Freedom #7: Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship
The Judaizers dogged Paul’s footsteps wherever he went. No sooner did Paul win people to Christ, when they were right behind him, poisoning his converts with their legalism, insisting that the young Christians needed to be circumcised and follow all the ceremonial law, including the observance of the Feast Days and Sabbaths; otherwise, they could not be good Christians. These false teachers attempted to discredit Paul’s apostleship. If they could discredit his apostleship, then they could discredit his message.
Liberals today still use that approach. They tell us that only the teachings of Jesus matter; that Paul’s Epistles were just his own opinions and that he was somewhat extreme and out of sync with Christ. If that is so, then the whole Bible is not inspired; only that which the reader considers inspired. If Paul’s writings are not inspired, then His Gospel of grace is not to be trusted. Paul’s Epistles are just as inspired of God as the four Gospels. In fact, the plan of salvation, including the doctrine of justification and sanctification, is most clearly taught in his epistles, especially Romans. If we cannot trust Paul’s Epistles as inspired of God, then we have no salvation and we are of all men most miserable.
Since Paul was not one of the original twelve Apostles, his enemies were claiming he was not a true apostle. The false teachers were claiming they alone from the mother church in Jerusalem were the true servants of God. They claimed Paul went to Jerusalem to be corrected by the Apostles. Galatians 2:2 declares that he went to Jerusalem by revelation of God.
Who sent Paul out in the first place? Acts 13:1-4 tells us the Church of Antioch, led by the Holy Spirit, commissioned Paul as a missionary to the Gentiles. Here in Galatians, as well as throughout his Epistles, Paul defended his apostleship.
In Galatians 1:10-25 Paul recalled the events immediately following his conversion, emphasizing that he did not secure his information and understanding of salvation from the Apostles. He received his spiritual training from the risen Christ Himself out in the Arabian desert for three years.
In Galatians 2:1-10 Paul describes the events that took place as recorded in Acts 15 when he joined the Apostles in Jerusalem to settle some important matters concerning what it meant for a gentile to be a Christian. Notice that in Gal. 2:2 Paul communicated to the Apostles the Gospel that he preached and in verse 9 the Apostles, including Peter, James and John, gave him their blessing. In Acts 15:12 Paul rehearsed the miracles and wonders that confirmed his ministry as an Apostle.
To further strengthen his position before the Jewish leaders of the Church in Jerusalem, and to show that gentiles no longer needed to be circumcised to be good Christians, Paul mentions in Galatians 2:3 that he took Titus with him to the council meeting. Titus, a gentile Christian and a future pastor, was not circumcised; nor was he compelled by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to be circumcised. What a powerful victory this was for Paul as he opposed the Judaizers in Galatia and other gentle areas. The Judaizers in Galatia had insisted that circumcision was necessary to be a Christian. The Jewish leaders of the Church in Jerusalem decided it was not necessary. What a victory that was for Paul against his enemies.
Read in Acts 15:7-11 what Peter said at that Council meeting concerning Cornelius, Peter’s first gentile convert to Christianity. These are lessons the risen Saviour had personally taught Peter in the events of Acts 10.
Notice also in Galatians 2:4-5 that these false teachers were also at the Council in Jerusalem. The passive voice is used. They were smuggled in to that council meeting by Satan himself to do whatever damage they could for the cause of Christ. Read in Acts 20:29-30 and II Corinthians 11:13-15 how false teachers operate.
Read in Acts 15:7-11 Peter’s conclusions concerning the true Gospel that needed to be preached to the gentiles. Read in verse 12-21 the conclusion of James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Read in verse 22 the unanimity of the entire council concerning this matter.
The conclusion for us today is that anyone who is trusting in any good works or any church ceremony to be saved is not saved. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in what Jesus accomplished by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead. He paid the penalty for our sins in full. If you are trusting in Him alone, you are saved. If you are trusting in Him plus trusting in the observances of some or all of the ceremonial law of God, you are still lost in your sins. Anyone who insists that other things; such as Sabbath observance, observance of Old Testament feasts, or the rite of circumcision is necessary to be a true Christians, is a false teacher to be avoided.
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