Credibility and ChristSermon passage: (Galatians 1:18-24) Spoken on: May 2, 2021
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Keng Wan Ling For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Galatians
Title: Credibility & Christ
Date: 02 May 2021
Preacher: Dn Keng Wan Ling
Imagine someone told you that Jubilee Church’s teachings are WRONG! And that Rev Siow Hwee wasn’t very credible. What if:
•he didn’t actually graduate from bible school (gasp!! The horror!!!).
•his sermons you thought he’d been writing were plagiarised!
To hear him discredited is likely to make us question everything that we have been taught.
Paul and the Galatians
Well, that’s exactly the position the Galatians are in. After Paul founded the church and went off on his travels, the church members start to hear things about their mentor and teacher 🙁
At centre of it all are the #Foolish Galatians, the subject of Paul’s wrath in this letter. PAUL IS VERY ANGRY: At the Galatians for listening to false teaching that they need to be circumcised in order to be saved.
Paul is angry at the “Judaziers”, at those in the Jerusalem church. Why are they bullying the young Christians by waving their seniority and knowledge of Jewish law?? He is so angry that he calls down curses upon those who are leading the Galatians away from their faith, the Greek word that Paul uses is anathema which can be translated ‘let him be eternally condemned’. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8)
So these are the main cast members.
In the faraway background elsewhere are the disciples.
In this book, Paul is pretty worked up. He’s so angry that Galatians Chapter 1 doesn’t have the usual thanksgiving part that is the hallmark of all of his letters, although no doubt this is one of this earlier NT letters, and less polished. He’s angry in the way that parents are when children go astray, in the way when proteges and mentees fall away after all you’ve invested in them.
In this passage, Paul is defending himself, because the Judaizers are saying:
•Paul isn’t a real apostle. He’s not part of the original 12 that Jesus named and followed through His ministry years. No pedigree.
•Means he didn’t hear and see for himself everything that Jesus did.
• Didn’t know the apostles. In fact, at the start, Paul even persecuted the Christians.
Paul’s opponents implied that Paul didn’t know what he was teaching.
These opponents were Jewish, and tried to bully the Gentile Christians with their supposedly superior knowledge. They said:
•We are the descendants of Abraham, true ministers of Christ
•We were trained by the apostles themselves, we saw Christ!
•We can’t be wrong, we received the Holy Spirit!
•We can perform miracles.
Paul’s Strategy & Defence : Making It Personal
Paul’s overall defense is:
•My calling, message & authority all come directly from God, it’s NOT from my own imagination.
•My message and gospel didn’t come from man- I did NOT become an apostle by committee vote, or by appointment by a particular individual (https://www.becomingcloser.org/Downloads%20PDF/Lessons%20on%20%20Galatians.pdf)
•I have a direct revelation from Jesus Christ regarding the message of the gospel -- the same message he proclaimed. https://www.learnreligions.com/galatians-1-bible-chapter-summary-3632
•I have more experience with the Jewish law than any of the Judaizers
•Peter and the churches I’ve visited can vouch for my credibility
In today’s verses, we see part of that fleshed out:
•You’re right, I wasn’t part of the original disciples.
•After my conversion, i purposely did not consult with anyone else while his own understanding of the faith was growing ( v16-21). “This was not a time to depend on any human input”.
•I only met Cephas (Peter’s Greek name) when I visited him 3 years after my conversion. It was probably a courtesy call, it wasn’t for any training.
•See, the churches of Judea didn’t know me before I visited them. And now they praise God for me- you see, they can vouch for my credibility!
I have to confess, if someone i had discipled or mentored as going astray, my strategy would NOT be to talk about my OWN calling and my OWN credibility. I don’t want people to be “distracted” or “make it about me”- so selfish! How…. cheap! Isn’t it about the MESSAGE, and not the MESSENGER??
Not for Paul!
This response is CONSISTENT with Paul’s approach when challenged. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11, where he’s going to battle against the “false apostles”, he says: v 5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles, and goes on to say boast in his suffering!!! Imprisoned, stoned, lashed, shipwrecked, often cold, naked, hungry.
Making It Personal: THe Power & the PAIN
This approach, however, is a double edged sword.
The danger of this strategy, that if you take issue with Paul, you take issue with his teaching, his gospel. This… Totally. Scares. Me. Such a commitment to be identified with…. Jesus.
One reason why some people don’t want to step up for political office is the price it extracts, the loss of privacy. You’re prime candidate for every Tom Dick and Harry who doesn’t like your face, your attitude, think you’re not smart enough, think you’re too smart, think you’re smart aleck. Politics cannot NOT be personal. It’s the Message and ALSO the messenger.
We see that often also in Christian ministry- when a famous preacher falls, his own ministry is called into question. Recent names include Ravi Zecharias and (in the UK), another preacher called Jonathan Fletcher.
Apostleship (in the bible)
What’s the big deal about “apostleship” anyway?
In the bible, there was the formal OFFICE of apostleship. https://spiritualgiftstest.com/spiritual-gift-apostleship/
There were the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19) and Paul (Romans 1:1).
•A faithful eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry and His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1)
•Be personally called by Jesus (Galatians 1:1).
