was not a product or an extension of that. “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day” (Acts 22:3).
The Message of the Cross was from the Lord Christ Himself, proving that the message must not be changed in any way. Once the Cross is ignored, Christianity fails, and religion will quickly fill the void. This was true with Germany in the 1930s. For decades the nation steadily rejected God and His Word, and produced many Bible critics within its churches, which became what is known as Liberal Theology. Liberal theologians discredited the Scriptures enough to cause doubt about the reliability of the sacred text. This paved the way for evil to take over, and once Hitler came to power, he and the Nazis introduced many occult practices that even the churches were willing to go along with. The elimination of the Jews and Bible-believing Christians got under way. Once the Bible is rejected and the Cross abandoned, evil will always fill the vacuum.
The Message of the Cross is all about the salvation of souls. There can be no salvation outside of Christ and the Cross, so individuals, churches and nations slide into destruction once they attempt to remove the only means of salvation. Paul fully understood his Godgiven responsibility, and was determined to keep the message pure. If the message came by “revelation” then it means that something had to be removed, something that was concealing it. “Revelation” here means ‘to uncover or make plain’ the truth. The truth that was previously veiled by religion, philosophy, tradition, theology and personal morality. The very things that he mentions in Philippians 3:2-6. To restate what Paul is saying, the Message of the Cross was a revelation, one which is the very cornerstone of Christianity. “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself” (Ephesians 1:9).
Here is Paul’s explanation of the revelation. “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:311). The word revelation is exactly the same Greek word used in Revelation 1, apokalupsis, which is “the revelation of Jesus Christ”. Though the Book of Revelation deals with futuristic events, both it and the Message of the Cross are equally the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Please do not misunderstand this text. The full extent of the Gospel was hidden from view until it was revealed to the apostle Paul. Until that point it could be termed a mystery, for it was spoken of all the way through the Old Testament beginning at Genesis 3:15 … “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”. But it is no longer a mystery, it is a revelation that made known the power of the Cross. Revelation imparted the ability to understand, just as Joseph and Daniel were inspired by the Holy Spirit in their day. Jesus personally revealed the Gospel to Paul as He led him through the Scriptures. It is indeed the revelation of the Cross by Christ Himself. His divinity, ministry and Messiahship are all expounded upon by Paul. Religion can never understand, and therefore cannot teach the true Gospel. No one outside of Christ can fathom the power of the Blood or the majesty of God’s Word. Without the Holy Spirit, who only works within the revelation of the Cross, it is impossible to comprehend the glories of Calvary. “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God … 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” (1 Corinthians 2:10,14).
Such claims by Paul regarding revealed truth may seem preposterous. Did not Mohammed and Joseph Smith, make similar claims? True, but the Holy Spirit totally backed up Paul. There is only one Gospel and that is Christ and Him Crucified.
Paul reveals the true meaning of Old Testament types and symbols in several of his letters. If the Epistle to the Hebrews is indeed his work, and contents appear to confirm that it was written by him, then he expounded on Judaic ritual and personages to show that in some way or another they pointed to Christ. In a very real sense the Old Covenant prepared for the New, but only faith in the New Covenant eternally saves. A shadow is not anything really, for it has nothing that we can hold on to. The shadow is there because the light is shining on something else. With this in mind, let us note the following texts. “Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:17) … “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5) … “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect” (Hebrews 10:1). The shadows left by Old Testament typology were ever decreasing until the glorious noon of Christ’s manifestation in the flesh. I find it remarkable that Paul met Jesus under the full blaze of the noonday sun. “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me” (Acts 26:13).
This is part of the revelation he received. Revelation uncovers the truths spoken of in the Old Testament, which could not be fully understood even by those who spoke or prophesied. Everything there pointed to Christ. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Once He came into the world, the Old Testament was more than a book of Jewish customs, rules and regulations, it became God’s Prophetic Message about His Son. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Paul simply restated the Old Covenant revelations and proved that they all spoke of Christ. If Paul had remained a Pharisee we might not be discussing this today, for through his ministry the Message of the Cross reached most of Europe, and eventually his Christ-centred theology covered the whole earth. Two-thirds of the New Testament is from the hand of Paul, so the church would indeed be spiritually impoverished without the revelation that lone Jew received from Christ.
