Today: [Galatians 1:] Make Your Calling and Election Sure: In Galatians 1 Paul begins by reciting his testimony to the Galatian churches in his letter. He has things to deal with in their midst and wants to establish his authority to speak over them, an authority that doesn’t originate with man but with his own direct revelation of the resurrected Christ. In so doing Paul gives you an example and encouragement regarding the call of God on your own life and the need to be faithful regardless of what men may think or say concerning you.
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[Gal 1:1-12 KJV] 1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace [be] to you and peace from God the Father, and [from] our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 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: 5 To whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes the book of Galatians to a province of Rome populated by an ethnic group of Celtic origin. As is the case with all the books of the bible no original manuscript of this written exists for us today — the earliest copy dates to 200 years after the birth of Christ approximately 50 years after it was written. The central question addressed in the book of Galatians is whether Gentile believers were obligated to adhere to the law of Moses as a condition of their relationship to Christ. For us today this may seem irrelevant as Jewish questions originate from such a distant history in Christianity. A broader inquiry, however, brings up for us the issue of the basis of salvation itself for believers in any generation. Is redemption through Christ a performance-based proposition? To what degree do good morals or altruistic character give us standing before God (if at all)?
There are two schools of thought concerning this.
On the one hand, the teaching is that you are saved by grace, but you have to work to keep it. The other point of view is you are saved by grace, and it matters not from that point on whether you are a moral or good person or not – you will make heaven your home. Both of these perspectives have their flaws, and through our study of Galatians, we will hopefully come to a proper understanding of the expectations of God upon us as believers and on just what ground we stand on in our relationship to Jesus.
Paul opens the letter with an assertion of his apostolic authority in addressing the churches in the region of Galatia. His calling Paul states is not of men but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead. This tells us that there were many who identified themselves as apostles in the early church and many who were appointed by church councils (elected by human agencies). Paul dismisses all of them by stating that his calling did not originate with man, but with God himself and because of this he speaks with a presumptive authority that supersedes those who were known to have visited Galatia bringing spurious works-related doctrines into their midst.
In verse 6 Paul wastes no time getting to the reason for his letter. He marvels that they have so early in their development become estranged from the teachings of grace into what he calls “another gospel.” This is important to make a note of in the day when there are thousands of denominations and groups each presenting their own perspectives from a position of authority to their followers. Which ones are correct? Each group and each denomination preaches its own gospel and denounces by direct or implied inference others who are not connected with them. What are we to believe? We are in a day not just of one other gospel but a myriad of dogmas without any apostolic authority in our midst to delineate the truth. Thus we are left to ourselves to make out as best we can.
Does it really matter what we believe or preach as long as the name of Christ is named? To Paul, it does matter. The teachers who contaminated the Galatian churches with their doctrine were preaching Christ, but the problem was (v. 7) they were preaching a perverted (orig. “corrupt”) gospel of Christ, and they were doing this claiming authority based on angelic visitations, visions and other supernatural phenomena (v. 8).
Do we have such corrupted gospels being preached today? There are many ministries and groups whose doctrines and teachings originate or are strongly influenced by the supernatural experiences of their founders or influencers. It is true that Paul’s ministry began with a visitation on the road to Damascus. John’s ministry and testimony likewise was based on what he had heard and seen of his own walk with Christ for three and a half years. The question for Paul is not whether these experiences had taken place but whether or not they aligned in character with what he termed “his gospel.”). Paul’s understanding of his call was not just to proclaim the message of Christ but to actually define it in such a way that all of Christianity going forward would be obligated and in fact judged by what he had actually taught. Consider two statements Paul makes along this line in the book of Romans:
[Rom 2:16 KJV] 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
[Rom 16:25 KJV] 25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
For this reason, Paul examines the teachings of those “apostles” who came to Galatia and because they didn’t align with his own understanding of Christ. Paul dismisses these teachings on the basis of the validity of his own call, condemning them as perverted, corrupt, another gospel that were to be rejected. These teachers were deemed to be false teachers not on the basis of doctrinal orthodoxy but on the basis of apostolic authority of which we know nothing of in the modern church. These false apostles were so pestilential to Paul that he proclaimed that “any man preaching” any other gospel than the one he delivered “let him be accursed…” To this, we can only say God give us a moment of sobriety and discernment lest we fall under that dread pronouncement or find ourselves sitting under leaders who have made this same error.
