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Paul Called by God December 12, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Galatians 1:11-24.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Galatians that he did not receive his Gospel by any earthly means. In particular, when he entered Damascus after his conversion, he did not receive his Gospel from Ananias, as it had already been revealed to him by Jesus Christ.

Paul then states that before his conversion, he zealously defended Judaism and the Pharisaical traditions; for example, he persecuted the church. In fact, he was second to no Jew in this regard, and he earnestly defended the law of Moses. Yet God had sanctified him while he was in his mother’s womb and called him by His divine favor. God chose to commit the Gospel to him so that Christ would be preached among the Gentiles; moreover, after his conversion, he did not attempt to learn the Gospel from any believer in Damascus or from Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem. Instead, he immediately began to preach the Gospel in Arabia and Damascus.

Paul notes that he spent three years preaching the Gospel before he went to Jerusalem for fifteen days to see Peter. On that trip he did not meet any of the other apostles except for James. He then swears to the Galatians that he is telling the truth. After that trip to Jerusalem, he preached the Gospel in Syria and Cilicia. He concludes by stating that even the churches in Judea – which he had never visited – witness that he is preaching the same Gospel that he formerly persecuted; the Judean believers glorify God because of this great fact.

Thoughts: In verses 11 and 12, Paul clarifies the role – or lack thereof – that Ananias played in him receiving the true Gospel message. Luther offers some insights on this point in his commentary:

He did not tell him to go into the city in order to learn Ananias’ gospel. Rather, Ananias was told to go and baptize him, to lay his hands on him, to commit the ministry of the Word to him, and to commend him to the church – not to teach him the Gospel, which he had already received through the revelation of Jesus Christ alone…So Paul did not receive his doctrine from Ananias but had already been called and was then sent to Ananias to receive human witness to the fact that he had been called by God to preach the Gospel of Christ.

The story of Ananias is presented in Acts 9 where we see that he 1) restored Paul’s sight and 2) witnessed the early stages of his (genuine) apostleship. Now this passage reminds me of an animated biography of Paul – based on Acts – that I watched as a child; in that video, it is implied that Ananias was burned to death by the Damascene Jews after the events of Acts 9:23-25. That sounds rather odd, so I am eager to meet Ananias in the next life and learn about his life – both before and after he restored Paul’s sight. How did he accept the Gospel message before Paul reached Damascus? Was he fearful when he restored the sight of the chief persecutor of the early church? Who were the other believers in Damascus at that time, and did they escape the wrath of the Jews after Paul’s escape?

In verse 14, Paul notes his zeal for the Mosaic law and how no Jew surpassed him in that regard. Luther offers some revealing personal notes on this point:

Like Paul, I too, before I was enlightened by the Gospel, was as zealous as ever anyone was for the traditions of the fathers. I maintained and defended them most earnestly as being holy and necessary to salvation. Moreover, I tried to keep them myself, as much as possible, punishing my poor body with fasting, watching, praying, and other exercises, more than all those who so bitterly hate and persecute me today because I am now taking from them the glory of justification by works and merits.

Luther then asserts that after knowing Christ, he now considers all of his past works to be rubbish. This quote displays the zeal that pervaded Luther’s life – both before and after he triggered the Protestant Reformation. Perhaps we can label Luther as a 16th-century version of Paul himself, although one important distinction between Luther and Paul is that Luther (most likely) did not engage in persecution before he knew Christ. One must wonder if Luther’s Catholic contemporaries viewed him as a traitor and earnestly tried to kill him; my knowledge of that historical period is subpar. Catholic readers of this blog are welcome to chime in with their thoughts on Luther’s quote, as it is a rather unflattering description of Catholicism.

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Comments»

1. alienambassador - January 1, 2013

Actually many believers did fear that Luther would lose his life. He was hidden in Wartburg castle under the alias of Knight George. ““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV 1984.


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