Sunday Evening Bible Study
December 10, 1995
Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.
After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.
The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew.
They taught that after a person came to Jesus, they would have to then be circumcised, and begin to follow the Law of Moses.
To those who would teach a perversion of the gospel, Paul did not mince his words:
Galatians 1:9 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.
:11-12 The source of Paul's gospel
"make known to"
One of the first accusations that was leveled at Paul by the Judaizers was that he had cooked up some kind of kooky religion.
He had just made all this stuff up.
Paul is denying that humans had anything to do with it.
Though there were probably other times as well, we have Paul's account of his conversion, and the first time he met Jesus Christ:
Acts 26:13-18 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. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 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; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 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.
Jesus was sending Paul to the Gentiles (shock, horror!) (vs.17)
Salvation comes by faith in Jesus (vs.18)
Don't underestimate God's ability to teach you.
1John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
:13-17 Paul's conversion
conversation - an old KJ word for "manner of life"
He's going to talk a bit here about his life before he came to believe in Jesus.
Saul had been very zealous in persecuting the early church.
He had been a part of the persecution that started with the stoning of Stephen.
Acts 8:1 And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
He went around, having people thrown into prison.
Acts 8:3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
He was on his way to Damascus to bring back more traitors to Judaism.
Acts 9:1-2 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
portheo - to destroy, overthrow
He apparently had so persecuted the church that he had been involved in putting people to death.
Acts 22:4 "And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons,
Saul was not a very nice guy!
He was kind of like a budding Adolf Hitler to the early church.
God can save the most unlikeliest people!
I often hear people say that this person or that person would make a good Christian.
They are such a nice person, that God could really use them.
But what tickles God's fancy the most, is saving the people we least think would come to the Lord.
Think about some of the people you know, especially those who are the most antagonistic against Christianity.
Do you realize that they could be next?
profited - prokopto - to beat forward; to go forward, advance, proceed
Paul had quite a resume as a Jew:
He was born a Jew, and was educated by the great rabbi Gamaliel himself:
Acts 22:3 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.
He was in fact a Pharisee, the strict, legalistic sect of Judaism.
Acts 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
Paul had plenty of reasons to boast as a Jew:
Philippians 3:4-6 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: 5 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; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
It's important for Paul to be telling these deceived Galatian churches just what kind of background he himself had in Judaism.
The Judaizers are trying to make a big stink about people needing to become Jews in order to be saved.
Paul is going to make it clear that he's pretty much of an expert when it comes to Judaism.
eudokeo - it seems good to one, is one's good pleasure
I like how Paul describes his salvation.
He realizes what a wretched sinner he was.
And yet God's whole attitude toward it was that it "pleased" God.
God is not "reluctantly" saving people.
He's gladly, happily, doing it.
In fact, all of heaven rejoices
Luke 15:7 "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
His mother's name is said to be Theocrita.
Paul recognized God's sovereign plan on his life.
Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Jeremiah also expressed this same thing.
Jeremiah 1:5-7 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. 6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
Don't forget God's plan for your life!
Paul wasn't called to follow Jesus because he had somehow earned the right to be saved.
Paul was called to follow Jesus only because of God's grace, only because God chose to show His love to Paul.
This is what the whole letter is about - GRACE!
Our salvation, and our continuing relationship with God is not based on our works, but upon what God does for us.
Live in grace!
We need to stop focusing on what we can do for God.
It's what He can do for us that counts.
What He does for us is all that matters.
Take the focus off of yourself, and put it on God.
This is what happens in salvation.
Jesus Christ is formed inside of you!
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
You have to know that this is an extremely distasteful thought to a Jew, especially a Pharisee.
To the Pharisee, the Gentiles were only made by God as fuel for the fires of hell.
When Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was blinded, and had initially been brought into the city of Damascus.
It was there that he was healed by Ananias, and also baptized by Ananias.
But after that, Paul had to leave Damascus when word got out what had happened to him.
He had to be let down in a basket through a hole in the wall.
It's at this point that Paul starts to think about all that has happened to him.
And this was such an incredible thing, to think that God would use him to preach to the "heathen", that he went away to think about it.
He didn't go ask his friends for their opinions, or to go and apply to the apostle's school of theology.
Paul after his conversion didn't go to the apostles in Jerusalem to learn or "be ordained" by them.
Paul was an apostle because Jesus Christ had chosen him, not because he had some magical ceremony done by the apostles that somehow transferred his apostolic authority.
Authority comes from God, not man.
This is one of the fallacies of the Catholic, and even the Mormon churches.
They both feel that they have some kind of "authority" that was passed down from one apostle to the next.
The Catholic church claims to be the only church that traces it's authority back to Peter, the first pope.
The Mormon church, falling into the same assumption that authority is passed on from man, claims that there was a break in the line of authority, which was restored by Joseph Smith, after God gave him back this authority. And then the Mormon church has continued on with this line.
But both err.
Authority is given by God.
The best man can do is recognize that it's there.
For our church - electing elders
Next week we're going to be "electing" a few more elders for our church's board.
What are my qualifications?
One thing is that I must already see the authority and ministry of an elder already at work in their life.
A person doesn't become an elder in the church because we vote them in.
The best we can do is recognize who God has already placed as elders, and then elect them.
If you're looking for authority, do it God's way!
It's not uncommon for someone to want the kind of authority a pastor or elder has in a church.
And it's common for people to kind of demand that you give it to them.
Or they think that if they could just have you lay hands on them, that you'd get it too.
The Bible says:
1Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Some commentators feel that in Acts 9, that what seems to be a long stay in Damascus was actually two stays in Damascus, broken up by a trip to Arabia, as given here.
Luke does say that it was "many days":
Acts 9:23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
So Paul went away into the wilderness for a while to be by himself and think over what had happened to him.
:18-24 Paul's contacts with the church
It can be the person you expect least.
But not at first, at first there was a little skepticism
Acts 9:26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.
But Barnabas calmed everybody down, and he was accepted.
Acts 9:27-28 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.
Be a Barney!
His name means "son of rest" or, "son of encouragement"
He was willing to put his reputation on the line to stick up for someone who was being judged incorrectly.
Later on, he was the one to hand pick Paul out to help mature and teach the church in Antioch
Acts 11:22-26 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. 23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. 25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Keep your eyes out for the Pauls in our midst!
Bring them alongside, encourage them, and teach them how to minister!