The Supernatural Gospel
Paul’s apostolic authority, chapters 1-2–Galatians 1:10-12, part 1
Are you craving an expression of the supernatural? There are some who think supernatural is someone being healed of a disease or injury. Others think supernatural is speaking in another language that no one understands–or having overwhelming, uncontrollable, happy feelings about Jesus . . . that’s supernatural. But let me ask each of you who are in Christ, how can you miss the truly supernatural circumstances you see evidenced around you every single day?
God takes each variable of your life, each tiny detail–whether you go right or left, stay home or go out, drive a certain direction, react in a certain way, speak differently, trust in trial, enjoy a relationship, invest in your family, work hard, ignore a responsibility, take a specific class, get a certain teacher, experience danger, walk in holiness or stumble in sin—and He weaves every tiny detail of your life to accomplish His perfect will.
God takes all the things that are out of your control in order to accomplish His specific plan for you, since every potential, every variable is under His control, God is providentially working in your life every single second of your life supernaturally. Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
God is supernaturally working every single moment and adjusting, tweaking, directing, causing everything to work together to accomplish His will–are you seeing it, rejoicing over it? Are you loving it, thanking Him? Are you blown away by it? You should be, because it’s supernatural! Yes, your obedience to God’s Word unlocks God’s blessings in every way, but your Savior is actively at work supernaturally through every option in your life.
Now if that were not enough, that book you have in your lap is a supernatural book–God’s Word alone can awaken the dead and give eternal life, Romans 10:17. God’s Word alone can transform believers to become more like Christ, John 17:17. The supernatural is happening all around you–and as we have gathered to worship Christ, the supernatural is at work in our midst today through His Word, through His people, in our hearts, through our worship, fellowship, love, discipleship and through His Gospel.
Some of the Galatian readers are questioning the Gospel–which one is correct? Is it the Gospel by grace through faith in Christ that Paul taught them on his first missionary journey through the region of Galatia? Or is it the gospel by Old Testament Law and tradition along with Christ, that the Judaizers who came after Paul were now teaching them? One Gospel was by grace, the other gospel was by works. One was according to God’s truth, the other according to traditions. One was through faith, the other through circumcision. One was in Christ alone and the other was through Jewish religious practices.
Paul continues with chapters 1 and 2, the personal section of Galatians, by reminding them that the Gospel He taught them was not from men, but supernaturally from God. The Gospel Paul taught is the only one that is according to God, from God, and revealed to Paul by God–it’s the only Gospel that can cause the dead to come to life. It’s the only Gospel that can transform you to live more like Christ. It is the only good news which can forgive sin, make you new, and guarantee eternity in Heaven since it is the only Gospel which is supernatural. And Paul makes certain the Galatians know it in verses 10 to 12.
Both messages promise you salvation, but only Paul’s Gospel gives you salvation. Notice the differences as Paul writes in verses 10 to 12–read them aloud with me. Galatians 1:10 to 12, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. 11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Chapters 1 and 2 of Galatians are personal, chapters 3 and 4 doctrinal, and chapters 5 and 6 practical. In this personal section, Paul defends himself in order to protect the message of the Gospel, because those who are teaching a different way are attacking Paul in order to discredit the real good news. The true supernatural Gospel message is being undermined by the Judaizers who are seeking to discredit the original apostolic messenger, Paul, in every possible way.
Attempting to hijack the new churches and to take the infant believers hostage with a false gospel of works righteousness, the Judaizers begin by questioning whether Paul was a genuine apostle in the first place. Can you see their evil strategy? In order to create doubt in the Galatians’ minds regarding the message, they will try to create doubts about the messenger. If they can create a gap between Paul and Jesus, then the origins of Paul’s Gospel will be thrown into question. And if they can drive a wedge between Paul and the other apostles, then they can force their own fake gospel in through the broadening crevice.
I’m certain some of them highlighted that Paul was a Johnny-come-lately, who’d never even heard Jesus teach. Furthermore, Paul and Barnabas had been sent out from the church in Antioch, but the original apostles were sent out from Jerusalem. Plus, consider Paul’s Gospel message, it actually sounded like a radical departure from everything God had done among the Hebrews for centuries in the Old Testament.
