Galatians 1:24


Sunday, 21 February 2016

And they glorified God in me. Galatians 1:24

“They” is referring to “the churches of Judea that are in Christ” referred to in verse 22. They heard the word about Paul’s conversion and there was a distinct reaction to it. Instead of denial or suspicion, “they glorified God in me.” This is where such praise belongs. Unfortunately, as pastors or teachers grow in prominence, they become the object of the praise of people rather than our great God who placed them in that position.

The almost idol worship of great orators or noted figures has gone on since the beginning. It finds its true peak in people like the pope of the RCC or in other such large denominations. Followers make a point of attending a gathering held by one of these people, not to worship God, but to say they were in the presence of such a person.

This continues on today with pastors of mega-churches, TV evangelists, and those who are specialists in a particular field, such as Bible prophecy. Instead of praising God for what they hear, people laud praises on the one giving the message. But Paul would redirect us in such an attitude, as any sound follower of Christ should.

Life application: Let us praise God for the gifts that others possess, for the changes in the lives of those He has called, for the great mysteries that are discovered in His word, or for any other like matter. Let us keep ourselves from making idols of anything less than God, and let us ensure that He alone gets the true praise and adoration for His marvelous greatness.

Heavenly Father, grant us wisdom to fix our eyes on You alone. Keep us from fawning over any person who has a particular gift, a notable presence, or who is famous, wealthy, or powerful. You have created all things and only You are worthy of our heartfelt devotion and praise. Keep us on this path for the sake of Your name and Your glory. May You alone be exalted, O God. Amen.



Galatians 1:23


Saturday, 20 February 2016

But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” Galatians 1:23

The words “they were hearing” are tied directly to the words “I was unknown” in verse 22. Though they never met Paul personally, they were continuously receiving reports about him. It was probably an amazing thing to have someone show up at the door of the church and start talking about the guy “who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.” The obvious reason is that they expected a different kind of knock on the door from that very same person!

Paul was known as one to persecute the church. And so with each new report of him out preaching the faith, it must have marveled the people immensely. The words, “the faith” does not refer to the faith that we have in Jesus as individuals. Rather, it speaks of the doctrine about Jesus which is to be believed. In other words, “the faith” is that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. The word is used in the objective sense, something that continues on in the Christian world today. The faith of our fathers is the faith passed down to us.

Paul’s conversion must have had an immense strengthening effect on those scattered churches. Surely they would be willing to speak out more openly knowing that God could change even the hardest heart.

Life application: If you have had a great conversion in your life, don’t hide it from others. Be willing to share how God has changed you into a new person. Your testimony may be the very thing which will lead others to speak out boldly for the sake of the gospel.

Lord God, You took a hard and contrary soul and you made him soft and pliable when You touched my heart. And this is how it has been for so many over the ages. You do a marvelous work in and through some really obstinate souls, thus showing Your greatness in lives changed and in redirected attitudes. Now Lord, continue to mold us for our good and for Your glory. Be with us and direct our every step according to Your wisdom, not ours. This we pray for Your glory. Amen.



Galatians 1:22


Friday, 19 February 2016

And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. Galatians 1:22

Paul continues with the surety that the gospel he preached was not of any human origin. After his brief trip to Jerusalem, he had gone to the “regions of Syria and Cilicia.” During, and even after this, he was “unknown by face to the churches of Judea.” The verb is in the imperfect tense, showing that he continued unknown in those churches.

Singling out the “churches of Judea” shows that the message, even by this early time, had gone out to the areas beyond Jerusalem. This was probably within just ten years of the ascension of Christ. Paul’s face was unknown to those outside of the area of Jerusalem, and probably within Jerusalem itself with the exception of those he met during his visit there.

His final words concerning the churches in Judea are that they “were in Christ.”  The Greek word for “church” here is ekklésia . It means “an assembly.” The term can be used when speaking of non-Christian elements as well. It can refer to the Israelites as a nation, or individual synagogues. For this reason, Paul designates who he is speaking about specifically, saying that they are “in Christ.” Though there may have been other assemblies in and around Jerusalem, Paul’s only concern is those who were true followers of Christ.

The reason for his specificity is, again, to show that his doctrine had not come from any of these sources. His doctrine was also unknown to these people, with the exception of those in Jerusalem whom he had conferred with. All of this is building up his case for those in Galatia to consider. They had received a false gospel and they therefore needed this detail to be assured that what they had heard from him was truly of the Lord and was both proper and untainted.

Life application: Following along the account of the book of Acts, and then comparing it to the epistles, shows a precise timeline of events. Even if all of the events are not recorded in one place or another, they can be seamlessly combined into a clear and non-contradictory testimony to the reliability of Paul’s ministry. Be assured that his words are exactly what they claim to be. They are divinely inspired and proper for doctrine.

How wonderful it is, O God, to live out the years, seeing the seasons come and go. You give us such wonderful variety and change, and yet You do it in a predictable sequence so that we can eagerly anticipate what is coming. And with the return of the seasons comes familiarity, fond memories, and the expectation of more good times ahead. Everything You have ordained for the span of our lives is just perfect. Thank You for how You treat the sons of men. Amen.



