Today, I’m tackling a slightly larger chunk than 5 verses. I worked out that if I read the Bible at the rate of 5 verses a day, I’d finish the whole thing by May 2032. Of course, that’s no bad thing and it’s good to ponder the Bible both slowly and in depth but also to read large passages and get a wider overview. It’s amazing that you can spend so much time delving into such small sections and reap such large rewards.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
Well, I’m a typical people pleaser. This is probably one of my largest person threats to my own personal faith; often, I’m a servant of man before I’m a servant of God. I like the word “obviously” in the verse, as if it’d be crazy to suggest otherwise. I believe it with Paul. It’s not so obvious a trait in me.
Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors.
But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.Galatians 1:11-16a (NIV)
In some ways, I’ve been more blessed than Paul. Paul’s knowledge and message doesn’t come from a human source, it comes from direct revelation from Jesus. This is the same with me and with all Christians. The gospel has a power of its own that it provided by the Holy Spirit. This power needs to work in the hearts of all believers. (John 16:8-11) However, I have also had the blessing of many people who have spoken the gospel into my life, from parents, pastors, youth workers. (See Colossians 1:3-8 for the work of Epaphras and the power of the gospel working in unison.)
I was also blessed because God called me before I was born, and revealed his Son to me at an early age. I was probably younger than seven when I first decided to be obedient to Jesus. It was a decision I remember making and one I have (poorly) tried to stick to.
When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.
Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie.
After that visit I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia. And still the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” And they praised God because of me.Galatians 1:16b-24
Paul’s urgency to go and preach the gospel is seen in verses 16 and 17:
Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles... Instead, I went away into Arabia.
The three years Paul spent in Arabia is a bit of a mystery, but connecting the two verses it’s probably likely that Paul preached the gospel while he was there (Hengel, 2004). It’s interesting that he chose to include this in his summary of his post-conversion life here. He seems to make quite a point that he didn’t “rush out” to consult, but rather, rushed out to preach the gospel. (Though this may also have something to do with quite a few people chasing him and hating him.)
It makes me reflect on where I should be going and what I should be doing next. What is the most urgent task? What things can wait?
Finally, I like the verse, “And they praised God because of me.” That’s something I would like to be able to say.
Hengel, Martin, “Paul in Arabia,” Bulletin for Biblical Research, 12 (2002), 47–66