"By What Authority"
Paul was not always loved. Some people looked at him and wanted to know “by what authority was Paul doing what he did?” Paul answers that question.
By What Authority
A. Most of us want to be popular. I know of no child who desires to be picked last for a team game. I know of no adult who wants to be overlooked when they are working hard at their job, but instead wants the recognition they feel they deserve. There are few politicians who don’t know the polls behind an issue before they vote. Entertainers know that popularity is what makes them rich. They all want a blockbuster hit. From writers to actors, from politicians to employees, everyone knows the importance of being popular. Let’s face it, in the hit musical Wicked, one of the songs is how Glinda can make Elphaba popular.
B. So you write your blog, you post on Instagram, you tweet your pithy sayings and Facebook status your cause because you want them to be popular. That’s not a sin! At least in and of itself, it is not sinful. But trying to market you often brings up the credibility question. Who do you try to please to become popular?
C. Paul starts his letter to the churches in Galatia calling himself an apostle – no from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ. Then he tells these Christians that they are no longer following the gospel of grace. With that we come to verse 10. Look at the questions.
D. Paul says that he is not about being popular. His desire is not to please you but to please God. If you don’t like it, that’s not really Paul’s problem. It is an answer very similar to what the apostles told the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:29. The apostles were absolutely convinced that what they were teaching is God’s message to the people concerning Jesus. If that Sanhedrin didn’t like it, that was their issue.
E. Standing for God is sometimes a lonely place to be. It takes conviction to speak the truth in love. It is courage to know that when questioned your answers could cost you your life. Paul, like the Apostles in Acts 4 and 5, stood with God. The reason was simply – He was a slave of Christ.
I. Paul’s Testimony
A. Paul then begins to give what today we call his testimony. It is not a practice we do much in this congregation, but it can be very encouraging to hear the story of how a person came to faith. Paul wanted to remind his readers of something they probably already knew – his story.
B. Paul’s story is not usual. In fact, it’s incredible. He begins with these words (Gal. 1:11-12). The restoration leaders in America used phrases like “We speak were the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent.” It was so much the case that by the mid 1900’s Christians who attended these restorations churches were known as “people of the book.” They gave Bible answers to the questions of the day. They wanted God to speak more than they interpret. That’s a great way to share the gospel. Paul didn’t have the Bible that you and I do or restoration leaders did. So Paul defended his message by reminding them that the gospel he preached was not something he was taught by any person, but was given by revelation through Jesus.
C. The apostles like Peter and John were blessed to be taught by Jesus for three years, Paul claims he was personally taught by Jesus. The problem is who saw Paul being taught through revelation by Jesus? How do we know what he is saying is true or if he is simply trying to defend himself?
D. Paul simply shares his story (Gal. 1:13-14). Paul reminds these Christians, who believed some type of teaching about circumcision, that he was once a very zealous Jew. Paul was born a Roman citizen from the Tarsus in the region of Cilicia. But at a young age he was sent to Jerusalem to be taught by one of the most famous Rabbis of the day, Gamaliel. He quickly rose up through the ranks of the Pharisees. His zeal was of such a nature that he wanted to do what it took to prove himself as one who was sound in the traditions of the fathers. But on that road to Damascus, something happened that changed his life.
E. READ Gal. 1:15-20. Paul’s point was to look at his life, see the change, and verify it by the people you do trust, people like Cephas (Peter) and James, the brother of Jesus.
A. Let’s talk application of this section. The greatest testimony that Jesus is the Son of God is you. The greatest testimony that the Bible is God’s message is you. Paul did not hide from his past, even though he knew it was something people would often hold against him. But this time, it was his past that proved his testimony that Jesus personally revealed the gospel to him and commissioned him to preach among the Gentiles. That obviously was not what Paul was trained to do or desired to do. His early life showed the total opposite.
B. Your testimony may not be as stark a contrast between the pre-Jesus you and the you that follows Jesus now. But the point that your story adds to the proof that the gospel is for all is important. Paul wanted his readers to accept that his authority came from Jesus. A changed life is part of the proof.
C. While God’s word is our authority, people don’t often turn to the Bible with great desire to let it change them. They don’t often turn to established churches to learn how to live holy lives. What they do is they check out Jesus by reading you. What you and I say in social media, what you and I do in the community, how you and I act when people belittle us speaks about the power of Jesus. When they realize that their anger is met by your love it confuses them.
A. By what authority do you live a morally pure life? By what authority do you stand up with boldness, yet have your words seasoned with grace? The answer is clear – it the authority of God’s message, the gospel of Jesus, the grace extended to you that gives you the authority to stand against sin. God wants to use your life to be His testimony.
B. The point of our small group study this next month is just that. As we learn to become God’s best version of ourselves we will accept the challenge of change and our repentance will speak truth about God’s gospel.
C. Take the message today and live your testimony in a world that questions you and ridicules your faith.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister