Is God Glorified?
Gal. 1:18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, 22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
There were those whose questioned Paul’s authority to preach the gospel. The people of Galatia were specifically concerned about his preaching to the gentiles and whether he had been far too influenced by the Apostles in Jerusalem. Was he more interested in converting them to Judaism? Here he begins to explain to them his travels and the way in which he had been taught and directed in his spiritual walk. He tells the story of his previous life and helps them see that he was a man in drastic need of conversion. Only the gracious and divine intervention of Jesus would be able to explain the transformation that occurred in his life.
God’s call in Paul’s life was the only authority that he had. Paul saw his ministry as similar to that of Jeremiah and other Old Testament prophets. Now he would see the fulfillment of many of the prophesies as the message of salvation was spreading throughout the known world, breaking down national barriers. The Galatians were privileged to be a people who receiving the light of the Gospel. Just as the prophets were inspired by God, so Paul was declaring that he was not who he had become because of human instruction. His contact with the apostles was very limited. So important was this for him to explain that he almost swears, telling them that he does not lie!
Paul was recounting the places to which he had traveled. Such little time had he spent in or around Jerusalem that the churches in Judea didn’t recognize him when they saw him. They had heard about him, but nothing more. The story of his miraculous conversion was grounds for the church praising God. Even his great preaching had become reason for God to be glorified. “The idea of glorifying men for the success of their work was unknown in the early church.” (People’s NT Commentary) It means nothing if Christ is revealed to us, that we don’t then allow Christ to be revealed in us. What mattered most to Paul was that the people would believe that he had spent time with Jesus and that they were seeing Jesus reflected in him.
Paul was very sensitive to the fact that he wanted God to get the glory for everything that was accomplished in his life and for his ministry. What a contrast to today’s world where it’s all about getting attention for yourself, and this has even crept into the church. Often we refer to churches as “so and so’s” church — and we are actually mentioning the pastor’s name. In some cases the ministry has become completely wrapped up in the personality of the pastor and if that individual were to move on, die, or have a moral problem, the possibility is that the whole thing would fall apart. This was not what Paul wanted, for more than anything he wanted his ministry to be about lifting up Christ.
Interestingly God answered Paul’s prayer and the concerns of his heart. If you consider that Paul spent many days in prison, he was unable to be out preaching in the churches himself. The result was intentional leadership development by the dissemination of his letters. He cultivated first century pastors and leaders through his work, but then laid a foundation for all of Christianity. We are still reading his letters today and yet, it is in his letters, we that we see Jesus glorified. This was a man with a great education and yet, in humility he made sure that Jesus got all the credit.
God is to be glorified in every aspect of our lives. When we are followers of Jesus Christ it is not our goal to raise up our own reputation or to be successful in the eyes of the world. Paul’s time in prison would not have been seen as worldly success, and yet it was kingdom success. The testimony of our lives should be the ways in which God is at work. Our calling to follow Jesus means being willing to give up everything for the sake of glorifying God.
Lord, use my life as an instrument for your glory. Amen.