My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.
So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words,
who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God;
for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed;
none who go to her come back,
nor do they regain the paths of life.
So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.
(Proverbs 2 ESV)
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.
(Galatians 1 ESV)
Galatians 1: Paul’s personal testimony provides his critics with powerful evidence concerning the authority of his message. But perhaps more importantly, Paul’s testimony also provides us with a powerful example concerning the nature of his message as well. In hearing his testimony, we can make three strong observations about the nature of the gospel message that he preached.
CHRIST ISN’T CALLING US INTO A RELIGION.
Throughout this letter, we come to realize that those who are distorting the gospel are those who are teaching that salvation is found in Christ and moral obedience to the Old Testament Laws. But here Paul is saying, “Listen, I’ve been there done that. I was at the top of all religious schooling. I was rigorously upholding all the religious traditions. I was even passionately persecuting those who seemed to be compromising the customs of our religion. It doesn’t work. You cannot please God through your religious performance. Instead, I’ve met a Man who has called me out of religion. He’s made it plain to me that salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone. Not faith plus religion.”
How is Christ able to call us out of religion and call us by grace instead?
Because Christ fulfilled all the requirements of religion for us. It’s just like He said in Matthew 5, “I haven’t come to abolish the religious requirements. I’ve come to fulfill them.” Christ has fulfilled religion and replaced it with Himself.
CHRIST ISN’T CALLING US BASED ON OUR RESUME.
Paul had been devoting his life to fighting against the same gospel he was now preaching. He rejected Christ because He felt like everything about Him was a lie and even worse was blasphemy. He was hunting and killing Christians. Paul’s resume wasn’t necessarily Christ-worthy, and yet Christ still chose to call him by His grace and use Him for His purposes. God doesn’t love us because we’ve done anything worthy of His love. We do not and can not earn God’s love and acceptance. God loves us simply because He freely chooses to love us.
How is Christ able to secure this kind of love for us who don’t deserve it?
Because at the cross, Christ replaced our resume with His own. He took on our record of imperfections and sin and substituted it with His own record of perfection and righteousness. Christ secures God’s love for us by making us worthy of such love.
CHRIST IS CALLING US INTO A RELATIONSHIP.
Paul’s big argument is that his message about Christ is not something that he was simply taught or learned. It was revealed to him by Christ Himself. It went beyond an intellectual understanding of Christ, and was something he actually experienced.
Christ has called us to more than just an intellectual understanding of who He is. There’s an experiential aspect to true Christian faith. There’s a personal sense and experience of a real relationship with Christ. A true Christian experiences his theology. He experiences what He believes to be true about God. And the true Christian knows that with this experience comes the responsibility to reveal Christ to others as well.
Christ calls us out of religious performance, Christ makes us worthy of this calling and Christ calls us into a relationship with God. This is the heart of what it means to be a Christian, and this is the very essence of Paul’s gospel message. This is a message from God, not simply a message of men. When we embrace this truth about God, we embrace a new relationship with the God who has revealed this truth about Himself.