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- Galatians 1:18 - 24
Humans being crave ownership. We love to have stuff. I remember Christmas time when there were gifts under the tree. Christmas eve came and I would open those presents and be surrounded by all kinds of stuff. It felt good for awhile, but then I would start playing with stuff or putting on a t-shirt I got or a watch. After awhile, I would start losing things or they would get scuffed up and quickly lost their “newness.”
As we “supposedly” grow up, we continue to crave ownership of things. We buy a car or we buy a house and maybe we have a mortgage on our house and we look forward to the day we own our house outright. Or perhaps you own your house right now and there is some satisfaction in that but the feeling of owning it goes away after awhile and you want to acquire something else. The wrapping paper is gone and nothing looks as shiny as it did earlier.
Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to own your house outright and not paying the bank interest every month. This church is still working to own this building outright and we are moving closer to that goal, which is a good goal. But the acquiring of things should not be our goal in life. Why? Because, we really do not own anything. “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.” Naked we came into the world and naked will we return. We cannot teleport our things with us into the after life.
So what does Jesus say about these things? He says do not seek things that moth and rust will corrupt but instead store up treasures in heaven. Now he does not say this as some kind of legalistic rule but rather for the sake of our own joy, so that we do not spend our lives acquiring things that we cannot take with us when we die. So, it is in our best interest to not seek treasure in this world but treasure in God or reward stored up for us in heaven.
So it is best if we can consider ourselves as having nothing in this life. Yeah, we have things that we use but it’s really not ours. Everything is God’s, even our own bodies right? You are a temple of the Holy Spirit or a place where God lives, therefore honor God with your bodies. So God really owns everything and everything has their ultimate origin in God.
Well Paul is trying to get this message through to the Galatians that this gospel that he is preaching is not really his, it does not have his source in him but in Christ alone….
So, after the last four weeks and previous 17 verses, we can establish several things about Paul and the gospel: It is not Paul’s gospel, it is not anyone else’s gospel, His apostleship is not his own but gets its origin from God. We also know that Paul believes so strongly in this gospel that he would himself would be accursed or cut off from God if he began to preach any other gospel. So Paul often times, steps back and gazes on the beauty of the Lord and the beauty of the gospel saying, “I ain’t that, I ain’t even close to that.”
The stakes are high that the gospel remains untainted by man and that the gospel or the message Paul preaches is not falsely identified as his own, or his own message.
Paul, in Galatians, here is trying to get distance from himself and the gospel and say, “no, no, no, it is not mine, and I did not get it from any man. It has its origin in God.”
So in verses 18-24 here Paul is continuing his refrain or his argument that he is not getting this message from anyone but God. So now he’s going to rigorously defend himself from the notion that he went to Peter and the other disciples to get his gospel.
Let’s look at verse 18:
3 years after his conversion, Paul finally goes to see Peter (also called Cephas). So, we have a 3-year gap between Paul’s conversion and when he actually goes to see Peter. The reason Paul is mentioning this is to state the fact that he did not rush to see the apostles to try to get on the same page as them, or to corroborate their message or to collaborate in what they would preach. They did not get together to compare notes. Paul basically went his own way, and Peter went his own way.
But after these 3 years, Paul finally went to see Peter. They met for 15 days. I wonder what they talked about it. It seems apparent from I Cor. 15:5 that Paul knew that Christ had appeared to Peter after the resurrection. So, this conversation may have been about post resurrection days. Paul may have asked Peter, “what happened in the days immediately after Christ’s resurrection?” But it seems obvious that Paul did not ask Peter, “what is the gospel? Explain it to me.” No, it seemed to be a meeting for the sake of fellowship and mutual edification regarding the gospel that came to each of them separately.
So, in the context of Paul proving that he did not get this gospel from anyone, why does he detail this account with Peter? I think he is doing it to show, that he did not gather up other people to help him validate his ministry.
He continues this in verse 19….. He saw none of the other apostles except James (who was the brother of Jesus). So instead of going to other apostles to get validation, he instead nearly avoids them….Why? I think he is doing this to preserve the purity of his message. He gets direct validation from God, not from other people. His approval is not man’s. His approval is God. What does he say in verse 10? “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were trying to please man I would not be a servant of Christ.”
So Paul is consistently seeking God’s approval, striving to be found validated in God, getting his identity from God. Not my gospel, not man’s gospel. I am not an apostle because of my own doing. It is a work of God, having its origin in him. Paul cares very little about being validated by other people. He calls himself the least of the apostle’s, one abnormally born, not caring who judges him or what people think of him.
