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Sunday, June 11, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy”

“Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
June 11, 2017 :: Galatians 1:11-24

The name of our series is “The Truth of the Gospel” because that was the very thing at stake.

The truth of the gospel.

What was the good news?

Paul had started these churches based on his own understanding of the gospel and some troublemakers had infiltrated the churches in this region and begun to lead the Christians astray.

They were teaching them a different gospel, one which was no gospel at all.

And is that a big deal or a small deal?

It’s a very big deal!

Paul pulls out some of his strongest words to try to stop the spread of this false teaching.

He breaks the glass and pulls the alarm.

He goes so far as to say (v.8), “[If even he Paul] or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one [they had] preached to [them], let him be eternally condemned!”

There is only one true unchanging gospel, good news, that can save sinners.

And we must get it right.

Did you ever hear a message and get it wrong?

“I thought you said, ‘Turn right.’”
“I thought you said, ‘Delete the file.’”
“I thought you said, ‘I love you.’”

“You’re saying that I didn’t get it right?”

“That I believed the wrong thing?”

And that’s just a misunderstanding.

Has anyone ever given you the wrong information on purpose?

And led you astray?

These agitators, these troublemakers, were teaching the churches in Galatia the wrong things about the gospel. And it threatened to destroy them.

That’s why Paul is writing this letter.

The truth of the gospel is at stake.

Paul hasn’t even told us what the false teaching is yet. But he’s already torn into them for swallowing it.

And he’s still not going to directly tackle the false teaching yet in chapter one. Instead, he establishes here, more fully, his credentials to speak to this issue.

Now, it’s easy to get lost in this part of Galatians.

Because Paul is very personal here, and he’s telling his personal story.

Paul loves to tell his story of coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

It shows up first in Acts chapter 9. Do you remember that? When he gets knocked off of his horse in a blinding light and there is the risen Jesus talking to him?

That’s when Luke tells the story. But Paul tells it again in Acts 22 and Acts 26, and he refers to it again and again throughout his letters.

Paul tells his story again here. And it’s really wonderful. Paul has had a major turnaround. He is now “Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy.”

But...don’t miss the main point that Paul is trying to make here.

Paul is trying to make the point that his gospel, the good news that he is preaching and contending for, is the right one, and it is not man-made.

Look at verse 11.

“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

That’s the main point.

And he’s going to be making that point far into chapter 2. Next week will be part two of Paul making that same point. That his gospel is not something he received from any mere mortal. It’s not something of human origin.

It’s not even something true that he got from the other apostles.

Paul got his gospel straight from Jesus.

I almost titled this sermon, “The Inhuman Gospel.”

But I don’t mean that it’s brutal or cruel. I mean that it’s un-human.

It is divine.

Paul has been making that point ever since verse 1, hasn’t he?

Remember how he started his letter? “Paul, an apostle–sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”

Why is Paul making such a big deal out of this?

Well, I think that his opponents were probably attacking him on this point.

They were probably saying something like, “Oh, well, Paul got his gospel in Jerusalem from the other apostles, and he’s, frankly, gotten it wrong. He’s mistaken, and he’s probably made up some of the bits. And he’s missing some key elements of the Law for Christians today. He’s just not quite trustworthy. Nice guy, but his gospel is a little lacking.”

I think that’s why Paul is so strong on this point.

He says (v.12), “I did not receive [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

That’s obviously important.

Now, he’s not saying that he never learned anything from any other Christian. Paul tells us in other places that he certainly did learn aspects of the truth from other believers.

But he wasn’t dependent upon them for the gospel of grace.

He got the gospel of grace straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

He got it directly from Jesus Himself.

And for the next several paragraphs, he intends to prove it.

And he starts way back before he was a Christian. V.13

“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.”

Funny way to start, isn’t it?

To prove that you have the true gospel, most of us wouldn’t think to start with how much we persecuted the church of God.

But that’s exactly where Paul starts.

Here’s why: It must have been God.

God is the only satisfying explanation for the conversion of Paul.

Because Paul didn’t have any doubts!

Paul wasn’t searching for something to believe in.

He already had something to believe in. And he was believing in it with his whole heart. V.14

“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”

Saul of Tarsus was an up and coming leader in Judaism. He was a zealous Pharisee.

If you looked up “Pharisee” in the dictionary, they had a picture there of Paul. [Not really, but you know what I mean.]

This is what he says about his former way of life in Philippians chapter 3.

“...circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”

He had no doubts that what he was doing was right.

And what was he doing?

He was trying to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.

He stood there and held the cloaks of those who killed Stephen. And he said, “Yeah. That’s right. That’s good.” He did.

And then he began to throw Christians in jail.

And then he threatened to kill them.

The Bible says that he “was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”

He’s the person they were praying would not find them when they were worshiping.

You know how we pray for the persecuted church?

In your prayer guide, top of page 7.  “Pray for Christians throughout the world that are experiencing persecution for their faith, especially those who are under the threat of militant and extremist [toss in Judaism there]. Pray for faithfulness in their witness, protection from attack, and for God to be glorified.”

Saul of Tarsus was the guy they were praying against when they prayed like that.

“Lord, please stop Saul! Protect us from Saul! If we get caught by Saul please keep us faithful. Don’t let us be killed by Saul, Lord.”

“...how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it...”

But God.

But God had other plans.

God had a plan to change Paul’s direction 180 degrees.

The most unlikely convert would become the greatest missionary. V.15

“But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles...” Stop there in the middle of his thought.

Paul is going to make his point again, but he’s making it by pointing out that it is all God. It’s all God that Paul is a Christian in the first place. And all God that Paul is an apostle, as well.

Look what he says about his conversion. Up till now, it was all what he had done. He had persecuted the church, he had advanced in Judaism, he was zealous for the traditions.

