The Apostle Paul is the outstanding apostle of the New Testament. He wrote more than half the books of the New Testament and hardly had to defend himself to anyone, but he nevertheless deemed it necessary to do so. Even the eleven disciples of Christ had a difficult time accepting him as an apostle at first.
Saul (also later known as Paul, which name we will use throughout this lesson) was a Hebrew scholar and a member of the elite Sanhedrin. (Acts 22:3) He was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, a prominent teacher in Israel. His zeal for Judaism caused him to reject Christianity and persecute those who were followers of Christ. He even took part in the stoning of a believer named Stephen.
All this changed when Saul met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and was struck blind for three days. During this time, God used a faithful believer named Ananias to restore Saul’s sight. As a result of his faith in Jesus Christ, and after spending three years in Arabia being taught the Word of God, Paul was ready to launch a ministry that is unrivaled in human history. (Acts 9, Galatians 1:17)
Galatians 1:10, demonstrates the reason for Paul’s seemingly harsh statements in verses 8 and 9. In the past, Paul had been accused of trying to please men with his words. Paul states clearly that his purpose was not to persuade men in his favor, but to persuade them in God’s favor. In other words, Paul was stating that the Gospel message was not his, but God’s. Paul was not seeking to please men, but God. And, as a servant of Christ, Paul’s only goal in life was to please his Savior. Failing to do so, in favor of being a man-pleaser, would mean he was not being the servant of Christ. The Greek word for persuade is “peitho,” which means to win over or to render friendly to one’s self.
In Galatians 1:11 Paul continues his thought of certifying to the Galatians, what they previously had been convinced of, that his message was from God. The use of the word brethren, which is “alelphos” in Greek, is a tender word for the family relationship that Paul shared with the believers in Galatia. Paul obviously had a great love for the believers in Galatia. Paul reiterates the fact that the Gospel of grace that he had been preaching did not have its origin from the human race.
Galatians 1:12 states that this Gospel, which Paul preached, was not given to him by any human being nor did any human being contrive it and teach it to him. It was a direct revelation from Jesus Christ to Paul. It seems obvious that the Judaizers did not take Paul’s claim of apostleship as valid, or at least questioned it. Paul’s statement that Jesus Christ was the Person Who revealed the truth of the Gospel to him lines up with the three years he spent in Arabia after his conversion. The Greek word for revelation is “apokalupto” and means to remove that which is concealed. The words of Jesus Christ in Greek are in the subjective genitive, meaning that Christ is the One acting upon the noun (revelation). In other words, Jesus Christ was the One revealing truth to Paul.
In Galatians 1:13 Paul reminds us that he was the chief persecutor of the Church. Keep in mind that Paul was a Jew, a member of the elite Sanhedrin and well schooled in this religion. The word religion comes from two Latin words “re” meaning back and “ligio” meaning to bind. Together these words describe the feeble attempt of mankind to somehow bind himself back to God by some form of human good. This, of course, is what Judaism had been practicing for centuries. To be accurate in teaching, the word religion does not appear in most manuscripts of the New Testament as it does in the King James Version of the Bible. The Greek word that was translated religion is “ioudaismos” and refers to Jewish faith, practice and worship. However, the word religion is a good English word to describe the faith, practice and worship of Judaism, which is based on human merit. In the non-Biblical writing of the Apocrypha the same Greek word is used to denote the government, laws, institution and religion of the Jews. Judaism (as it has today) had been turned into a mere system of ethics and morals to be practiced to gain the approbation of God.
Galatians 1:14 describes Paul’s pursuit of Judaism and the reason he advanced in it so rapidly. Obviously, Paul new nothing of true Judaism in which the Levitical offerings and sacrifices were demonstrations of the Person of Jesus Christ. Paul was, however, the most zealous of his peers in the practice of Judaism. He excelled in apostate Judaism, described by him as “the traditions of my ancestors.” Paul was determined to eradicate the very existence of Christianity, believing it was a threat to mainstream Judaism of his day.
