Some Thoughts on Galatians 1:1-5

Paul, an apostle - sent not from man nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead - and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:1-5, NIV

Railroad at Tioga Falls, West Point, KY
Photo Credit: Fred Moore, Jr. 2017

When our church group gathered for the hike along the winding forest trail, we were traveling blind.  We had no idea where the winding path would take us, nor what sights awaited us.  The shadowy canopy of tall poplars and spruces gave us a welcome reprieve from the mid-summer Sabbath afternoon sun as we climbed the steep leading to the open ridge above.

We reached the ridge marking our halfway point of the journey, then stopped for a break.  While there I snapped the photo above of the lonely railroad track meandering into the distant forest and hills to the south.  It was a breathtakingly spectacular view, a most gracious and beautiful gift which the most skilled of photographers or artists could only hope to partially replicate.

Paul opens his letter to the Galatians with a spectacular, intimate portrait of God's miraculous, saving intervention of grace in his life and the unique calling which qualified him to be an eyewitness to the Gentiles of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his gospel.  "Paul, an apostle - sent not from man nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."  Paul boldly stakes his claim to the high office of apostleship to the dynamic epiphany of the risen Lord Jesus Christ at Damascus road, refuting the claims of the false teachers at Galatia that Paul was neither an apostle of Jesus nor authorized by divine commission.  The Lord Jesus himself accosted Saul - who was present at the eloquent defense of Stephen and was witness to his lynching (Acts 7 - 8:1) - on his way to arresting followers of Jesus: "As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'  'Who are you, Lord?'  Saul asked.  'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied.  'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'" Acts 9:1-6.

I must digress from the study for a "shout moment" here.  Consider the infinite genius of God, in turning the worst persecutor of Christ into the greatest missionary for Christ!  Contemplate the infinite grace of God in sparing Saul's life and saving him from his hell-bound course!  Ponder anew the infinite love and mercies of the Savior, sparing this one lost sheep who had so persecuted the church of Christ!  How glorious is our God!  The longsuffering of God is our salvation!

The moment that Jesus revealed himself to Saul as the One - the crucified and risen Lord, the Christ - whom he was persecuting, Saul was transformed.  You see, once you have a personal encounter with Jesus, you can no longer be the same person that you were.  Saul was shaken to the very core of his being.  Every thing that he thought he knew before, that he sincerely believed was right and true, was all wrong now.  The True Light of heaven shone into the dark corridors of his heart, laying bare the barrenness of his parched soul.  Nothing in his existence could have prepared him for the massive earthquake that this revelation of Jesus was, a revelation that plumbed the depths of his soul and shook it to the very foundations, reducing it all down to unprofitable vanity!

By referring to his unforgettable encounter with the Christ and his divine ordination as missionary to the nations who did not know God, Paul was offering himself as the greatest - and only - proof necessary to buttress his authority as an apostle of Jesus and as a witness to the resurrected Christ.  And therein also lies the greatest proof that any follower of Jesus can offer the world of the existence of God and the power of his gospel:  we are the living evidence of the living God, our called-out lives the living testament to the reality of God and his saving grace.  In the words of the old refrain:

He Lives!  He lives!
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life's narrow way.
He lives!  He lives!
Salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!


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