Freedom: From Conformity
(Slide) “Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I read once a prayer offered up at an ordination of some deacons.
(Slide) “O Lord, grant that these brethren may never want to be like other people.”
Now sorry, did not get where that prayer quote came from originally but it is true, we are not to be conformist, we are not to be like each other, each of us has a calling, each of us has a story, each of us is an individual that makes up the body of Christ. Each of our conversion stories are different.
Speaking of being non-conformist we do need to be careful that the wrong kind of individualism can destroy vs. fulfill. The passage before us today is the story of God’s call of Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle. His Freedom! was a threat to those who believed in conformity.
(Slide) The Charge - Paul’s non-conformity is proof that his message and his ministry were not really of God.
(Slide) The Defense - Paul will start to make his defense drawing back to his history and his conversion
Paul, in writing to the churches of Galatia sets out to prove his apostleship was from God not from man.
1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),
His gospel came from revelation of Jesus Christ not from man
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul states his theme and his ministry are of divine origin, not from man. He did not invent the Gospel, not did he receive it from from man, but by Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb12:2). Message and ministry were divinely given so anyone who adds to or takes from is doing so in danger of divine judgment according to
18 The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
John had revelation of Jesus Christ, so did Paul! Results were the same, they were not conformed to this world but transformed by the washing of the Word. God’s word, divinely given.
The facts of his conversion not only substantiate his claim, but provide evidence to us for our faith in Jesus. Paul will draw for us, or paint for us several pictures to prove his claim, drawing back to his past.
I. Before His Conversion - The Persecutor
I. Before His Conversion - The Persecutor
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
Before his conversion he was a persecutor of the church - In Jerusalem
1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
He breathed murderous rage in other places
1 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
But come on, he was doing it for a good cause, for what he felt was right.
9 “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.
9 “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.
Is this not similar to what we are seeing today in the world? People being at rage against Christianity? People who want to see Christians die or to shut up.
Paul had it all going on for him
Paul was several things
(Slide) Status, he was known, up and rising
(Slide) Advanced in Judaism - Gal1:14
(Slide) Had position of religious power - Act26:9-10
(Slide) Had advanced training with Gamalial
(Slide) He was advanced above his contemporaries - Gal1:14
(Slide) He was zealous for his ancestral and religious traditions (Gal1:14)
(Slide) He was a Hebrew of Hebrews
4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;
SO you can also say he was a Hebrew of Hebrews; a Pharisee of Pharisee’s. Raised as son of a Pharisee
6 But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!”
So with all this, before his conversion he was doing what he thought was right, serving God with zeal and he was naturally prejudiced against the people of the way (Christians) and against Jesus.
9 “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
(Slide) So who could convert a man like this?
His friends wouldn’t - you will see they were upset with him and his conversion and they wanted to take his life
His enemies couldn’t - They were afraid of him and would not go near him, it took the Word of the Lord to get Ananias to go to Saul in the first place
13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
Even after the conversion Christians were very leery of him and were not quick to accept him. So what about you, when you became a Christian did people question you? Wonder why, what is different, were leery of you or thought maybe it was a “phase and will grow out of it?”
Now time to look at the results of his conversion, for the complete story you can look at Act9:9-18
II. After the Conversion - The Believer
II. After the Conversion - The Believer
15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
(Slide) Having already addressed his past character and conduct, now Paul goes on to his conversion; it was a crucial part of his defence against their claim.
Paul is using his past to defend the gospel and that is an important fact, just as you when you share your story you are sharing the gospel message, it is not about you, it is about Him who worked on you, who now works in you and works through you.
(Slide) Does (v.15) sound familiar to something else you may have read in the bible?
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Slide) So calling, appointing from before the womb is something God did!
(Slide) God revealed Jesus Christ to Paul
(Slide) God called him through grace to be an apostle
(Slide) God was pleased
Called in same manner as Jeremiah, as John the Baptist, see this is just reminder that
(Slide) Salvation is by God’s hand not mans. God’s grace not man’s effort, God’s nature not man’s character.
God calls us through His Word today.
4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
See God wants all to be saved, to come to repentance according to 2Pt3:9! God converted Saul; God converted you!
God did it through Christ
(Slide) Previously Paul had religion
(Slide) Previously Paul had reputation and recognition
(Slide) But he did not have Christ
You can have all the world but not have Christ and at the end you have nothing for Christ is everything. Paul counted everything a loss before Christ
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
God did not do it just for Paul’s sake, it was done for others sake, Paul says he was all things to all people so that he may win them to Christ (ok its my paraphrase of 1Cor9:19-23)
Only God could take a Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrew and make him minister to the dogs, the Gentiles
24 And they were glorifying God because of me.
God did it for God’s glory; not for the glory of Paul, but for the glory to God because of what God had done in Paul.
Man was created to bring glory to God.
7 Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
And man is saved to glorify God
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Let your life be lived to bring glory to God, to Paul it was at great expense, beatings, prison, being left for dead, loss of friends, family, status and finances. Let Paul’s example, giving glory to God, his motivating factor be our motivating factor, to bring glory to God.
After conversion - The Preacher
After conversion - The Preacher
16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,
He preached it immediately - no formal training
Paul was to preach to the Gentiles, he did not go and seek human council; he did not even go to Jerusalem for 3 years.
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.
Paul upon conversion had preached in Damascus then went to Arabia, then back to Damascus then to Jerusalem
19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
We do not know exactly how long Paul was in Arabia, could be the upwards of the 3 years, the Apostles we discipled by Jesus for 3 years, so it’s possible Paul was too. Then Paul went back to Damascus, a place that was not too happy with him, they did not like the fact Paul had become a Christian and now he is coming there preaching Jesus? Risky business, they were out for blood.
23 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.
It was after 3 years he went to Jerusalem to see Peter
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)
No way in 15 days he was taught the gospel and became the evangelist he did, only God could do it. and Paul did not meet with all the Apostles, only Peter and James the Lord’s brother.
Interesting fact (v.20) Paul was willing to swear that he is saying is true. To the Romans, that was a big deal and cases were decided on when and if someone was willing to swear on something.
IT was time for Paul to take his ministry home.
21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;
See Paul returned to Tarsus, to his home turf to carry the gospel message there for years until Barnabas came to seek him to go to Antioch. you can read that in Act11:19-26 on your own.
Our ministry needs to start at home, in our home turf. The people who know us, who have seen the change Christ makes in our own lives, to see the transformation process happening in us. Sure it maybe risky, you may loose some friends and maybe even family, but you may gain some souls who will be added to the numbers daily according to
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
They were praising God and so were the people in Roman providence of Syria and Cilicia
23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.
23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”
Think about that people were glorifying God because of Paul, because of the apparent transformed life that he lived. Your life can be a light to others too, should be a light to others. It makes me think of.
16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
(Slide) Glorifying God, was that not Paul’s biggest defense? To show who he was, who he is and who he lives for now.
(Slide) So who converted Paul?
(Slide) Not his friends
(Slide) Not his enemies
(Slide) Only God can transform a life like that!
LEAD TO INVITATION
(Slide) FREEDOM: BE TRANSFORMED NOT CONFORMED