Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
Delay the Silence of Conscience.
I. There are grounds, in the very nature of the case, for questioning whether in religion second thoughts are best. It shall hardly ever happen that the man who does not at once act on the impulse to prayer, but takes time for deliberation, will set himself solemnly to the duty of prayer. It is not that the duty will not bear being deliberated; it is only that second thoughts are worse than the first, as being thoughts that have been tampered with and alloyed by human pride and corruption. The best rule is the rule on which St. Paul acted, the rule of allowing no pause, no time for a second thought, between conviction as to a thing being right and adopting it, conviction as to a thing being wrong and avoiding it. "Immediately" and "I conferred not with flesh and blood."
II. It is painful to observe how Christians often halt between two opinions; how perplexed they are as to the right or the wrong of certain courses of action; how they run hither and thither for advice and for counsel, asking the sentiments of all their acquaintances and changing their own as they receive different answers. The first touches of God's Spirit are meant to be transient, unless they are attended to. If you would keep the dew on the grass, you must keep the sun from the plant. If you would keep the impression on the heart, you must keep the world from the heart. Second thoughts make infidels, when first would have made believers. Second thoughts crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, when first would have crucified the flesh.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1585.
References: Galatians 1:15-17.—Homilist, 1st series, vol. v., p. 50; Ibid., 3rd series, vol. vii., p. 33. Galatians 1:16.—R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 125; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 250. 1. 16, 17.—Ince, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 137.
I. Deliverance from the fear of men and from the necessity of always seeking to please men may be taken as a general description of the liberty of Christians; while, on the other hand, the necessity to please men represents, as it were, in a very typical manner, the non-freedom of a natural unredeemed man. All social relations involve a desire and an endeavour to please, to be accounted by other people as reposing a certain worth in them and as having a corresponding worth for them. That is a necessary thing, and therefore, of course, it is not in itself a wrong thing. Respect for others and due regard for the respect which others may pay to us is a necessary foundation of social life. If there is any man on earth for whom you have lost all respect, you may be sure that the fault is yours not less than his. It is plain, then, that slavery of the fear of man and bondage, the desire of pleasing men, is not the same thing as regard for the esteem of our fellow-men, with true respect for them. The real tyranny of men-pleasing which runs through natural society is this: that we are constantly constrained to do something, not because the action has any value towards God or man, but simply because usage and custom demand it of us, and if we did otherwise, we should give offence, be misunderstood, and so forth. The regard for what our neighbours will say or think constrains us to do things which we know are not our right work, things that are really a waste of the strength that God has given us. But what we have here to observe is, that this bondage is part of the bondage of sin.
II. How are we to be freed from this yoke of men-serving? Observe that even in a state of nature the slavery of men-pleasing does not press equally on all. Most persons have definite hard work to do, and they have to do it without looking either to the right or to the left; but that is not a true deliverance, because the work takes up every energy of life, cuts the worker off from all human fellowship, and so lays him under a more galling bondage. So, on the other hand, when I have done my day's work, part of life remains, and this part is sure to become more or less subject to men-pleasing. The only true deliverance is the plan of life large enough to take in both the hours of work and play, a scheme in which a man can find his own day's work laid out and plainly set before him, so that he may set himself to do it unswayed by what men may say or think, and yet with an assurance that just in doing this work, and doing it without any men-pleasing, he shall realise a true and full fellowship of life with his fellow-men; and this, I say, no man can realise till he becomes a servant of Christ. The true life can only be a life for God and in God; but then a life to and in God is only possible in Christ, for however noble and clear a plan God in law and providence may set before us, still sin can prevent us following the plan. We must have the forgiveness of sin, the promise of the Holy Spirit, the assurance of a Divine grace strong enough to conquer sin, of a power surrounding our life and keeping us close to God, in spite of all our weakness and all our sin; and this we can only have in a personal relation of faith to Christ our Saviour.
W. Robertson Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 241.
Reference: Galatians 1:20.—T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 386.
Galatians 1:23The Conversion of St. Paul.
I. The change that was made in Saul was of the most extraordinary kind, and not to be accounted for by any of those sudden transitions which one sometimes sees in unstable and vacillating characters. He was a man whose whole feelings, prejudices, and interests were enlisted against Christianity. He could become a Christian only by the sacrifice of position, property, and perhaps even of life. And if you consider the history of Saul, his hatred of Christianity, the ties which bound him to great men amongst the Jews, and the advantages which depended on adherence to his party, you must allow that he would not have been brought to preach the faith which once he destroyed unless by such a demonstration that Jesus was God's Son, as to his own mind at least was quite irresistible. The brightness which struck down Saul of Tarsus lights up the moral firmament of every other generation. The voice by which he was arrested sends its echoes to the remotest lands and the remotest times.
II. The operations of God's Spirit are various, and the only proof of being in Christ is to be a new creature; but being a new creature does not in any degree depend on being able to tell how and when you were renewed. Make it your business to ascertain the change, and not to explain it.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2022.
References: Galatians 1:23.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 246. Galatians 1:23, Galatians 1:24.—S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 24. Galatians 1:24.—F. Aveling, Ibid., vol. ii., p. 4; J. Stoughton, Ibid., vol. v., p. 145; H. Simon, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 53.
And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past 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.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
And they glorified God in me.