For 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 (Galatians 1:13).
Paul now speaks of his life before conversion. Paul was not converted in Judaism, or by Judaism, but from Judaism. This is not a testimony as such, instead it is more of a declaration of what his nature, character, upbringing and worldview was like before he was born-again. He speaks of the radical change that took place, a transformation that cannot be accounted for under or produced by Judaism. He reminds us that he violently opposed Christianity. He makes mention in other epistles how he was determined to eradicate Christianity from Israel. “I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9) … “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church” (Philippians 3:6) … “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).
“Conversation” here refers to his lifestyle, way of life, which was fully dedicated to Judaism, and in his mind, pleasing to God. Like all religious people, he thought that his dedication and hard work merited favour with God. “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 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” (Philippians 3:35). He was a Jew by birth. He was a Pharisee by theology. He was zealous for the Law. He went out of his way to persecute Christians.
“Ye have heard” is a reminder that they already knew the facts concerning his old life and how he was converted. The transformation was total and complete. Where he had been relentlessly religious, now he was passionately preaching the Gospel.
The “Jews religion” was the source of his lifestyle, his very life-blood, the thing that made him tick. He was taught the interpretations of the Law, man’s commentary on God’s Word that hide the truth. In reality, so he is claiming, he knew nothing of what the Scriptures actually taught until he met Christ. This is true of all who were indoctrinated by religion before receiving Christ as Saviour. In my case it was Roman Catholicism, a religion that has always hid the Scriptures from its followers but imposed multitudes of laws and obligations instead. In doing so, the papacy states that its teaching is above that of the Bible. “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). Roman Catholicism is no more Christian than Paul was under Judaism. Freedom from the chains of Christless religion comes the moment the Holy Spirit reveals the Saviour in the World. “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Colossians 2:2023).
What Judaism teaches is not what we as Christians, either Jewish or Gentile, have to or ought to obey. The above quoted text clearly states that the practicing of such things as dietary laws, feast days and the interpretations of religious teachers can only bring spiritual death. People who follow them may indeed feel good about themselves, but they driven further from Christ than towards Him.
The interpretations of man are additions to the Law. These additions eventually became Judaism. Notice Paul writes “Jew’s religion” rather than the Jew’s faith, for religion, though it is often called faith in the world, might as well be atheism when compared to Biblical faith. He is saying that Judaism was corrupted by the Rabbinical Commentaries. We must understand that Bible Commentaries are the work of fallible men, and therefore should never be seen as being inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is especially true if commentaries only offer a head knowledge of a particular theological slant instead of pointing the reader solely to Christ.
So why are Christians adopting Jewish practices? Religion is always man’s attempt to please God and to appear to be superior to everyone else. Religion cannot ever please God. True Biblical faith is not religion and certainly needs none of its interpretations of the Bible. In the same way that the pope of Rome says nothing I need to hear, so the Rabbinical teachers are void of any truth. Religion is a code of ethics, that is, good deeds that are inline with the particular sect or ideology. All the world’s religions are based on works, and this includes Judaism. Christianity is not a religion attempting to placate God and convince Him of personal worthiness, instead it is a relationship with Christ. The Judaizers were imposing religion and robbing believers of their faith in Christ.
Paul used the single word ‘Ioudaismos’ (Gk) or Judaism for “Jew’s religion”. This was his former life, one which he was delivered from, and one which the church should not be engaging with. Hebrew Roots is not another acceptable way to God, it is an abomination in the sight of God. There is only one way, which Jude terms “the common salvation” found only in the Gospel “which was once delivered” to believers. Like Paul, Jude encouraged Christians to stay firmly established to the Message of the Cross and not allow anyone to bring in other versions of it. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude :3).
“Wasted”: that is where Paul’s Jewish piety took him. He had murder in his heart, and because of his religion he was part of the Taliban of his day. He sought to destroy the Church of God. “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and 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. [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 (Acts 26:9-11). Those who heard him preach, even the Jews, were surprised by his radical transformation. “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?” (Acts 9:31). Now instead of destroying the church “he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15:41).
