Reading Section 3: It’s My Story And I’m Sticking To It! 1.11-2.10

➡ Average Reading Time: 16 minutes

The material in the following chapters of this draft is being proofed.
They are NOT finished chapters. I invite you to read them and leave comments about what you liked, didn’t like, didn’t understand, etc.


Where We Are Going?

Reading the Storyline: New International Version (2011)
Reading the Storyline: Interpretative Paraphrase
Observing the Storyline
Interpreting the Storyline
Preaching the Gospel (1.11-12)
| So What?
Paul Is Called by God (1.13-24)
| So What?
Paul Is Accepted by the Apostles (2.1-10)
| So What?
Living into the Story

Reading the Storyline: New International Version (2011)

Free At LastI want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they made no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Reading the Storyline: Interpretative Paraphrase

Now I want to make know to my brothers and sisters, that the story that I told you while I was there did not come from me. It is the time-honored story of Yahweh’s work of bringing about a new creation. Humans did not teach me this story, Jesus revealed it to me. I’m sure that you remember me telling you about my previous life in Judaism, how I took on the role of persecutor to the story I now teach and live into. I had advanced in my religious standing beyond many Jews who were the same age because I lived with more zeal for the traditions of my forefathers in the faith. In Yahweh’s good pleasure, I was born and later called through his grace to reveal Jesus the Messiah and to proclaim his story to the Gentiles of which many of you were hearers. When I received this call, I was struck down on the road to Damascus while hunting down Jesus followers to jail them, I did not immediately listen to those in the faith around me, nor did I return quickly to Jerusalem to confer with the leaders in the Jerusalem ecclesiae. Instead, I went into the desert and then returned to Damascus. Then three years later, I journeyed to Jerusalem to visit Peter and stayed with him for about two weeks. While I was visiting Peter, I only saw one other leader, James, the brother of Jesus. The things that I am now writing to you is the truth, the whole truth so help me God. I left Jerusalem after my short visit and went to the region of Syria and Cilicia. The communities of faith in Judea would not have known me if they had seemed me. But, they had heard of me as the one who had persecuted Jesus followers but was now proclaiming the story he had once tried to utterly destroy. Because I was now living into the story of Yahweh’s new creation, these brothers and sisters praised Yahweh.

The next trip that I traveled to Jerusalem was about fourteen years later along with my friend and traveling companion, Barnabas. Titus also accompanied us. I had traveled to Jerusalem because of a revelation that I was to tell the story that I had been given to share with the Gentiles. I shared that story with the brothers and sisters in the Jerusalem ecclesiae in private for fear that I too might have been telling the wrong story. Titus who had traveled with Barnabas and me was a Greek and he was not compelled to be circumcised. That was amazing! Why amazing? Because some troublemakers in Jerusalem were secretly trying to rob the community of faith of their liberty in Jesus. They wanted to bring us back into a story that was part of the first acts of the story and the results were froth with additives from those previous acts, but we would have none of it, not even for a minute so that the truth of the story I told you might continue to be told among you. Some big shots, well they may have thought themselves to be such, but it did not matter to me because God’s story doesn’t have any big shots. These leaders accepted the story that I was telling, the same one that I told you when I was there. They finally believed that I had been called to tell the good news story of Jesus to those they considered heathen. They accepted my storytelling to those who were not of the Jewish faith just like they accepted Peter’s story that he told to those within the Jewish faith. Perceiving the grace of Yahweh, James, Peter, and John who were the visible leaders[ref]Read “leaders” here a function not position, i.e. they were leaders when they were leading. They were not leading they were just James, Peter, and John.[/ref] of the ecclesiae in Jerusalem accepted us telling us to continue to share the story of Jesus with those who were no of the Jewish faith while they would continue to share the story with those who were in the Jewish faith. They did ask one thing. They asked that I would remember the poor. That is something that I am really passionate about doing.

Observing the Storyline

This reading section of Galatians is Paul’s autobiography. It portrays his faithfulness to preaching the good news that he was called by God to preach. He describes his call on the road to Damascus and how he was faithful to sharing the good news that he was called by God to share. The gospel he proclaimed was shared in Jerusalem and had been accepted by the leaders in the Jerusalem ecclesiae.

Interpreting the Storyline

Preaching the Gospel (1.11-12)

The phrase, “I want to make know to you,” was often used to introduce a narrative portion of a speech. Paul told his readers that the good news had not originated with a human being, meaning that the good news that he preached was not a human-made religion that emphasized human effort. His announcement says that he had not received the gospel from and was not indebted to any human source. Finally, he did not “take a course,” in the subject matter, as we might say in our modern vernacular. He had received what he proclaimed by the revelation of Jesus. Because of the source, his disciples in the Galatian churches should not turn from its message.

