Full Text for Galatians- Volume 16 - How does Paul's conversion relate to his understanding of his apostleship? What about his time in Arabia? (Video)

No. 16. >> Thank you. In the next verses, Paul describes his conversion or rather God's revelation of Christ. How does this relate to his understanding of his apostleship? And how much time did Paul spend in Arabia? What do you think he was doing during this time? >>DR. ARTHUR A. JUST, JR.: These are all excellent questions that get us into the second part of the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Starting in Verse 11, the main proposition for this epistle is stated by Paul. And here you can see, this is his statement about the Gospel. He says to the Galatians -- and notice that he calls them brothers, which is an endearing term. It's important to recognize how important it is that we see this. He says: For I want you to know, brethren, the Gospel -- and I'm going to translate this literally -- the Gospel that was gospeled by me, that it is not according to men -- or a man. Now I find it fascinating that he says: I want you to know brethren. They know this. Paul has taught this to them. What they are hearing here in this letter are things that he has said before. Because these were men who were very much catechized by Paul. It was their families, which included women, slaves, children, the whole group. I think in many ways he is addressing the men because that's the way it was in that day. And these are mercenaries. These are soldiers. But when he says brethren he means all the saints, men and women, children, all. Slave and free. He knows that they know that the Gospel that has been gospeled by him is not according to a man. Now, here you can see he says his apostleship is not according to a man but comes from God. Now he's saying the Gospel that has been gospeled by me is not from men but from God. Now, this is important. I think that statement, the Gospel that has been gospeled by me, describes the Gospel as it is. We sometimes think of the Gospel as some sort of abstract idea or something that you find in a book. But the Gospel is something that happens. The Gospel happens in that space of grace. When Christians gather together around the Word of God and the Gospel is preached. Luther said it very clearly. What is the church? The church is where those who gather around the voice of the Good Shepherd and clearly hear his voice and are his sheep. That is exactly what Paul is essentially saying here. The Gospel is something that happens. It is a preached event. Now, this is something that Paul says that he did not receive from a man. In other words, perhaps his opponents are saying: Hey, listen, Paul is going to tell you that he didn't get it from anybody. But he went to Jerusalem. He talked to Peter. He talked to Barnabas. He was in the church of Antioch. But Paul makes it very clear in Verse 12: For neither did I receive it -- notice the receiving, the reception. This is like the receiving of a tradition -- I did not receive it according to a man nor was I taught it by a man. But I received it -- and this is important language. And in the Greek it's literally by the Apocalyptic revelation of Jesus Christ. Most of our translations simply say I think revelation. Yes, through a revelation of Jesus Christ. But the word there is Apocalyptic. Remember, I talked about Apocalyptic before. This is an in breaking. This is when God is stepping on the scene and doing something completely out of the ordinary. The incarnation, Jesus becoming one of us is an Apocalyptic event. And so also was the revelation of Paul by Jesus on the road to Damascus. That was an Apocalyptic event. That's where he got his Gospel. Not that there was any kind of great download of information about the Gospel at that time. But that's when Paul saw that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. And that what he did on the cross was in fact the atonement of the world's sins and that in fact he had risen from the grave three days later. Now, Paul needs to substantiate this. And this is where we see the language here about his call. Paul's call is very important in the epistle to the Galatians because he puts it in the context of the call of such prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Now, look at what he does: He tells the story of his life. He talks a little bit about his life in Judaism. And he is reminding them of things that they already know. Look what he says in Verse 3 -- 13; excuse me. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism. Now, that's a unique word. Former life. Judaism. That's a unique word to Paul. This is the religion of Judaism. This is Paul before the cross. This is Paul living under the law. And notice what he says: How I persecuted the church violently. That's the church. Here he speaks of himself as we said before, as a persecutor of the church. And he says he was seeking, trying, over and over and over again. This volitional intention is what the language of the Greek intends here. He was trying over and over and over again to destroy it. Paul wanted the church destroyed. Now, that is what he's talking about in terms of that preDamascus road, precross Paul that comes out of the womb of Judaism and then when the cross happens and the resurrection becomes the primary persecutor of the church. And he says in Verse 