Why would God suddenly change His mind and introduce such a radical break from the past? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to conclude that somewhere along the line Paul got it wrong? The uniqueness of Paul’s testimony and the distinctiveness of his Gospel message made Paul an easy target for those who craved to undermine his apostolic authority. The false teachers were saying anything to undermine Paul and the Gospel he taught.
So Paul uses chapters 1 and 2 to describe how the message he proclaimed to the cities of Perga, Iconium, Cypress and other cities in the Galatian region resulted in churches being established in each city, only saves sinners by grace alone. By grace alone means no law, no circumcision–no ceremonies were necessary for salvation. Because of grace alone, the Judaizers began to accuse Paul of being a man-pleaser. They said Paul made up an easy method of salvation in order to make it more receptive for those who had embraced the rigorous Jewish religion.
The accusations against Paul involved the lie that Paul was purposely watering down the divine standard to make it easy to be saved, so that he would be popular and win the support of people weary of the hard, demanding way of legalistic Judaism. Those attacking the true Gospel were saying Paul taught what people wanted to hear. They accused Paul of being an ear-tickler, a man-pleaser, a sell-out, a charlatan with an agenda. So Paul begins his personal, apostolic defense with several direct responses to the lies being told about Him and the supernatural Gospel from God. He taught . . .
#1 The Gospel did not come from People PLEASERS Verse 10
Look at Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” I want to draw your attention to the very first word in verse 10, “for”–gar in the Greek has numerous meanings determined by the context. It can be translated because, yes indeed, certainly, what, and why. But it can also sometimes mean, “There”, which is actually a helpful rendering for this context.
What does Paul say? “There”–referring back to the strong anathemas of the previous two verses Paul just said in verses 8 and 9. If they change the Gospel, let them be damned to Hell—anathema! So Paul says, not “for”, but verse 10, “There” . . . There–does that sound like I’m a people pleaser? Verse 10, “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men?”
The Judaizers are accusing Paul of preaching an easy and cheap gospel to please people. Yet Paul just damned the Judaizers to Hell for destroying the true, supernatural, simple, Gospel of grace by adding Old Testament tradition, circumcision and ceremony as necessary for salvation, instead of embracing the right salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. So Paul begins verse 10 with “there”–does that sound like I am a people pleaser?
Next, Paul gets personal by asking this in verse 10, “If I were still trying to please men.” When did Paul try to please men? When he was the anti-Christian, Jewish Pharisee. Paul tried to please Jewish leaders by persecuting Christians. Paul sought to earn favor with God by rubbing out what he considered at the time heresy, against traditional Judaism. Before the Savior dragged Paul into genuine saving faith by grace in Christ alone, Paul was attempting to impress those who believed salvation was by works and faith in God.
But everything is different now. Paul was converted by Christ and internally transformed. Paul was saved by grace through faith in Christ, and now lives by grace dependent upon the Spirit. In light of what Paul now teaches and the way he now lives since his conversion, the idea that Paul is now, verse 10, still trying to please men is absurd. If Paul were still trying to please men, if that were true Paul affirms, verse 10, he “would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Paul is the slave of Christ.
Paul had surrendered his life entirely to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and that surrender, that dependent life, his service had cost him massively in human terms. At the end of this epistle, Paul reminds his readers in Galatians 6:17b, “For I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.” Paul actually received many of those marks on his body in Galatia where, during the first missionary journey in the city of Lystra, Paul was left for dead after being stoned (Acts 14:19).
Being stoned–not as popular back then as it is today, meant being taken to a high ridge, thrown off, then having large rocks thrown on you until you’re dead. Students, what if this Wednesday, one illustrative game they played was stone hand. For a free In N Out meal, how many of you would be willing to place your hand flat on a table, then have it be crushed full force by a giant rock like this stone?
