The Letter to the Galatians provides more of Sha’ul’s past than any other letter he writes, and there are some very important reasons why. This section also contains the thesis statement, and we will see Sha’ul tailor his story, his Testimony, to emphasise his thesis.
Sha’ul’s Testimony[Read Gal. 1:11-2:10][i]
(Vs. 11-12) The first two verses are the thesis.[ii] Sha’ul wants to show that the good news that he proclaimed is correct, and the other “good news” proclaimed by the Judaizers is incorrect. He wants to show that Salvation is by faith alone, in Adonai’s Grace alone, and that it is completely unnecessary for Gentiles to become Jews to be accepted by Adonai. Sha’ul will spend the rest of this letter proving that the good news he shared with them, came directly “through a revelation of Yeshua the Messiah.”
(Vs. 13-14) Sha’ul then spends 2 verses reminding his audience of his life before Messiah, 2 verses on how he came to follow Yeshua, and the rest of the time explaining how began to share the good news based upon his revelation of Yeshua. Sha’ul explains that he was more observant of Judaism and the Traditions of the Fathers than the Judaizers who had confused the Galatians. The “Traditions of the Fathers” was a way of referring to what is known today as the Oral Law, or the Talmud. Even to this day, some of the Ultra-Orthodox in Judaism demonstrate their observance by persecuting the Jewish believers in Yeshua. Sha’ul explains that he had progressed further in Judaism than many of his own age. We know from Acts 7 & 8, that Sha’ul demonstrated his zeal by attempting to crush the newly founded sect, that followed Yeshua. Yeshua had referred to this in (Jn. 16:1-4) saying that those who kill you will think they are doing god a service. Sha’ul was attempting to demonstrate his zeal for Adonai, by persecuting Yeshua’s followers.
(Vs. 15-16) What Sha’ul did not realise was that Yeshua, was not only alive, but took the persecution personally. How many of you realise that when you are persecuted for being a follower of Yeshua, when you are mocked, and belittled for following His word, that Yeshua takes that persecution personally? Let’s jump over to the passage in Acts where Sha’ul sees our risen Lord.[Read Acts 9:1-9]
This is the revelation of Yeshua that Sha’ul was referring to in his opening thesis. All any Jewish person needs to become a believer, is to see the risen Yeshua. Mind you, that is all most people need. However, Yeshua also warns in (Luke 16:31), that if people cynically refuse to listen to Moses and the Prophets, then they won’t be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. The difference with Sha’ul is, that he was truly seeking to follow Adonai. So as soon as he talked with the risen Messiah, his entire world view was shattered. Sha’ul says in (Phil. 3:7-9):
“But whatever things were gain to me, these I have considered as loss for the sake of the Messiah. More than that, I consider all things to be loss in comparison to the surpassing value of the knowledge of Messiah Yeshua my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things; and I consider them garbage in order that I might gain Messiah and be found in Him not having my righteousness derived from Torah, but one that is through trusting in Messiah—the righteousness from God based on trust.”
Sha’ul’s Good News
(Vs. 17) Sha’ul now explains how he received the Good News that he had shared with his audience. Sha’ul explains that after the revelation we read about in Acts 9, he went away from the public eye. All his preconceptions about God, the Scriptures, and especially Messiah, had been challenged. Like many Jewish people, he had to go back and re-learn all the Scriptures in the light of the risen Messiah, Yeshua. While there may be some historical and polemic value in reading the Talmud, it is important to note that Yeshua directly contradicted many of the traditions that form the foundation of the Talmud. Yeshua quoted Isaiah, when referring to the Pharisees and Torah Scholars saying, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mk. 7:6-7) Sha’ul had to un-learn what he had studied under Gamaliel, and relearn under his new Rabbi, Yeshua (Matt. 23:8). Therefore, Sha’ul did not go an immediately consult others, he needed to study the Scriptures for himself, to see how these things were true just like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).
(Vs. 18-24) Sha’ul now shows, that not only is the message he preaches directly from his revelation of Yeshua, but the Apostles, Peter and Jacob, affirmed the Good News for the Gentiles. For those who remember last week, this visit to Jerusalem, corresponds with the visit in (Acts 9:26). There in Acts we get a little more detail and see that the reason that only two (2) apostles visited Sha’ul, was that the rest were afraid for their lives.
Some Time Later
(Vs. 1:21-2:2) One of the hardest lessons to learn, is the time between when Adonai calls us, and the time that we are set into place. Sha’ul had already been prophesied over by Ananias, in (Acts 9:15-16). There Adonai had declared, “He is a choice instrument to carry My name before nations and kings and Bnei-Yisrael. For I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Sha’ul attempted to start his ministry immediately, and found himself in many arguments, firstly in Damascus, and then in Jerusalem. In both places they attempted to kill him. So … the disciples in Jerusalem sent him back home, to Tarsus in the region of Cilicia. In Rugby terms, he was thrown in the sin bin for fourteen (14) years. There is always time between when the seed of prophesy is planted, and the fulfillment comes to maturity. In Sha’ul’s case it was fourteen (14) years from the prophesy until he would be sent out on his first missionary journey; for Moses it was forty (40) years between the burning bush and the promised land, for Yeshua it was about eighteen (18) years between when he first taught in the Temple, and when he started His ministry.
For me it was twenty-five (25) between my calling to ministry and my ordination. I remember saying to the Lord, “I don’t want to be half-baked.” Meaning I did not want to get to the end and crack under the pressure because I had not submitted to the process of Adonai.
(Vs. 2:3-5) Sha’ul was finally validated, and accepted, by the community in Jerusalem after those long 14 years. Here he shares of his second visit to Jerusalem, where he met with the larger community of the Apostles. This acceptance shows to his audience, that his version of the Good News, is the correct one. To further make his point, Sha’ul explains how Titus, a Gentile, was not required to be circumcised. Sha’ul uses this event, to point out how his opponents, the Judaizers, are completely wrong. Not only did the Judaizers, who Sha’ul calls “false Brothers,” not succeed in getting Titus circumcised, but their view was completely rejected. This points to exactly what Sha’ul is trying to get across the those in Galatia. The influential apostles of Jerusalem completely affirmed the message that Sha’ul was preaching and realised that Sha’ul had been “entrusted” and called to preach to the Gentiles.
We also need to remember the power of our own testimony. How we came to Yeshua, and how he has made us into the people we are today is powerful. Just as Sha’ul tailored his testimony to reach the Galatians, we also should pray how we can share our stories with those around us.
Also, we all need remember that the timing of Adonai is not our timing. It usually takes a long time after Adonai has spoken, before we see the fulfilment of His word in our lives. We learn patience through the process that Adonai uses to make us into the vessels that can be used by him.
Finally, let us all remain faithful to the calling that
Adonai has called us to. It is different for each of us, just as it was
different for Peter and Paul. All of us are called to minister, as it says in
(Eph. 4:12), so let us seek Adonai for what we are called to do in His Kingdom.
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[ii] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11, Robert Rapa, pg. 568.