A GOSPEL-CHANGED LIFE
When people try to discredit the message of the gospel they try to discredit the message itself or the messengers. The Judaizers tried to discredit the gospel by adding Jewish ceremonial laws (last week’s lesson) and tried to discredit Paul for not being a true apostle. Paul validates his apostleship in this section by his changed life. "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they praised God because of me.” (Gal. 1:23-24)
Paul would have been the last person anyone would expect to become a Christian and even an apostle. Listen to the dramatic change: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Gal. 1:14) “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil 3:4-7)
“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.” (Gal. 1:15-16) God set Paul apart, called him to salvation (revealed Christ to him) and then revealed Christ in and through him. The doctrine of election is a mystery but as Charles Spurgeon says, “If you want to know if you are one of God’s elect, then ask Jesus to be your Savior.” But in some cases like Paul, God apprehended him without Paul’s asking.
“But I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem.” (Gal. 1:17-18) Commentators believe that Paul spent much time alone with God in his three years in Arabia getting revelation of Christ in the Old Testament (which he knew well) and the result of this time of intimacy with the Lord was his understanding of the gospel which he brilliantly wrote out in the book of Romans and here in Galatians.
As Paul spent his early years in much time alone with the Lord, he gained revelation of not only the gospel but how God had called him uniquely “to do good works” to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. From his times of solitude and reflection with the Lord he received a revelation of the depth of God’s love for him and others (Eph. 3:14-19; Gal. 2:20) which was what made him so passionate about the Lord and His calling. “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Cor. 5:14) This extravagant love for Jesus is also seen in Mary of Bethany as the one who sat at His feet also poured out her very expensive perfume on His feet as He neared His death. (Luke 10: 38-42; John 12:1-8)
Thus we see through Paul’s life that intimacy with Christ leads to a revelation of God’s love and His call on our life and on-gong intimacy with the Lord gives us the power to live it out day by day. “For Christ's love compels us.”
(Jesus said) “but only one thing is needed (a revelation of the love of God in Christ). Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42) Jesus will never take away our time to meditate on how much He loves us. And if we don’t take the time we will be busy about looking for love in all the wrong places; from people, through our success in business, entertaining ourselves to death, etc. etc.
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-20)
Every true Christian has a gospel-changed life. Christ gave His life for us, so He could give His life to us, so He could live His live through us. The gospel is more than our salvation experience. At salvation Jesus comes to live in us (“was pleased to reveal his Son in me”) and then reveals Himself to others through us. It is an inside-out work of God. But our works for God must be out of a response to His great love for us or we can slip into trying to earn love (from God and people) through our performance. This is not the gospel but a works-based religion.
Jesus says that if we don’t forgive our enemies we will not experience His forgiveness. There is nothing that blocks a revelation of the love of God like unforgiveness as it is the very opposite nature of our merciful God. Song: The Love of God by Marty Goetz
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD’S WORD
READ GALATIANS 1:13- 24
Note: Jesus did not commend Martha in this passage for being a good worker for Him as He knows how much every person (Martha types included) needs to regularly meditate on and experience His love. It is the one thing needed. Are you more like Martha or Mary? What can you do to be more like Mary?
Jesus will never take away our time to meditate on how much He loves us (“and it will not be taken away from her”). And if we don’t take the time we will be busy about looking for love in all the wrong places; from people, through our success in business, entertaining ourselves to death, etc. etc. Where do you think you may seek love and acceptance more than from Christ Himself?
Thus we see through Paul’s life that intimacy with Christ leads to a revelation of God’s love and His call on our life and on-going intimacy with the Lord gives us the power to live it out day by day. “For Christ's love compels us.” It is in these times of intimacy with our Lord that we “hear” His calling on our lives and as we experience His love we are “compelled” to carry it out. Do you know God’s call on your life and do you desire to serve Him out of a response to His great love for you?
Are you willing to forgive those that have hurt you? In the song by Marty Goetz, the first words are, “Father forgive them they know not what they do”, as he quotes Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness as he hung on the cross. There is nothing that blocks a revelation of the love of God like unforgiveness as it is the very opposite nature of our merciful God. Jesus says that if we don’t forgive our enemies we will not experience His forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:12-15)
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25) It is in doing God’s Word, not in just hearing it, that we are blessed. What action will you take to apply these truths to your life?
Scripture memory verse: (Jesus said) “but only one thing is needed (a revelation of the love of God in Christ). Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42)