14 -- and I think he's not only talking here about himself formally but he's talking about his opponents now who are in Galatia. He says: And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people. So extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. Now, there I think Paul is talking about how he was No. 1 in his class. There is nobody who was more zealous for the law. And that's what traditions of the fathers means. The law. There was nobody more zealous than Paul. And that same zealousness that created the persecution of Jews by other Jews is what he's seeing in these opponents who have come to Galatia and who are insisting upon the law. See, Paul understands that. He used to be like them. When he sees them, he sees himself formerly. And I think it's important to recognize that in verses 13 and 14 he is talking about himself before the Damascus road experience. Then in 15 -- and this is a remarkable statement. He says: When it pleased Almighty God, when it pleased God, the one who separated me out of the womb of my mother and called me through his grace. Now, that sounds like Isaiah and Jeremiah's call, the prophetic call that is a clear indication that Paul puts himself -- and this is in a sense almost an extraordinary thing to say. But he puts himself because of the call of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he puts himself in the same category as Isaiah and Jeremiah. Now, that takes a lot of -- I don't want to say pride. But it just takes a lot of confidence in what God is calling you to do to place oneself in that situation. But he says: When it pleased God to separate me from my mother's womb and to call me by the grace of God. And he uses the same language now of the Gospel being Apocalyptically revealed. To Apocalyptically reveal his son in me. In me, Paul. Not just to me. But in me. Because Christ now dwells in Paul and Paul dwells in Christ. And he understands that. And that was kind of like almost a violent act from afar. Now, this is an important point of view in Paul. And I want to spend a moment here talking about this Apocalyptic invasion. I think it's a way of reading Paul that has been neglected by a lot of scholars today. And that is that Paul basically has two questions that he's asking the Galatians. The questions he's asking them is this: What time is it? What world do we live in? And what time is it in that world? And then: What is this world like? What is the world that we actually live in? Now, I think Paul would say we are living in an Apocalyptic time. Namely, we are living in the end times. We are living in the present evil age. But that age has been broken into by the eternal one. And I think Paul sees the incarnation, the coming of Jesus into the world into the flesh, as an invasion from afar. An alien who has broken into our world and who is now living in it and changing it by his presence. Paul also sees the Damascus road experience as an Apocalyptic invasion. And I think when he sees that, he sees it in the same way as the incarnation, that God is invasively revealing himself in an Apocalyptic way to Paul just as Jesus revealed himself in an Apocalyptic way when he came into the world to be our Savior. Now, why does he do that? In order that he might preach him. Notice it's not the Good News. It's him. Jesus. Because Jesus is the Good News. That he might preach Jesus, his son, the Son of God, to the Gentiles. That's why Paul is called by God. That is why Jesus Apocalyptically reveals himself to Paul so Paul might be a preacher of Jesus to the Gentiles. Now as soon as that happened, Paul contrary to what his opponents are probably telling the Galatians, Paul says -- and he goes through this very quickly. Here is the beginning of his travel log in the second part of Verse 16. He says: I did not immediately consult with anyone. I didn't go running to Peter or to James or to anyone like that. He said: Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who are apostles before me. But I went away into Arabia. And I returned again into Damascus. Now, this is where your question about what was Paul doing in Arabia that is so important. For a while there, Paul kind of retreated. And if you look where Arabia is, it's kind of east and south of Jerusalem. It's really the center of Arabia at this time was Petra, which is where the Nabateans were. You can look it up on a map. It's very interesting. Petra is of course the place that is featured in the movie "Indiana Jones, The Last Crusade." A magnificent kind of rock walled city. And Paul went and retreated there. Now, there were a lot of Jews there. There were synagogues. There wasn't a lot of pressure for Paul. I think Paul spent time learning how to be an evangelist to the Jews in Arabia. He was not a popular person in Judea. He's going to talk about that later on. He needed to retreat. He needed to learn. It was in a sense his way of coming to grips with what it meant to share the Gospel with his own people. And this of course prepared him to share the Gospel to the Gentiles. But the point is that he doesn't go running and learn the Gospel from others. Because he had already known it from his studies as a Pharisee in knowing the Old Testament. And then in seeing that the key of knowledge as Jesus says, the key of knowledge that unlocks the Old Testament is knowing that Jesus is the Messiah himself.