Autobiography or Apostleship? (Galatians 1:10–24)

“In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!” —Galatians 1:20

Galatians 1:11–2:14 forms the largest autobiographical section within Paul’s letters. Indeed, they comprise the largest autobiographical material in the entire New Testament, excepting of course Jesus Christ as both the supreme author and subject of the New Testament.

Paul is a fascinating figure. His conversion is most dramatic. His post-conversion life is worthy of imitation. It is not without good reason that he tells the Corinthians “I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). But if this is as far as you go with this passage, you have missed the forest for the trees. If you miss the gospel for the apostle, you’ve also missed his apostleship which centers on the gospel.

This text is very much about Paul and yet it is not about him at all. It is as though Paul is testifying in court before these Gentiles. Yet, though he defends his apostleship, it is really the apostolic gospel he is zealous to defend.

It is too easy to take a biographical passage like this, as we do with many Old Testament narratives, and twist them into the very kind of man-pleasing Paul so adamantly denies here. One could come to this passage and preach a “be like Paul” message in such a way that is all about Pharisaical glory-seeking before men. We must beware of preaching what Bryan Chapell calls “the deadly be’s.” “Be this, be that, be like Paul.” And when I say “preaching” I refer to what you do with yourself as you read and study the word as well. Such an approach to the text is often all sting devoid of the sweet honey of the gospel. We should indeed wish to be holy as our God is holy, but if you only come to this text only wanting to be like Paul, you’ll likely indeed be like he was, before his conversion, a Pharisaical self-righteous people-pleaser.

The central truth that should bear down on us here is the verity of Paul’s apostolicity, the veracity of His claim to be an apostle, and thus the truthfulness of His gospel. If this isn’t appealing to you, ask yourself, is it because you would like a man-centered application? If you think you’ve got no beef with Paul, you fail to realize there is a Galatian residing even in the saints this side of glory.

Steward Kings (Matthew 24:14-30)

God created man a slave, yet, a king. Man is a vassal king, a king under the Emperor. God created man. God gave man everything man has. God named man. God commanded man. God is God. Man is man. God is king. Man is slave. Yet, God turns to man as man’s King and says to him with full and rightful authority, “have dominion.”

Man is made in the image of God. Lots of hypothesizing goes on as to what the imago Dei consists in but I think the Genesis 1 is really quite clear. One of the things spelled out for us there is that the King made a king. This incorporates so many of the imago Dei theories.

Man has dominion. This is why man’s plummet (fall seems too trite a word) impacts creation. As goes the king, so goes his kingdom. But, man’s role was secondary. We little kings cannot curse this earth more than the King can bless it. The second Adam’s rule has a glory that surpasses all that the first Adam’s destroyed. It is His rule that transforms ours, so that we more truly image Him forth with sincere hearts.

Every man, from the lowest to the highest, is a king. Some men have smaller realms, others have bigger ones, but we are all kings. Yet, we are slaves always. Sinners don’t mind the king role so much. Adam was aiming for more of that. The slave part is the rub. Man is to rule the little domain he has been given for a little time as a steward king of the eternal Emperor of the cosmos.

From your career to your hobbies, from your driving to your bedtime hour, from your public persona to your virtual one on Facebook, from your clothes to your innermost thoughts and dreams, from your wish list to your owned possessions, from your leisure to your labor, from your television viewing to your reading, from your app choices to your courting choices, from your casual encounter to the children you raise—all, no exceptions, not one square inch, not one spare second are yours. All are gifts entrusted to you to use for His glory.