For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas 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 1:11-24 (ESV)
Tom Schreiner writes:
We learn from these verses that the gospel is ultimately derived not from human beings but from God himself. In other words, the gospel represents a transcendent word from God – a word from above that speaks authoritatively and infallibly to human beings. Hence, rejection of the gospel amounts to a repudiation of what God himself has communicated. Paul labors to teach here that the gospel did not originate with him, and indeed it was contrary to his own view of reality, since he was convinced that faith in Christ was a perilous delusion.
Indeed, Paul’s call and conversion function as significant evidence of the truth of the Christian faith. What can account for the radical transformation of a man who was implacably opposed to Jesus Christ and early Christians? As Paul explains here, there was no human reason for him to subscribe to the Christian faith. He thought he was like Phinehas and Elijah of old – a valiant warrior contending in God’s name for the truth. He envisioned himself as a modern manifestation of the Maccabean heroes, who resisted apostasy with zeal in their own day. More than that, he was celebrated for his zeal and prowess in Judaism. Therefore, the only explanation for his call and conversion is the miraculous intervention of God. Paul’s conversion has only one explanation: God himself. From a human standpoint, it was exceedingly unlikely.
It is important to realize that our zeal and sincerity do not mean that we are necessarily right. We can be zealous for something and yet be zealously wrong. I remember as a young boy I was one of the last to believe in Santa Claus! I was zealous for the truth of his existence, but I was wrong. Furthermore, we can become zealous for a cause and get out of balance. I know of a pro-life activist who was incredibly committed to life. But he ended up leaving his wife for another woman and moved to another state and bought an expensive house. His zeal of the cause of life was not truly rooted in the gospel, and he ignored his responsibility to his wife.
We also learn from this text that the gospel we proclaim is a divine gospel. It is a heavenly gospel in that it comes from the Father. We can be assured that a gospel that comes from God himself is true, that it cannot be dismissed as a human invention. Why should we believe in the Christian faith? We should believe in it because it is true. It reflects God’s view of reality, and God’s view is indisputably true since he is the creator of all reality.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 52
Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.