"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Paul's Autobiography (ROCC SG Week 2)

Having opened his letter to the Galatians in an abrupt and disbelieving tone, this week Paul takes a few moments to remind his readers of the credentials he carries to teach on the one true Gospel. Through his personal testimony, Paul highlights several attributes (good, bad and ugly) of his own past and continues through the conversion and post-conversion events that further justify his teaching on God's grace.

The key points to the first half of this week's study (chapter 1:13 - 1:24) include:

Paul's Previous Life (v13-14):  "how intensely I persecuted the church", "tried to destroy it (the church of God)", "was extremely zealous for the tradition of my fathers", "was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age."

In other words, Paul was the least likely of any Jew to convert to Christianity, he was the "Hebrew among Hebrews" as he says in Philippians.  If not for God's grace, he would never be worthy of acceptance in God's kingdom.

Paul's Conversion (v15-16): On the road to Damascus, "God called me by his grace, and was pleased to reveal His son to me." He did not reveal further rules and rituals, but a relationship.  A relationship founded in grace was provided to Paul on that day.  The same relationship that is available today.  God's grace was sufficient for a murderous, religious zealot, and it's sufficient for us.

Paul's Post-Conversion Experiences (v16-24): Paul went about three very specific activities following his 'Damascus Road' revelation.  He first went to be by himself in the area of Arabia and later to Damascus. God knew that Paul would likely need to build trust in his new faith and spend time with Him on a daily basis. He later returned to Damascus.

We also see that Paul was called to "preach among the Gentiles." God had a very specific objective for Paul; to share God's saving grace with Gentiles. Perhaps his past would be less of an obstacle amongst the Gentiles, or perhaps the idea of grace was a perfect pairing for a converted Paul and a people without hope.

Lastly, and finally, we see that Paul made his way to Jerusalem to spend time with Peter and James. To consider that Paul had not spent anytime with these great church leaders until "after three years" is amazing. Yet, he had been preaching the faith that was consistent with the church.  In fact, he was "personally unknown" to these leaders. They had only heard the reports, "and they praised God because of me."

So Paul's testimony is purposeful in this letter to the Galatians.  He had to remind them of his background in order to better explain grace.  He also wanted to refute the false teachers who claimed he received this gospel of grace teaching from man immediately upon his conversion.  Of course, Paul tells us in verse 10 that he has no interest in pleasing man over pleasing God.  Something tells me his audience realized that Paul was a straight shooter and wouldn't have been swayed by any one's teaching, especially any teacher that contradicted the revelation he received from God.

There is so much more to cover, but so little time.  The second half of tonight's study looked at Chapter 2:1-10.  It is a great account of Paul and Titus visiting Jerusalem to affirm that a) God's grace is sufficient for acceptance into His kingdom, b) Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was approved by the church leaders, and c) Unity in the church is essential to continuing Kingdom work here on earth.

See you next week as Paul tells the Galatians of a time he opposed Peter for "not acting in line with the truth of the gospel....."

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