Galatians 1:11-24 Paul Defends His Ministry and Authority
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Last week we ended with the question: How did these judaizers so easily convince the Gentiles who are not familiar with the Mosiac law that Paul was wrong?


What sounds more feasible? "God helps those who help themselves" or "God helps those who want nothing to do with Him and are hopeless to get any better"? Or let me put it this way. "God's favor is available for those who do good" or "God's favor is available for the good and the perverse equally"? Many would say the former over the latter in both cases. Then consider what these false teachers said about Paul who was in the minority (who once was a strong member of the majority) who preached the latter; that he was watering down the truth to please people, that he had no real accreditation for his teachings, that he was weak and unimpressive for being a "so-called Apostle". If that's not enough, then consider that the majority of your peers had bought into these false teachings. How easy would it have been for anyone to not be persuaded? We'll see in the next chapter that even Peter and Barnabas were led astray (Gal. 2:11-13).


Watch this: Asch Conformity Experiment video (


Almost every NT author warns of false teachers/teachings. Many they were then, many they are today. Imagine if in this video above, instead of asking which line is the same length, imagine a bunch of Rabbi's (religious experts) in a room with a gentile who's pulled off the street and the question being asked is "How are you saved?" and the two options were "Believe and be a good Christian" or "Let God do it and don't worry about it" and all these well versed, well dressed, biblically knowledgeable people raised their hands for the first one. How hard would it have been to not go with the flow? Yet this is essentially what has happened to the churches in Galatia. A very upset Paul is tasked with convincing them that not only are they wrong, but their teachers are wrong, and the beliefs of the majority are wrong and He'll spend this entire letter arguing for just that, showing them not only in scripture, but in their own experience, and by their own observation just how wrong they are and how foolish such teaching is. I pray through this study that God will give us the same understanding. One last thing to note in the video. When the person had one partner join him in the correct response yielding dropped to only 5%. This is precisely what Paul is doing for the Galatian churches and what we have the capability to do today...but that requires us to be the first to stand up against the flow, and doing so brings crosshairs on you (Gal. 4:16).


For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. - Galatians 1:11-12

As we discussed in the first week, Paul, like the other apostles, was taught directly by Jesus Christ Himself. Paul's experience was a bit different though because it was largely post-resurrection and was through special revelation (2 Cor 12:7). The Judaizers seemed to capitalize on this, claiming he wasn't a true apostle because he wasn't one of the original twelve chosen by Jesus before his resurrection. It now seems the very thing they intended for evil, God used for good, as Paul, uses this opportunity to defend his authority while solidifying his apostleship, citing evidence outside himself that they themselves would be familiar with.


For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 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. - Galatians 1:13-14


Paul often would come as a meek man not seeking to glorify himself (1 Cor. 2:1-5), but to glorify Jesus and love on those he reached out to as "love does not seek it's own benefit" (1 Cor. 13:5). On the contrary, these false teachers sought to use the Galatians to build themselves up, to add to their own pride (Gal. 4:17), and in so doing were seen as very influential by comparison (Gal. 2:6). Because the Galatians gave credence based on outward show, Paul therefore reluctantly reminds them of his former outward show. "For you have heard..." they knew his zeal not because he told them, but because they all saw it for themselves; his reputation preceded him. This reminder was not with the intent of puffing himself up...he hates that notion (2 Cor. 11:16-33), but that he may win them back over to the true, live-giving, unconditional grace of God.


Definition: "Judaism" is a term coined for those of the Jewish way of life that developed between the OT and NT. The term is derived from Judah and refers to those who embrace the traditions handed down from previous generations and which they considered to be in accordance with the law of God though it was actually often at odds with it. "Traditions of my fathers" aka "tradition of the elders" (Mark 7:3, Mat. 15:2) as was often the label used by the Jews. Here Paul was linking himself as a child of those who instituted those traditions. It was these traditions that Paul was so extremely zealous for as were the rest of the Pharisees (Mat. 15:2). These traditions were handed down orally from one generation to the next and weren't actually put in writing until around 200AD in what's called the Mishnah which contains many detailed rules for Jews to follow such as wearing the Yarmulke.


Jesus often upset these ingrained traditions (Mat. 15:2) because they were of men, not of God, and though they were thought by these men to be God's wishes, they were actually a hindrance to God's will. In fact, Jesus called them out more than once for breaking the commandments of God for the sake of their traditions (Mat. 15:3). Therefore it's important not to conflate the traditions the Jews had conjured up with the law of God. Jesus often violated their traditions which they even used to justify bringing accusations against Him (Mat. 12:10), but never did Jesus actually transgress against the good and actual law of God (Heb. 4:15).


