Galatians 1:11-12

Sermon preached on October 10, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

This past week Marg reminded me of a story from my days as a school teacher. It involved the principal of my school and a fellow teacher. They were good friends and one winter night they had tickets for a hockey game in Corner Brook, a city about 50 miles away. So shortly after school ended they had an early supper and headed for Corner Brook. The only problem was that snow was predicted. They hadn't driven very far when they decided that it was snowing too bad to make the trip. But it happened that they made that decision just as they were passing a bar. So instead of going home to their wives, they spent the evening in the bar drinking. Normally their wives wouldn't have worried, but they heard on the radio that the hockey game was cancelled because of the snowstorm. When their husbands didn't return home right away, they got worried. The guys, at the bar, had no idea that the hockey game was cancelled. Much later that evening, when they thought that the hockey game was over, they headed home. When G. walked in the door his wife greeted him and asked how the hockey game was. He told her it was great, that it was a really good game. She went on and asked him who won the game. He made up another lie and told her. She then asked what the score was. When he told her, she said,

"You liar! The game was cancelled. I heard it on the radio."

A lot of people tell lies. Even some religious leaders tell lies. We see this in the last chapter of Matthew's gospel. When the guards who were guarding Jesus' tomb told the chief priests what had happened, the chief priests met with the elders and devised a plan. They gave the soldiers a large sum of money and said to them, (Matthew 28:13–14)

"You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night
and stole him away while we were asleep.'
If this report gets to the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble."

Religious leaders can lie. So the question is: Who can you trust? Lots of people claim that their message is from God but how do we know they are really from God?

Mormons teach that the Book of Mormon was given to Joseph Smith through the angel Moroni. Can we trust Joseph Smith? The Book of Mormon presents a very different teaching than the Bible. We saw last week that the crucial test of any teaching is whether it agrees with the gospel once delivered to the saints. The book of Mormon fails that test.

Paul claimed to have received his gospel directly from Jesus Christ. He said, (Galatians 1:11–12)

"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."

But how do we know that we can trust Paul? Others have made similar claims. Muslims teach that Muhammad received the Koran from the archangel Gabriel on the slopes of Mount Hira. But the message of Islam is very different than the message of Christianity. They don't believe in the Trinity. Muslims do not believe in the death of Jesus on the cross, His resurrection or His deity. One of the five pillars of Islam is to recite the creed,

"There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is the messenger of Allah."

How do we know which is true? Throughout the ages some people have pointed to the apostle Paul and cast suspicion on him. Thomas Jefferson said that the apostle Paul was, (Letter to W. Short, (1820)

"the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus."

He saw a difference between what Jesus taught and what Paul taught. Others agree with him. They will tell you that Paul was a fraud. They will tell you that he did not receive his gospel from Jesus, but was a self-seeking man who made up a new religion. For example, British Talmudic scholar Hyam Maccoby wrote a book called, Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. He suggested that Paul, (Wikipedia)

"synthesized Judaism, Gnosticism, and mysticism to create Christianity as a cosmic savior religion."

So how do we know that Paul was from God, that he actually was chosen by God, that the gospel that Paul preached was given to him by revelation by Jesus Christ?

We saw last week that Paul told the Galatians that they should compare any teaching with the gospel that was preached to them—the faith once delivered to the saints.
What Paul does next is state that his gospel is of divine origin. The rest of Galatians (from one perspective) is his proof of the fact that his gospel is indeed from God.

His proof consists of two parts. The first consists of the history of his life, before, during and after his conversion. His second proof is the content of the gospel that he preached, how it accords not only with the conversion experience of the Galatian Christians, but also with the teaching of the Old Testament. All this shows that the gospel Paul preached was from God.

Let's look at these two proofs. First, let's look at

Paul's account of the period of his life immediately before, during and after his conversion.

Paul gives three arguments to prove that his gospel did not come from men.

First, he points out that no human witnessed to him before his conversion.

In verse 13 Paul tells us that before his conversion he was not even listening to Christians—he was persecuting them intensely and trying to destroy the church of Jesus Christ. He was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of his own age and was extremely jealous for the traditions of the fathers.

