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As I was preparing to preach this week, I was really struck by a little comment Paul makes in Galatians 5. “I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view.” How in the world could he say that?

Backing up slightly, Paul was writing to a group of churches that, soon after he had brought the gospel to them, had been infiltrated by subversive false teachers who had turned the people away from the God who had called them. Throughout the letter there is a sense in which they are close to making a very bad decision to buy into the law-righteousness version of Christianity that the false teachers were pushing.

Furthermore, Paul, the one who had brought the gospel to them was being slandered and maligned. They were accusing him of not being a real apostle, of being imbalanced, inconsistent in his teaching, soft on sin, and probably all sorts of other attacks. And to make matters worse, Paul was many miles away, and the false teachers were right there in the midst of these young believers.

Talk about out of control! Paul wrote and he wrote very strongly, but where was his confidence? In the Lord.

This is Paul’s preaching in action—he’d told them to do Christianity by faith rather than by effort of the flesh. Inadvertently he demonstrates that same faith. It isn’t in his power to control the situation and fix the problem. Of course he is writing, but he knows it is the Lord who needs to change hearts, and that is who Paul is trusting.

This is Paul’s understanding in action—sin is not just a superficial issue that can be addressed by codes of conduct; it goes so deep that it would take a heart transplant to bring about change. He has been teaching them that throughout the letter, but this little comment shows that he believes it.

No matter how strongly his emotions show in the letter, he doesn’t try to manipulate or coerce them by the force of his authority. He yields nothing, for he is in the right and has the authority as an apostle, but he knows that for hearts to be won over to the truth, God needs to do the winning. Paul doesn’t accidentally offer an alternative code of conduct and thereby negate his own theology.

It makes me wonder how often do we try to manipulate, to force, to convince, to win, to work feverishly in order to get people to agree with us? That is the inclination of the flesh. Like Paul, we need to know the place for courageous proclamation of truth, even when it brings all sorts of attacks and criticism, but always remembering that heart change is God’s business. This is true in evangelism and it is true in discipleship ministry.

Just as Paul is teaching in Galatians, that the Christian life begins and continues by faith, the same is true of ministry. Only God can change hearts—this is true in evangelism, and it is true in the ongoing life of the church. Paul preached the theology, but he also lived it out. "I am confident in the Lord that you ..."



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Irene Allen

commented on Aug 27, 2013

Manipulation to convince another to agree with God does not work in the long run, let alone arm twisted teachings trying to force believer's to follow the law. Many believer's, are right now, becoming angrier for having been duped by false truths teachings they believed, shared with others and lived by. Our confidence must remain in the Lord to change the heart of man and not what makes common sense to man. Our God is not common, and many times the word of God does not make common sense, even to us who believe the word of God by faith, correctly. Great great great article.

Ralph M

commented on Aug 27, 2013

Paul is such an interesting subject to see change from what he thought was truth. In many ways, the same value can be found in Muslims becoming Christians, that fear of death known for their action...yet still taking them. Paul, having believed he was doing the right thing from birth, came to a point he was shown what he believed was a lie, and though the Bible says 'days', we all know that literal days could have been days-or years. In this case we know it was years, because he had to come to grips with what he had been a part of, and to know what the real truth was. Paul had to come to grips with what he had been a part of...and yet in doing so, he became a man with no excuses for himself or others. Quite literally, the 'truth' set him free. In doing so, he was hated by everyone. Those he 'betrayed' and those he had once hunted...The Lord had to give him a voice from someone the Apostles trusted...and even that was a stretch. But this just made Paul stronger, he even changed his name, for he was no longer the same person...in many ways he was stronger than most that walked with Jesus, and they had to come to grips with how much more he was willing to do than even they were at the time. Later, as written here, Paul was even put to the test within those calling themselves 'Christians', and those within the church too afraid to set the standard. Even those committing blasphemy, saying that Paul was the one in blasphemy. Paul was so strict, especially in those going to church, that he gave chances for them to repent and see they were in sin...but a time-line on facing that, being of repentance or forced out of the church. We could a lot more of that value, in pulpits alone today. We are all sinners, but that is not an excuse, that is a reason too change and repent. Though grace is our saving through God, the sanctification process we all go through is a cleansing of ourselves and getting to want to be more like Christ...and we will fall and fail many times in that pursuit of excellence. Perfection, one day, will come to those that are truly Gods children. God Bless. Great article.

Anonymous

commented on Aug 27, 2013

I didn't understand how the Title "Is Preaching Your Work or God's?" goes with the explanation you gave

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 28, 2013

What he's trying to say is that when "we try to manipulate, to force, to convince, to win, to work feverishly in order to get people to agree with us," we are showing that we really believe that preaching is our work, not God's.

Brian Wilson

commented on Aug 28, 2013

Thank you very much for this article - which goes right to the heart of issues which were brought to mind when I first wrestled with the calling to be a minister. As the article rightly says, human beings can do all sorts of things - move people emotionally, manipulate them or convince them intellectually; but it is only God who can give spiritual life and build His church. It also demonstrates the need to give priority to what Christians often fail in - the need for prayer to reinforce preaching and any other form of kingdom work.

Okoro Chinyere Stephanie

commented on Aug 28, 2013

Yes! I know preachers know this, most times they allow themselves flex their manipulative capabilities, but unsuspecting new christians like I used to be, became their victims until better informed. Jesus said only God draws souls to himself, we humans are only physical tools. Preaching really is God's work.

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