Pay attention to his terminology here. He could have said ‘church of Christ’, but chose a more poignant phrase to denote that the church does indeed belong to God, and since it is also the church of Christ, Jesus must be God. Also it is not Judaism but the church that God is using to proclaim the message of salvation. In a simple turn of phrase Paul destroys both the “Jews’ religion” of his day and the Hebrew Roots Movement of this era. Again, wherever the Christianised form of Judaism goes it wastes rather than builds. The Jews must join the church to be Christians. What a travesty it is then that some think they must join Judaism to be part of the Body of Christ! Christianity alone is the church of God, and Paul left Judaism to join the church. Does that fact not speak volumes?
And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers (Galatians 1:14).
Paul points to his extreme hostility to Christianity while acting on behalf of the High Priest. He was Judaism’s poster boy, the Pharisee everyone looked up to. He was a true representative of his religion. Only Christ could have converted such a hardheaded bigot as this. He says that he “profited” in his religious activities. This illustrates that he was the best, most zealous, and that he studied hard to get the highest grades, and of course receive the applause of men. He was not a hypocrite to his religion, but instead he acted upon his beliefs even if that included eradicating Christianity through the foulest of means. Gamaliel awarded him five stars in everything. When all is considered, Paul was brainwashed and groomed to be religiously wicked.
“Traditions of my fathers” – This phrase reveals the motivation that propelled him forward. It was not Biblical truth, but the teachings of the Rabbinical teachers than were honoured by Judaism, especially the Pharisees. His every thought and action was governed by these traditions and interpretations of the Law. He was indoctrinated and brainwashed from childhood for a mission such as this. Though he studied the Law and knew that it pointed to the need of the Saviour, the Rabbis clouded his thinking so that he could not see clearly. Instead of faith, he had the hope that his personal achievements would qualify him as a true Pharisee.
All he believed were additions to God’s Word. These traditions replaced the Scriptures.
Traditions that which have been handed down and increased with new layers of interpretation. The word tradition isn’t used in the Old Testament, but comes from teachers in the Maccabean period of Israel’s history. The Pharisees were influenced by Babylonian paganism, and they read the Bible through the eyes of Greek philosophy. No wonder then that Paul would write, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
This is exactly where the church is today. Traditions, philosophy and religion makes the Word of God ineffective, not in itself, but the the hearts of those who hear the Gospel. When speaking with Roman Catholics about their need to read the Bible to find out what it really says about salvation, the reply usually has something to do with church tradition. In the religious mind tradition trumps truth. “But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? … And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. … Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye (Matthew 15:3,6. Mark 7:89, 13).
The apostle’s tradition pointed to Christ, but the traditions of the Judaizers pointed to Moses. Apostolic tradition never contradicts Scripture, so commentaries and interpretations that cause doubt must be avoided. Preachers who teach works should be ignored completely. False teachers always demand obedience – their rules, views, religion must be practiced no matter what the student of Scripture believes. Paul abandoned traditions for the truth. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace (Galatians 1:15).
God Himself brought about Paul’s conversion. No human agency was involved at the initial stage of this, therefore no one, not even the apostles, could take any credit in bringing him to Christ. Some say that the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, might have played a part and tweaked his conscience. This is unlikely, since it only seemed to intensify his resolve to eradicate the church. He had tasted blood and desired more. His salvation was not according to anything about himself, instead it was totally the work of God. I must add that this does not then prove irresistible grace or the predestination notions of Calvinism, or more precisely, Augustinianism. On the Damascus Road Paul was given the choice to follow or reject Jesus, for there was no need for any display of Christ’s glory if he was already predestined to be saved. If these Calvinistic doctrines are true, then would he not have become a believer anyway? Paul’s will was broken in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he submitted himself to His service.
It was God’s doing and according to His good pleasure. Not the forcing of someone to submit to Christ, but the offer of salvation received by faith. Did God have His eye on Paul from birth? Of course He did, but that still does not prove predestination, for Christ is the True Light “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). God certainty chose him for the purpose of taking the Message of the Cross to the world, but Paul had the choice to obey or not. This is very similar to the calling of Samson, Jeremiah and John the Baptist, in that God had chosen them either before birth for their calling.
We could ask why the original twelve apostles were not called for this mission. Were they not called by Christ to take the Gospel to the world? Why then was it necessary to choose another to do the job? It is possible that God knew that the disciples would get too wrapped up in Judaism, but then so was Paul and to a greater extent. He would use someone who would be thoroughly indoctrinated by Gamaliel, which the disciples obviously were not. Someone who had learnt all the traditions. Someone who would think of himself as superior to others, even above his teachers. Paul was the only one who fitted the bill. He knew what he was talking about when it came to Judaism.
