Meditating on the Gems of the Bible: 8. Not Man’s Plan
Gal 1:11,12 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
At the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Satan asked, “Did God really say….” (Ex 3:1) and that question has been one he has whispered in many an ear (if not every ear) ever since. Is this Bible really inspired of God? Does it really convey the truth? Was Jesus a real historical figure? Did he really perform miracles? Did he really rise from the dead? Is there really a means of being put right with God? Is it really as simple as they say, believing by faith and not having to work to be good? These questions all have the same origin!
When Paul wrote to the Galatians he was confronting a challenge, both to his ministry and his authority, as Jewish believers had listened to the voices saying, “You mustn’t lose your Jewishness. You ought to continue being circumcised. What this man Paul says is questionable. He is undermining our culture.” Thus he writes this letter, and in it he declares that the Gospel that he preached to them wasn’t something he had made up but that it had come directly from Jesus Christ.
There is both a challenge and an encouragement in these words. The challenge is to believe Paul’s words and his testimony and the encouragement is that we are not kidding ourselves with this Gospel. There is no doubt that the basics or foundation of the Gospel is there in the four Gospels and then in the preaching found in the Acts but it is down, largely, to Paul to spell it out in more detail in his letters. Yes Peter and John also do it and so we have this multi-facetted testimony to the truth of it.
We’ve hardly noted it so far but it is there – this Gospel has come from God. It is NOT a man-made idea; it is the revelation of God. We find the start of this gospel laid out by Paul in the beginning of his letter to the Romans: “the gospel of God– the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 1:1-4) There it is; it is all about Jesus Christ, a gospel spoken about in the prophets, about Jesus who was revealed as the Son of God through his resurrection. At the beginning of this letter to the Galatians we find, “Paul, an apostle–sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father.” (Gal 1:1) Again there is this emphasis on him being what he is because of God, and (implied) not because he thought it was a good idea!
We have to go to Ephesians to see the other half of the Gospel which is about what God has achieved in us:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
(a) who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he
(b) chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he
(c) predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him
(d) we have redemption through his blood,
(e)[and also] the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he
(f) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph 1:3-10)
How amazing! Blessed with all we need in Christ, chosen to be special and different, called His sons, redeemed from our old lives, forgiven, and had His will for us revealed. This is all part of that revelation that Paul spoke of in our starting verses, they are all part of the Gospel that he received from Christ.
Perhaps one of the most compact passages about the gospel and about his calling comes in Paul’s letter to Titus: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness– a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.” (Titus 1:1-3) His calling was to stir faith in those chosen from before the foundation of the world, based on the truth of the Gospel which brings about godly lives and eternal life, and this came when he encountered the Lord and received these commands from God. Thus he is a messenger of the Gospel which comes from God.
As we suggested above, we also have the same testimony from Peter who speaks about believers: “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” (1 Pet 1:2) It’s the same message: chosen by God before the foundation of the world, so the Spirit can bring changes in us as a result of the work of Christ on the Cross. John adds his part of this same testimony: “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 Jn 2:1,2)
No, this could not have been dreamt up by man. In one sense it is too complex for that. In another sense it is too simple for that. Salvation that comes simply through believing, through faith. If it has been from man it would have included self effort but as Paul said, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Rom 3:27,28) No this excludes human glory; it is all God’s.