Gal 1:19-24 “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.”
Paul has just described to his audience how, after three years, he went up to Jerusalem and spent fifteen days with Peter. Yet he remained unknown to all the others except James, the brother of Jesus. The scripture does not tell us where the other apostles were or why they did not come to meet Paul. However, Paul felt it important to share the fact that he only spent time with Peter and during that time met James.
The apostle Paul was careful to identify himself plainly in his greeting to the churches. He gave assurance that he was writing to them as led by the Spirit and not according to the dictates of men. Here he affirms that this letter is the truth, and he calls God to be His witness of that truth. It is of vital importance to Paul that the churches understand this undertaking is not of any purpose of his own. We, too, need to conduct ourselves in a manner that reassures God’s people that our ministry has no hidden agenda. We need to be always focused on learning and sharing the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
Paul now tells us that he left Jerusalem after visiting with Peter and went to Syria and Cilicia. He was physically removed from the churches of Judaea so that none there knew his face. All they knew about Paul was his reputation, both the bad and the good. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (2Co 12:9). By knowing the bad that Paul had done in persecuting the churches, the wondrous grace of God was displayed in a way that was impossible for the believer to deny.
As we come to the conclusion of this first chapter, we can clearly see that Paul was not seeking glory for himself. He wanted the churches to understand that he was called and sent by God to testify unto them of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord. It was important to him that the churches understand that he was not instructing them out of any selfish motivation or at the behest of some other man or organization of men. His love for the churches made him desire to see them continue in the liberty of Jesus. All that Paul had said about himself and the perception of the churches in Judaea was this: they glorified God in Paul’s experience.
We all have our own experiences with God’s great grace and mercy. It is wonderful to hear the experiences of others and to share our own. Sharing our experiences should always be done in a manner that causes our audience to glorify God. Our experiences should assure those around us that we are not seeking the approval of men. We should confirm to those we are called to minister to that we do not want them in bondage to us or other men. We should always be looking to the grace of God and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
May our testimony be such that the churches would glorify God in us!