His concern is that the gospel he preaches would not be discredited on account of him. In other words, since Paul’s reputation is at stake, the gospel’s reputation is at stake, because it coming from the mouth of Paul.
Look at how intensely Paul defends himself, “In what I am writing to you before God, I do not lie.” He also makes this “oath formula” in I Timothy 2:7 when he says, “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. And there are several others texts where Paul makes an oath before God regarding the things he is saying. He is emphatically defending his authority.
After seeing Peter and James, Paul heads off to Syria and Cilicia and he was still unknown to the churches of Judea. So as popular and well known as Paul would become (probably the most influential Christian in history), he began as somewhat of a man of mystery. He did not link arms with anyone or go to anyone to get orders. Instead he went directly to God and faithfully preached the message Christ had given him. That’s what Acts says, that Paul immediately started telling “Christ is the Son of God.” But he performed this ministry and gospel spreading all alone.
So what exactly is happening here? Paul is moving around the region as a man of mystery, unknown to many. What were people hearing about Paul, this one time persecutor of Christians? They only heard this, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And what did this result in?
“And they glorified God because of me.” This is the crux of the entire chapter. “They glorified God because of me.” And this “because of me” does mean because of what Paul had accomplished or because of the effectiveness of his ministry. This “because of me” is about what God had done in Paul, to Paul, through Paul. So Paul packages his life and conversion in such a way that people look at it and say, “Wow, glory to God.” Paul represented himself in such a way that no one could really give him praise and indeed he does not want it. Look at what he is saying to the Corinthians:
12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
I Corinthians 3
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
It’s like painting a magnificent picture of God’s work in the world. This is what God did, an eternal God needing nothing, having within Himself endless love, joy and pleasure sent His Son to bear God’s wrath and give darkened sinners perfect righteousness. So Paul paint this picture and then says and here I am…… this little dot, this little instrument God was pleased to use for his glory. His humility here is staggering. He had an incredible capacity for distinguishing himself from God in such a way that brought glory to God while not cutting off from God entirely.
What about Paul’s joy?
Now some of you may be wondering, okay but what about Paul in all this. All I’m hearing is that it’s not about Paul, it’s not about his gospel, in fact it’s not Paul’s gospel at all, God gets all the glory, Paul didn’t do anything at all. So then, what does Paul get out of the deal? Does God getting glory result in anything good for Paul?
The answer is, yes.
God in his goodness is not a tyrant who creates slaves who robotically do what he says. No, he fashions them in such a way that they rejoice in God, find hope in God, get happy in God, find comfort in God, find, what Christ calls, life abundantly. The gospel is good news because we go from sipping from a murky dirty stream of filthy pleasures that come for a moment and then cruelly abandon us to a clean river of
life that fills us up again and again and again.
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
This is what I want for you. And this is what I want for this church- that we would be a place where people can come and get filled up with the goodness and grace of God – that we would offer it in such a way that says, “this isn’t ours. We have done nothing to deserve it. But we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Please come, please come. Taste and see that the Lord is good
When I push Jude around the house on his little 2 wheeler, I get tired, my back gets a little sore. And I like to lean forward so I can see his face, just to see if he’s smiling. And if he’s not smiling, I think to myself, “why am I doing this? My back is getting sore, I’m getting winded, it’s not making me comfortable.” If he’s not happy, then I’m not doing it. But if I look down and he’s smiling…. Then I say, “Let’s go again.”
It’s the same way with God. When He does great things for us, working hard on our behalf, Christ pleading and advocating for us before the Father…. When He is working for us and pushing us around this life, constantly sustaining us, providing for us, leading us, loving us….when he is doing all these things for and looks down at us to see if we are smiling….. will we look up at Him with a smile and say, “thank you daddy”? When we are joyful, God gets glory for it. He looks down and says, “I am making her happy. I am satisfying Him.” He gets glory for that and we get great joy. So, God being out for His glory does not mean that we need to commit emotional suicide or slit the wrists of our own affections. To be human is to seek joy….. how foolish those religions that say, “God is somber and joyless and he wants you to be just like him. Shape up and stop seeking pleasure and joy.” Christians are not joy killers and God is not a joy killer. God is a joy giver. And we as Christians should be joy givers. We should feed on the well of God’s joy, constantly going back to fill up our cups, constantly seeking greater and greater joy in Him. That gives God glory.
Pray with me…..