The good news that Paul preached, or as we are interpreting, the story Paul told, included at least three ideas. First, salvation comes in Jesus alone as a fulfillment of Moses, not with the additive of Moses. Second, acceptance by Yahweh comes solely by faith apart from living within the boundary markers (circumcision, food laws, and calendar events). Third, participation is as open to Gentile Galatians as it is to Jews in Galatia and Jerusalem. The first two ideas have been fleshed out since the Reformation. But, it is the third issue that was active and alive in Paul’s day. The quarrel between Paul and the Jewish missionaries/agitators was over how the Gentiles were to be included in the people of Yahweh: Jesus alone or Jesus-plus-Moses. Gentiles being in the family of God was not being contested by the Jewish missionaries. It was being in the family of Yahweh without adding the Law (read Covenant) that they found intolerable. This void-of-Moses view was a threat to every good Jew, Christian Jew, or Mosaic Jew. To break down the cultural boundary markers would be a social catastrophe. After all, in their minds, the boundary markers were what made Jews, Jews.

Paul makes his case here by using two negatives. First, his story is not something that humans created. Second, he did not receive it from any human being as a journeyman would learn a trade from a mentor. Rather, he received it from Jesus. Most likely he is referring to his encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus (Acts 9.1-9). He contended that the story that he told that was being called into question by the Jewish missionaries and deserted from by the Galatians, was not fabricated by his brain nor handed down in a teacher/student relationship. Yahweh gave it to him.

| So What?

Paul was saying that his gospel story was independent of Jerusalem. Ouch! One has to wonder what a “pastor” in an institutional church might do if s/he was teaching a different story, read here doctrine, that was held by the corporate denomination, i.e., independent from the mother denomination. We might be kinder to the Jewish missionaries if we paused a moment and thought about their social circumstances. It was most likely difficult for a Jewish Jesus follower who reverenced Yahweh, who had grown up in Judaism, who had converted to the fulfillment of the hopes of the Jews in Jesus the Jew to turn off their Mosaic beliefs. It may have been difficult to accept a form of belief that did not include with it the Law of Moses. To hear that there was an independent message given by Yahweh without Moses was intolerable.

We must note that the gospel was not only for Israel (nor for America, for that matter). Israel was only the vehicle through which God would redeem the world. America is not and will never be the vehicle through which God will save the world contrary to popular belief. The mixing of theology and nationalism (read politics) in America is ramped in some quarters of the American ecclesiae. Salvation remains the privilege and ministry of the ecclesiae, the true Israel of Yahweh, everywhere she abides.

We might ask a tough question: Is the story we are telling a dumb–downed story that seeks the approval of those who are listening? Are we following Jesus or are we trying to be nationalistic, politically correct, and diplomatic?

In the Western ecclesiae, we have developed a kind of gospel story that suggests that all you need to do is give mental assent to a group of moral beliefs and that seals your destiny in heaven. This has produced a great disconnect between lifestyle and faith. Our worship and often our evangelism is filled with propagating this notion.

Paul Is Called by God (1.13-24)

This segment of Galatians is a short autobiographical sketch of Paul and his encounter with Yahweh. He told his story to demonstrate that God called him, not the ecclesiae in Jerusalem, or any other body of Jesus followers, to proclaim the story he was telling. Thinking about Paul’s conversion has a long history in Western theology. It goes back to Augustine and how he understood his conversion. In the modern period, conversion has been defined as the process in which a person, who is struggling with a sense of guilt over not living a moral life, becomes a person with a conscious sense of not being able to live a moral life. It is within this view that Paul has traditionally been understood. He was a Pharisaic Jew who was conscious of his failure to keep the Law and experienced a profound change when he came to understand that he can be justified by faith in Jesus. This, however, may not be the case.

In his discussion here in Galatians Paul told his readers that his message had a divine origin. This is couched in the picture of First Testament prophetic calls (cf. Jer. 1.5). Paul used his encounter with Jesus to demonstrate that his gospel to the Gentiles was rooted in divine revelation and divine calling. It is in this context that Paul mentions his earlier life in Judaism. There is no human explanation for the experience that he had. There was nothing that had prepared him for the revelation that he received. The young Jew, who was so zealous for the tradition of Moses, who was willing to search and destroy Jews who had wandered into this sect of belief, was not the champion of the gospel that included the Gentiles. The contrast that his readers knew about his life as a Jewish zealot and his new life as an apostle to the Gentiles should be seen by them as evidence that the gospel surely had a divine origin. In short, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”[ref]Wikitionary. “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” (accessed June 22, 2020)[/ref]

Before his encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus, he was engaged in searching out defectors from the traditions of the Jewish faith. Unknown to him, he had been singled out from his mother’s womb. When Paul heard the call, he did not confer with humans (flesh and blood) or go immediately back to Jerusalem to confer with the leaders of this new sect within Judaism. He went instead to the desert and then returned to Damascus.