Paul was stoned with many rocks, and though God caused him to supernaturally survive–make no mistake, it hurt and it left scars and bruises . . . brandmarks on his body. I’m at that age when I am constantly bruised—if I trim a plant, bump a wall, and bam a mega bruise. But stoning, my friends, is a whole new level of bruising. If your entire motive is to please people, then why would you proclaim a message that would get you stoned to death? You wouldn’t, if your motive is to please people–you would actually avoid suffering at the hands of people who are not pleased with you. But suffering, jail, persecution, and death threats were common for Paul.
Paul asks the Corinthians, is he a 2 Corinthians 11:23 to 28, “servant of Christ? imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
This is what Paul suffered for proclaiming the Gospel of grace as a servant of Christ. Typically, people pleasers are not martyrs, nor are people-pleasers willing to suffer. The desire to escape ridicule and avoid trouble is one of the hallmarks of people-pleasers. Paul is reminding his readers that people-pleasing is totally incompatible with the severe persecution Paul endured, verse 10 affirms, “as a bond-servant of Christ.”
It was rather Paul’s Jewish accusers who were men-pleasers. Paul later reminds the Galatian churches what drives the Judaizers–listen to Galatians 6:12 from the NIV. “Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” They are seeking to impress Gentiles and Jews alike, that salvation is secured by circumcision—it’s easy! And they teach this so Jewish zealots won’t persecute them.
Most often, those who accuse you are actually guilty of their own accusation. And here, the people-pleasing Judaizers were teaching a works salvation in order to please others and avoid persecution from those opposed to salvation by grace alone. The salvation by works crowd were the people-pleasers, and the salvation by grace crowd were the Christ-pleasers–2 Corinthians 5:9, which one are you?
Paul will damn those teaching a false gospel, because he says later in Galatians 2:21, “If righteousness could be gained through keeping the law, then Christ died for nothing!” Then if the only way to know Christ, gain salvation, find forgiveness, be made new and given eternal life forever is Paul’s revealed Gospel, which is good news from God alone, that God alone saves sinners by grace alone—then all other messages, false faiths, fake gospels which damn you to Hell must be damned by us, regardless whether people are offended or not. Why? Because the Gospel did not come from people-pleasers—verse 10.
Next, Paul refutes accusations that the source of the true gospel was human, as if Paul dreamed it up. Paul tells us in verses 11 to 12 that the Gospel by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone did not come from a think tank or a mental epiphany. Paul is about to tell us the true God-given Gospel is counterintuitive. No human being would ever concoct such a way of salvation. Every religion on Earth, and every cult created is void of the grace of God.
No Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox Jew, no Hindu or Buddhist teaches you can be saved from Hell by simply placing your faith in Jesus Christ. It’s always belief in Christ or Mary, Mohammed, Yahweh, etc. plus do this or do that. All cults attach something to the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. It is never taught that faith in Christ alone will save anyone. That is why . . .
#2 The Gospel was not DEVISED by Man–HUMAN Verse 11
Galatians 1:11, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.” With the tense of the verb “know”, Paul is saying, “I want you to never forget this.” And with the placement of the verb, Paul is saying, “This is incredibly important.” “I would have you know” is to make you know this with certainty–to certify. Today you might say, “Let me make it perfectly clear.”
What must we never forget? When Paul traveled through cities like Cyprus, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe–here it is . . . the Gospel he proclaimed was verse 11, “not according to man.” Paul’s Gospel was not human in origin. If it was man’s idea, it would have been like every single human religion since time began–it would have been based upon works righteousness, born of man’s pride, and Satanic deception. If men come up with it, then it honors men. “I just have to live good, go to church, give a little, serve a little, clean up my vocabulary—then I can feel good about myself and consider myself saved.”
Your sinful pride is offended by the idea that only God’s grace can save you from sin. Therefore, even church goers, insist on having a part in our own salvation. The very fact Paul preached a message of salvation where works play absolutely no part is itself evidence that Paul’s message was from God and not man.
To become right with God, you must speak, think, and live perfectly. No joke, absolute perfection. God is righteous, God is holy, God is without sin–and to know Him now and live with Him forever in Heaven, you must be as perfect as God is perfect. You can never have one lustful thought, one careless word, one greedy action, one heart of envy, one expression of jealousy, one outburst of anger, never one act of indifference–not one. And here’s the shocker, friends–it is too late for me, and that ship has sailed for you.
