Sermon – October 29, 2017
Part of the attack on the gospel that happened in the Galatian churches was pointed at the apostleship of Paul. If Paul was not an apostle from God, then his gospel could be doubted. Paul does not defend his apostleship to ground his authority, but the truth of his gospel. Paul asserts that he received the gospel directly from God, not from man. To defend this claim, Paul turns to his own testimony, and his former life filled with rage and violence. And, ironically, it is these sins themselves that help prove the goodness and truth of the gospel.
1. Experience the truth of the gospel (v. 11-14)
Paul reaffirms that the gospel had come to him by the will of God himself. He did not receive it nor was he taught it by man. To demonstrate this reality, Paul reminds the Galatians of his own story, his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. He had no earthly reason to turn to the gospel. He clearly hated the church; he found success doing so. Yet, here he was, suffering for the sake of the gospel! What makes a man do such a thing? It is truth alone that makes men do such things. Paul had finally experienced the truth of Jesus Christ. Have you?
2. Experience the power of the gospel (v. 15-20)
Paul’s dramatic conversion, however, was not just an experience of what was true, but a powerful demonstration of being born again in Christ. He was no longer what he once was. Once a persecutor, murmuring threats and death against the people of Christ; now a friend to those in the gospel, giving of his own body and freedom to see the power of the gospel on display in others. Do not focus on the drama of Paul’s conversion, but the power. This same power is working in you. The same Spirit that changed Paul can change you!
3. Experience the unity of the gospel (v. 21-24)
Paul’s own change was indeed profound. But Paul was not the only one who must change. Paul stood by while Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:58). Yet the apostles, who had experienced the tragic death of a friend of which Paul approved, and knew others that Paul had persecuted, now accepted Paul as a brother. Moreover, even the people who had only heard of his change considered this good news! They did not hold out for some form of penitence, waiting for a due to be paid. Rather, knowing their own sin, and the great grace of Christ, they accepted him immediately, and even praised God for him. This is the unity of the gospel: we forgive because we have been forgiven.
Let us never forget: God converts sinners. And unexpected ones, too. Paul was not a convincing candidate to spearhead Christian missions, especially missions to the Gentiles. But God had other plans. Luther was on his way to be a lawyer, when God had other plans. His work in your life, while perhaps less dramatic, is accomplished through the same power, and your testimony is a witness to the truthfulness of the gospel. No one is too far for God to call them, too small for God to care about them. Hear then the gospel: come, rest, in Jesus!