In other words, no one witnessed to Paul. Paul probably heard Stephen speak just before they killed him, but at that time his ears were closed to the gospel. Stephen's words, if Paul heard them, had no effect on Paul. That's not where he got his gospel. Paul wasn't like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts who was reading the Isaiah 53 from the Old Testament when Philip came up to his chariot and explained who Isaiah 53 was about. (Acts 8:26f) No, until Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road, Paul had nothing but hatred for Christians and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He understood nothing of it, his eyes were blinded to its truth.

Did you ever have an experience where you tried to reason with someone who was incensed and filled with hatred? You can talk to them but they don't hear you. You can't reason with someone like that because they can't hear what you're saying. You've all heard the expression, "It goes in one ear and out the other." Well, what Christians were saying didn't affect Paul at all. It didn't even go in one ear. Or did you ever have an argument with someone and while you're speaking they're not even listening to you, they waiting for you to pause so that they can speak again. That's what Paul said about his contact with Christians before his conversion—he wasn't listening to them, he was persecuting them. So he definitely didn't get his gospel from them.

Rather than receive his gospel from man, Paul received it directly from Jesus on the road to Damascus. It was by special revelation.

Then in verse 16 Paul says that after he was converted by Jesus, he did not consult with any man. He didn't go up to Jerusalem to see the other apostles. He went into Arabia and only later returned to Damascus. That's Paul's first argument. He didn't get his gospel from men.

The second point that Paul makes is that when he did meet with the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, fourteen years later,

they recognized that the gospel had been given to him by God and they added nothing to his message.

Paul makes this argument in the first 10 verses of chapter 2. He met with the pillars of the Jerusalem Church and they recognized that he had been given the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John gave him the right hand of fellowship and recognized the grace that had been given to Paul. Paul didn't get his gospel from those who had been apostles before him—they added nothing to his message.

The third point that Paul gives from his biographical sketch is that

he was so independent of the original apostles that on one occasion he stood up and rebuked Peter.

We see this in chapter 2:11f. Peter had been previously eating with the Gentile Christians, but when certain men came from James, he drew back and separated himself from the Gentiles. Paul rebuked him for it. Peter was acting against Christian unity. The point that Paul makes here is that Paul's objection to Peter was not against Peter's gospel, but against Peter's practice. Peter, by his actions, was acting against his own gospel. Paul wrote, (Galatians 2:14–16)

"When I saw that they were not acting
in line with the truth of the gospel,
I said to Peter in front of them all,
You are a Jew,
yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.
How is it, then, that you force
Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners'
know that a man is not justified
by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by observing the law,
because by observing the law
no one will be justified."

Paul's relating that incident marks the transition between Paul's biographical proof that his gospel was delivered to him by God and the doctrinal portion of his letter.

In the second half of chapter 2 Paul shows that his gospel was the same gospel as the one that Peter and Barnabas preached. He goes on to give all glory to Christ and the salvation that we have in Him. He states that none of us will be justified by observing the law, but by faith in Christ. Then in chapter 3 Paul shows how his gospel is right in line with their Christian experience. He asks how they received the Spirit, by observing the law or by believing in Jesus. Paul then goes on to show how Abraham was justified by faith. He then shows them that the promise given to Abraham was given 430 years before the law was given and how the law did not set aside the covenant of grace, but that the law was given because of transgressions until the Messiah would come. The law was put in charge to show people their sin and lead them to Christ. In chapter 4 Paul goes on to talk about Sarah and Hagar had sons and how one was the son of the slave woman and one the son of the free woman—and that we, like Isaac, are children of promise.

This brief survey of Galatians clearly showed the truth of Paul's claim that he received his gospel by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. All that Paul said was easily verified. The Galatians could have checked with the other apostles. They could easily check the Old Testament passages that Paul quoted.

Paul's gospel was not an invention of man. No. It was the same gospel as Peter's. Peter confirmed this in 2 Peter 3:15–16

"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation,
just as our dear brother Paul
also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
He writes the same way in all his letters,
speaking in them of these matters.
His letters contain some things
that are hard to understand,
which ignorant and unstable people distort,
as they do the other Scriptures,
to their own destruction."

