Paul elaborates further on his opening statements in Galatians 1 and 2. He wants his hearers to understand who he is, where he came from, and why his accusers are bogus. He gives ample reason why they can be assured that he is trustworthy. Paul gives a detailed account of his travels and experiences both with God and the church.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus…(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) ~Galatians 1:10-17, 20
Why would Paul so adamantly state that he was not lying? Apparently there were more than a few who were spreading misleading information regarding he and his reputation. So much so that he felt he had to vehemently declare his own innocence in the face of those he cared so dearly for. But as he defends himself, he insists that he has only one opinion in mind – God’s. Ironic, huh? A man defending himself for the sake of the truth he is teaching and the God he is serving. While his accusers may charge his defense self-righteous, 2000+ years of study has proven otherwise.
Paul defends himself and restates his motives because he recognizes the great potential for men to misunderstand, misrepresent, and malign him because of them. Let’s face it, when you’re working for God, people don’t always understand. He wants his brothers and sisters to recognize that, too. So, he reminds them who he is working to please and where his authority comes from. Paul wasn’t flaunting Pharisaic degrees given by rabbis. He wasn’t pointing to his strict upbringing or his noble birth. Never once do we see Paul boasting about his worldly accolades – even though we are certain he had more than most. But, no. When Paul pointed to his qualification, he pointed to God alone. When he pointed to his past, he pointed only to his own failure. (Galatians 1:12-14)
Little wonder why Paul’s emphasis is stayed upon the sufficiency and supernatural calling of Christ alone. (Galatians 1:15-17) No doubt this is why these false teachings and bogus accusations are so concerning to him. He knows the mission of these men is not just to discredit and discount him. Their mission is to discredit the true gospel and replace it with a false one. Can someone say cult? Yikes.
So Paul regards not anything of his own making or doing. He relies not upon himself or any worldly credentials. Yet, he proves that he has everything. Paul had what the religious authorities of his day did not. He had the mighty hand of God Almighty laid strong upon his very life. (Galatians 1:15-24) No one could miss that, unless, of course, they needed to.
Yes, these men who claimed to be the authorities needed to discredit Paul. They wanted people to disbelieve him. His true doctrine did not fit with their destructive practices. From self-promoting, self-made rituals to regulatory impositions upon other people, they wanted to stay right where they’d always been – in charge.
Why would the Christians follow, though? Why would they allow these guys to enforce their man-made rules? Why would they mix works with faith as a prerequisite to salvation? Why would they mix the law with the gospel? Didn’t they know better? What was the motivation for such unpleasant penance? And why was it so important for them to make sure they followed these guys?
Well, not surprisingly, they did it for the same reason men and women today do just the opposite: persecution.
Today, most religious authorities do not persecute for lack of ritual observation (although a few still would have us all working for salvation, abstaining from marriage and meat, and wearing what’s most out of style.) But, no. Now, the most destructive heresies come as a result of what many claim to be a “lack of tolerance.” Oh, yes. This is our cultural creed. Where the Jews’ cultural creed was don’t eat, don’t associate, don’t include, and don’t dare forget your fast and sacrifice (even though Jesus finished all that) or else we’ll ostracize you, ours is don’t judge, don’t discern, don’t debate, don’t question – even if – you guessed it – heresies are prevalent within the church (because, well, Jesus wouldn’t want anyone spitting hairs over things like sin or exposing it for goodness sake…and if you do, we’ll ostracize you.)
Both errors result from missing the imperative balance between law and grace. Love brings law and grace together for the good of all, not self-interest.
We must recognize our time and refer to Paul and Jesus who both rightly refused to bow to the bosses with the biggest britches. We’ve simply got someone else to please. Fight on, Christian soldiers.