There was no motive for Paul making up a new religious message. The disciples including Paul were persecuted for this message. They did not make money from the message. On the contrary, they had to endure sometimes severe hardship and some of them were executed. They also often had to deal with difficulties from people inside the church. They sacrificed a lot because of this message. Paul went from a respected Pharisee with authority from the Chief Priest, to experiencing persecution from the Jewish leaders. He was later arrested, charged and executed by the Roman authorities.
In this passage and especially at the beginning of chapter 2, Paul seems to suggest he was so astonished by the Gospel, it took him some years to fully understand it! He withdrew to Arabia, then went to Damascus and after 3 years went to see Peter. He later had to check with
Peter to make sure the gospel he preached was correct. See Galatians 1, verse 18 and Galatians 2:2. This may be because human beings want to earn their salvation, but God makes it clear, we by ourselves cannot earn our way to Heaven.
Paul informs us in verse 12, Jesus Himself appeared to him on the road to Damascus and turned his life around with the gospel message. He started that journey from Jerusalem intending to persecute the young Christian church. Jesus met Paul in a vision and turned him from opposing the good news.
A major theme of the letter to the Galatians is that we can’t earn salvation by ourselves, by just doing good deeds. The Christian message differs from other religions. In many religions, the message is about people doing good things and avoiding bad things. If people fulfil these obligations, then they can deserve to be saved.
Paul followed zealously the idea of obeying the Old Testament Law and earning his salvation. The Old Testament however, is full of many hundreds of prophesies of Jesus and the grace that would be poured out after He shed His blood. There are prophesies of how Jesus body would be a perfect and effective sacrifice for our sins. The writer to the Hebrews in chapter 10 verses 3-4 notes that the very fact that the Old Testament animal sacrifices needed to be repeated again and again should have alerted people to the fact that they function only as a reminder of sins and do not remove the sins of the people.
Where Christianity differs from other faiths is the emphasis on the need for the blood of Jesus to cover our lives with God’s grace and forgiveness. When we repent and ask God to forgive our sins, He does so because Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross has opened the way to Him. We cannot earn our salvation by ourselves. We have to come to God and ask His forgiveness,and invite Him into our lives. He graciously and extravagantly does so. He then makes His home in our lives by His Holy Spirit. This is why Paul can say in verses 15-16:
“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.”
His Presence in our lives is a clear sign of God’s approval and salvation. Jesus said He and the Father would make His home in our hearts. John chapter 14 verse 23 notes:
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Jesus informs His disciples in this passage that the Holy Spirit shall reveal Himself to them and give us His Peace.
When we invite Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we find Christians are privileged indeed to have the Presence of Almighty God reside in our lives!
Suggested prayer: Father God, we thank You for Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us. As both fully God and fully human we thank You for covering over our sins and making us righteous in Your sight. We acknowledge our inability to live up to Your perfect and holy standard in our own strength. We are thankful for the fellowship with You in our lives until You take us finally home to Heaven. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.