Galatians 1:21


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. Galatians 1:21

Paul’s last words of explanation were found in the narrative of verses 18 & 19 –

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”

After that came the parenthetical oath claiming that his words were truthful. Now he continues on with the narrative saying that, “Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.” This is recorded in Acts 9:30 –

“When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.”

However, this seems to be at odds with his words now. Acts says he went to Tarsus (which is in Cilicia), but he says here that he went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. There is really no difficulty in this. The word Paul uses for “regions” is klima. It is also found in Romans 15:23 and 2 Corinthians 11:10. Vincent’s Word Studies explains the meaning of this infrequently used word –

“Κλΐμα, originally an inclination or slope of ground: the supposed slope of the earth from the equator to the pole. The ancient geographers ran imaginary parallel lines from the equator toward the pole, and the spaces or zones or regions between these lines, viewed in their slope or inclination toward the pole, were κλίματα. The word came to signify the temperature of these zones, hence our climate. In Chaucer’s treatise on the Astrolabe, chapter 39 is headed “Description of the Meridional Lyne, of Longitudes and Latitudes of Cities and Towns from on to another of Clymatz.” He says: “The longitude of a clymat is a lyne imagined fro est to west, y-lyke distant by-twene them alle. The latitude of a clymat is a lyne imagined fro north to south the space of the erthe, fro the byginning of the firste clymat unto the verrey ende of the same clymat, even directe agayns the pole artik.” In poetical language, “climes” is used for regions of the earth, as Milton:
“Whatever clime the sun’s bright circle warms.”

The “regions” of Syria and Cilicia is a correct description of the place to which Paul went. He is giving a general area which covers the specific places that he afterwards went to. Again, Vincent’s Word Studies gives the explanation –

“Syria, in the narrower sense, of the district of which Antioch was the capital: not the whole Roman province of Syria, including Galilee and Judaea. … This district was the scene of Paul’s first apostolic work among the Gentiles. Cilicia was the southeasterly province of Asia Minor, directly adjoining Syria, from which it was separated by Mt. Pierius and the range of Amanus. It was bordered by the Mediterranean on the south. It was Paul’s native province, and its capital was Tarsus, Paul’s birthplace.”

Life application: Taking time to refer to maps, or descriptions of ancient borders, while reading the Bible can be a helpful tool in understanding the biblical narrative.

Lord God Almighty, we who know what You have done through Christ the Lord stand in awe of Your majestic splendor. You, who created the universe and breathed life into man, were willing to come and dwell among us in order to redeem us to Yourself. How can such love be possible? What value do You see in us that You would do this thing? Though we cannot comprehend it, we can accept it at face value and marvel at what You have done. How great You are, O God. Amen.


Galatians 1:20


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

(Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Galatians 1:20

The verb Paul uses is in the present tense. In essence, “…the things I am writing to you.” This then covers all of those things which he has relayed of which those in Galatia would have no way of easily verifying. It covers from verse 13 through the end of the chapter and then on through more events recorded in Chapter 2. However, it more especially starts with the thought beginning at verse 15. This begins the focus on his calling as an apostle and the fact that the gospel he preached was derived not from men, but from God.

The reason for this oath is that he is building a case against the false apostles. In doing so, he must verify for them the truth of his own calling and the divine Source from which it came. This oath is quite similar to that of Romans 9:1 –

“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.”

And so in as solemn a manner as he can possibly present himself, he says, “…indeed, before God, I do not lie.” The words he has been writing, and those he will continue with, are either truthful or they are a lie. If a lie, then nothing else he has said can be held as reliable either. In other words, his words here are either an anchor which holds fast for the entire epistle, and as a refutation of the false apostles, or they are the cunning deception of a man who was willing to even pronounce a curse upon himself in order to deceive (see verse 1:8 & 9).

Paul has put himself out in a spiritually exposed manner for the Galatians to evaluate him and the truthfulness of his message. Though it would be difficult to determine the truth of some of his claims, many could be validated by the testimony of those who had walked with him in the past. Only a fool would make such claims if they weren’t true. This is especially so because they are in writing and could be referred to at any time. Because of this, it adds weight to the fact that they are, in fact, true.

Life application: On several occasions, the Bible tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. In other words, let our words be of such weight that when we speak those around us will know they are the truth. At times, however, a matter may be of such importance that we must invoke God in our words. Invoking anything less than God is idolatry. Let us never flippantly invoke God’s name, and let us never invoke any thing in creation when making a vow or an oath.

Lord God, just being still in Your presence and thinking on Your greatness is the most wonderful place to be. I can ponder the work of Your hands in creation and all the beauty it presents to our senses. I can meditate on Your word and all its lessons. And I can think on what You have given me in the life of Your Son. At times like these, I am filled with the joy of Your presence. Thank You for each precious moment where I can contemplate You and Your greatness. Amen.