25 January 2017

Galatians 1:11-24

“For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (vv. 11-12)

Psalm: Psalm 139


Much of the Church uses 25 January to remember the conversion of the apostle Paul. The event is recounted in its historical context in Acts 9:1-22, but we learn more about what happened from Paul's perspective and about how he interpreted it from occasions later in Acts (eg Acts 26:9-20) when he referred to it in defending himself, and here in Galatians. Here, having spoken of his former commitment to Judaism, he emphasises his considerable independence from the other apostles afterwards, and claims that it was Christ himself during, and presumably subsequent to, his experience on the Damascus road that taught him the gospel (the good news of Jesus) and compelled him to preach it.

The phrase "I want you to know" introduces words of particular importance. The earlier verses (Galatians 1:6-10) indicate Paul's concern and anger that the Galatian Christians are being tempted to abandon the gospel he preached for something different, and so it is imperative they understand what the source of Paul's teaching was. The reference to Paul's earlier life as a zealous Jewish rabbi and persecutor of Christians (verses 13-14) is relevant because it is a reversion to Jewish traditions that is tempting the Galatians.

"Confer" in verse 16 is a technical word for consultation in order to discover the authoritative interpretation of an event. Paul neither did that following his "revelation", nor did he discuss the matter with the existing apostles. Instead he was for some time in "Arabia" which is imprecise geographically, and we do not know why he was there; the point is merely that he was at a remove from the Church's core leadership. It was after three years of preaching that Paul took the opportunity of spending a fortnight with Peter ('Cephas' is his Aramaic name) through which he linked up his ministry with that of the other apostles, but without resigning his continuing independent ministry to the Gentiles, which verse 24 indicates had the full support of the Judean Christians.

To Ponder

  • Have you, or anyone you know, had an experience that can be described as "a revelation of Jesus Christ"? What was it that made clear its nature as such?
  • Paul states (verse 15) his belief that God determined his life purpose before he was born and then through grace prepared him for it. To what extent do you feel the same about yourself, or do you think that people who speak in such terms are mistaken? Why?
  • "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy" (v. 23). It may not be concerning faith in Christ, but are there any issues over which you have had a complete change of mind over time? If so, what? And why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a recently retired Methodist minister now living in Devon. He is enjoying the freedom that gives, whenever mood and weather dictsate, to walk on Dartmoor, photograph varied and ever-changing seascapes, or grow vegetables in the garden.