All of these verses point to the fact that Paul had not been taught the truth of God’s Word from the Old Testament scriptures by any human being (including the eleven apostles as we will discover later), did not learn about the true Messiah in rabbinical school, but his faith and his message were the result of supernatural revelation. God had a distinct purpose for Paul after he believed in Jesus Christ for salvation and it would take a supernatural power for Paul to fulfill that purpose. God’s purpose for Paul was to take the Gospel to the Gentile world. Therefore, he became known as the apostle to the Gentiles, even though he did not go solely to the Gentiles to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Galatians 1:15 seems to indicate that Paul was predestined to believe in Christ and therefore had no choice in the matter. Without any further doctrinal information this seems to be the correct meaning. However, we know from many other passages of Scripture that man has free will and must make his own choice in regard to believing in Jesus Christ as Savior and following Christ. Let’s take a brief look at the doctrine of Predestination and its companion, the doctrine of Election.
The Greek word for predestinate is “proorizo.” “Pro” means before and “orizo” means to mark or to design. Combined these words mean “to determine or to design beforehand.” As with the doctrine of election, the question we must ask is, “What is it that is predetermined or predesigned by God?” We know from many scriptures that God does not decide ahead of time who will believe in Christ and who will reject Him. This decision is always left to the free will of the individual. So what is predetermined?
God predesigned a perfect plan for every believer in eternity past. God decided that anyone who believed in Christ would receive certain blessings on earth and even greater blessings in eternity. This plan was predetermined or predesigned by God for the believer’s maximum happiness. The spiritual assets that we have studied are a part of these blessings, but there is much more awaiting the believer who executes the Christian Way of Life. (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:3-12)
A person enters the plan of God at salvation by freely choosing to believe in Christ. After salvation, the believer may or may not continue in God’s plan, but the plan is still there. In either case, God does not predetermine who will or will not believe, or who will or will not execute His plan. That decision is always left up to the individual’s volition. (John 3:16-18)
Since God knows ahead of time who will and will not believe in Jesus Christ, He is able to design a perfect plan for your life (the basis for this is God’s foreknowledge). Within the framework of God’s plan for the believer is His directive will, His permissive will and His overruling will. All three impact the life of the believer at different times and in different ways. In all cases, however, God is working all things together for good for those who are advancing in the Christian Way of Life. (Romans 8:28)
God’s directive will is outlined in detail throughout His Word. Our responsibility as believers is to discover that will. There are certain things in the Bible that God directs for all believers. The filling (control) of the Holy Spirit is His operational will for all believers. Thinking divine viewpoint is His viewpoint will for all believers. Being in a certain place at a certain time is His geographic will for all believers. (Romans 12:1-2; II Timothy 2:15, 3:16-17; II Peter 3:10-18)
God also has a permissive will. Mankind’s free will cannot be violated and God in His wisdom has decreed certain things to be true. However, there have been times that God permits His people to have something that He knew was not the best thing for them. An example of this is Israel wanting a king. So God gave them King Saul. The result was constant turmoil. God gave them their desires under His permissive will.
God has an overruling will, as well, which is used to keep Satan and his demons from destroying the believer. It is also used at times to override demon influence in the believer’s life.
Election is the plan of God for believers only, whereby He chooses or selects certain things to be true. The Greek word for election is “eklektos” and means picked out, selected, or chosen for privilege. The question that must be answered in order to clearly understand this doctrine is “What are these things that God chooses for the believer?” Please notice that it is not God choosing a person for salvation as some teach; rather it is God choosing certain things to be true of the believer after salvation. An unbeliever must still use his volition to choose to believe in Christ or to reject Christ. (Ephesians 1:4)
This false doctrine, “that God chooses some to saved and others to be lost,” is called “limited atonement.” What the Bible teaches is “unlimited atonement.” The Bible teaches that any person may come to Christ by faith. God is not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to know Christ as Savior. At salvation, God has decreed (chosen or elected) certain things to be true for those who have believed. After salvation, the believer is commanded to study God’s Word under a doctrinally sound pastor-teacher, apply what they learn and to grow up spiritually. (II Peter 3:9; Ephesians 4:11-24)