The gospel was given to both Peter and Paul by Jesus. Their gospel was the fulfillment of the teaching of the Old Testament. Beginning with the first promise of a Savior given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and culminating with the promise of the forerunner who would prepare the way for the Messiah in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5—the Old Testament prophecies and sacrifices pointed to the Great Messiah would come and save His people by dying for them. That was Paul's gospel. It was the gospel that was given to him Jesus Christ.

Now what does all this mean for us?

First, you Christians are to marvel at the origin of the gospel and be so thankful to God for revealing it to you.

The gospel that you believe—where does it come from? What are its origins? It comes from God. It's His gospel. He gave it to us to show us how to be saved. Even more than that, He gave it to us to save us.

Where would we be without the gospel? We'd be lost. We'd still be in our sins. We'd be under the curse of sin. Without it we'd have nothing but misery and death. Without it there would be nothing but despair and hopelessness.

This gospel is God's gospel. How good God is to us! The gospel is the greatest story ever told—of God who loved sinners. John 3:16,

"For God so loved the world that he gave
his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

Secondly, this means that

your faith in the divine origin of the gospel ought to be strong.

There are many things in our society that attack the faith once delivered to the saints.

On the one hand it's attacked by those who tell us that there is no God, that we don't need the concept of God to explain the universe. Not long ago Stephen Hawking and Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow wrote a book called,
The Grand Design. In that book they describe the creator as 'not necessary'. They say that, (USA Today, Sept. 6, 2010)

"the universe blasted itself into existence spontaneously, following M-theory's rules to create physical laws that we call gravity, magnetism and so on, purely by chance. 'He's pointing to a crucial and fascinating feature of Einstein's general relativity (law of gravity): universes are free!' says Caltech physicist Sean Carroll in an e-mail. He's the author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time. 'It costs precisely zero energy (and zero anything else) to make an entire universe. From that perspective, perhaps it's not surprising that the universe did come into existence.'"

Then there are other religions and their ways of salvation. Western society today looks down on Christianity. But they show respect and deference to Eastern religions. They say that the exclusivism of Christianity is arrogant and narrow.

Don't be deceived by the lies of the world. Be like the Thessalonians whom Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 2:13–14. He wrote,

"And we also thank God continually
because, when you received the word of God,
which you heard from us,
you accepted it not as the word of men,
but as it actually is, the word of God…"

This gospel that we have—does it sound like some human being made it up? Jesus was always so surprising. Remember how He answered the Canaanite woman, (Matthew 15:26)

"It is not right to take the children's bread
and toss it to their dogs."

Who could make that up? Or consider Jesus' words in John 6:53–59,

"I tell you the truth,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Whoever eats my flesh
and drinks my blood has eternal life,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks
my blood remains in me, and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I live because of the Father,
so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Your forefathers ate manna and died,
but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

I could go on and on. It's so surprising. Yet it fits perfectly with Old Testament sacrificial system. Consider what Jesus said in John 3:13–15,

"No one has ever gone into heaven except the one
who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

This is no man made story. The first promise of the Messiah was given in the Garden of Eden. The revelation of the Messiah continued throughout the Old Testament as more and more was revealed about Him and His work. Isaiah 53 is noteworthy. It says of the Messiah, (verses 5–6)

"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

That was Paul's gospel. From Genesis to Revelation it's all about Jesus, the salvation that God provided and God revealed. As the apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:16–19,

"We did not follow cleverly invented stories
when we told you about the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory
from God the Father when the voice
came to him from the Majestic Glory,
saying, 'This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.'
We ourselves heard this voice
that came from heaven when
we were with him on the sacred mountain.
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain,
and you will do well to pay attention to it,
as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns
and the morning star rises in your hearts."

Paul's gospel was not a cleverly invented story—but the truth of God given to him by Jesus Christ.

Last of all, for those of you who aren't Christians,

the fact that you haven't accepted the gospel that Paul preached means that you're missing God's way of salvation.

Your only hope is You need to believe the gospel that God delivered to Paul. It's your only hope of salvation. Go to Jesus today.