Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter] and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me (Galatians 1:18-24 ESV).
What’s it all about? In this part of the letter, Paul continues to defend his apostolic credentials and to inform his readers that his gospel did not come from human authorities. Furthermore, Paul is seeking to demonstrate (through this narration of his journeys) that he was not dependent on the apostles for the substance of his gospel. The message Paul was preaching was not discovered through human interaction and council but was divinely revealed.
So what? Paul had been dramatically changed by the power of the gospel. As a testimony to this change, the churches who had once suffered as a result of his actions were now praising God for his conversion. Paul’s testimony and ministry were not powerful because of human influence but because of the transforming grace of God. Like Paul, we must rely upon and testify to the transforming grace of God that comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Questions from the Text:
1. What was Paul’s relationship to the other apostles immediately after his conversion (1:18-19)?
2. How did the lack of interaction with the Christians in Judea strengthen Paul’s claim that his message was of divine origins (1:21-23)?
Now what? Unfortunately, some people are concerned with making a name for themselves and are intentionally associating with prominent people as a way of validating their existence. Like Paul, we should not be concerned with popularity or prestige. In this age of “personality cult” Christianity, we cannot be distracted by who we know or who knows us. Instead, we must orient our lives to impact unbelievers from all walks of life with the gospel.
Small Group Questions
Scripture: Ephesians 3:7-13; 1st Thessalonians 2:1-12
1. In Ephesians 3, Paul refers to himself as the “least of all the saints.” What does this statement reveal about Paul’s character and approach to ministry?
2. In what ways do Paul’s life and approach to ministry serve as an example for us today?
3. What is more important to you: making a name for yourself or proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ?
4. In what ways do you need to rearrange your life and priorities to reflect a commitment to making the gospel of Christ known to all?
5. In 1st Thessalonians, Paul viewed his tent-making as a means to provide for his ministry. Based on this example, how should we view our jobs?
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory (Ephesians 3:7-13).
For you yourselves know, brothers,[a] that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.5 For we never came with words of flattery,[b] as you know, nor with a pretext for greed –God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle[c] among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)