No amount of good deeds, sacrifices, prayers, niceness or gifts will make up for your sins. Your sin is a violation of God’s Law and your sin is an attack on God’s perfect character. And all of you have sinned–a lot. You and I are justly under condemnation from God. And there is nothing you can do about it. Nothing you can do to change it. But the good news from God is that God is the only one who can save you.
His perfect Son, the God-man Jesus Christ, took the punishment for sin upon Himself. He bore the wrath of God for sin that should have been poured out forever on you in Hell. And if you embrace His life and His work by faith, then your sin can fall on Christ and His perfect righteousness can cover you like a white robe of perfection, so you can be right before God now, and live eternally in His presence forever in Heaven.
The true Gospel is God alone saves sinners. The false gospel is sinners try to save themselves. And the true Gospel was not invented by men, but designed by God and provided by God alone. The Gospel is good news from God alone, that God alone saves sinners by grace alone. Paul reinforces this truth in verse 11, saying that the Gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. The true Gospel is not human either in nature or in authority.
Paul declares, I did not invent it or alter it–nor did any other man. Its message is completely divine in origin, without any mixture of human wisdom whatsoever. That is why Paul’s Gospel, that God alone saves sinners by grace alone is the standard by which all false, human theories of salvation are measured and condemned. Paul takes it a step further in verse 12 . . .
#3 The Gospel was not RECEIVED from Man–EARTHLY Verse 12a
You might not realize that the works-righteousness, false-gospel Judaizers didn’t get their religious instruction from the actual Scriptures–not from the Bible. They received their religious instruction from rabbinic tradition. These sincere, but errant, pseudo-Christians used human interpretations of Scripture as their religious guide. Many of their traditions were not only not taught in the Bible, but they also contradicted the Bible.
Just like Jesus exposed in Mark 7:13 (NIV), “’Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.’” This is why Galatians 1:12a adds, “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it.” I believe that statement is particularly directed against the Judaizers, who primarily received their religious instruction from people, out of the Talmud, made up of human applications and explanations of the Law given by Moses. Rather than studying the Scriptures directly, most Jewish leaders and laymen alike looked to human interpretations and applications of Scripture as their religious authority.
Yes, their theology, moral standards, and ceremonies had their roots in God’s revealed Word from the Old Testament Scriptures, but the biblical truths had become so distorted by human applications and human opinion, that the Judaism of the New Testament period was largely, verse 12, “received” from man and taught according to man’s ideas. Although the Scriptures were given the highest honor in a ritual sense, even respected worshipfully, the Bible was not honored by the people through direct study nor sincere obedience.
Just like many so-called professing Christians today, in the eyes of most Jews in the first century, the actual Scripture, the Bible itself was a religious relic that deserved superficial devotion, but not serious study nor dependent obedience. The religious ideas they did take seriously and attempted to live by were man-made traditions related to their unique first century Jewish culture, that had accumulated over hundreds of years prior. There was stuff like. you can’t spit on a rock on the Sabbath. Their faith had become so warped that, with few exceptions, even faithful Jews (Matthew 15:6) “…nullif[ied] the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”
And here is what made it so difficult–the errant Jewish religion, even with its distorted human re-interpretations of God’s Law, still produced a superior culture in life, practice and blessing over all the pagan cultures surrounding them–all! Jew and Gentile alike could see how the Jews were a blessed culture—they were cleaner, heathier, more prosperous, better at business and more. And it was that cultural, economic and sociological blessing which the heretical Judaizers used to compel Christ-followers and almost-Christians to become Jews first in order to be saved. But, the Gospel is good news from God alone–that God alone saves sinners by grace alone.
Paul’s preaching had no human basis. Verse 12a, “Neither received it from man, nor was I taught it.” The Greek word “neither” is emphatic here, meaning not even. The idea is, not even I who might so readily have been taught by men, was so taught. Although Paul had been highly trained in rabbinic schools, and he was, Acts 23 and 26, “a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of [the Jewish] religion.” Paul had discarded every unscriptural notion he had learned in that man-made religious system.