But now it’s all about what God has done. V.15

God set him apart from birth. Ha! Even before Paul knew anything, God had a plan.

And He called him by his grace. ... There’s that word again. Remember what Paul prayed for them in verse 3?  “Grace and peace.”

It’s not what we do. It’s what God has done in Jesus.

It’s FREE!

God set him apart. God called him by His grace. And He also (v.16), “was pleased to reveal His Son in [Paul].”

Now the Greek there could mean, “reveal His Son TO Paul” which He certainly did.

The Risen Jesus appeared to Him!

Or it could mean “reveal His Son THROUGH Paul” which the next phrase totally teaches. “So that I might preach him among the Gentiles.”

But I think it’s translated “in” here because it’s most likely.

And what it means is that God did a work INSIDE of Paul to believe.

God turned on tall of the lights in Paul so that he might see Jesus as the Son of God and God the Son and His own Savior giving Him the gift of salvation through grace and not from anything Paul did on his own.

“God was pleased to reveal his Son in me....”

You see there is no other explanation for Paul’s conversion.

He was going one direction one day and the next day he was going in a completely opposite direction.

And that’s proof that his gospel is not from men!

And Paul says, not only that, but he didn’t, after his conversion, make his way to Jerusalem to get his gospel confirmed and go to the apostolic seminary of Peter, James, and John. V.16

“[But when God had saved me through Jesus] so that I might preaching him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man!”

“...nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.”

Do you see what he’s saying?

He didn’t get any marching orders from Peter or James or anybody, except Jesus.

He headed out into Arabia, the next door kingdom.

We don’t know anything about that time in his life. It’s not in the book of Acts.

Maybe he studied his Bible for 3 years. Probably he did that and he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles in Arabia.

We don’t know what he did.

But we know what he didn’t do.

He didn’t go to Jerusalem.

He was independent. And his gospel was from God. V.18

“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days [one day over two weeks]. I saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord's brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.”

Do you see how serious this is?

“Before God,” he says.

Yes, he did go to meet Peter and the apostles. He only met with 2 apostles this time, Peter and James. And they only spent two weeks and a day together. And it was after he had believed in Jesus for three years.

Do you see what he’s saying?

He’s saying that he did not get the gospel from Jerusalem. Not even from these apostles who had the gospel, too!

He got his gospel from Jesus.

I think this time that he’s talk about was the time in Acts 9 when the folks in Jerusalem were afraid to meet with Paul.

They thought it was all just an act.

“He’s just doing that to find out where we are and then he’ll kill us.”

So Barnabas goes with him and makes the introductions.

“No, see, He’s seen Jesus. He’s met Jesus personally. And he’s changed!”

Paul says, “I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.”

Do you believe him?

Do you think Paul was a liar?

Do you think Paul was crazy?

Or do you think that Paul had met the risen Jesus?

I know that it’s not the resurrection itself, but get into the mind of this man, and you will see copies evidence for Christianity.

Because only God can truly explain what happened to Paul. V.21

“Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. [But I still didn’t hang around Jerusalem and Judea.] I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. [I just wasn’t down there.] They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me.”

That’s as far as we’re going to go this week.

Let me draw out some applications from this passage.  I’ve got two major points for our lives today.

#1. BELIEVE IN PAUL’S GOSPEL.

That’s what Paul wants you to do.

That’s Paul’s main point.

He’s telling you his story including all of his various movements those first several years to give you confidence in his telling of the good news of Jesus Christ, in the gospel of grace.

You can trust him.

He didn’t make this stuff up.

And that other stuff? That stuff that those troublemakers are trying to teach you?

That’s not the gospel!

Same message as last week.

Don’t believe another gospel.
Don’t abandon the gospel that you have been taught in Paul’s letters.

This is the right stuff.

It comes from God.

Do you believe that?

Paul is laying this all out for the Galatians to establish his credentials, to establish his bona fides, not to puff himself up, but to just lay out the bare facts.

“I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.”

Believe Paul’s gospel.

Remember what he said the gospel was in verse 4?

“[Jesus] gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”

It’s a gift! Salvation is free. It’s a gift. It is by grace and not by works.

Because Jesus gave Himself for our sins to rescue us.

We don’t have to rescue ourselves!

“I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.”

Believe Paul’s gospel, and you will be saved.
And don’t depart from Paul’s gospel. Because it’s the only way to be saved.

#2. REJOICE IN PAUL’S TRANSFORMATION.

Here’s why.

Because it means that the gospel came to you and me!

Imagine if verse 16 never happened.

What if God had not revealed His Son in Paul so that Paul might preach Jesus among the Gentiles?

What if the gospel had not come to the Gentiles?

Do you know any Gentiles?

Raise your hand if you are a Gentile!

Praise God for Paul’s transformation.

That “the man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy!”

Where would we be without it?

But even deeper, we rejoice in Paul’s transformation because it shows that Christianity is real and that God is in the business of changing people.

Including the worst people that we know.

Think about this. The next Billy Graham may right now be a member of ISIS.

The next Greg Laurie right now may be a member of Boko Haram.

God is in the business of changing lives!

The person you know who is the most anti-Christian may soon be your brother in Christ and in a short amount of time a pastor or a missionary or an elder or a Sunday School teacher or a Family Bible Week leader.

The gospel changes people.
Grace changes people.
Jesus Christ changes people.

And including you and me.

I mean if God can change Saul of Tarsus to be the apostle Paul of Jesus Christ, then I think he can do something with little old me.

Take heart! Rejoice in the transformation of the apostle Paul.

Because it says that there is hope for the transformation of you and me.

By God’s amazing grace.

“‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ [Wow!] And they praised God because of [what He’d done in] me.”


***

Messages in this Series

01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel

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