Hey! Randy

Galatians 1:13-14

Posted by heyrandy on May 23, 2010

For ye have heard of my conversation 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 AV

Paul begins the autobiographical section of this letter. This is to support his claim to be a legitimate apostle who received the gospel directly from the Lord. In this section Paul gives us some details that are not given in the book of Acts. The Bible does not give us full knowledge of its characters’ lives, but it does give us the knowledge necessary to lead us into live and godliness.

This is not new information to the Galatians. Paul starts by reminding them that they already know all this. So why restate it? Paul must reestablish his authority as an apostle. His calling and conversion story is how he will do it. Paul is fighting Judaizers. By reminding the Galatians that he was a very serious Jew, Paul is telling the churches that he knows from experience and training that what the false teachers are saying is wrong. Paul is not a light weight.

We have only to look at Acts 9 to see just how serious was Paul’s Judaism. Even though he appears to be a young man, he manages to get letters from the high priest to introduce him to the Jews in Damascus. Paul had proven himself in Judea. This would not have gone unnoticed by the authorities. Since the authorities of both the major camps were eager to suppress Christianity, and Paul was willing to do the job, they sent him. He claims to have been effective, “that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and wasted it.”

The original attack on the church was from without. The newest assault is from within. While the external threats never really go away, the real threat has always been the more subtle danger of perverted teaching. Paul confronting head-on this new threat.

Paul had the background to understand the danger. Paul “profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation.” From the word “profited” we can infer that Paul was well-educated in the scriptures. From this we can deduce that merely knowing the Word is not enough. The Jews Jesus confronted had no shortage of biblical knowledge. They misunderstood most of it, but they knew it. So Paul.

We can also infer that he was well schooled in the traditions of the Jews. John Calvin thinks that this refers to knowing the scriptures. I hate to disagree with the great reformer, but I interpret this as the knowledge of the extra-biblical, rabbinical teachings that encrusted the scriptures like barnacles fouling the hull of a ship. You had to do a lot of scraping to get down to the original metal.

Paul uses the singular “church” to refer to the church as a whole. It was not just a local congregation that suffered the wrath of Paul, it was the entire church. If he could reach it, he would strike. He was not going to Damascus to take of the local waters. It was all business.

Stephen uses the word church to refer to the Hebrews when they were wandering in the wilderness. (Acts 7:38) They were God’s assembly, God’s people. The apostle admits to destroying it. But just a God preserved His people from the dangers of the Sinaitic wandering, so He preserved His people from zealots like Paul. Only here He made the zealot one of His own!

Homework assignment: open the Bible and scrape away some barnacles.


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