“The Gospel-Changed Life”
SI: The rest of chapter 1 and most of chapter 2 called auto-biographical section.
Paul recounts his conversion and early Christian experience.
Why does he tell this story?
As saw last week, reason Paul wrote letter—
some people in Galatian churches were perverting the Gospel.
Said they were teaching the Gospel—what really means to be a Christian.
But Paul said, No—they are really teaching the absolute opposite of true Gospel.
We have not gotten to the point in the letter where Paul addresses exactly
what these teaching were that perverted the Gospel.
But basically these people were saying that getting right with God,
and staying right with God requires faith in Jesus Christ plus
doing certain things right—next week we will see what those certain things were.
Paul was violently opposed to this.
Either the Gospel is all the work of Jesus Christ—all God’s grace—or it’s not.
If you combine grace with any requirements on our part—don’t have Gospel.
Very first argument Paul makes—look at my life.
Look at the way God dealt with me.
It’s ridiculous to think that I did anything to get right and stay right with God.
And he recounts his conversion and early Christian experience—
not for general encouragement—but to refute those who were perverting Gospel.
INTRO: We know a couple who fled
They lost everything.
When got to
But they worked. They worked from the bottom up.
And they saved. And they built.
And had two more children. Sent them to college.
Sent money back to family
and friends in
Finally they retired to a
lovely home in
I have never known people who love
and who hate communism as passionately as Tony and Lilly Castillo.
Their story is remarkable.
But it’s not unique.
There are many thousands of people who have fled from bad places—
to this land of opportunity and have made a good life here.
They can tell the same story, with different details.
And even if your family has
it warms your American heart to hear stories like the Castillos’.
Their story is also your story in spirit—
because as an American you value what they value,
and because you know that not too long ago your forefathers came
here with hope in their hearts, seeking freedom and opportunity.
Story of Paul’s conversion is in many ways pattern for all Christian conversions.
His conversion is told three times in Acts in great detail.
Referred to in Romans 15, in 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 3, here in Galatians 1.
We know far more about Paul’s conversion than anyone else in the New Testament.
There is not even a close second.
One writer put it this way:
“There is no doubt that in some very important ways Paul is the representative Christians . . . and his conversion teaches us more about new life in Christ than almost anything else in the Bible. Talk of the mercy of the Lord, of the power of divine grace, of the effect of that grace on a life, and we immediately think of Paul.”
You may say, But Paul saw a light from heaven, heard an audible voice—I didn’t!
I didn’t either.
And Paul’s conversion was violent—mine wasn’t.
Mine wasn’t either—converted as a boy under gentle teaching of my parents.
The details for everyone are different—no two conversions exactly same.
But in spirit, all true conversions connect with Paul’s story—
because his story demonstrates, in such an excellent way, what Gospel really is.
So when Paul starts to defend the Gospel, he doesn’t start with doctrinal arguments.
We are going to get into plenty of doctrinal arguments later in letter.
He starts with the story of how the Gospel changed his life.
This is a demonstration of a point we’ve seen for the past two weeks—
The Gospel is doctrine—it is a statement of truth—it’s a message.
But it is more—it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
Gospel is the truth about Jesus Christ—
and the Gospel is Jesus Christ.
We hear the truth and we come to know Him.
One way you know you are an American—
when you hear a great American story—like the Castillos—
you say, Yes—that’s why I love this land.
One way you know you have the Gospel in your life
is that it has the same effect on you that it had on Paul.
When you hear his story you say: Yes, Yes. That’s true of me too.
I love the Gospel.
Look at Paul’s story.
Three changes that the Gospel brought to his life—
Want you to look for these in your own life.
I’ll give them to you as we go.
MP#1 The Gospel gives you an amazement at God’s grace.
There are two ways to avoid God—by living a bad life, by living a moral life.
Paul was an expert at both.
Paul begins his story by telling that he had spent many years as a bad, violent man.
“For you have heard of my
previous life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the
God and tried to destroy it.”
The book of Acts gives us the details, Paul elaborate on this other places tells story.
He was consumed with hatred for the Christians.
Convinced that they were traitors to the Jewish cause.
Threw men and women in prison, many put to death with his approval.
Stephen is the best example.
No mercy in Paul’s heart. He was far from God.
But that not the whole story. Because at the very same time Paul was living
a violent, hateful life—he was also living a very moral life.