In verse 10 Paul immediately answers the unspoken question “who do you think you are…” by declaring that he isn’t trying to convince or persuade them for if he is overly concerned about what men think or how they receive what he says then he should not be the servant of Christ but the servant of men. His gospel (v. 11) did not originate with man and was not something he heard from other men but was that which was taught by direct revelation of Jesus Christ. This is a true Christian leader. This is the character of ministry all should desire to sit under – men and women with direct revelation of Christ and from Christ who are not merely parroting what they have heard from others.
[1 Gal 1:13-24 KJV]
13 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: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called [me] by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. 20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24 And they glorified God in me.
Having asserted his authority in speaking to the Galatians Paul goes on to affirm his own personal testimony. In his past he was a persecutor of the church, in fact calling himself one who wasted the church, profiting in the Jew’s religion beyond many of his peers, but it pleased God (v. 15) to call Paul to reveal his own Son and preach among the Gentiles. When did God call Paul? We know when this happened, on the road to Damascus. When did God call your leaders? I believe it is a sad state when someone claims to be called to one of the 5-fold ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher but they have no recollection or testimony of their calling. If you are called to ministry at this level, you should be able to recount when you were called and what the experience was just as you can recall when you were born again and when you were baptized in the Holy Spirit. If that isn’t your testimony then the appeal to you from 2 Peter 1:10 is to pause and make your calling and election sure lest you run in vain without validity to your call or authenticity to your commission.
Paul’s ministry (v. 16) was to reveal Jesus, and when this call came he reports that immediately he “conferred not with flesh and blood…” In other words, his first act was not to go to seminary or whatever the equivalent of this was in the ancient world. We know for a fact that he went to Damascus waited 14 years before God, gestating his calling before launching out. You might think you don’t have that kind of time but which would you rather have – a lifetime of ineffective ministry, or waiting 14+ years or however long making your calling and election sure and then coming out in boldness with a ministry to impact the world as Paul’s did?
After Paul’s conversion, he goes to Jerusalem to submit himself to the apostles of the Lord who have remained there from the days of Jesus resurrection. When he arrives, he finds that none of the apostles will speak to him. The only person of any influence who receives him is James, the natural half-brother of Jesus. This is not James the apostle but rather James, Jesus brother who had previously attained no higher than being one of the 70 during Jesus’ lifetime. This is a valuable lesson for us. If you have a calling and a ministry don’t expect others to acknowledge or recognize you in any way. Can you imagine it? The 12 apostles of the lamb of God refusing to meet with the man who would become the primary architect of Christianity as we know it? What were they thinking? For yourself when God calls you be prepared to deal with rejection. Don’t be surprised even if those leaders you followed closely who may have loved you dearly suddenly change their heart toward you. It’s human nature. It happens. You cannot be distracted by this. Paul made the effort and once rebuffed, refused to let their high-mindedness and lack of discernment to deter him in his own call. As my wife, Kitty says “just go ahead and seek the kingdom…”
Paul after being repelled at Jerusalem did not linger there. Here is another problem. I have seen people with a call on their life get their feelings hurt because their church or the churches in their city don’t receive them. Then rather than going out to find fertile fields of ministry wherever they might be – they linger in the shadow of greater men who look down on them and reject them as though that was an excuse for not fulfilling their own call. Don’t make this mistake. Listen if you have a call on your life and your church or group doesn’t receive you or make room for you – get over it and ask God if it isn’t time to launch out even at high personal cost if necessary.
When Paul left the region where he was not accepted he found in Syria and Cilicia the people welcomed him warmly and glorified God for the work of the Holy Spirit in making this former persecutor of the church into the man and ministry that Paul had become. What about you? What about your call? Is there any lack of lost and hurting people out there in the world? Why sit there in that pew or in that situation and languish in anonymity when there are those out there crying out for a fresh wind of the Spirit that God may use you to produce? May God grant you the wisdom and the grace to find your place and make your calling and election sure for your own sake and the sake of those who will be benefited by how God uses you in the gospel.
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