“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me.”—Galatians 2:1 (NKJV)
One of the distinguishing features of the Book of Galatians is the way Paul weaves his personal history into the text. It’s sort of half epistle, half biography. There’s a purpose for doing this, because we’ll also find that the main message of this letter is supported by the apostle’s own life experiences. Paul is essentially using himself to illustrate the great truth that he knows the Church of Galatia needs to know.
We encounter this dynamic as we launch into the letter’s second chapter. Having just recounted his incredible conversion story and meteoric rise in ministry, Paul skips ahead to something that occurred fourteen years later.
Paul recounts what also appears in Acts chapter 15. It had become necessary for the leaders of the early Church to define what was essential to the Christian faith, so they gathered for what is commonly known as The Jerusalem Counsel. This was an important crossroads, because it defined what does and what doesn’t constitute God’s gospel of salvation. Notice what Paul says about his involvement there: “I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation . . .” (Galatians 2:2 NKJV).
We see three important details here. First, it was by divine direction that Paul went, not by some worldly motivation. Second, he defined the gospel as that which he’d been sharing with non-Jews, which was all about Jesus and not the Law of Moses. And third, he was discreet in how he shared the gospel.
Paul is pointing out that he was led by God to declare the true gospel of salvation in the wisest way possible. Consequently, they should respect his motives, message, and methods. Everything here is calculated to move their minds to the central truth of the letter, which will become clear as we read on.
But going back to our initial thought, Paul’s life was pointing to the spiritual principles that he needed to communicate. Why? Because he wasn’t off doing his own thing but was walking in God’s will for his life. When a person decides to live like that, their steps add up to something the Lord can use to get a powerful, even life-saving, message across.
May we follow in Paul’s footsteps by following the Lord’s leading for our lives—by being about His will and not our own. In doing so, our lives can serve to advance the message of the gospel to a world that desperately needs to know it.
DIG: What distinctive feature do we notice in the Book of Galatians?
DISCOVER: Why does Paul pull his biography into this book so often?
DO: Why does the way you live matter in God’s grand scheme of things?
You Can’t Outgive God
“See if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10
My (jcd’s) dad, an evangelist, was the original soft touch. I remember him once going off to speak in a tiny church and coming home ten days later. Eventually my mother asked about the offering. I can still see my father’s face as he smiled and looked at the floor. “You gave the money away again, didn’t you?” she asked. “Myrt,” he said, “the pastor there is going through a hard time. His kids are so needy. I felt I should give the entire fifty dollars to them.” My good mother looked at my father for a few moments and then smiled. “You know, if God told you to do it, it’s okay with me.” A few days later, we ran completely out of money, so my father gathered us for a time of prayer. He said, “Lord, you told us that if we would honor you in our good times, that you would take care of us when things are difficult. We need a little help at this time.” The next day we received an unexpected check for $1,200. That’s the way it happened— not once, but many times. No matter what you give, you’ll find you can never outgive God.
Just between us…
Are we trusting God with our giving? What blessings, material and nonmaterial, have we seen from our gifts? Do we know someone now who needs a helping hand? Should we share what we have with them? Do we really believe “God owns it all”?
Heavenly Father, You promised to pour out blessings on those who tithe in Your name. Help us to take You at Your word and to trust in Your provision as we give back to You and share our abundance with others. Amen.