“Separated me from my mother’s womb” has a deeper application that what we read on the surface. The Pharisees saw themselves as the separated ones, the untouchables. They were chosen after they graduated. Paul was separated by and for God. He graduated in Christ’s presence. The Pharisee’s calling was according to special merit. Paul’s calling was all of grace and not of hard works. “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:1521).
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:58).
Paul’s calling was according to and all of grace. He was called to teach and preach the Cross. He was called out of Judaism, for what other religion could Christianity possible come out from? Those who dismiss Israel’s part in the plan of God, fail to see that Christianity could never have come from pagan religion. Paul was called from an evil state, despite being an extremely pious Jew. His calling had to involve the miraculous to convince him of the errors of Judaism. “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:3-6).
God’s grace was upon and working through him. Never once does he elevate himself above the original apostles, as he did with his Rabbinical teachers. He humbled himself rather than thinking he was someone special or superior to others in the Lord’s service. “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:810).
The above text reveals that Paul was a hard worker for Christ after conversion, not for salvation, but because of it. So it did not matter what his accusers said, he knew the Lord. “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:11-12). Paul gives the glory to God, and he knows that he deserved none of what God called him to. Our salvation is identical to Paul’s, but our calling is different (positionally). Faith in Christ alone guarantees salvation. The method was, is and remains the Cross. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved … Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 2:21, 4:12).
To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus (Galatians 1:16-17).
Paul restates that he received the Message of the Cross directly from God. This was by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. If he had arranged a conference in Jerusalem with the apostles, no doubt the Judaizers would have caused so much trouble that nothing would have been achieved. Many theologians debate Christianity, however it usually amounts to a degrading of what Jesus accomplished for mankind on the Cross. What was it God revealed to him? It could not have been merely the life of Jesus during His thirty three years on Earth. Paul could easily have found that out from Mary and the disciples. It could not have been about Him being the Messiah, for Paul came to terms with that and Divinity of Christ on the Damascus Road. The revelation can be nothing other than the unfolding of God’s eternal plan in the sacrifice of His Son on Calvary. The Holy Spirit would have opened up the Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi to show Paul the scarlet thread that ran through them. It was not the Law that was revealed to him, but the One the Law pointed to. The Spirit of God would have taken the same approach as Jesus when He revealed how the Scriptures spoke of Him. “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:4447). This is what the Jewish leaders failed to see, despite the fact that the Lord told them to go and study the Bible. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).
The Message of the Cross is for all. The same cannot be said of the Law of Moses, by which I mean the ceremonial laws rather than the Ten Commandments, for those are only for the Jews and never for the Gentiles. Gentiles have no business practicing Jewish rituals or following customs pertaining to the same. Paul preached Christ, which includes the Cross, not Moses and the Law. If you search all of his epistles you will not find a single instance where he encourages anyone to partake in Judaic religion. He grasped the true meaning of the Law, and expounded on it to teach that Jesus was the fulfilment of the Law.
Since Paul did not set up a discussion group or steering committee to fathom the meaning of the crucifixion of Christ, and, as it seems, the Holy Spirit forbade him conferring with flesh and blood, Paul must have gone into isolation until God moved him to take the Message to the world. The weakness and ignorance of human intellect would have no part in the formation of the revelation in the apostle’s heart. He had to relearn what he knew in light of the Cross. Where the Law was a dead religious dogma, now it would spring into life as the Holy Spirit revealed Christ in it. “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
“Immediately”, that is how important it was. Paul needed to get away from men, for their influence may have changed his mind. He needed to get alone with God. The Holy Spirit allowed no interference, and so Paul was directed to go to Arabia. What he learned there is the only good thing that has come out of the place. Everything that followed has been warped religion. Notice an important detail here. He went to Arabia to receive the Message of the Cross, just as Moses received the Law in the same place, “Mount Sinai in Arabia” (Galatians 4:25). Jerusalem, the headquarters of the church, would appear like the logical location to receive such an important revelation, especially since the Temple was there and it was the place in which Jesus died. But the Holy Spirit chose Arabia, the place where the Old Covenant was revealed, and now superseded by the revelation of the New. There was far too much religion in Jerusalem, so a less populated place was chosen. Please do not misunderstand what is being said here. The mention of Arabia does not imply that Paul climbed Mount Sinai to be with God to receive a special revelation, the text does not say this. Arabia included Damascus, Jordan and Edom, so it is more than likely that he chose some secluded spot in the region, but away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to avoid distractions. The light shone on the Damascus Road, and it intensified in Arabia. Jesus had promised to appear to Paul again and reveal the Message that he was to take to the Gentiles. It was here that Jesus kept His promise. “And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:15-18 emphasis mine).