Clearly, the work of apostleship was to lay the foundation of the Church in a sense secondary only to that of Christ Himself (Ephesians 2:19–20), thus requiring eyewitness authority behind their preaching. After the apostles laid the foundation, the Church could be built. https://www.gotquestions.org/apostleship.html
The Apostles were given authority by Jesus to do many different things to establish the church, including writing Scripture and performing miracles (John 14:26, 2 Peter 3:15-16, 2 Corinthians 12:12).
Paul’s call was to the Gentiles in particular, and his job description included:
- Spiritual entrepreneur
-Church planting (1 Corinthains 12:28)- and making space and releasing spiritual gifts, so everybody else can grow.
- Keeping the connections and relationships of the churches planted (a relational function, NOT a CEO or organisational function) [That’s the reason for all these NT letters to churches that we see!!]
Remember when we looked at Corinthians about spiritual gifts?
1 Corinthians 12:28: And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, and those with gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various tongues.
These gifts can be about an OFFICE or a gifting. In modern day, we don’t really hold to the formal office anymore, but certainly there is still the gifting.
An apostle (“one sent on a mission”) is one whom God has sent on an errand or with a message. An apostle is accountable to his Sender and carries the authority of his Sender.
Paul’s Reflections for YOU and ME
These applied to Paul and to us today: https://www.preaching.com/articles/no-gospel-exposition-galatians-1-john-piper/
(a) Your calling, message & authority all come directly from God
Paul says: “ Neither flesh and blood — that is neither the Jerusalem apostles nor any other human — did not call me; flesh and blood did not reveal Christ to me; and flesh and blood did not teach me the gospel. I am not dependent on Peter, James, and John.” In our context- we are not dependent on Jubilee church, on our pastors, on our cell group leaders. The call comes from Christ Himself.
So, we’re not doing it cos our pastor tells us, or our zone supervisor or cell leader or mentor.
It’s God who sends us.
(b) It is not us who put ourselves for the job.
God called you to the job, to Himself, by revealing Christ to you.
We don’t need a “road to Damascus” experience, God is clear in His calling to “go make disciples of all the earth”.
Because we are not dependent on man for our authority and message, we are not too focussed on the approval of men (https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/no-other-gospel#full-video)
Like Paul, we are accountable only to our Sender and carry the authority of our Sender.
(c) Credibility through Authenticity
Finally, like Paul, we preach the God we know, and about things we have experienced.
In Galatians (and later Romans)- why was Paul so strident, so angry, and so powerful in his writings? Because he felt deeply for the issues there. Why? Because he had been there!!! That. Was. Him!!> He was striving to keep the law and now he was free! That’s why he was so pissed off the Galatians were making the same mistake.
His identity as a child of God, as an apostle, was expressed through his life experiences.
In the same way, our credibility and the power in our witness, comes through being authentic. Knowing who we are before God, and bringing who we are before God, and, like alchemy, that offering of our lifes, becomes what we share with others.
You’re not sharing an abstract idea.
You’re showing the God through YOU.
You’re showing people that this is the God that you know, who had loved you and transformed you
People nowadays have a built in “authenticity- meter”. They hate it when someone doesn’t seem genuine.
“When you preach or teach, you must bring you. Without you in, around, and through the message, you will not impact today’s listener.” https://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/craig-groeschel-authentic-preaching-bringing-yourself-into-the-message-908
But yet: Fears & Doubts Aplenty
Yet, sometimes, it’s the hardest to open your mouth.
When i started researching this sermon, i wondered:
•How come Paul can be so strident?
•How come i’m always so timid to talk about my faith?
•What right do i have to pre-believers family members, friends or colleagues that Jesus is the only way, the truth and the live? Who am i?
• What if people see me as intolerant, non-inclusive, bigoted? We live in a very different world from Paul!
I live with 2 flatmates- friends who have become flatmates. Both are not Christian. One practices reiki, and also reads cards. I know she also works with crystals. The other friend is Muslim, and eats only halal food. In the 2 plus years i’ve known both, we’ve talked about faith maybe twice? Those times, when i see it opening up, i’m scared to say something wrong, scared that i can’t represent Christianity, represent my God well enough. And I want to seem open-minded, tolerant, loving, accepting- but the reality is that I CANNOT accept their ideas. Does that make me close-minded?
I answered some of these (sent by God, not by man, right?). But concretely, i still didn’t know how to start, or how to practice or prepare.
Application: A Very Brief Testimony
In pitching for sales, there’s something called “an elevator pitch”.
“An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what your organization does. You can also use them to create interest in a project, idea, or product – or in yourself. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name”
I have a suggested template for us to do this “elevator pitch”.
These “before and after” can be from before you were Christian and after; or it can in the earlier part of your Christian life, and later on.
I’ve listed some examples as well, from Paul, myself and my friends.
Do try out yourself, plan your own short testimony, and try sharing it ou!
In the words of Paul : “I am not ashamed of the gospel”. Are you really? Are you really not?
Pray that God will help us be assured of our credibility, our call and our authority to speak of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Galatians 1:18–24 (Listen)
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.