Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1
November 28, 2010
13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it:
14 and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace,
16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus.
- I. Paul's First Statement of "Evidence": His Former Behavior.
- A. A careful examination of the material in Galatians 1-2 reveals that Paul organizes his arguments from least to greatest. This means that this "first" statement is not the most potent. However, it still retains a potency of its own. Paul would not have used an argument that had no "punch" to it.
- B. You heard...
- 1. Since Paul's former behavior was a significant element in his "defense" before the violent multitude in Jerusalem in Acts 22 and before Agrippa in Acts 26, it is more than likely that the Galatians "heard" of his former behavior from his own lips. It is also possible that his adversaries let what they knew about him be known.
- 2. However they "heard", Paul's first statement of "evidence" depends upon them "believing" what they had heard. All argumentation depends heavily upon the issue of people "believing" what they hear in each step of the argument.
- C. Of my former manner of life...
- 1. It is interesting that the term Paul used to address his past is a term that is used by Peter (he is the majority user in the New Testament) in his letter regarding "the true grace of God" (1 Peter 5:12). The implication is compelling: "grace" is designed to address "behavior". That the New Testament (and, indeed, the book of Galatians) puts a premium upon our understanding that "grace" is not extended because of the behavior of its recipients is in no wise any evidence that "works" are unimportant in the scheme of things. That legitimate "works" arise out of such a clear dogmatism is, though a bit of a mind twister, the point.
- a. At the root of Paul's characterization of the "kingdom" as "righteousness, peace, and joy" (Romans 14:17) stands "righteousness" and that certainly cannot be divorced from behavior in any way. As a word, "righteousness" describes behavior.
- b. The New Testament declares that Christ gave Himself so that He might motivate us to "good works" (Titus 2:14).
- c. The "whence" of behavior is, obviously, critical because behavior is never "uncaused". Paul's argument is that legitimate behavior arises out of a "T"heology of God as "gracious" rather than a "T"heology of God as "just".
- 2. The root of Paul's appeal to the alteration of his actions is this fact: it takes a significant level of "persuasion" to get a person to alter his/her "typical" behavior.
- a. It is a major problem that many profess to be "Christian" but their "typical" behavior never changes. The changes are often only superficial.
- b. Any "gospel" that can only address the superficial is not "good" news. Any "religion" can produce superficial changes.
- 3. The implication is that Paul's message is from God because it turned his own behavior into "godliness" from a severe form of wickedness (his "chief of sinners" self-characterization (1 Timothy 1:13-15) arose directly from the behavior he describes in our text).
- D. In Judaism...
- 1. The particular realm of Paul's former behavior was the religion of the Jews. This is not insignificant because that "religion" was almost entirely focused upon the issue of "behavior's impact upon man's relationship with God".
- 2. Of all of the religions of the world, Judaism was the paramount expression of the kind of behavior required of men by God.
- E. That "according to the standard of excess" I persecuted the Church of God...
- 1. It is clearly a part of Paul's understanding that "excessive" zeal was "laudable" in Judaism. It is only in a "lukewarm" world that such zeal is frowned upon. Typically, it takes an "extremist" to accomplish anything good because the inertia of the status quo will conquer all who are only half-hearted about the need for changes.
- 2. The "standard of excess" is a revelation of just how deeply enmeshed in opposition to God was Saul of Tarsus. He had, as his own words reveal, a "zeal for God" but it was not according to the standards of knowledge (Romans 10:2). Corrupt "zeal" is better than none (Revelation 3:15-16), but it is "corrupt" and led to violent opposition in Saul's case.
- 3. The "persecution of the Church of God" was such a problem that Paul had a life-long burden, after the fact, that constantly pressed upon him [Note 1 Corinthians 15:9 and 1 Timothy 1:13].
- a. The phrase clearly focuses upon the "Church" as the people of God, but Jesus took it personally in Acts 9:4-5. Of course, He had already laid down that principle in Matthew 25:40.
- b. Forgiven guilt is not forgotten guilt.