Galatians 1:11-15: Paul Defending Paul
In these few verses we see Paul in defense of Paul! It is not often in the Bible that we see a preacher defending himself. He does it in 2 Corinthians 11:1 when he even says, “I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness.” But here the one’s who have been preaching a false gospel have questioned his apostolic authority. He has been backed into a corner and now he must to defend himself.
Paul’s Gospel: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Jesus’ Gospel: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). He also says, “…that the Son of Man be lifted up, whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:15-18).
Therefore I conclude that the Gospel is the only Gospel: there is no other!
Paul is seen as a man who loves and is committed to the gospel of grace. This is very clear in Galatians. How committed was he to this gospel? He tells us in Galatians 6:17, “Quite frankly, I don’t want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus” (The Message). Paul gave the ultimate sacrifice, early church historian Eusebius claimed that Paul was beheaded at the order of the Roman emperor Nero or one of his subordinates.
Paul was passionate about preaching the gospel, and so must every person be who stands in God’s pulpit. Much of the time, I don't take myself too seriously, but I am very serious about preaching the word of God! When teaching Bible College years ago, I always told the students: “One charge I make to you, always tell people what God says!” We all have our preferences as to language and style, but no one has a choice about what is to be preached…the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are in good company, Paul said, "Necessity is laid upon me, yes, woe if me if I do not preach the Gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:16). Our mandate from God is found in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word of God! Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching” (New Living Translation).
Where did the Apostle Paul get the message of the gospel of grace? Was it a product of his own mind? Was it a device of his wild imagination? Was it tradition based on myth and legend? Did Paul get his message from someone else? Or like Joseph Smith, did he get it from the angel Moroni? Which Paul condemns in verses 8 and 9. So here in verses 11 and 12, Paul gives an immediate defense of his receiving the gospel!
Verses 11a: “But I make known to you, brethren…”
Paul uses the Greek word, gnorizo, meaning “to make known with certainty, to certify, to attest authoritatively as being true or as represented or as meeting a standard.” The King Jams Version says, “I certify…” This word was used to introduce matters of great importance.
“Paul is defending his authority as an apostle and the authenticity of his message and so he uses this emphatic word so as to leave no doubt in his hearers that what follows is ‘gospel truth,’ so to speak!” –Bruce Hurt, MD, preceptaustin.org
“Paul foresaw what would be said about him in the after ages; and truly, to this day, the fiercest attack upon Christianity is always made upon the teaching of the apostle Paul. The men who creep in unawares among us talk glibly about having great reverence for Christ, but none for Paul. Yet Paul is Christ’s apostle; Paul speaks only what was personally revealed to him by the Lord himself; and he is in everything to be accepted as speaking by divine revelation.” –Spurgeon
Verse 11b: “…that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.”
“Preached” in Greek is euaggelizo, which means, “to bring good news, to preach good tidings.” So the Holy Spirit is emphasizing the “good news”, by admonishing us to bring “good news of the good news,” “gospelling the gospel.” Our English words, evangelize and evangelical are derived from this word. All believers are instructed to evangelize, or share the gospel with the world, ie: the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sins! The “gospel” (“good news”) is all about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel message includes God’s plan to rescue people from sin and the effects of sin; so that people can be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. That’s not just “good news” that’s great news!
Verse 12a: “For I neither received it from man…”
Barclay writes, “It rests on no human foundation.”
I want you to take notice here, Paul’s insistence that he did not receive it from a human source is in contrast to those who were preaching “a different gospel” (1:6), preying on the Galatian believers. They preached a message of works and that message did not come from God, it came from men.
All religion is, man-made! I am Christian, I am not religious! I don’t understand all religions, I only know that religion is man-made! And they all teach that you must do something to obtain salvation. There is no such thing as free salvation, it is all of man and man’s rules.
