By Lindsey Carlson
Before I came to salvation I had pot-luck theology. I’d grabbed a little from this religion, a little from that one, making a cultural casserole of sorts. Eventually, I had a smorgasbord of side dish beliefs and Jesus Christ wasn’t even at the feast I called Christianity.
The religion I preached was one of man. I chose the parts I liked from different people who’d taught me their views and opinions. Not wanting to exclude anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable (least of all myself), I attempted to clean up Jesus’s public persona. I had no grasp on the actual person of Jesus, the enormity of His sacrifice, or the wrath he’d saved me from.
I’m sure to my believing friends, I looked like a lunatic; preaching a Jesus-free moral religion of all-inclusiveness. The gospel I preached was man’s gospel; one where anyone can pick and chose what they like and trash the rest.
Not Man’s Gospel
“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.” Galatians 1:11-12
Paul clearly had a different salvation experience on the Damascus road than I did at my church in Texas. Paul heard Jesus with his physical ears (Acts 9:4-6), was blinded, and then had his sight restored. By the time the scales fell of his eyes and the Holy Spirit filled him, he knew, that he knew, that he knew the good news of Christ’s salvation.
When Paul preached the gospel to the gentiles, he wanted them to know what he was preaching had not come from man. It wasn’t intended to tickle their ears or bring warm fuzzy feelings. It was intended to convict, bring repentance, and ultimately save them from death and judgment. He knew the people needed to know the divine origins of such a radical revelation if they were going to believe the gospel.
Good News Is Worth Preaching
“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 among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone…” Galatians 1:15-16
When God revealed his Son, Paul was radically changed. But I wonder if Paul felt embarrassed or ashamed about his past persecution of the Jews. I wonder if he feared looking like a hypocrite or a fool after all he’d done to persecute the Christians.
We don’t know how he felt but we know what he did. Out of joy, Paul preached the faith he’d once tried to destroy. Paul recognized his calling to preach salvation among the Gentiles and faithfully testified to God, who had called him by grace.
For God’s Glory
“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 1:23-24
When the people in the regions of Syria and Cilicia heard Paul preach, they saw a changed man. Paul, the persecutor of their faith, had obviously experienced a divine transformation and they glorified God because of it.
I wish I had responded as boldly as Paul upon my salvation, preaching the good news in radical contrast to my former life. Instead, I feared my friends’ reaction to the changes in my life and worried they would judge me. Fear kept me from standing on the authority of the gospel and preaching as boldly as Paul.
Paul understood he hadn’t been saved for his own acceptance and glory. He’d been saved to preach the gospel, for God’s glory. His testimony of obedience calls me to ignore the fear of man and press on in the authority of Christ; preaching the good news among the gentiles in my life.
Galatians 1:11-24 assures us that Paul’s transformation was preached on the authority of divine revelation. He preached with reckless abandon for the glory of God. Don’t we have the same author and perfecter of our faith, sweet sister? Stand on the gospel of God and not man; that you might proceed in faith, glorifying God through the preaching of your salvation, that all may glorify God because of your radical transformation.
Lindsey Carlson lives in Houston with her worship-pastor husband and their four active kids (all under age 9). Her home is filled with the sounds of childhood (galloping horses, swashbuckling heroes, and the occasional sibling brawl), the near-constant presence of music in some form, and volumes of great literature, old and new. You can catch her regular reflections on faith and worship at Worship Rejoices or follow her on twitter.
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