My Life is the Gospel
by Jonathan Bailey
“11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.”
When you think of some of the greatest traitors of all time, who comes to mind? Perhaps, Benedict Arnold, Robert Hannsen. John Walker Lindh (the white Taliban guy), Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. These people in some way or another sold out America for one of our enemy nations. Benedict Arnold serves as a particularly good illustration because of his position as a General of the Continental Army. He not only sold out George Washington by allowing a prized fort to be ransacked, but deliberately fought against the same army he at one time led. Treachery.
Paul was a traitor. He left behind the Pharisees and embarked on the Jesus Way. You can imagine the ridicule and abuse He would have suffered in those early days of his defection. But before he “Metanoeo-ed” he was a hard-core Pharisee who was loyal to the Law.
Verses 11 and 12 are presupposed by 13 and 17. It helps if we look at those first.
Paul ravaged the Jesus community like a wild fire in Colorado. His sole mission was to preserve Judaism. He could not allow or stomach the idea of a tiny Jewish sect perverting the Law, Prophets and traditions. So, it was pleasing to him to watch with a smile as Stephen was pummeled with stones until he could no longer breathe or his heart ceased beating. So the question we are left with is how does Paul go from a Jesus hater to a Jesus lover?
There is a great phrase that Paul uses in a majority of his letters and I always circle and underline it when I see it. It is the first few words of verse 15.
“But when God,”
It always starts with God. He is the igniter. He is the one who pursues us and calls us out of the slavery of Egypt, that is our selfishness and pride. God acts. He gets involved with us and initiates a change or metanoeo. As depraved or lost or more practically wickedly self-centered people, our only hope is the phrase, “But God.” It reminds me of Philippians where Paul writes, “Although Jesus existed in the form of God He did not regard equality with God a thing to hold onto, but let go (emptied) and came here (paraphrasing).” He came here. That was God’s decision. Jesus came here. The decisive moment all humanity was the day Jesus came here. That is why we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus. The abandonment in hope of the restoration of all things. Thank you God! Thank you Jesus!
After Paul’s “But God” experience he doesn’t feel the need to get the “ok” from any gospel authority on this new and transformative revelation. Apparently Paul didn’t get enough of Jesus on the road to Damascus. Because as soon as he gets his new eyes back he heads to the one place he knows God will be. Sinai. In verse 17 Paul uses the term Arabia, which is the desert wilderness, and I have a funny feeling that he wasn’t just randomly walking around the wilderness but he was going to the mountain where God spoke. The mountain where Moses learned the Law, would now be the place where Paul would learn the Royal Law.
So now back to verses 11 and 12. It’s almost like you can hear Paul say, “Do you want to know about my gospel? Let me tell you. I hated Jesus Christ. I lived for the traditions of the Law, which I wore as a mask for my enormous pride. But Jesus changed everything. I left everything behind. I am the man who found the treasure hidden in the field and sold everything I owned and bought that field. I learned everything from Jesus. I’ve been to Sinai. I’ve been with Jesus. I not only preach the gospel, my life is the gospel.”
Can we see the gospel oozing out of every pour of our bodies? Can we say like Paul that our lives are the story of the gospel? Do we live it? Do we love it?
The Galatians are ready to listen now. I think Paul has his audience right where he wants them. By now they should be saying, “Okay, we were wrong. Now help us get back on track.” In other words they are in a repentant posture and now the kingdom can come and the gospel can flow.
Thanks for reading. God bless.
Seek the kingdom – Sell it all – buy the Field,