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Arabian Nights

Galatians 1:11-24



Where did you go to seminary?  Or Bible college?  This question is asked often of those in ministry.  What they really mean, usually, is, "What camp are you in?"  Paul trained in the desert of Arabia, and I'm sure there was a lot of 'camping' going on.  It was a long night in his life...even the days in Arabia are just about survival and what is really important.  God can teach us a lot in the desert.  He now tells about those Arabian Nights and how they helped make him who he is.


But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man [Gal. 1:11].


When he says, "I certify you," he means, "I remind you." "After man" could be "according to man." Paul did not get the gospel he preached from man. The Judaizers not only questioned Paul's message, they also questioned his apostleship. He was not one of the original Twelve, but a Johnny-come-lately. They cast a shadow upon the validity of Paul's authority as an apostle.


For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ [Gal. 1:12].


Paul did not receive his apostleship by going to school. Neither did he receive it by being ordained or by hands being laid on his head. Paul's apostleship and gospel came directly by a revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ. The Book of Revelation, sometimes called the Apocalypse, is from the same word. The gospel is a revelation as much as is the Book of Revelation. The gospel was unveiled to the apostle Paul. It's all the revelation of Christ.  The whole Bible is a 'Him' book!


Paul did not become an apostle through Peter, James, or John. He was an apostle by the direct call of Jesus Christ.


For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers [Gal. 1:13-14].


Paul says, "For ye have heard of my conversation," that is, you have heard of my manner of life.


Do you know someone who is lost who is extremely driven and successful?  I do.  And what a great Christian they would make, as did Paul.


Paul now calls the religion in which he was brought up the "Jews' religion." Paul was saved, not in Judaism, but from Judaism.  And he's going to be used to help many still lost in Judaism to get out, and prevent young believers from being pulled into it.


Now notice this tremendous statement:

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus [Gal. 1:15-17].


The phrase "but when it pleased God," in verse 15, means that Paul was called according to the will of God. The word heathen in verse 16 refers to Gentiles. Paul conferred not with flesh and blood -- he didn't get it from any man. Paul received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ.


Many years ago a so-called modernist, who taught old heresy, wrote a book about Paul. He also gave lectures. He gave the apostle Paul credit for being a great brain. (I personally believe Paul had the greatest mind of any man who has ever lived. Many scholars, who are better acquainted with Paul than I am also make this statement.) He pointed out that Paul was a brilliant student of the Mosaic system of Judaism and was a brilliant student of Greek philosophy, and then declared that Paul combined the two and came up with Christianity. Now Paul says here in Galatians that he didn't get the gospel that way. He received the gospel by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.


I loved Bible College, but I didn't learn nearly as much there as I have since then, most of it alone w/ God, and thru experience with Him.  Are you in that place of solitude where God can speak to you?  Let God do a deeper work in your soul during this time!  Have daily devotions in solitude!  Allow Him to do radical spiritual surgery on your life as He molds and shapes you as a vessel of clay in the Potter’s hands!


Saul came out of Arabia a different man…he went in a young man still scarred w/ hatred, bitterness, and no doubt a lot of confusion, but he came out the tender hearted Apostle Paul.


        He was old school when he entered, having been raised under the OT law, but he went back to school in the desert and graduated, throwing his tasseled cap in the air saying, by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified!  He went in w/ the OT in his knapsack and came out w/ the book of Romans in his heart!


Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days [Gal. 1:18].


I suppose that this verse is the same record that is given in Acts 9:26-29 which says, "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him."


When all of this is added up, it means that Paul spent less than three years in the desert. It is interesting how God has trained His men. He trained Moses in the desert. He put Abraham in a rather unique place to train him, and Elijah had that same type of experience. It has been God's method to put His man out on the desert to train him. David was trained outdoors in the caves of the earth while he was running away from King Saul. Remember that he cried out to God that he was hunted -- it was open season on him all the time. The Lord used the same method with Paul. God sent him into the desert for less than three years. Then he went to Jerusalem, saw Peter, and stayed with him for fifteen days.


But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother [Gal. 1:19].


Paul had no contact with the apostles except Peter and James, the Lord's brother. That is all the contact he had with them, and he received nothing from them, as we shall see.


Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not [Gal. 1:20].


The modernist or liberal to whom I referred said that Paul got his gospel by making a homogenized stew out of Greek philosophy and the Mosaic system. Paul says here that he didn't get the gospel from anyone else. Paul also says he does not lie. Someone is lying. I believe Paul!  I believe in the inspiration of the Bible!


Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me [Gal. 1:21-24].


The believers in Jerusalem were rather reluctant to accept the apostle Paul. Without the help of Barnabas, Paul would probably have waited a long time before the church in Jerusalem would have received him. These men were hesitant to receive Paul because he had persecuted the church, but they knew what it was to be converted. They knew what it was to have an absolutely earth-shaking experience that would transform a man. Yet they could not believe that Saul of Tarsus could be converted. It seemed not only improbable but impossible.


In verses 21-24 Paul outlines his first years after his conversion. I don't think that they were the happiest years of his life. Apparently he tells us something about the failure in his own personal life in the seventh chapter of Romans.


There were three periods in the life of the apostle Paul. Notice briefly the first two periods.

1. Paul was a proud Pharisee. He had a marvelous mind and was an expert in the Mosaic Law. As many of his biographers have said, the world would have heard of Paul even if he had not been an apostle and even if he had not been converted. I don't think there is any question about that. He was an outstanding man. But he was a proud young Pharisee who thought he knew it all. He hated Christ. He hated the church and attempted to eliminate it. He was ruthless in his persecution of the church.

2. The second period began on the Damascus road when he was knocked down into the dust. This brilliant Pharisee found out that he did not know Jesus Christ. He had thought Jesus was dead. And he asked, "Who art thou, Lord?" Jesus replied, "I am Jesus whom you persecute. When you persecute My church, you persecute Me" (see Acts 9:5). When Paul became acquainted with his Lord, he immediately asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" After Paul met Christ, he spent some time in Arabia. During those first years he attempted to minister and found that what he wanted to do he could not do. Finally he cried out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). It was not an unsaved man who said that; it was Paul the apostle in the first stages of his conversion.

3. Then came that glorious period when he walked in the Spirit. That was the time he could live for God. That is the place where we need to be today. There are so many unhappy Christians. They are saved, I think, but as Dwight L. Moody put it in his quaint way, "Some people have just enough religion to make them miserable."


Enough Jesus that they cannot enjoy the world, and yet still enough world in them that they can’t enjoy Jesus!


I wish we had more information on Paul's experience with the apostles in Jerusalem. If Paul received the gospel apart from the other apostles -- who were with the Lord for three years and saw the resurrected Christ -- is Paul preaching the same gospel? This is an important matter at this point because if Paul is not preaching the same gospel, something is radically wrong. In the next chapter we shall see how the apostles in Jerusalem approved Paul's gospel and that it was the same Good News.


Are you having Arabian Nights of your own?  In the desert of your days God can accomplish much if you'll focus on what He is trying to accomplish.

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