Accepting True Authority (Galatians 1:10-2:10)

WW2015-wk2I once sat in a church meeting trying to persuade the deacon board that some pastoral counseling was needed before we admitted individuals into church membership. I went to the meeting prepared. I built what I felt was a strong biblical case to make my point, and I was sure my ideas would be implemented into church policy. Sadly, my proposals were rejected and nothing was done to change the current system.

Trying to persuade a church to adopt biblical truth can be frustrating; especially when they won’t listen. As you read through Galatians 1:10-2:10 you can hear the frustration in Paul’s voice (1:20). Before he can launch into the main concern of the letter (the gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone), Paul must establish the grounds for his authority. He must build a case and persuade the church that he indeed has the authority of God in what he preaches.

First of all, to accomplish this, Paul wants the church to know that he received his gospel directly from God, not man (1:11-12). In addition to that, his former way of life in no way desired the truth of Christianity. Paul was a Jew. He strongly opposed the faith (1:13-14). So it could only be by God’s grace that Paul became a Christian, let alone an apostolic preacher (1:15-17). Then, after his conversion, he didn’t meet with the other apostles until three years later (1:18-24). This proves his gospel came from God and not man. Paul preached the same gospel the apostles did before he met them. And when they did meet, the other apostles affirmed his message (2:1-10). Not even men like Peter, James or John could critique the gospel Paul received from God (2:6-9).The only group that opposed him was false teachers (2:4-5).

The issue is the same today—authority! Whose authority is the church going to follow? Her own or God’s? Paul was not power-hungry or too demanding as some would argue. He wanted the church to accept his teachings because he knew they weren’t his teachings. They were God’s. To reject Paul’s words was to reject God’s words, and to reject Paul’s gospel was to reject God’s gospel, because Paul was commissioned by God.

The same is true today. If people claim to follow Christ they must accept the writings of Paul, because Paul was commissioned to write the words of Christ. If any congregation, or individual Christian, rejects Paul’s letters they have rejected the words of Christ.

Some people want to make a distinction between Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s, but this is an error. The Apostle Paul’s words are just as authoritative as the words of Jesus Christ, and the church must see them as such. The words in red are important but no more inspired than the apostolic message. Christians must accept the whole counsel of God if they are to follow Christ as Lord and adhere to the biblical gospel.

Reflection questions

  1. Would you agree that Jesus rules our lives through His word? If so, do you submit yourself to the whole counsel of God?
  2. How would you answer the person who says, “I believe Jesus, but I don’t agree with Paul”?
  3. Have you ever considered that Paul’s words are just as authoritative as Jesus’ words? Do you agree? Why or why not?

This week’s devotional was written by Brandon Sutton, lead pastor with Blue Ridge Christian Union Church outside of Shelbyville, Indiana. He loves God, His people, and preaching His Word.

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