Chronology of events:
* Paul preached in Damascus.
* Went to Arabia.
* Jesus blasted away the traditions.
* The Rabbinical interpretations were destroyed.
* All man made laws became rubble.
* The true reason for the Law was revealed.
* The message of the Cross was revealed.
* Paul understood what grace is.
* After his stay in Arabia he returned to Damascus.
* Then after three years ministering in Damascus he travelled to Jerusalem.
It should be pointed out here that some commentators suggest that the three years is from the Damascus Road experience to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem. The question is, did he spend three years in Arabia or Damascus? Did it take the Lord three years to teach him the Message of the Cross. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that he spent some time in Arabia, but the majority of the three years mentioned was spent preaching in Damascus, cut short only when the Jews arrived to stir up trouble. “Three years’ possibly does begin at his conversion. The three years were spent somewhere, so we can leave it at that.
Why go to Damascus before going to Jerusalem? Damascus was the first place he went to destroy the church. Now he was going there to rebuild the church. What a glorious transformation! You could not make this story up!
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:18-19).
“And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 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? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him” (Acts 9:1924).
Upon hearing that Saul, now Paul, was back on the scene, this time preaching the Gospel of Christ, the religious leaders sent their henchmen to kill him. The situation got so bad that the apostle had no choice but to leave the city in a very dramatic way. “Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket” (Acts 9:25).
A little over three years after his conversion he felt to go to Jerusalem to preach and teach the Message of the Cross. His visit to Damascus was eventful, his stay in Jerusalem would be much more so. Talk about ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’! This was either madness or the leading of the Holy Spirit.
On his arrival in Jerusalem some were suspicious of Paul’s motives. Others were worried about this new teaching. “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). Thankfully Barnabas, who lived up to the meaning of his name … “son of consolation”, stepped up to the mark to help Paul. Here was a “Levite” from Greek origin that became a believer in Jesus Christ. He was considered to be a “prophet” in the church (Acts 4:36, 13:1). It was Barnabas who encouraged Paul to go and meet with the apostles. God always has His man on the spot to assist in time of need. “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him” (Acts 9:2729).
Paul was not in any way opposed to the apostles, but he did have a problem was with the Judaizers who had attached themselves to them. These religious people had, in part, influenced the leadership of the Jerusalem church. This, I believe, is one of the reasons why God could not fully use them, and why that church eventually faded out. The Gospel is not subject to denominations of course, but there are those who are so far removed from Biblical standards to render them useless. Committees put their own personal bias above the Word of God.. Paul did not go to consult anyone about his ministry, instead he went to teach them the truth.
Paul stayed with Peter for fifteen days, so it seems obvious that they got along and had no major disagreements over doctrine or the Message of the Cross. The mention of Peter ought not be seen as though he was the leader of the church. He may have been for a while, but on another occasion it seems like James had the role. This dismisses the nonsense about Peter being the first pope.
Peter had already preached to the Gentiles (Cornelius’ household), so he was no stranger to the leading of the Holy Spirit regarding the Gospel being delivered to non-Jews. But Paul would have impressed upon Peter the true significance of the Cross, and Peter would have instructed him about the life of Christ to a deeper degree that he already knew. There was a mature, godly exchange of experiences and teaching, otherwise Peter would given Paul the left boot of disfellowship instead of the right hand of fellowship. Peter was honouring Christianity’s onetime chief opponent! Peter must have remarked on the transformation of Paul and received him as a brother in Christ.
