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Galatians: Pleasing to God

Updated: Jun 9








"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”


Galatians 2:20 (NIV)



Text


Galatians 1:10–24 (NIV)

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 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 of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 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. Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 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."


Pleasing To God


In Galatians, as we have discussed, the gospel and Paul are being challenged. 


In (1:10), we may see how Paul is being challenged or how others may be drawing suspicion to Paul's ministry and apostleship. "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people?" 


If we imagine the other side of the conversation, we can almost hear: 


"Paul only attempts to please people and does not proclaim the whole gospel. He is leaving part of the message out!”


Acts 15 gives us some context as to what was happening:


Acts 15:1 (NIV)

"Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."


Acts 15:5 (NIV)

"Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses."


Paul was being accused of "softening the gospel" or "watering down the message." False teachers had come to supplement the gospel of Christ, seeking to add to the message Paul proclaimed. Doing so caused confusion, and some deserted their faith (1:7). It's important to keep this background in mind as we consider the tone and urgency of Paul's letter as we move forward in our studies.


Radically Christian


Paul, somewhat defending his apostleship, offers the radical transformation of his life as a testimony. In previous lessons, we discussed how Paul received the message of Christ directly from Jesus himself. (I encourage you to review those lessons if you missed them.) Paul points to his radically transformed life as a testimony to the gospel's power and his apostleship.


Galatians 1:13–17 (NIV)

"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 of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus."


The gospel Paul proclaimed he received from Jesus and did not consult with other people. Encountering the risen Jesus and his message radically transformed Paul's life from persecutor to proclaimer. As Paul continues his testimony and how he had received the gospel message, he provides a travelog.


Galatians 1:18–24 (NIV)

"Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 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. Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 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."


As Paul confronts false teachers, he makes it abundantly clear that he did not receive the message of Christ from any person. The gospel he proclaims is directly from Jesus himself. The message Paul received and proclaims is sufficient and lacks nothing. 


Part of the evidence is the life of the apostle Paul. 


"The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they praised God because of me."


Paul demonstrates what the gospel means and accomplishes in his life. Writing to the Corinthians, he says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). Admittedly, this language makes us slightly uncomfortable. 


Several years ago, I remember a commercial featuring a famous NBA basketball player saying, "I'm not your role model." The commercial aimed to inspire parents to be their children's role models. But what stuck in popular culture was the phrase, "I'm not your role model." 


Paul is fearless in saying follow my example; he is fearless in saying I am a role model. His life pointed to Jesus and the power of the gospel.


Pointing To Jesus


People naturally form opinions based on what they see. My wife recently saw a graphic about a younger generation and their interview skills. Interviewees showed up for job interviews wearing shorts; some were still in their pajamas during video interviews, while others brought their parents. Our world has changed in the last few years. Opinions were formed before the interview began. We may see children misbehaving in public, and like it or not, opinions are immediately formed. Often, those opinions are of the parents, such as, "Who would let their children do that?" or "What type of parent talks like that to their child?” Opinions are formed with little to no context. Does the child have special needs? Has this mom or dad been let go from the only job supporting their family? We may not know the context, but we form opinions.   


Opinions will also be formed about our faith and the God we serve. Nijay Gupta, in his commentary on Galatians, quotes Gandhi:



"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. I wish your Christians were more like your Christ."(1)



What examples do others see in our lives, and what is that example we are showing them? 


God had a plan and a purpose for Paul; "But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles..." (1:15-16). 


God has a plan and a purpose for you!


Ephesians 2:1–7 (NIV)

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”


God's rich mercy and grace have made you alive in Christ. He has set you apart from the world's cravings. By his grace, you have been brought out safely from death. Realizing and recognizing that we have been called by grace changes our lives. The gospel is not simply meant to inform us; it is meant to transform us. How we live, interact, and our attitude toward others all point to Jesus, who saved us. 


Others will form their opinions based on what they see. Paul challenged people to look at the example of his life. Paul was not perfect, but Paul's life pointed others to Jesus and the transforming power of the gospel. People will form opinions, and we will be flawed, understandably. However, when we look at the sum of our lives, 


Do we point others to Jesus and the gospel's transformative power?


The apostle Paul demonstrated the transforming power of knowing Christ and the gospel of Christ through his life. 


Where do our lives point in a world that so desperately needs to know Christ's hope, faithfulness, and love?




notes:

 

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from: ”Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


1.  Gupta, Nijay K. The Story of God Bible Commentary: Galatians. Zondervan Academic, 2023. p. 54.



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