My Dad likes to fake you out.
“Watch out! There’s a spider there.”
“Look out! Don’t fall off the ledge.”
“Whoa, whoa, I’m going to drop this cup…”
It’s rarely true. He’s silly. It’s his way of making you smile, helping you step out of the seriousness of life to laugh for a moment (and to distract me from technology, which he thinks I spend far too much time on. It’s a blog, Dad. They call it a b-l-o-g.) He’s actually really great, most of the time.
Paul wants the Galatians to know that the Word he preached to them was very different, far removed from the other “gospels” they have heard and are currently hearing and submitting to. He’s not playing them. Being silly has its time and place, but Paul wants the Galatians to know that trading in one True Gospel for another is far from funny.
Read Galatians 1:11-12 below or in your Bibles:
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
“…the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.”
In essence: I can’t make this stuff up.
This is Truth with a capital T. The Greek here is kata anthrópon or not from humans, whoever those humans might be, no matter how classy or well spoken, no matter your relationship to them – the True Gospel comes from God and God alone.
Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us a little about the way God thinks and why we might make some stuff up to make ourselves feel better:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
But listen, even Isaiah 55 starts with this invitation in verse one:
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
We may not understand everything God is doing, but letting Him be in charge of what is Gospel and what isn’t is always to our benefit. God acknowledges that there will be mysteries, and we don’t have to fill in the gaps with explanations and suggestions. He will.
Look to the next verses of Galatians 1:13-24. Paul begins to remind the Galatians of his story, written by God across the span of Paul’s life thus far. This is to remind the Galatians of the authority and authenticity he has in sharing the Gospel from that road to Damascus day onward.
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
He’s not making this stuff up. This isn’t a fairytale gospel. I think another point that Paul is making, intentionally or unintentionally is this:
We are meant to be livers of the Gospel, not keepers of the Gospel.
This is one way people know we are not making stuff up. Paul identifies to the Galatians that there are people who do a lot of talking about the way they think things should be and then there are people out there walking the walk of faith.
We’ll mess up, we’ll be inauthentic and incongruent at times, but Paul gives his testimony to the Galatians so that they can see that he isn’t just talking, he’s walking. Sometimes, we will be called to do this too.
This world has a million questions about God and the Gospel, just like we do, maybe more so. The Spirit leads and we share the simple Truth of Christ Jesus in His Word and also in His Work in our lives.
Living the Gospel doesn’t save us. Only Jesus saves. But this is God’s way – sending the Gospel, not from humans, but to humans, because He tenderly loves them enough to work in the visible, you and me.
I can’t make this stuff up.
What unknowns or questions do you have for God? Some of my unknowns include –
How does the Trinity work exactly? What is the deal with souls when we die and are waiting for Jesus’s return, how does that work? Babies – why would we ever lose them to death, to illness, to anything? What are yours?
When someone presents a different gospel to us, something that doesn’t seem quite right, how can we respond according to 1 Peter 3:15?