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The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.
Following his conversion, Paul’s life took a complete U-turn. His beliefs and values were flipped on their heads. He had been eager to persecute Christians; now he was one. He had opposed the gospel as heresy; now he preached it. He had believed fervently in the Mosaic Law and his own righteousness; now he trusted wholeheartedly in God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness. All he once relied upon and prized he now called “garbage,” a vehement term which can also be translated “dung” or worse (Acts 9:19–31; Phil. 3:4–14).
In today’s reading, Paul continued to share his testimony with the Galatians in order to validate his credentials as an apostle and to give God glory for the gospel’s transforming power in his life (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3–8). His testimony implied an argument he makes explicit later— that it makes no sense whatsoever for gospel believers to go back to an old life or former ways of living.
After three years in Arabia, Paul finally did go to Jerusalem, where he met privately with Peter and James (vv. 18– 20). If this is the visit recorded in Acts 9:26–30, as seems likely, then it was Barnabas who introduced them. In any case, Peter received Paul as an equal, recognizing the truth of his gospel and the fact that he had received it directly from Christ.
Paul then continued his evangelistic ministry in Syria and Cilicia, an area in modern-day Turkey and Lebanon that included his hometown of Tarsus (vv. 21–24). He didn’t narrate the details of his missionary endeavors there because his main purpose in this passage was to vigorously defend his truthfulness and apostolic credentials. Nonetheless, his ministry was successful and people praised God for it. For Paul, the bottom line was always that God’s name be glorified.
Apply the Word
What have been the effects of the gospel on your life? If you did a dramatic U-turn to follow Christ, give thanks today! If you’ve been a believer most of your life, consider what kind of person you might be without the gospel and then give thanks! As you continue to grow more like Christ, what effects will the gospel have on your future? Again, give thanks!