Paul, His Gospel, and Thomas Jefferson
Sermon shared by Freddy Fritz
Summary: Paul has already told his readers that his apostleship is from God. In this sermon he shows that his authority to speak, teach, preach and write was given to him by Jesus Christ himself.
Audience: General adults
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Today we continue our study in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Let us read Galatians 1:11-24:
"11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
"13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
"18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: ’The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ 24 And they praised God because of me" (Galatians 1:11-24).
Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States of America. He was, in the minds of many people, a great president but a poor theologian.
He admitted that he was not a total follower of Jesus Christ because Jesus took the side of “spiritualism,” he said, while he was a “materialist.” He agreed that Jesus preached the necessity of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He, however, believed in “a counterpoise of good works to redeem one’s soul.”
Jefferson believed that Jesus taught a simple life of repentance and good works, and his biographers (the Gospel writers, Peter, James and Paul) distorted his teaching.
The apostle Paul was the chief culprit. This is Jefferson’s assessment of Paul: “Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus and the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.”
Well, what should we make of Jefferson’s and other critic’s views of Paul? Was the teaching of Paul, as John Stott asks, “the product of his own fertile brain? Did he make it up? Or was it stale second-hand stuff with no original authority? Did he crib it from the other apostles in Jerusalem, which the Judaizers evidently maintained, as they tried to subordinate his authority to theirs?”
That is the issue before us. What is the origin of Paul’s gospel? Where did Paul get his gospel from? That is the question that I will seek to answer today.
Paul has already told his readers that his apostleship is from God. His authority to speak, preach, teach and write was given to him by Jesus Christ himself.
Now, in the section before us today, he asserts that there is only one gospel—his. He maintains that the gospel he teaches is no human teaching; rather, it comes from Christ through revelation. That is the proposition, and several statements support that proposition.
I. Proposition: Paul’s Gospel Is from Christ (1:11-12)
Paul’s proposition is that
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