He was seeking to live in accord with Jewish customs and traditions.
“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my age and was extremely zealous
for the traditions of my fathers.”
He elaborates on this in other letters—Philippians:
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence
in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people
Paul was zealous morally and religiously—but he was not right with God.
In fact, all his moral efforts kept him away from God.
Because he trusted them instead of God.
In college literature class read short stories of Flannery O’Connor.
Southern writer. In her day criticized, stories so graphic in violence, suffering.
Most of her stories go this way—main character very moral person.
Does all good things—gives charity to poor black people in town,
goes to church every Wednesday night—that sort of thing.
Trust their goodness. What gives them confidence. They are their own savior.
Then they suffer some horribly humiliating or violent event—(what criticized)
see themselves as ugly and self-righteous, good moral deeds as self-serving.
Sometimes—in some stories it destroys them, some it saves them.
O’Connor was a Christian. Said she wrote that way because in the South—
the way most people avoid Jesus is by being good.
This is extremely important to see.
Won’t understand Galatians—won’t understand Gospel—if don’t get this.
Paul’s story shows us that his spiritual problem was not just the bad things did—
persecuting and killing innocent people—that certainly kept him from God.
Also his total trust in his morality and religion as basis of his salvation—
that also kept him from God.
So what happened to Paul? Verse 15: “But when God . . .”
“But when God . . . called me by his grace.”
On the one hand, Paul was incredibly moral—
but he was not good enough to be right with God.
On the other hand, Paul was incredibly evil—
but he was not so bad that God couldn’t redeem him.
That is the amazing grace of God.
He reaches people who are separated from him by their evil
and by their self-righteousness—and saves them through Christ.
Does Paul’s story ring true with you?
Are you also amazed at God’s grace reaching you in your
wickedness and self-righteousness and saving you?
If you know the Gospel then you are saying yes to Paul’s story.
You too are amazed at God’s grace to you.
MP#2 The Gospel gives you a sense of God’s sovereignty.
You don’t see yourself so much as trying to find God, he finds you.
Paul said that he was able to recognize that God’s sovereign grace
was working in his life long before his actual conversion.
Says God “set me apart from birth.”
He saw that the grace of God has been shaping and preparing him
all his life for the things God was going to call him to do.
God used all of Paul’s past experiences—even failures and sins—
to prepare him for life’s work as the apostle to the Gentiles.
When Christ struck Paul down
with light on road to
it was not
last-minute intervention to stop from hurting Christians in
it was part of a plan Lord had been working out all along to prepare Paul.
Paul’s studies under the great Jewish teachers of the day prepared him later
to take that knowledge of Scriptures and use it to prove Jesus the Christ.
Paul’s years of self-righteously trying to keep the law of Moses,
prepared him to be able to say with experience, been there, done that.
You cannot make yourself acceptable to God even by the most zealous
and careful compliance to moral and religious codes—all faith in Christ.
Even Paul’s violence, his murder of Stephen and others—used by Lord
to astound enemies when he converted and began to preach Christ.
When the Gospel comes to a person—true conversion takes place—
it brings to your mind a growing sense of God’s sovereignty.
You look back over you life, detail after detail—see the Lord—
not in a vague way—but specifically, working in details to set you apart.
Do you remember our study of Joseph a few years ago?
What is the key verse for understanding everything about Joseph and brothers?
“You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”
Think of all Joseph went through—in the pit, pleading for his life—
years as a slave, years in prison, good years as ruler—where was the Lord?
He was there all along, working things out for good and salvation.
When the Gospel comes to a person, get a sense of God’s sovereign purposes.
This is the common experience of everyone who truly experience Gospel—
not just Calvinists. Not talking about Calvinism per se.
You can’t call John Wesley a Calvinist—founder of Methodism—
very different views on predestination and election.
But he had this very same sense of the Lord setting him apart from birth.
As a baby, pulled out of a burning house seconds before roof collapsed.
Parents often told him story. Zech. 3:2 “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire.”
In one of his journals, tells
how was at a prayer meeting in
“About it came into my mind, that this was the very day and hour in which, forty years ago, I was taken out of the flames. I stopped, and gave a short account of that wonderful providence. The voice of praise and thanksgiving went up on high, and great was our rejoicing before the Lord.”
