Understanding The Apostle Paul

                “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

                                                                                                                                                                Galatians 1:11-12

                William Ramsay, in his Historical Commentary on Galatians, writes regarding the Apostle Paul that, “So far as we understand his conversion, do we understand the man.” (Kregel Publications, 1997, p.  41)  This statement could be truthfully made regarding any Christian.  We will not be able to understand any believer if we do not understand their conversion to Christ.  When we turn our attention to Paul’s Gospel letter to the Galatians we are immediately confronted by the circumstances and the reality of his conversion.  He writes as one who has been brought to Christ in a sudden and unexpected way.  He received his knowledge of the Gospel through revelation from the LORD Jesus Christ.  The Book of Acts tells us three times that Paul encountered the Risen Christ on the Damascus Road while he was on his way to that city determined to persecute Christians.  The encounter stopped his murderous ways and made him into a preacher of the grace of God revealed in the crucified redeemer.  In that instant everything was changed and as Paul looked into the Word of God with fresh eyes he found himself seeing the LORD Jesus Christ.  As Ramsay goes on in the same paragraph of his Commentary he elaborates upon his point.

                ““You understand nothing in Paul unless you take it in its relation to his conversion.” Whoever fails to that in any case fails entirely.  There is but one way, and whoever misses it goes wrong inevitably in his conception of Paul’s work.”

                In Zechariah 12:10 the Prophet points to this reality when he writes about the great hope for the people of God.  “And I will pour out on the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”  Zechariah points ahead and tells his people that their only hope is in something that God will do.  He will pour His Spirit out upon them in such a way that they will see clearly the Pierced One.  Not only that they will see clearly that they personally were responsible for the Incarnate Son of the Living God being killed on the cross.  This will bring them to a life changing repentance.  Unless they see him in this way they will never come to live in the hope that God calls them to.

                Paul saw this.  He saw it written on every page of his Bible.  He saw it in the way in which believers lived, died, and testified to the reality of their faith.  He saw it when he personally encountered the Risen Christ on the Damascus Road.  We can never understand the Apostle Paul without seeing this clearly.  Not only that but we can never come to the only hope that can satisfy us if we do not see and understand Christ Crucified.  This is why Paul writes as he does to the Galatians with such passion and vulnerability.   They can establish all sorts of philosophies of life for themselves but not one of them will ever redeem them from their sin.  It is only in Christ crucified that they can ever hope to be saved.

                The same thing is true for each of us.  There is only one Gospel that that can deliver any one of us from our sinful nature.  This is the Word that tells us that Christ Jesus came into our world in order to save sinners through His cross.  This Gospel is the fulfillment of all that God has said to us in His Word all down through the centuries.  It has been the message of Christian preachers all down through the years.  At times the witness of God’s people to this truth has grown dim, but then God reveals it again and it is proclaimed to a new generation.  Always it is our only hope. 

                The Apostle Paul calls each of us to look to the LORD Jesus Christ and be saved.  Will you do this today? 

By retir158

I am a retired Baptist Pastor living in Leamington Ontario. I am a husband, a father to three and a grandfather to eight.

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