Discussion Question: What traditions have you seen held by the Christian church today? Traditions that are emphasized as important. Do those traditions coincide, and compliment the church model as laid out by God, or are those traditions a hindrance or even adverse to the biblical model of church? (Some examples I've seen are time and schedules as an idol, strict adherence to church service format and tithing, hierarchy of leadership instead of a body of Christ, "healthy boundaries" resembling that of the priest and Levite (Luke 10:31-32), Insurance dictating what a church can and cannot do, forms/membership requirements, and many more). Now one may argue these are good things; equally one could argue the importance of washing your hands before eating (Mat. 15:2), but if you're arguing that you may be missing the bigger picture (John 13:34-35, Mark 7:1-4, Mat. 15:1-3, 23:23-24).


But when He who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, - Galatians 1:15-16a

God specifically set Paul apart for many reasons (Acts 9:15). In this case, the contrast between Saul the Zealot (renamed to Paul), and Paul the Apostle would be significant. Saul who tried to kill the faith, and Paul who is now promoting it at the cost of everything he once held dear (Phil. 3:8). It was not a job for which he applied, nor was he looking for a life change, but God called him through His grace. God took the most vile tradition-soaked man on earth, and converted him by His grace that He would preach the faith he ones tried to destroy (v23) and be a demonstration that nobody is beyond receiving the free gift of eternal life (1 Tim. 1:16).


I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see another one of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. - Galatians 1:16b - 21

"But I went away to Arabia". God needed to upload the gospel to Paul so that Paul could upload the gospel to the gentiles. Not much is known about what happened in Arabia or even if Paul stayed in Arabia during that time, we just know that three years later Paul went to Jerusalem to meet Peter before heading out for his first missionary commission. "Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia". Paul here gives a brief account that lays out his life between his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), his time receiving the revelation of the gospel, up until he's sent out into these regions which kicks off his ministry. We know little about Paul's ministries in Syria and Cilicia. Often God will call a person to ministries that may not yield quantifiable results, in order to prepare them for what's to come later. It's quite possible that it was during this time that Paul learned to work through the experiences that later would yield the wisdom in the application of God's grace we see in the epistles.


Question: Why was Paul assuring them in these details that he was not lying? What does this indicate he expects from his recipients?


Paul is not name dropping for the sake of his credentials, on the contrary, he wants them to consider the revelation given him with the fact he spent very little time with the other Apostles in order to further give creed to the claim that he was discipled by God and his insights were in fact special revelation. There were some making claim that Paul was lying about his authority and got his gospel from the Apostles in Jerusalem but had dropped parts out of it much like the telephone game. Paul went to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Peter, not Peter's message. You'll actually see later that they had nothing to add to Paul's message (Gal. 2:6) as they had both received the same message (Gal. 2:7).


Question: Have you ever had God make something known to you only to have it affirmed through another?


 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which are in Christ; but they only kept hearing, “The man who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they were glorifying God because of me. - Galatians 1:22

Paul is pointing out that his missionary journey started even before he was known by sight to the churches in Judea which would include those in Jerusalem. He is pointing out that they didn't even know him personally until after he was fully commissioned by God to go out. Paul probably heard "Oh, you're that guy?" a lot. "They were glorifying God because of me." This is the true hallmark of a disciple of God. These Judaizers were glorifying themselves in God's name, Paul, who came to them in meekness, is transparent about his sins here, not trying to water them down, or cover them up, but highlights them in order that God would be glorified and the grace of God would be seen for how truly great it is. A good question to ask yourself regarding any so-called teacher is who are they glorifying. If you listen to them and find yourself seeing them more impressive, consider that a red flag. As Rob pointed out a few weeks back, this by definition, is taking the Lord's name in vain.


Question: Do you remember how you felt when God came to you and you believed? Do you remember the first fruits you bore?


Acts 9:1-9 records Paul's encounter with Christ, Acts 9:10-19 records Paul going into the synagogues preaching "He is the Son of God." Paul didn't understand it all yet after his experience on the road to Damascus, but one thing he knew, Jesus was the Son of God, and he felt greatly compelled to tell it to all. He must have seemed like a crazy man. This high-ranking Pharisee, well grounded in Judaism beyond even that of his fellow peers, "still breathing threats and murder" (Acts 9:1) so zealous as to persecute and kill those like Stephen (Acts 7:58, 8:1) who dare preach what Paul knew to be heresy, then for this same man to stand in the middle of the temple several days later boldly proclaiming "He is the Son of God!" How shocking to the chief priests who gave him authority to arrest all who call on Jesus in Damascus (Acts 9:14), who instead preaches in the middle of their synagogue the very faith he went there to destroy. How astonishing to the believers who could only credit God for such an amazing transformation. Paul who went there to destroy the faith is now boldly preaching in the temple at Damascus, confounding the Jews there and proving Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 9:22), and then sneaks back into Jerusalem past those at the gates trying to kill him (Acts 9:25), freely moving about in the city, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord, talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews as they were attempting to put him to death (Acts 9:28-29).


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