CS Lewis—also not a Calvinist—very different views on predestination, election.
Read his spiritual auto-biography “Surprised by Joy”
Traces every major influence in his life, sees how God orchestrated every one.
“God closed in on me.”
Saw how God had even used some of his atheistic professors—
influenced him so greatly, to train him to think logically, express thoughts—
to turn that for his great life’s work of defending the Christian faith.
Do you have a sense of the sovereignty of God? That he has set you apart.
That even in times you did not know him—fighting him, there using that.
Even when seems wasn’t there—he was working all things in you for purposes.
If you know the Gospel, then like Paul, and John Wesley, and CS Lewis—
and countless others—Yes, he set me apart from birth.
MP#3 The Gospel gives you a desire for God’s glory.
Look at verse 10 again. Paul’s transition from opening words to telling his story.
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?
If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul says that the Gospel has given him a different spirit.
He doesn’t need to win or seek human approval for anything—
but he does everything as a servant of Christ.
In fact—If I were still trying to be a man-pleaser, I could not be a servant of Christ.
Gospel revealed to Paul that there are two ways to live—
can live to please men or to serve Christ.
To win the approval of men or of God.
This is a big theme in the Bible—the fear of God verses the fear of man.
Fear of God means to be filled with awe and wonder.
To be attracted to His greatness.
The fear of man means the very same thing.
To view people, or a particular person, group of people,
in such a way that you elevate them, hold them in awe—
crave their approval and fear their disapproval.
There are many examples of this in Bible.
King Saul disobeyed God, lost his kingdom, because afraid of public opinion.
Samson gave in to Delilah, afraid of losing her sexual attention.
Peter, in Galatians, turned back on Gentile Christians, afraid of criticism.
In other letters Paul talks about “eye service.”
Way of working where you do only so much to get approval of boss—
but don’t do anything in an excellent way for the joy of a job well done.
Many, many ways that we are controlled by the fear of man.
The eyes of someone, judgment of someone controls us.
Even people who say: I don’t care what anybody thinks—deceiving themselves.
They want to be known as tough, independent people who
don’t care what anybody thinks.
Paul was a man-pleaser before his conversion—would have denied it.
Would have said he was doing everything for God.
But he wanted to win the approval of fellow Pharisees.
Wanted to be known as the man who kept all the traditions and customs of Jews.
Drove him to persecute the church.
The Gospel freed Paul from this man-pleasing.
The Gospel tells us that in Jesus Christ we have to approval of God forever.
He counts us as His beloved sons and daughters.
When you know that you have God’s approval—
that delivers you from the fear of anyone else’s disapproval.
For the first time in life have a true desire to glorify God.
How this changed Paul. Look at verses 23 and 24 again.
They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith
he once tried to destroy." And they praised God because of me.
What a change—from craving the approval of men to rejoicing that God is praised
in his life—here is the desire to glorify God.
Do you have a desire to glorify God? Is that what you want?
People praising God because of you?
Every one of us here, even most mature Christian still has pockets
of man-pleasing fear still in you.
When focus on those, lose sense of God’s approval in Christ.
But what’s the direction of your life?
If you know the Gospel, it is a desire for God’s glory.
Even though Paul’s story is different from yours in details—
you are able to say—Yes, I want to be a servant of Christ most of all.
CONC: Do you know the Gospel?
I’m not asking if you are able to articulate it—Jesus died for my sins.
I know you can say that.
Does Paul’s story ring true? Has the Gospel had the same effect on you?
Are you amazed at God’s grace to you—
reaching out to you in your sin and self-righteousness?
Do you have a sense of God’s sovereignty over you—
that he has set you apart from birth, directing life for his purposes?
Do you desire to glorify Him—
knowing that his approval has freed you from fear of man?
The details of your story are very different from Paul’s—
you weren’t struck down by a beam of light from heaven—
you didn’t hear Christ’s audible voice calling from sky—
But the power and the effects are the same for everyone who believes.
If you know the Gospel, rejoice in it.
Go through this week drawing from its power to love God, serve other people.
If you don’t know it—No.
My life is a tangle of self-righteousness and fear of man.
I don’t have any sense of God’s sovereign hand—
Listen—the Lord Jesus, who met Paul on the road is here this morning.
If you trust him, and ask him—he will come to you—
and open your eyes to all these wonderful things.