BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY….. “…I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.” Galatians 1:1 NLT
As I was reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians I noticed the affirmation of his calling that is unique to this letter. He is getting ready to confront those who declared a “false” gospel. So firmly stating his apostolic authority would be in line with his reason for writing this letter.
With the exception of Matthias who was chosen by the eleven to replace Judas, all the disciples were called personally by Jesus. Paul’s calling is certainly unique. It was a call by Jesus, and a post resurrection revelation to one who was intent on persecuting those who followed Jesus.
As the church grew there were those who were viewed as “apostles” in their spiritual role of establishing and leading churches. Paul recognizes this and refers to himself as the “least of all the apostles.”
This sense of a special calling and designation of apostleship was balanced with a recognition of those who were leaders in the church of Jerusalem. Specifically Peter, James and John. We see Paul recognizing that “God is no respecter of persons” but at the same time God-called men are placed in positions of responsibility and authority.
Paul did not seek immediate recognition from the apostles in Jerusalem, after he conversion. He says, “When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was.” (Galatians 1:16-17 NLT)
As a matter of fact, it was three years before Paul would meet with Peter and James in Jerusalem. Then after fourteen years of ministry to the Gentiles Paul returned to Jerusalem. He believed the Lord directed him to do so.
“I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing.” (Galatians 2:2 NLT)
What caught my attention was this balance of being called by God in a special way and for a special purpose, and preaching a message of salvation, but also being accountable to other spiritual leaders. In Paul’s own words, he wanted to “make sure that we were in agreement.” Paul wanted to build on and not destroy or contradict or undermine the gospel that others were preaching.
It became clear that the “true” gospel was that all people are made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ and not through obeying the law. Salvation was a supernatural work of grace, not human something attained through human effort. Paul was released and blessed to minister God’s grace to the Gentiles and Peter and the other apostles shared the same message with the Jews.
In these opening chapters of Galatians Paul makes it clear there is only one gospel; one way to be right before God. It is the same for Jews and for Gentiles. Paul preached that message with the confidence of his special calling, but he placed himself in a position to be accountable to others to protect the integrity of the message.
In doing so we see the importance of doctrine being subject to assessment of other spiritual leaders and not something that is to be viewed as a “special” revelation or message that is proclaimed without being open to the examination of others.
So, the word of caution is, if a doctrine or teaching that is being proclaimed is not willing to be examined and evaluated by others, it is probably a “different” gospel.
That is why Paul says, “Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.” (Galatians 1:8 NLT)