It was three years later that he left Damascus and returned to Jerusalem. Paul only saw James and Peter on that visit. After a short fifteen-day visit, he went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

With the words “before God,” Paul took a personal oath to assure the Galatians that what he was telling them was the truth. An oath could be used in court to give foundation to the oath taker’s integrity. It was believed that if you broke an oath, you invited the judgment of God or the gods. People in the ancient world (Judea and elsewhere) believed that if a person broke an oath, God or “the gods” would execute judgment on the oath-taker. One spoke an oath within this context of belief. The hearers of Paul’s words would know that Paul was extremely serious in what he was saying even to the point of death.

He was personally unknown (by face) to the ecclesiae in Judea. They had only heard the story: that the one who had persecuted the faith was now preaching the faith.

This story is told to help the Galatians understand that his message was independent of the Jerusalem ecclesiae and from the original apostles. The message he had proclaimed came to him by the call of God that he had been sent to them with the message of God that helped them know that they could be included in the family of God.

| So What?

Biblical scholarship has been challenged to rethink Augustine and Luther. The late Krister Stendahl (d. 2008) raised questions about the traditional way of understanding the conversion of Paul. He claimed that the Western way of understanding Paul owes its system of belief to reading Augustine and Luther rather than reading the documents of the Second Testament. He believed that the experience of Paul on his way to Damascus was not an inner conversion from the works-righteousness of Judaism. What happened to Paul on the way to Damascus was not a conversion in the traditional understanding at all. Paul did not change his religious standing as a Jew.

According to Stendahl, Paul’s experience can be understood better as an authentic call to be a missionary/apostle to the Gentiles. Because of this call, he begins to fulfill the promise of Israel to Abraham to be a blessing to all nations, which would certainly include the Gentiles. He had to rethink Moses and the Law to understand the inclusion of the Gentiles. Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road was part of this unique call and was not meant to be understood as an example of Christian conversion.[ref]Krister Stendahl, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles. Minneapolis, MN (Fortress Press, 1976).[/ref] The text of Acts appears to support this conclusion. After his encounter with Jesus, he stops his harassment of Christians and begins to seek out Gentiles to share the message of their inclusion into the family of God. This line of thought may leave us with more questions than answers, but as we move forward in this new century it is well to ask them and search for meaningful answers that the text of the Second Testament supports. Some questions that we may struggle with are: How are we to define conversion? Do our modern definitions stand up to the scrutiny of the documents of the Second Testament? Did Paul remain a faithful Jew or did he become a Hellenized Christian? Is his encounter on the Damascus Road best understood as a conversion using Augustine and Luther as guides or as a call using Stendahl as a guide? How did his encounter with God influence the way he thought about theology? These questions and others should drive us back to the documents of the Second Testament to seek answers. Let it be so!

Paul Is Accepted by the Apostles (2.1-10)

To demonstrate that his gospel was a direct revelation from God, Paul has shown that the gospel that he preached was not from any human (Gal. 1.13-17) nor was it from the church at Jerusalem (Gal. 1.18-24). He continues his argument in Galatians 2.1-10 to show that the gospel that he preached was also independent of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem ecclesiae even though they had accepted it. Finally, to finish his argument he shows that he did not get his gospel from the arch-missionary, Peter.

Fourteen years later (after his call Acts 11.29-30; others see this reference as the Missionary Council of Acts 15) Paul made a journey to Jerusalem. On this occasion, he took Barnabas and Titus with him. The most likely reason that Titus is mentioned is that he was a Gentile convert. His very presence in Jerusalem among Jewish brothers who did not require him to be circumcised spoke volumes: If God had chosen and was using an uncircumcised Gentile, then surely circumcision was not required after becoming a member of the family of God.

In Galatians 2.2, Paul is most likely responding to a charge of the Jewish missionaries in Galatia. They may have charged that Paul had to submit his ministry to the apostles and agree to obey their instructions. Paul was now setting the record straight. He told the Galatian readers that his visit was in response to a revelation, not because of human command. The issue at hand was a story presented in Jerusalem that had a more Jewish-nationalistic bent and the story Paul proclaimed was inclusive of the Gentiles. The consensus of the meetings was that Paul was called to preach what he preached to the Gentiles and Peter was called to preach what he preached to the Jews. What they preached was the same message, to whom they preached it was different.

The gospel that he set before them was sure that the salvation of the people of God came through the work of Jesus by simply trusting in the grace of God. The gospel he presented did not demand the addition of adopting the Jewish boundary markers (circumcision, food laws, and calendar events). He set the gospel before them for their evaluation and “those men added nothing to his message.”

