“Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.”
Many academicians, historians, and professors of religion teach that Christianity, at least as we have come to know it, is due entirely to the influence of Paul. On this view, Paul “hijacked” the teachings of Jesus, morphing His doctrine into something entirely new. Today’s verse passage offers powerful refutation of this errant view. Paul states explicitly that Christianity’s distinctive doctrines existed prior to his own conversion. Paul was not an innovator, rather, he was a faithful minister of all that He received from the Lord Himself (Galatians 1:11-12). Today’s passage is part of the great apostle’s synopsized testimony, which he shared with the churches of Galatia. As a diligent, outstanding student of Judaism, Paul thought he was doing God a service by attempting to crush the early church (Galatians 1:13-14; Acts 8:1, 3; 9:1; 22:3-5; 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9). When the resurrected and glorified Christ confronted him personally, the former persecutor was instantly and permanently changed (Acts 9:3-22). Luke describes this pivotal event in the life of Paul (and in the history of the church) in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. Forever etched into his memory, Paul went on to share his testimony with his countrymen, the Jews (Acts 21:40-22:21) and at his trial before Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26:1-23). Given his impressive religious history and credentials (Philippians 3:4-6) along with his miraculous conversion experience, Paul thought he must surely be God’s man to reach His covenant nation, Israel (Acts 22:17-20). God’s ways, however, are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:9), and the great apostle was sent to be a witness to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21; Galatians 2:6-9). Paul stands as a stellar witness and object lesson to all of us (Philippians 3:17). Though he was guilty of many serious crimes, he found forgiveness, cleansing, and new life in Christ. “I am crucified with Christ:” wrote Paul, “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Though Paul, like all of us, still struggled against sin during the days of his pilgrimage on the earth (Romans 7:15-25), he nevertheless pressed on, undaunted and intimidated until the day he went to his reward (2 Timothy 4:6-8). May we too, by our testimonies and living examples, give irresistible witness to the life-changing power of God in the Gospel of His dear Son. Walk strong today, dear saints, and may God bless you richly.