C2.4. Not of fleshly consultation
….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:
After his conversion Paul says he did not confer with flesh. He was alone and learnt from God. Once a person is born again one of the biggest dangers is for others to lay down rules and regulations for them to follow. For example: read your Bible every day, pray every day, and attend meetings here there and every where; make sure you witness to people etc. Now these things are not wrong, but what is wrong is the imposition of these things as a law on believers.
Such legalism is a form of what has become known in these days as ‘shepherding’, heavy or otherwise makes no difference, the principles are the same. We are told plainly in scripture that the elders are not to lord it over another, indeed Paul himself told the Corinthians that he didn’t have dominion over their faith!
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand
Paul did not consult with flesh and blood; instead he learnt from God Himself, we too have the privilege to learn from God. Indeed this is part of the NC that we will learn from God:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
This doesn’t mean we can’t ask for advice or help, but what it does mean is that we are not to be dominated by anyone, and certainty we are not to seek to lay down the law for others. This includes so called leaders in assemblies, whether they be called pastors, elders or whatever. How many lives have been ruined, or wasted to use Paul’s word, by such wicked domination? Who knows? Let us make sure we are neither a victim of, nor a guilty party to, it.
C2.5. Change of nature and nation
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 had a complete transformation of life: what he once was he is no longer. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, totally against the cause of Christ, yet now his life had been completely transformed and had become one of its greatest apostles.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.
II Cor. 5:17
This is what the gospel is all about: when Christ is revealed in us and is formed in us we are born again, the very life of God is planted in us, our lives totally change. Before, we were dead in trespasses and sin but God in His mercy and grace makes us alive by His Spirit. The point being that it is a work of God, we were born again from above, no work of man or the flesh accomplished that at all. Salvation is of God not of the flesh.
New birth is to be born from above, the old is passed away; clearly this means that our sin nature is dealt with and this includes the old flesh religion. That is done away it too.
for ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion,
There are two things to note here: firstly his experience of the Jews’ religion was past. So on new birth Paul was delivered completely from the OC and its obligations, and remember he was high ranking Pharisee, in fact he counted it all but loss for the sake of Christ.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
So if Paul counted it all loss and was delivered from it what was the need to return to the deeds of the law?
Secondly the phrasing of Gal. 1:13 suggest that the Jews’ religion is something separate from true Christianity.
These two thoughts are important to understand: being in Christ separates us from our past life and the old Jewish religion has no part of it, this is a key thought of this epistle. Indeed, in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, national boundaries are done away with in the Spirit.
Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
I Cor . 12:2
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Our earthly nationality is of no consequence. We can conclude that there are only three groups on the Earth: Jews, Gentiles and Christian. As a child of God I am not a [physical] Jew nor a Gentile but a Christian. One of the curses of Christianity is ‘pride of race’; many believers not understanding this truth believe patriotism is the correct attitude to adopt, the ‘God is on our side mentality’ that does so much damage to the gospel message.
Regeneration changes us totally, not only is our sin and self dealt with but also the springs from whence we come. We are no longer of earthly seed but of the heavenly seed. We are no longer part of this world’s system and that includes nationalism in all its guises.
C2.6. Concluding thoughts to Ch. 1
The Gospel then frees us from sin and self, and plants the life of Jesus in us and gives us a new nationality! It is all of God’s grace and is by revelation from Jesus Christ. Not one part of the gospel owes its origin to the fleshly efforts of humans. It is all of God from start to finish. It is God revealed, Christ centred and life transforming. What work of the flesh can do that?
Nothing then of the flesh has any part in the gospel, we are not saved by the flesh, and we certainly can not continue the life by fleshly efforts. How can we, when we have been translated to the heavenly realms?
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
When we cease from man and all fleshly efforts, others will take note and see God at work in us and glorify God in us as they did with Paul.