Who is in charge here?

When Jewish followers of Jesus objected to Paul’s message to the Gentiles, the issue was one of authority.

What right did Paul have to change Jewish law that had been existence since the days of Moses? That seems like a reasonable objection. That is unless it was wrong.

Paul knew that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit had fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. God was doing a new thing and to insist on old covenant practices was to deny God’s new activity.

Paul’s personal experience with the risen Jesus gave him the right to be in charge in such a way that his critics could not deny.

This is his story.

Galatians 1.11-12For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin,

For I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Suppose you were invited to the first presentation of a magnificent painting. You dress in your finest clothes and gather with other art lovers.

Highlighted in soft lights is an easel in the center of the room with what appears to be a frame covered with a luxurious velvet cloth.

At the climax of the gathering, the artist and her patron approach the easel and uncover a magnificent work of art.

The beautiful painting had been present all along, but it took the unveiling for it to be seen by the crowd.

This is exactly what happened to Paul. The world-transforming work of Jesus had been accomplished, but it was hidden from Paul.

On the road to Damascus (Acts 9), Jesus removed the veil from Paul’s eyes. Like the unveiling of the picture in my illustration, Jesus removed the covering and allowed Paul insight into his activity.

It took a face-to-face meeting with Jesus to transform Paul. It was that experience that gave him the authority to proclaim his good news message.

The Power of a Testimony

A personal testimony can be checked and determined to be true or false. Paul’s life before and after his conversion was well known.

Galatians 1.13-17You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.

I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.

But when the one who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace was pleased

To reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human,

Or did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterward I returned to Damascus.

Luke recorded the stoning of Steven in Acts 7. We learn in Acts 8, “And Saul approved of their killing him” (Acts 8.1).

Paul didn’t stop with Steven.

But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison (Acts 8.3).

Paul said, “[I was] more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors” (Galatians 1.14).

Zeal included fervent prayer and devotion to God. Zealous people did not shy away from violence to protect the purity of their religious beliefs.

When Jesus pulled back the cloak that covered his purposes on the road to Damascus, God’s plan for him and the world was revealed.

He identified with Isaiah and knew God had a plan for him before he was born (verse 15)

Listen to me, O coastlands;
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born;
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
(Isaiah 49.1)

He realized that his work was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy to bring God’s salvation to all humans.

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
(Isaiah 49.6)

Let’s pause for a moment and consider how we resemble Paul.

(1) God wants to use us to help other people experience his love and grace.

(2) God set us apart before we were born and commissioned us to partner with him in sharing his love with others.

(3) We may not recognize our true purpose in life and won’t know it until God reveals it to us.

(4) Our story of how God has worked in our lives makes us an authoritative messenger of God’s love.

Time Alone

Even though Paul had one of the most dramatic conversion experiences of the ages, he needed more. He needed to sit in the Lord’s presence and learn in the Master’s presence.

After three years in Arabia, the wilderness and the location of Mount Sinai were not lost on Paul.

If you are familiar with a dull saw blade versus a sharp blade, I won’t have to tell you which one is preferable. It takes time to sharpen the blade, but it is worth every minute.

Paul’s three years alone with God sharpened him in ways that could not be replaced. God gave him the understanding and power that no human authority could.

Paul was an authoritative representative because of his personal interaction with God.

In the same way, we will acquire power and wisdom the more we interact with God. God will use our story to help others experience his love.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross has some excellent information for us in today’s YouTube video. The ten minutes you spend listening to it will be very profitable.

Please email your prayer request to bspad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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