“The gospel Paul preached was not human in origin or it would have been like all other human religion, permeated with works righteousness born of man’s pride and Satan’s deception...Man’s sinful pride is offended by the idea that only God’s mercy and grace can save him from sin, and he therefore insists on having a part in his own salvation. The very fact that Paul preached a message of salvation in which works play absolutely no part was itself evidence that his message was from God and not…man.” –MacArthur
Verse 12b: “…nor was I taught it…”
We know from the scriptures that some people were involved in his conversion experience. After he met Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), the Lord spoke to a man named Ananias, instructing him to meet with Paul and to lay hands on him so that he could receive his sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Still in that city, the Jews plotted to kill Paul, some Christians lowered him over the wall so that he could escape. Barnabus had to intervene for Paul in Jerusalem when the believers were frightened of him and didn’t believe him.
John MacArthur makes the excellent point that Paul's reception of the Gospel from Jesus was “in contrast to the Judaizers, who received their religious instruction from rabbinic tradition. Most Jews did not study the actual Scriptures; instead they used human interpretations of Scripture as their religious authority and guide. Many of their traditions not only were not taught in Scripture but also contradicted it (Mark 7:13).”
Verse 12c: “…but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Vine says Paul got “a direct communication of the mind of God.”
“Revelation therefore is the act of God the Holy Spirit uncovering to the Bible writers truth incapable of being discovered by man’s unaided reason, this revelation being accompanied by the imparted ability to understand what is uncovered.”–Wuest
“Doubtless, he received communications at various times from the Lord Jesus with regard to the nature of the gospel and his duty. The sense here is, that he was not indebted to people for his knowledge of the gospel, but had derived it entirely from the Savior.” –Albert Barnes
When did this revelation take place? It had to be soon after his conversion, he began his preaching ministry shortly after his Damascus road experience. More than likely this was during his experience in Arabia referred to in Galatians 1:17,18.
You can teach religion; you can teach principles; but you cannot reveal Christ. Only Christ can reveal Himself.
Verse 13: “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.”
Many of us have had “former conduct” that we are not proud of. My life before Christ is nothing to brag about. However, I have always wished that I had become a Christian as a child! That would have given many more years to serve Him. It would also make the Christian life easier not to have the haunting memories of my past! I know my old life is dead, hidden in Christ for all eternity, but oh how I would love to forget my past as God has forgotten, “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins” (Hebrews 8:12 NLT).
“He was an out-and-out Jew. He never took up anything without going through with it thoroughly; so, while he believed in Judaism, he did believe it. He was no hypocrite, no pretender, so he fought for it tooth and nail. This was the man who afterwards preached the Christianity he had received from Christ, Evidently he did not borrow it from his parents, for they had taught him quite differently. His religion was not the product of his training; but it came to him from God, — to him who seemed to be the most unlikely person in the whole land ever to receive it.” –Spurgeon
The Greek word for “persecute” is dioko, meaning “to follow or press hard after, literally to pursue as one does a fleeing enemy. It means to chase, harass, vex and pressure and was used for chasing down criminals.” Dioko speaks of an intensity of effort leading to a pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain. This word gives us a picture of hounds on the hunt, relentlessly tracking and pursuing their victim.
And Paul did it well! In Acts 22:3-5, Dr. Luke records Paul's pre-conversion testimony before the Jews at the time he was first taken into Roman custody:
“Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.”
And he had remorse for his persecution on the church. “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
Verse 14a: “And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation…”
The word “advanced” is, prokopto in Greek. It means to “cut forward, to blaze a path,” a pioneer who goes where no one else have ever dared to go. Paul had excelled his contemporaries in Judaism. As a matter of fact, if you have studied him much he was the star pupil of Gamaliel. Gamaliel was the greatest teacher of the law that ever lived in his day, he was actually more religious than the religious.
“Beyond many of my contemporaries” Paul is likely referring to some Jews of his acquaintance, perhaps fellow-students under Gamaliel.
Verse 14b: “…being more exceedingly zealous…”
“Zealous” in Greek is zelotes. It means intense emotion compelling action and implies energetic and unflagging pursuit of an aim or devotion to a cause. It is passionate ardor in pursuit of anything. It is filled with fervent or enthusiastic devotion, often extreme or fanatical in nature.
Paul records his own testimony: “Though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 4:4-6).
Verse 14c: “…for the traditions of my fathers.”
