From Persecutor to Preacher

Galatians 1:11-24

Jerry A Collins




·        Where did the gospel message come from?

·        What does the gospel do to us when we believe it?

·        What is the result of the gospel message work in my life?


We often use the phrase ‘and it dawned on me’. We mean I suddenly became aware of something like my wife’s birthday or our anniversary or an appointment I had two hours ago completely forgotten about or their name finally came to me or I realized they meant I was the recipient of the award or I now knew we were going in the wrong direction. Sometimes we call these epiphanies—a sudden comprehension or perception of reality—a spiritual flash that would change reality. One of those dawning’s came in the movie ‘sixth sense’ when at the end I suddenly realized that Dr. Malcolm Crow was one of those dead people that little Cole had been seeing throughout the whole movie. The Bible teaches that the gospel came in form of an epiphany—a revelation it calls it. One that dawned upon us in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s origins are supernatural. We will learn of three aspects of this gospel that signify it’s absolute unique place it holds in our lives and ministries.


First, it is clear that this gospel was not a human invention. It never did originate from any man. Manmade religions emphasize something that contradicts the gospel message. They emphasize something that a person can do to obtain God’s favor but the message of the gospel is always crystal clear—there is nothing you can do to obtain God’s favor. The same gospel Paul preached is the same one we testify of 2000 years later. There is no way that Paul would have learned anything about this gospel from anyone. It was not passed on through some type of formal education. Second, instead it never came through any human source vs 12. It was not received that way nor was it taught to him that way. Now we know that he had heard Stephen preach and he had personal contacts with Ananias and then Barnabas. But he never claims to be indebted to any of these for his knowledge of spiritual truth. He received it by special revelation from/about Jesus Christ Acts 9. So Christianity is not simply a religion—it is divine revelation. It is directly from heaven. Of course we do not all get it this way—as direct revelation—yet when we do understand the message of the gospel it is because the HS has brot conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment and opens our heart and mind to comprehend and believe.


Religion does not bring revelation 13-14 The fact is, even the most religious persons, like Paul here, will not discover God’s revelation. It is not received that way. You can be very religiously sincere and not even understand the gospel. Appealing to his pre-conversion days we learn he was into Judaism. He defended it, advanced it and was zealous for it. So much so that he advanced beyond even his contemporaries. His devotion to religion earned him status and reputation. He was driven to love it’s laws, to live it’s code and to persecute anyone—here the church of God—fanatically, even trying to destroy it! Religion has always been the enemy of the gospel. Religion gives people the false security that they can curry God’s favor. That following laws, living codes, and honoring rules is the path to salvation and holiness. Religious people hate Christianity because it does not appeal to man’s pride. It does not preserve our independence and autonomy. Instead it admits we are lost without God’s help. It promotes humility admitting we are dependent upon God for both salvation and holiness.

God initiates our conversion 15-17 The contrast is striking-But…God! Acts 9 is the moment of truth for Paul. For me it was in the back of our church building in the furnace room. God did 3 things for us. (1) He set us apart from birth. There is no human agent involved in this. Every believer has been providentially brot into God’s kingdom. And that happened before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). (2) Called by His grace. So this new faith comes in an entirely new kind of way. Initiated by God, it is a calling by grace not works or religion. The call of God upon our lives is a calling that deals with our salvation not our service. The only call of God for service in NT was to the original apostles including Paul’s ministry as a special preacher of this gospel to the Gentiles. But the church was called to a position of fellowship with Christ. So Eph 4:1 says we must walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. All believers are called of God. The call of God is our salvation in Christ. The  question   is How can I walk worthy of that calling? We do that today by assessing realistically where God has planted us, who we are, and how we can best use that for His kingdom and Hs glory! (3) pleased to reveal His Son in us. Christ is revealed in us not just to us. It takes place within thru the regenerating work of the HS—He brings to us new life, right inside of us. He brings the dead to life. He makes the blind to see. He takes the lost and finds them. So the supernatural origin of our salvation is clear and our lives are completely changed and none of it from religion.

So, in vs 16, (4) we take responsibility for our spiritual growth. Not consulting with others or even the apostles Paul largely grew in solitude forming his theology on his own with the scriptures. He became a good Bible student. The same God wishes for you. I began my study in my bedroom—dragging in large metal desk from outside began sitting there after work listening to hundreds of messages-taking notes, listing insights, writing in my Bible, compiling files. I traveled to hear Bible teachers in conferences, special services. Especially ’74-’79. My Arabia and Damascus where I learned on my own. And have never stopped. I did not need anyone’s approval just the HS and the Bible and a desire and hunger to learn!


We do not need anyone’s approval to preach this gospel to others. Paul did not even visit Jerusalem, the home of the apostle’s, for three years. And when he did it was not for approval but to get acquainted with Peter for 15 days. So it was a personal visit and the only other apostle he saw was James vs 19. This was something he made an oath to calling God as His witness vs 20. He continued his ministry on his own without input from other apostles in Syria and Cilicia and was found by Barnabas (Acts 11:25) during this time. Paul had so little contact with churches in Judea that even after several more years they could not recognize him by site only by reputation and thanked God for the persecutor turned preacher giving God glory for Paul’s change.

1. The gospel is not something we try to convince people about. We can give evidence, teach and persuade men but  the gospel, God’s word of salvation, has power all on it’s own to convince someone of his or her need for Christ.

2. Once the gospel is believed we then have a responsibility to arrange our lives according to it’s demands upon us. That arrangement will completely alter our lives and change us completely arrested by God.

3. We must never compromise this gospel with any religious requirements. Keep on ‘preaching the faith’ vs 23 that changed your life and let God receive the glory that comes with that. Shucree in Kosovo, a new believer continues to share the same message that was shared with him.