The matter of circumcision did arise in this visit because some “false brothers,” who taught a Jesus-plus-Moses based story, brought it to fore for argument. He told the Galatians that the experience that he and the Galatians were presently having was identical to the one he had earlier in his Jerusalem visit. The heresy that Paul confronted was the same: a different gospel that minimized the work of Jesus and the ministry of the Spirit. “So, it is not Jesus plus Moses. It’s not Jesus plus tables of stone. For the believer, it’s Jesus plus nothing, 100 percent natural, no additives! Or, as Harry Westcott says, “If Peter, James, and John’s problem were Jesus plus Moses and Elijah, could our problem be Jesus plus church growth, or plus fundraising, or plus prosperity or plus healing, or plus discipleship, or plus faith, or plus prophecy, etc.”[ref]Andrew Farley. Twisted Scripture: Untangling 45 Lies Christians Have Been Told. Salem Books. Harry Westcott. 100 Faith Building Messages. 100. Vision Ministries Publications. Australia[/ref]

Next, Paul argues in his story that the Jerusalem leaders expressed unity with Paul and his message. While he had argued in chapter one that his gospel was independent of Jerusalem, he now argues that while still independent, it was endorsed by Jerusalem. He was not giving the Jewish missionaries, who challenged his gospel message in Galatia, any room to squirm. The endorsement of his gospel by Jerusalem was not necessary, but because they did endorse what he preached to the Gentiles, all the better.

Who were these leaders that he mentions? He refers to them as “those who seemed to be important” (Gal. 2.6), “those reputed to be pillars” (Gal. 2.9), and “James, Peter, and John (v. 9). He also referred to them in verse 2 as “those who seemed to be leaders.” On each of these occasions, Paul uses a little word “to seem” (dokeo) to indicate how others may have treated the leadership in Jerusalem, i.e., as people of honor. Paul treats them on an equal basis because in the new age of the Spirit distinctions of leaders were no longer important. An important lesson the present-day ecclesiae is in despite the need for learning.

So what was their response? They didn’t add anything to his message. They sent a message that nothing (meaning the boundary markers of circumcision, food laws, and calendar events as an example of boundary markers in their day) was needed to become full members of the people of God. As stated above, they recognized that the message of the gospel was the same, but the recipients were different. The leading apostles, James, Peter, and John, gave Paul and Barnabas the “right hand of fellowship.” This was an official agreement that they verbally and theologically agreed with the message that Paul was preaching to the Gentiles.

Lastly, Paul was encouraged by the Jerusalem ecclesiae to remember the poor, which he was eager to do which the books of the Second Testament tell us he did (read: 1 Cor 16.1-4; 2 Cor 8-9; Rom 15.27-29; Acts 20.16, 22; 24.17).

| So What?

Remember, this was a social-theological problem. It had to do with boundary markers and nationalism. How does this work out for us today? Let’s take Christian music as an example. There is a certain amount of pride that rises in groups because of their musical impregnation into the body of Christ. The debate is over which is the right music to worship God. Some like “southern style” Bill Gaither music, others like the “high church” hymn style of music, still others like the contemporary “rock style,” music of Calvary Chapel and Vineyard, while others still like Gregorian chants.

The issue of music is both social and theological. It may not rise to the level of the Galatian problem, but it is a useful illustration. In today’s ecclesiae, we often have one group imposing its musical desire on another group in the name of theology. We hear things like our music is biblically-based because we sing songs “to God” instead of songs “about God,” as if declaring something “about” God is not real worship. If the ecclesiae is to be multigenerational, and I think that it should be, then hymns and contemporary worship should both be affirmed. This is a social problem within the ecclesiae. The theological problem is also acute. It may be true that not all hymns are theologically sound, but neither is the vast amount of contemporary choruses. Much of the contemporary chorus music’s message and theology is centered on what the singer can “get from God” or is centered around the great “I,” rather than around praise and adoration to God. The older music is usually more theologically penetrating, while the newer contemporary music is often more satisfying and focused on experience but influenced by modernity’s love affair with the individual.

We have a form of Galatian Jewish missionaries in our local ecclesia today that want to impose what they like on others. We might need to recognize that there are separate callings within the local ecclesia, but there is only one story. This means that different kinds of music are praiseworthy. Fundamental to Christian unity is the need to recognize different callings within the ecclesiae. Maybe one solution is to add good theology to the contemporary “rock” music, while at the same time updating the “sound” of the older hymns. The Jesus-plus-our-kind-of-music is the correct way to worship when we are together is like the Jesus-plus-Moses message of the first-century Jewish missionaries. If Paul were writing to the ecclesiae today, and in a sense he is, he might tell us to stop making additives necessary to our central story of Creation, Redemption, and New Creation. The main point is to stop trying to impose a social phenomenon onto others as a theological end game.

Living into the Story

End of Session

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)