Tuesday, April 7, 2015

By Whose Authority?

Good morning!

It is good to be back with you this morning.  For the next few days I am going to be studying the book of Galatians.

When the apostle Paul wrote letters to the young Christian churches he was usually doing one of five things:  exposing sin, correcting by redirecting behavior, commending good behavior, soliciting (prayers and financial support) and glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.

The overall message of the letter to the Galatians is this: pure grace is all that is necessary for salvation through Jesus Christ.

Paul begins the book in Gal. 1:1 by establishing his authority as an apostle.

Paul, an apostle --- sent not from men nor by man
but by Jesus Christ and God the Father...

He does this to establish his right to address certain heresies he had heard had crept into the Galatian church.  Generally speaking, if we don't believe another person has the right or the authority to "correct us", we tend to ignore their words of correction.  Paul is establishing himself has having equal authority with the other 12 apostles of Jesus.  He was certain of this.

The terms "disciple" and "apostle" were used sometimes interchangeably in the New Testament.  However, "disciple" means "one who learns from a master" and "apostle" means "one who is sent out".  We tend to think of "The Twelve" as being on a higher level because they spent nearly 3 years with Jesus and were constantly being taught by Him.  However, Paul, though he came to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord AFTER Christ Jesus' death, maintained that he, too, was taught by Jesus (we can assume through visions and revelations not recorded).  Here are some hints as to how that occurred:

If we skip ahead to Galatians 1:12, Paul plainly states that he received the gospel message he preached from "a revelation from Jesus Christ".  When and how could that have occurred?

Oddly enough, right after his conversion, he spent a few days in Damascus, where his eyesight was somewhat restored (although Paul makes it plain that he suffered from eye problems for the rest of his earthly life).  He went from there to Arabia.  Now, isn't that curious?  Wouldn't you have expected him to return to Jerusalem and to immediately seek out James and Peter and the other apostles and learn from them?  But that is not what occurred!

At the college age bible study last night (Hubster and I host this weekly group at our home) we began to talk about nurturing new believers and about how critical that is.  Otherwise, they may fall prey to all kinds of false teaching and negative influences which will draw them away from God.  We would certainly not recommend that a new believer, one who knows nothing about the ways of Jesus Christ, journey to Sri Lanka and live there for 3 years!  However, Paul went to the desert of Arabia, by his own testimony.  Look - - -

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.
Galatians 1:15-17

Are any of Paul's visions from Jesus Christ recorded in Scripture?  Paul obliquely refers to one in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5.  But, it is clear that Paul was instructed by the Godhead because it was revealed to him (and confirmed to Peter in Acts 10:9-16) that the gospel of Jesus Christ was also intended for Gentiles, not just for the Jews.  This was a revolutionary teaching that was met with no small amount of controversy.  Hallelujah!  Aren't you glad we were included, my fellow Gentiles?!

So, it is entirely possible that Paul was taught through Jesus Christ by heavenly visions.  However, it is also quite likely (even probable) that Paul also received his revelation by studying the Old Testament Scriptures for three years in the desert of Arabia.  When Paul came back and began preaching, he taught over and over from the Old Testament, revealing Jesus Christ through those sacred writings. Look at Acts 28:23 - - -

...he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus,
both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets,
from morning till evening.

A similar thing happened to the Old Testament prophet, Samuel.  When God Himself appeared to Samuel, He used His Word to open Samuel's mind.  We see this in 1 Samuel 3:21 - - -

And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh; for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the Word of the Lord.

Most interpret "the Word of the Lord" to mean the Old Testament Scriptures that Samuel would have had at his fingertips at that time (the Torah - - - books of Moses - - - Judges and perhaps Job).  Jesus is called "the Word" elsewhere in Scripture; so, it is possible that Samuel (and even Paul) were taught through direct revelation from God Himself.  We.just.don't.know.  We DO know, however, that both men used as basis for their ministries the written words of God which they had at hand.  And, we as believers should not seek dreams and visions but should instead have as the bedrock of our ministries the revealed will of God, through His written Word.

Regardless, back to Paul - - - by the power of the Holy Spirit and after his intense study of the Scriptures, Paul went on to preach with zeal the gospel of Jesus Christ and to write much of the New Testament.  

Father, thank you for using ordinary men like the apostles, with all their faults and failures.  I thank you that you can take even the most ardent enemy of Jesus Christ and transform him into one of the greatest apostles.  You are still in the transformation business today, Lord Jesus, and I praise You for Your transforming power!  All of us need Your divine transformation, whether believers in Jesus Christ or not.  All of us need for Your Holy Spirit to speak to us through Your Word and to mold us into the likeness of Your Son.  Regardless of where those reading this are today, please speak to them through Your Holy Spirit.  Open their eyes and their hearts to Your Truth.  Teach us today, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

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