In Galatians 1:16 Paul continues his defense of his authority to be an apostle. Paul says that his calling was not from man, but it was a divine revelation from God, which was revealed “in him.” This terminology means that the revelation regarding Jesus Christ was internal, not external. Once again, Paul is demonstrating that his salvation and his apostleship was a matter of God’s grace in revealing the truth to him. The purpose is stated once again – so that he could preach the Gospel to the Gentile world.
Notice that Paul did not go to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles, but went into Arabia. I don’t think this would have been a normal move for most people. Most of us would go immediately to the eleven apostles and present ourselves to them in order to receive their approval. Paul did not do this, and apparently did not feel the need to do so until three years later. Many theologians believe that Paul was in the Arabian Desert for three years restudying the Scriptures in light of the new truth he had found in Jesus Christ aided by the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. Other theologians believe it was three years after his experience on the road to Damascus that he went to Jerusalem and met with Peter and perhaps James. Notice the wording in verse seventeen – “but I went into Arabia and returned again to Damascus.” Then in verse eighteen, Paul said that after three years he went up to Jerusalem. Paul stayed with Peter for fifteen days until the Jews in Jerusalem sought to kill him. The timing is not as important as the fact that he did not feel the need to present himself to the other apostles. Once again, Paul argues this is further proof that his apostleship was not from man. (Acts 9:29, 22:17-18)
By reading the account of Paul’s journeys in Acts 9:26-30, it is easy to confirm the truth of what he writes to these believers in Galatia. After he visited Jerusalem he says that he went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, which included the cities of Damascus, Caesarea and Tarsus. What Paul was doing in these regions was spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul also states that he was personally unknown (by face) to the churches around Jerusalem, which would be further evidence that he was an independent missionary and not someone trained and sent out by the apostles in Jerusalem. The churches had only heard about his dramatic conversion to Christianity while on the road to Damascus and they glorified God when they heard about it. So, what was it that Paul was preaching and why did it offend these Judaizers so much?
Paul said, “If the trumpet gives an unclear sound how then will they prepare for battle.” (I Corinthians 14:8) In the same manner, if we do not make the Gospel clear when we present it, the listener will be confused and could fail to trust Christ as Savior.
So, first of all, let me state what the clear, concise and correct Gospel message is from the Word of God. John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” II Corinthians 5:21: “For God made Jesus Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteous of God in Him.”
Second of all, let me state what is the unclear Gospel. This is the unclear Gospel, used today by many well-meaning Christians:
These are all nice sounding phases, perhaps even spiritual sounding. However, they are all unclear, not to mention, false information regarding salvation.
“Invite Jesus into your heart”: First of all, there is no passage of Scripture that makes this statement. As an unbeliever, a person does not do the inviting, God does! (Jeremiah 17:9). Besides, you don’t invite Jesus anywhere, He invites you to trust or believe in Him for salvation. (John 6:47)
“Repent or turn from your sin”: Please think about what the unbeliever is being asked to do. Do you think that the unbeliever has the power to turn from sin before he is saved? Utilization of Bible doctrine resident in the believer’s soul under the filling of the Holy Spirit is the only power that can help a person “turn from sin.” Furthermore, “turning from sin” is a matter of spiritual growth – it does not happen overnight. The word repent in Greek with regard to salvation, does not mean to turn from sin. The Greek word for repent, “metataneo,” means to change your mind. When the Bible talks about God repenting, do you think it means that God is turning from sin? Of course not! It means that God changed His mind.
“Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins”: This is not the same as faith in Him for salvation. Forgiveness of sin comes as a result of faith in Christ. (Ephesians 1:7) Once again, you don’t ask Jesus anything, you believe that what He did on Calvary, He did for you. Once you are saved, then you name your sins before God to receive forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God. (I John 1:9) This is not a salvation verse!
“Ask Jesus to come into your life”: Once again, you don’t invite Christ anywhere for salvation; He invites you. Jesus said, “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“Make Christ your Lord and Savior”: God the Father has already made Jesus Lord, but even if you mean the Lord of your life, it is impossible for an unbeliever, and has nothing to do with salvation. Making Christ the Lord of your life after salvation is certainly a command of the Word of God, but this is commanded to those who already know Jesus Christ as Savior. (Ephesians 2:10) As far as making Jesus your Savior, you don’t make Him anything, you believe and He becomes your Savior.
“Turn your life over to or commit your life to Christ”: A person has no power to do this before he is saved. This is something that we should do after we have been saved. This is something that the Holy Spirit empowers us to do under His filling ministry as we allow Him to teach us Bible doctrine and as we make the proper application of it. (Galatians 5:16)
Let’s stay with what God’s Word says and stop using unclear or erroneous clichés that confuse, play on a person’s emotions and do not properly communicate the Gospel. Let me quote again what was said by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8, “But though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
This message of grace was what the Judaizers objected to and they wanted to force all believers, including Gentiles, to observe the Mosaic Law for salvation. They obviously were not believers and felt it their duty to force everyone to obey the Mosaic Law (that is, their false interpretation of it). Paul had learned the truth by means of direct revelation from God and would not stand by as this false doctrine was being taught to his “spiritual children.”