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August 1, 2021 | Javan Shashaty
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“For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.”—Galatians 1:13-16 (NKJV)
Word travels fast. In an age of instant messaging, it’s often swifter than we’d like. But back in the first century AD, they relied on a different kind of messenger—word of mouth. And the apostle Paul had become the talk of the town.
Many knew him as Saul, a Pharisee and hater of Christians. In the past, he created havoc in the church, breathing murderous threats against the disciples of Christ (Acts 8:3, 9:1). But as he penned the letter to the Galatia churches, people had come to know him as Paul, a bondservant of Christ. Some may have heard of his conversion through word of mouth, but chances are his personal testimony was the instrument God used to show people the transformation He made in his life.
Paul’s testimony in the above Scripture outlines his call to apostleship, which begins with a confession of pride before ending on a humbler note. It’s an unexpected testimony because he describes how his intelligence, his “advancement,” along with his zeal, was a snare to his relationship with God and his understanding of Him. Paul placed traditions over relationship, his zeal was misaligned, and both proved destructive. Jesus Himself cautioned the Pharisees against this consuming mindset by asking them, “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3 ESV).
“But when it pleased God . . .” Now we see where Paul’s life was revolutionized. And this is what he wants his readers to fully grasp. It was the Father’s doing, His preemptive plan that took Paul down the Damascus Road. It was God’s wisdom and the Spirit of Jesus living inside him that gave him his credentials for apostleship. He didn’t need anyone to confirm it, he simply allowed Jesus to reveal Himself to him and followed the steps God placed in his path.
We all have skeletons in our closet—those things people might bring into question when we identify as being a follower of Jesus. And that’s totally perfect! Why? Because it gives us the same opportunity Paul had to explain who Jesus is and what He has done in our lives. And maybe this age of instant messaging is a good thing because word does travel fast, so let’s make it a good word. Let’s go and tell about our testimony of God’s saving grace in our lives. Amen?
DIG: What did Paul want to convey to his readers in this section of Scripture?
DISCOVER: What were the destructive qualities Paul experienced before he knew Jesus?
DO: Is there any misaligned zeal or traditional belief systems that are getting in the way of God’s path for you? If so, ask God to step in and lead you.
Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.