Now we live in a day when culture does not tolerate absolute truth. They deny it at all levels, and they deny it even at the level that renders it insanity. The typical evidence of the insanity of our culture is to say that gender is fluid from day to day. That is the definition of insanity. And not only does our culture despise absolute truth, but it consequently rejects absolute authority.
And here we are as the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming absolute truth with absolute authority in the world around us. Never has the confrontation been more violent, never has the gospel been more readily rejected. The generation that’s developing in our culture wants nothing to do with fixed, absolute reality. And yet that is precisely what is stated in Christianity by God in the bible.
Let me give you a statement that is the most offensive claim in the realm of religion. There is only one God, one Savior, one true religion, one Holy Bible, one gospel and only one way of salvation. All other religious claims are lies, deceptions, and doctrines of Satan and demons that lead people to eternal hell, along with all the immoral, irreligious, atheistic and naturalistic unbelievers.
That is the exclusive truth of Christianity. Even within the church, any deviation from the true gospel of grace is a lie to be cursed. We understand why the world rejects this. It is, however, a sad day when people inside the evangelical church, begin to reject this truth. The Eastern Orthodox Church says, “We do not believe that man is justified through faith alone, but through faith and works of love.”
The sister church in the West is the Roman Catholic Church which has the exact same doctrine, and there are 1.3 billion people in the Catholic Church worldwide. That is false belief system within true Christianity. That is false Christianity teaching a false gospel. It is not to be joined, it is to be cursed. And the most important reality in the world is that the true gospel is the only way of salvation.
We are not surprised that the true gospel is being attacked. No sooner were the apostles preaching the true gospel than it was assaulted from inside the church. It was under attack by people who believed Jesus was the Messiah, believed in His death and resurrection and called themselves Christians, but added works to salvation. They followed the apostle Paul and added works to the gospel that he preached.
Paul taught the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. What they were adding was the works of Judaism. They were saying that a person could not be saved unless that person was circumcised and adhered to the Mosaic traditions. It happened so fast that Paul wrote Galatians, the first of his thirteen letters chronologically. And in this letter, he attacks those who tamper with the gospel.
This was the invasion of the Judaizers, the professing Christian Jews who had come from Jerusalem, but who believed that the Law of Moses had to be adhered to in order to receive salvation. They followed Paul into Galatia, and they began to bring in a satanic and false gospel. They now claimed to be true Christian believers and accused Paul as the false teacher.
So they had not just attacked the gospel, they also undermined the one who was preaching it. The people in Galatia believed Paul to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. These false teachers knew that if the people continued to believe that he was a true apostle, they would hold onto his message. So it was important to denounce not only the message he preached, but also the authority that he claimed.
They said that Paul came into the Gentile world to please men. He wanted to be popular and be accepted. So he stripped the gospel of the works that are necessary so as not to make it difficult for the Gentiles. He should, according to them, have demanded that the Gentiles be circumcised and adhere to the Mosaic traditions. But he stripped that to make the gospel easy for the Gentiles.
The truth is just the opposite, the Judaizers were the people-pleasers. They had added circumcision and the Mosaic tradition so as not to be persecuted by the Jews. That’s what Paul says in Galatians 6: 12. But they were accusing Paul of that. In Galatians 3 and 4, he defends his gospel; but in Galatians 1 and 2, he defends his apostleship. His apostolic credentials are essential to his authority.
This is the argument they used to discredit Paul. We all know who the twelve apostles were, and we all know that the Judas was a defector and a betrayer, and committed suicide and then went to his own place. And we also know that in Acts 1, it is recorded that Matthias was chosen by God to take his place. We know who the twelve are and only they are the true apostles.
But this man, this Saul who’s now called Paul, when the other apostles were clearly identified, and when the church was born and when they were preaching the gospel everywhere, this man Saul was a nonbeliever. He was a zealous Pharisee; and he was a persecutor of Christ and Christians. So how can he possibly claim to be an apostle when we know who the twelve apostles are?
So starting in Galatians 1:10, and all the way through Galatians 2, Paul presents one of the most remarkable, powerful portions of New Testament Scripture in defense of his authority. And since he wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is critical for us to understand that he speaks and writes under the authority of God and that we can trust him.
Galatians 1:10-16, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brethren that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.”
“16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.” This is the defense of his apostolic authority so that his message is to be believed because he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. These Judiazers wondered where he got this message. Does he really have the right to speak for God; or did he make it up? He has to defend himself, it’s critical.
The apostles were the chosen people who received the truth of God. Now we have the apostles’ doctrine written down, but before that time it was all declared orally. The Holy Spirit then inspired the apostles and their associates to write down the truth of God in the New Testament books. But on the Day of Pentecost there were no books, and they were studying the apostles’ doctrine.
Verse 10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men?” The answer is in verses 8-9, “If we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if anyone, any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”
Having just pronounced a double curse, he says, “There, am I now seeking the favor of men? Does that sound like I am a man-pleaser? Do men-pleasers go around pronouncing damnation on people? He says, “If I didn’t do that, if I were still trying to please men, I would not be a slave of Christ. To be a faithful slave of Christ requires that you pronounce curses on false gospels.”
He does not seek the honor of men, and he has the bruises to prove it. In Galatians 6:17, he says, “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Those scars I received when I was in Galatia in the city of Lystra where I was stoned and left for dead. He is talking again about his authority. So Paul answers his slanderers. “I don’t act like a people-pleaser, I am Christ’s slave.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:9 Paul says, “My ambition is to be pleasing to Christ, not to men.” Verses 11-12, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul says, “I am a true apostle, based on the fact that I received the truth of the gospel from Jesus Christ.”
The twelve apostles receive the gospel over a period of three years from the lips of Jesus. That was unique to the apostles. In fact, Jesus said they affirmed His messiahship in Matthew 16:17, “Flesh and blood didn’t reveal that to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” You didn’t learn this from the people around you. This came directly from the Father through Me to you.”
Why should we believe that Paul is an apostle? Because he received the gospel the exact same way that the twelve apostles received it from the mouth of Jesus Himself. He didn’t get it in Jerusalem. This came to him from Jesus Christ Himself. Verse 12: “Neither did I receive it from men.” What a claim: a supernatural revelation exactly as the other apostles had received the gospel.
Sure, he knew the facts of Jesus’ life. He knew the claims of Jesus. But that was just basic knowledge in the midst of ignorance. He had no supernatural understanding of the gospel. But on the Damascus road, when a light from heaven suddenly descended, slammed him to the ground, and blinded him, he heard, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” everything changed. He saw the risen Christ.
And he saw Him five more times in his life. He saw the risen Christ and he knew that He was full of mercy and full of grace. And the veil over his eyes was gone, and he discarded all of his traditional religion. And he says to the Philippians, “It is excrement.” He received the gospel by direct revelation from Jesus Himself. Three days of blindness and Jesus is tutoring him by the Holy Spirit.
Now this is an open rebuke of the Judaizers, because all their message came from men. Judaism, at the time of Paul and the New Testament and as followed today, gives very little attention to the Scripture. The Scripture is a relic like it is in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. To Judaism, the Old Testament was a relic that the rabbis had twisted and perverted with their massive added traditions.
It was all developed by men. As in the Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, men in religious garb sit in judgment on the Scripture. And so it was in Judaism. In Matthew 15:6 Jesus says, “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” Now Paul is going to support his apostleship. Starting in verse 13, he is going to support it three ways: pre-conversion, conversion and post-conversion.
First, Paul’s pre-conversion. Notice verse 13-14, “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Paul describes his state in Judaism. He is a fanatic.
Yes, he heard the gospel from the lips of those he imprisoned and led to death. The reason he was a persecutor was because he heard the gospel, but heard it as blasphemy. He was so extreme in traditional Judaism that he went beyond his contemporaries. In Acts 22:4 he said, “I persecuted the Way,” – Christ being the Way, the Truth, and the Life; Christianity became known as the Way.
If I was more zealous than anyone else, how then in a short moment did I change and become a preacher of Jesus Christ and the gospel? I was a fanatic hater of Jesus and the gospel. How could I ever have changed so that in three days, I was preaching Jesus? Verse 15, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.” God had predetermined the salvation of this man.
Yes, God predetermines the salvation of every person. God transformed his life. This is the miracle of his conversion, initiated by God because he was chosen by God. God regenerates him through the effectual call by grace. And then he becomes a preacher of the people he once persecuted. God does do that to us internally. He stops us dead in our sinful tracks and reverses us, right? That’s what salvation is.
Acts 9:4-5, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord? Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” And I’m now calling you to preach My name to the Gentiles. So he says in 1 Corinthians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” God at His own time calls His elect to Himself with an effectual call and it’s through grace.
During the three days of blindness he was receiving revelation concerning Christ from Jesus Christ. For three days Jesus mentored him; and then he came out and preached that Jesus is the Son of God, and proved it. How could he have proved it so fast? Because he was a very knowledgeable person about the Old Testament, and all the proof was there. Paul’s conversion was a dramatic miracle of God. Let us pray.