Summary: Paul declares that his teacher was the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher, also, but the Spirit many teachers to provide us with our personal revelation.
Galatians 1:11-24 "Personal Revelations"
I'm a history buff, and I enjoy a good, well written biography. Biographies help us see inside the person and enable us to begin to understand why that person did or said what is recorded in history.
Today's text is a brief autobiography by Paul. Paul's words help us understand why is so insistent on his gospel of grace, and his objection to a religion based on duty and a faith of obligation.
A FORMER LIFE
I have attended a few worship services that featured personal testimonies. In effect, personal testimonies are brief autobiographies. One of the characteristics, which I have noticed, is that often personal testimonies are "rags to riches stories." By this I mean that they witness to a life of a deeply broken person--drugs or alcohol addiction, divorce, abuse, criminal behavior, etc. The testimonies stress that the bad has been changed to the good.
Paul's testimony is slightly different. True, he confesses that he was a persecutor of the church. At the same time, Paul admits that he had advanced in Judaism well beyond those of his same age. In other words, Paul was a super religious person. In another one of his letters, Paul states that as to the law he was perfect. Wow! Paul had nothing to confess. He kept the law flawlessly. Still, Paul discovered a certain emptiness in his religion--an emptiness that couldn't even be filled by his relentless prosecution of the early Church.
There are times, in our lives as Christians, when we discover what Paul discovered--that a religious life based on doing is empty. This is not to say that we decide to do nothing and not become involved in service projects, or devotional disciplines, or educational opportunities. It is to say that all of these actions need to be in response to God's grace and the relationship that God has with us.
Amazed by Grace
In his religious zealousness, Paul persecuted the early church. He was totally convinced that the Christian "Way" was leading people away from the true worship of God.
Jesus revealed himself to Paul, and changed Paul's heart and mind. Paul was amazed that Jesus would touch him, even though, he [Paul] was fighting against him. Paul was astonished that he did nothing to warrant God's grace. In an instant, Paul realized that the God whom he worshipped was a God of relationships. The core of that relationship was not working, but rather being.
Paul had been a Jewish Christian. He had been circumcised, he ate Kosher, and he observed the Sabbath, but none of this was the basis of his relationship with God. Paul had lived what the circumcision party was promoting and he knew it didn't work. There was something infinitely better, and Paul wanted everyone to experience God's grace and walk in a relationship with a living God.
Paul's testimony serves as a constant reminder to the emptiness of works, and the overwhelming, life-changing nature of God's love and grace. There are times when we can only sit back in amazement of God's love for us, or sing at the top of our lungs God's praises.
There was a dynamic change in Paul's life, but he never calls it a conversion experience. Instead Paul focuses on his call. His encounter with God was a call to a new life and a new purpose.
We have not just been changed, we have been changed for a purpose. We have been called.
God has called each and every one of us to be who we are, where we are. We are God's ministers and missionaries at this particular time and place. Whatever our station in life, our employment, our leisure activities, and our circle of friends we have been called. If we don't feel that we are where God wants us to be, then we should move. Otherwise, we should realize and celebrate God's call in our lives.
Being called means that we understand that God is using us and moving through us to touch the lives of other people. Understanding that we are called reminds us that we are servants in all we say and do. Being called also means that we strive to do God's will and not our own.
In many ways, Paul's testimony is similar to our testimony. God has touched us with God's love and grace. God has called us and empowered us to accomplish his will. We live each day in this reality, and celebrate that we are God's