“Ancestral traditions refers to the body of oral teachings about the Old Testament law that came to have equal authority with the law commonly known as the Halakah, this collection of Torah interpretations became a fence around God’s revealed law and all but hid it from view. Over a period of several hundred years it had expanded into a mammoth accumulation of religious, moral, legal, practical, and ceremonial regulations that defied comprehension, much less total compliance. It contained such vast amounts of minutiae that even the most learned rabbinical scholars could not master it either by interpretation or in behavior. Yet the more complex and burdensome it became, the more zealously Jewish legalists revered and propagated it.” –MacArthur
“Now a man in that mental and emotional state is in no mood to change his mind, or even to have it changed for him by men.…Only God could reach him-and God did!” –John Stott
Verses 15a: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb…”
“Separated” in Greek is aphorizo, meaning, “to mark off the boundaries, to appoint, set one apart for some purpose.” This setting apart indicates the separating of an individual for specific service.
Part of Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa, “So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you” (Acts 26:15,16).
Paul is talking about God’s intervention into his life. God actually interrupted Paul’s life. It is recorded for us in Acts 9. Paul didn’t choose God, God chose him, from his mother’s womb. From the foundation of the world, “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4-6). “The Lord has called Me from the womb; from the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name…And now the Lord…Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant” (Isaiah 49:1;5).
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
Verse 15b: “…and called me through His grace…”
It is through God’s grace, His unmerited favor toward sinners that we are saved
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Ephesians 2:4,5). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). “…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
“Paul was born never knowing that God was after him. And all those years he grew up and grew up and grew up and he thought he was really gaining in the law. Philippians told us that as we studied it. And he said, “those things that were gained to me,” he said, “I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” And then one day on the Damascus road going to arrest Christians, the Christ of Christianity arrested Paul and he was never again the same.”–Dr. Wayne Barber, preceptaustin.org
To those who are called of God, the good news of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is the power of God. If you are called of God, you know it.
Verse 16a: to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.”
This revelation was supernatural, as God’s call is supernatural! How does one know if God is calling them to ministry? You will have an inescapable conviction, that the preaching ministry is what God wants you to do and what you are supposed to do. It’s more than a “want to.” It is a “have to.” I always tell young people who ask, “how do you know if you are called to preach?” “If God will allow you to get out of it, get out of it!” “If you can resist the call, then it is not God’s call!” Listen to Paul, “…for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Verse 16b: “I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood…”
‘He consulted neither himself nor others, neither his own heart nor the wisest heads, he consulted not his own safety nor carnal interest, but instantly did what he was commanded to do.’ – William Burkitt
His preaching couldn't have come as a result of conference with men. Paul mentions this fact to indicate that there was no need for him to submit his commission from Christ to any man or group of men for their endorsement.
Paul didn’t consult with the apostles for approval or instruction, or to be ordained by them. He didn’t check with a Rabbi for clearer understanding. He didn’t go to a therapist to see if he was hearing things.
“…but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
This probably occurred after Paul’s conversion experience, between Acts 9:22, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” And Acts 9:23, “Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.”
“Arabia” is the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “an arid, populated place.”
“What he did there, we do not know; but probably he had a time of quiet meditation and prayer, all alone: “I went into Arabia.” The best thing we can do, sometimes, is to get away from the voices of men, and listen only to the voice of God.” –Spurgeon
“The nutriment of a man’s life comes when he is alone with God; he gets his direction in the desert experiences.” –Oswald Chambers
Then he returned to Damascus. How did he learn his Christian theology? He never met with one of the apostles, nor does it appear that he had meetings with any other Christians. And when, after three years, he did at length go up to Jerusalem, he received neither instruction nor authority from the apostles. God took him aside to teach and train him.
“Finish strong!” When on staff at Promise Keepers Men’s Ministry, Coach Mac (Bill McCartney) would say to me almost every day, “Finish strong, Sparky!” That’s a great admonition for all older believers, there is no retirement from the ministry. When God calls and equips, He does it for life.
“As we run the race of the Christian life, we need to end well. The apostle Paul is an example of a good finisher. He received Christ on the Damascus road. He attended ‘seminary’ in the Arabian desert (Galatians 1:17-18). He served Christ in spite of hardship and persecution. He opened Europe to the Gospel. And at the close of his life, he could say with confidence, "I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).” –Dennis Egner
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).
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