Paul went to see James also. The words refer to a cordial visit. He did not go to either party to get permission to preach. The Judaizers claimed they were authorised. Paul tells us that he and Peter agreed. Peter, James and Paul were equally apostles. “Other apostles I saw none” may refer to the fact that he was not seeking approval from anyone. He specifically names James, the Lord’s brother This James was not of the original twelve. Initially he refused to believe Jesus, his own brother, was the Messiah.
So why were the Judaizers denouncing Paul as not being of the original twelve? Surely they should have rejected James too, yet James was accepted as an apostle. Sadly James became part of the legalistic group that convinced Paul that he should obey the Jewish customs while in Jerusalem. The idea was that in doing so would ward off any disagreement and opposition from the Jewish leaders.
“And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him” (Acts 21:1836).
Paul appears to have compromised his position here. The compromise did not stop the persecution, in fact it caused more problems. By the time he wrote the Galatian letter, he realised that he must not engage in religious practices for any reason. No doubt he had learned the lesson the hard way in Jerusalem.
Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me (Galatians 1:20-24).
The Judaizers lied about Paul and his calling. They lied about their apostolic authority. Paul had no option but to stands up to them, not for his own credibility, but to show the Galatians the foolishness of putting their trust in these teachers.
“I write”: he was setting out the truth very plainly. He has no need to use deception to convince the church of his apostleship or ministry, and for such he does not have to prove his teaching, for they had already done so when they accepted it at the first and got saved through it. The phrase, “Before God, I lie not”, is a legal phrase, an oath. It is like placing your hand on the Bible and promising to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. He was telling them absolute truth.
After the events in Damascus and Jerusalem he preaches the Gospel in Syria and Cilicia. Paul seems to be out of the picture for fourteen years, until Barnabas went to find him in Tarsus. “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul” (Acts 11:25). Tarsus was the mission field the Holy Spirit directed him too. It is located in south-central Turkey today. As mentioned previously, the seven church of Revelation are all in this general location, and it is highly likely that they were the churches Paul founded. The question is why the original Jewish church is not prominent in the New Testament after Acts. Yes, by the time the Revelation was given to John on Patmos, Jerusalem had been in ruins for over 20 years, and the church there was disbanded and scattered. But it does appear as though it was through the Gentile Church, containing both Jews and non-Jews, that the Message of the Cross would reach the Roman World and eventually all humanity. Even in Galatians, which some perceive to be an anti-Jewish epistle, which it is not of course, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek … for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The Jews had to join the Church, but the Gentiles were forbidden to join Judaism.
By this time most of the Jerusalem believers had forgotten Paul. The Christians in Judea had not seen him, but had heard about his conversion, and thanked God that they had nothing more to fear from that quarter. “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 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” (Acts 9:1-2). Some rejoiced that he was an ongoing Christian, others were still not absolutely certain. They were happy that he was preaching “the faith”, but it is doubtful that they truly understood or appreciated the Message.
Though most people had forgotten Paul, God had not, and He inspired Barnabas to go to bring him back into the centre of His service.
Why did not Paul continue on to the regions of Judea and minister the Message of the Cross there. It is my belief that he, after explaining the true meaning of the Cross to the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, they should have rushed out to proclaim it, but they did not. Paul left the missionary field open to them, especially since the Holy Spirit had guided him to minister to the Gentiles. Besides this, Paul would not step upon another minister’s toes. “To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand” (2 Corinthians 10:16).
He preached Christ not Moses. He taught the New Covenant rather than the Old. This is what the Judaizers opposed even though it was clearly stated in the Law they put their trust in. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord , I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Even Moses prophesied that a new Lawgiver was coming and that the Jews should obey Him, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:15). They were not paying attention.
Paul preached faith not works, law or morals. He preached the same Gospel as the apostles in Jerusalem, for he spoke of the Saviour who died on the Cross for sinners and was resurrected to life three days later. The difference was that Paul understood what he preached. It is doubtful that the rest really did grasp the message. Had religion put a veil over their eyes? Though the churches accepted Paul and the fact he was preaching the faith, the Judaizers would not forgive him for what he taught and cast suspicion on his conversion. They were the ones now destroying the churches, so a showdown was inevitable. There were those who glorified God because of Paul’s conversion and what he was preaching. Everything Paul did was for the glory of God, so he would have been delighted that other Christ-centred believers were praising God because of the message he preached.