Series on Galatians, I The Apostolic Authority, D The Aspiration, Text: 1:10-14, Title: Whom Do You Please?

Introduction

In his 1964 book, “Understanding Media” Marshall McLuhan proposed that the medium in which information comes to us is more influential than the content. His watchword was the medium is the message. To the extent that your evening newscast reflects the editorial prejudices of the news team in the selection of what news is important and thereby has already influenced your thinking, this is true. On the other hand in so far as Paul was concerned though the characteristics of the medium were important the content of the gospel was much more important. This is why both Jesus and the Apostles continually warned about false teachers who would creep in. Who can doubt the power of the medium in which the message is delivered when many people would be happier to turn on their TV than to listen to a preacher from the pulpit. Yet, this is a cultural deception brought on by the brainwashing techniques of the advertising industry. The Apostle writes in Romans 1:18 that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation. Unfortunately McLuhan’s thesis fits very well with the post-modernism of the twenty-first century which disparages content. These days we continually hear the mantra that we must have faith, but nobody is allowed to say, “Faith in what?” There is an old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the truth is that the Bible is full of vivid pictures painted with words. Madison Avenue agencies have convince us that pictures are better than words and the TV does not help. However, there are subtleties, nuances and meanings that can never be adequately conveyed in a picture, and that is why God has given us a written revelation in  words and why it must be preached. and Paul’s writes in Galatians 3:1, You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. One different translation says Christ was paraded before your eyes as crucified, another says before your very eyes Jesus Christ was placarded as crucified, and another you that have had the crucifixion of Jesus Christ represented to your view, and still another speaks of you to whom Jesus Christ has been vividly portrayed as on the Cross.  The Knox translation says Christ was depicted upon the cross, and the New English Bible says, Jesus Christ was openly displayed upon his cross, and the Berkeley Version says, Jesus Christ was graphically presented as crucified. Translators search for words to convey the intent of the original Greek which is that the content of Paul’s preaching, that is the message, had painted an unforgettable picture of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for sinners. This was the message Paul preached and the Galatians believed, namely that there was only one way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Thus Paul gives them a declaration, a disclaimer and a display of proof.

I The Declaration

In  verse 10 Paul declares, Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Since Paul has soundly condemned the false teachers leading the Galatian Christians astray it is clear that he is not currying favor with men. True servants of Christ will not win popularity contests with the people whom Paul describes in II Timothy 4:3, who gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. In churches all over the world believers are hearing faithful gospel messages because men like Martin Luther in Germany and John Knox in Scotland and many others suffered greatly for their uncompromising defense of the faith once delivered to the saints. Please notice that Paul says “If I were still trying to please men,” This immediately suggests that he once was pleasing men  but now he has ceased. Once the Apostle gloried in the praise of men when he excelled in his training as a Rabbi and in Philippians 3:4-8 he gives a lengthy summary of his former ambitions and recounts how they have all become trash to him, If any other man thinks to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless. Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ. Later Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter 4:3, I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court. Paul may have been accused of compromise because he allowed his Jewish Brethren circumcision, but adamantly denied it to these Gentile Christians in Galatia. But the Apostle was all the while making clear that circumcision was unnecessary for salvation. Hence, among the Jews he was willing, during this transition period, to observe certain traditions, as long as these were not considered means unto salvation, but the Judaizers were deceiving the Gentiles into believing that circumcision was necessary to their salvation. It is clear that you cannot be a servant of Christ unless you are willing to stand for the truth at any cost. Jesus said if we will confess Him before men, he will confess us before His Father in heaven.

II The Disclaimer

Paul issues the disclaimer in verses 11 and 12 and reminds them that the gospel is not of human origin, 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. When I was in College I took a course in comparative religion, or “Religions of the World” as it was called. It was taught by a liberal professor and the textbook was written by John Noss and the tile was “Man’s Religions.” Several Christians were in that class and we used to jest about the text saying that the book was about man’s religions but we had God’s religion. Essentially that is what Paul is saying here. Men invent religions endlessly. Paul tells us in Romans 1:20-25 For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things...for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. Man is incurably religious and uses every bit of his sinful and vain imagination to invent invalid concepts of God and invalid forms of worship. The entire Bible is basically a single message that the true God is there and salvation must come from Him and according to His prescription, and that is the gospel. Listen to Isaiah 40: 18-23, To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The image, a workman hath cast it, and the goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains. He that is too impoverished for such an oblation chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks unto him a skillful workman to set up a graven image, that shall not be moved. Have ye not known? have yet not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sits above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in; that brings princes to nothing; that makes the judges of the earth as vanity. To the incurably religious Paul says, the gospel is not of human invention it is by direct revelation from God.

III The Display of Proof

In verses 12-14 Paul is demonstrating that it is impossible for the gospel to have been delivered by him to the Galatians except it had come from God and not man,  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 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. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. The proof is essentially the remarkable transformation of Paul after his Damascus road experience which is recorded in Acts 9, especially verses 1-6, Now Saul, whose every breath was a threat of destruction for the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and begged from him letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, in order that if he found any believers there, either men or women, he might bring them in chains to Jerusalem. But on the journey, as he was getting near Damascus, suddenly there flashed round him a light from Heaven; and falling to the ground he heard a voice which said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” “Who art thou, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” was the reply. “But rise and go to the city, and you will be told what you are to do. As Luke the historian describes Saul we get a feeling for just how remarkable the change was; for Paul’s “every breath” was a threat and he “begged” the high priest for letters to imprison Christians. It was frightful fanaticism and formidable terrorism. He thoroughly understood that the Judaism of his day and Christianity were irreconcilable enemies. His zeal  and ardent passion for the “traditions” of his Jewish faith in his training translated into a passionate protection of  it from what he correctly believed to be a vary significant threat. Then when he changed sides it was hard to believe. Paul reflects on it later in the book of Acts, chapters 22 and 26, describing himself as persecuting “this Way unto death”, and as being “exceedingly mad” against the saints. We must understand that the Christian faith is heir to the Judaism taught in the Old Testament, but that was not what Paul was trained in. The first century version of Judaism was provincial, prejudiced, and legalistic to a fault. It no longer represented the faith of Abraham, and Moses, and Isaiah. Paul’s reverence for the traditions of the fathers should be understood to mean allegiance to a load of human traditions which buried God’s holy law as well as the grace and faith which were present in the Old Testament. As Paul writes to Timothy nearer the end of his life we can still see the effects of this remarkable change as he says in I Timothy 1:13, He has judged me to be faithful and has put me into His service,  though I was previously a blasphemer and a persecutor and had been insolent in outrage. Yet mercy was shown me, because I had acted ignorantly, not having as yet believed. Clearly, the change in Paul was miraculous and had to be the hand of God. This, in turn, proved that the message Paul brought was of divine origin because it could not have come from him or from his training but only from the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the vital life-giving message from God that the Galatians were rejecting because of the false teachers.