Good morning my friends. What a wonderful day to serve the Lord and he promises to provide everything we need to serve him today. We serve such an awesome God. We are continuing with Galatians 1 this morning.
The letter to the Galatians is fascinating for several reasons not the least of which is that Paul fills in some of the holes from Acts. It was Luke who had investigated and then recorded the events of the early Church and some of the adventures of Paul. In this letter we get to read Paul's perspective and read some of the details Luke left out. For example, Luke does not record that Paul went to Arabia after his acceptance of Jesus and then later returned to Damascus.
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, 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. vs 15-17
Paul also gives us a reference of time which Luke does not:
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. v. 18
In Acts everything seems to happen over night or within a few days. But as fascinating as these historical facts are there is something of greater worth to glean from these last two paragraphs of the first chapter of Galatians. It is again Paul's keen sense of calling:
But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace ...
You have to have a keen sense of calling to face all the difficulties Paul faced to do the work that Paul did. Without that incredible experience of being set aside by God for his purpose you will quit whatever you put your hand to do. The work of the Lord is not something you do because you are interested in it. The work of the Lord belongs to those who have experienced the "setting aside" experience. We are all called but we don't all walk in our own calling because we are serving according to our interest instead of the anointing of God. It may not even be because of our interest. It may be because we were called by men.
Sometimes friends, family and leaders see something in the flesh in us and convince us that we should be serving the Lord in the area they see in us. But they see in the flesh and our calling comes by the Spirit, by the will of the Father, which is seldom by our flesh abilities. Paul had a great awareness that it was God who was working through him according to grace. Look at the wording he is using with the Galatians:
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. vs. 11-12
... I did not consult any man ... v. 16
Paul was also very much aware that he did not deserve to be serving Jesus. He refers to being called by grace. My thought on the real strength of Paul was that he understood just how far away he had been from God and what a wretched state he was in. Remember who he was before he encountered Jesus:
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. vs. 13-14
Paul never forgot where he came from so grace became the center of his experience with his service to Jesus. Keenly aware of how much had been forgiven thus how much he was loved by God. Keenly aware that he had been set aside from birth for this purpose he was now fulfilling. It all adds up to a powerful servant of the Lord, totally reliant on the Spirit for all direction and resources. I am convinced that we would have a lot more people serving like Paul if we would face our own wretchedness and gain the revelation of the Father's love and grace. Jesus said he who is forgiven much would love much. We only need to know that we all come from that same condition, we have all been forgiven much and so we should be loving much. But these are just words. We need that same encounter with Jesus as Paul had so Jesus' righteousness would reveal our wretchedness and the full extent of his love would be experienced. It is by love and not by duty that we are called and serve.