No Jewish person had more reason than Paul to boast over his accomplishments in Judaism–but everything he had achieved in the flesh by works, before receiving Christ by grace–Paul counted, in Philippians 3, “as rubbish” . . . literally, as excrement–the worst! Verse 12 proves there’s no human source for Paul’s message. The Gospel was not invented by men, interpreted by men, or applied by men. Where did it come from?
#4 The Gospel came DIRECTLY from Christ—SUPERNATURAL Verse 12b
Galatians 1:12b, “but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Gospel Paul preached was neither a human invention nor a human tradition, but was given to him directly by God through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation is from apokalupsis and means an unveiling of something previously secret. And the object of that very revelation is the person of Christ. On the Damascus Road, Jesus revealed Himself directly to Paul. Salvation comes from God. The Gospel is good news from God alone, that God alone saves sinners by grace alone.
It was not that Paul had no previous knowledge of Jesus before the Damascus Road. Paul fiercely persecuted all those who believed in Christ because Paul did know something of Christ and His work. Paul obviously knew that Christians believed Jesus was the Son of God and that Christ Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, since it was because of those very claims that Jesus was most criticized and eventually crucified. You remember John 5:18, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”
Paul knew prior to his own salvation that Christians believed Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. Paul also knew that Jesus not only dispensed with rabbinic traditions, but Jesus even lived contrary to many ceremonial laws. Before his conversion, Paul could have accurately articulated many of the central teachings of the Gospel. But Paul didn’t believe those teachings on the Gospel were true, and therefore had no grasp of their spiritual meaning and their eternal significance.
It was only after Acts 9, when Paul himself was on the road to Damascus and came in personal contact with Christ, that Paul (verse 12b) received the supernatural truth of the Gospel through divine revelation. It was at that moment, Paul embraced the truth of the Gospel and came to know Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior. Paul explained this moment to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 3:14 to 16. It is only when any one of you turns to the Lord for salvation that the veil of spiritual ignorance of God and the separation from God is removed.
Listen, as this could be you. Second Corinthians 3:14 to 16, “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”
When God removes the veil keeping you in the dark . . . when God turns on the light in your soul . . . when God internally raises you from the dead, you will cry out to Him, turn from your sin, verse 12b, receive the truth and ask Him by faith to save you. It won’t be like Paul who was thrown down on the Damascus Road with a blinding light. But the truth is, the Gospel only comes as God reveals Himself to you. Ask Him to reveal himself to you today.
You may still be doubtful–you’re thinking, “How do we know for certain Paul is right?” Well, Paul takes the next twelve verses to prove it. What does Paul say? For the answer to that, you must come back next week.
A Ask yourself if you are a people PLEASER with the Gospel?
Do you tell others they are sinful and condemned before a perfect and Holy God? Do you let them know they must surrender their life, exchanging all that they are for all that Christ is? Do you call them to turn in repentance and depend on Christ alone by faith? Ask the Lord today to help you to speak or write accurately to those you love and others, so they might hear and respond to the true Gospel.
B Are you aware of the living God PROVIDENTIALLY working in every aspect of your life?
Remember Joseph’s reaction to his brothers wanting to kill him, but then selling him into slavery? Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Remember God’s reaction to Israel, even in her exile. Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”
You know the Lord your God is in control, but are you aware that He is orchestrating every event, every relationship, every circumstance in order to accomplish His purposes? Instead of complaints, Christ calls you to give thanks. Instead of doubt, Christ calls you to trust. Instead of indifference, Christ calls you to active dependence. Write the letter “P” on your hand. Carry some verses in your pocket or on your phone. Write “providence” on your mirror in your bathroom, but remember Christ is at work, every second of every day in your life for His glory and your good.
C The free gift of salvation is only found by GRACE, through faith in Christ.
The gospel is good news from God alone, that God alone saves sinners by grace alone. When you rely on Christ alone, your sin falls on Christ and His righteousness covers you–and Christ supernaturally transforms you internally, indwelling you with the Holy Spirit and giving you a new nature that desires to obey Christ, follow Christ, sacrifice for Christ, and suffer for Christ. Do you have true salvation? Let’s pray.