by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 8 February 6, 2011 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(058)Thesis:The first principle of "faith" is that one not only can be, but must be, dependent upon God exclusively.
Introduction:In Acts 17:11-12, Luke makes a well-known comment about "believing". He says that "therefore many of them believed..." after having commented on the greater "nobility" of the Bereans. And what was the essence of that "nobility"? Two things: first, that they were exceptionally "willing" to be instructed in the Word; and, second, that they were also exceptionally "diligent" in resorting to the Scriptures to see if they were being properly instructed.
I bring this issue up this evening because it seems to me that the apostle Paul, in his record of his post-conversion activities in Galatians 1:16-17, is establishing one of the first principles of faith: one not only can be, but actually must be, dependent upon God exclusively. This is a difficult principle, but an absolutely necessary one because "justification by grace through faith" is the entry doctrine for reconciliation with God and God has no grandchildren. In other words, "reconciliation" is a relational concept that involves direct, personal, involvement between those being reconciled and there can be no third party who stands "between" the two parties.
With this in mind, I want, this evening, to consider Paul's claim that he did not go up to Jerusalem, but departed into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.
I. Luke's Record of Paul's Time in Damascus.
A. There is only one word in Luke's record that refers to Paul's trip to Arabia.
1. The word is "came" and it is found in Acts 9:21 where Luke records the reaction by the people to Paul's preaching of Christ is the synagogues of Damascus.
2. The verb tense of "came" is rare; it is a pluperfect and is used when an action is viewed as a "return" to a former action.
B. Luke is very clear that Paul's preaching, after his return to Damascus, was potent (Acts9:22-23).
1. This means that he has gotten his head together in terms of the nuts and bolts of his message.
2. This corresponds to Paul's claim that, since he did not "consult" with flesh and blood, but was able to preach the very faith he once vehemently opposed, his message had to have come by divine revelation.
II. Paul's Claims.
A. He did not go to "Jerusalem" to have a face-to-face with the recognized apostles.
1. This sounds "arrogant": he refused to seek out those who were recognized as the ones commissioned by God to spread the Word.
2. But the sound is misleading: he had been seriously "burned" by seeking instruction from trusted "teachers" and had been given encouragement to bypass them.
a. For one thing, he had had the realization that his "theological construct", gained in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, was fatally flawed at the most significant level (it is not surprising that he would be extremely gun-shy about "being instructed by men" with this kind of realization).
b. For another thing, he had been told by Jesus, Himself, that his grasp of the Truth was, for all intents and purposes, a non-reality: he did not grasp the Truth (he was of the most deluded of men -- thinking himself to be of the most righteous, but actually being the chief of sinners).
c. For a third thing, that Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the Most High God, had come to his "rescue" on the road to Damascus was a "hint" in the right direction: he could trust in Him to get his theology squared away (without Him, he would have continued to believe in his own inerrancy and would have remained blind to his own delusions about his "faith").
d. Therefore, having been led astray by the instruction of men, and having been given a "revelation" of the truth about Jesus by Jesus, it is no surprise at all that he refused to "go up to Jerusalem" -- even to talk to those who were apostles before him.
B. He did go to Arabia.
1. References to "Arabia" in the New Testament are extremely rare.
2. But "Arabia" had a place in Paul's thought in regard to the essentials of the Gospel.
3. And "Arabia" is where he needed to go in order to discover God's Truth about the issues of "Life" (initial and continuing reconciliation).
a. Paul engages in an interesting word use in regard to "Jerusalem" and "Arabia".
b. The bottom line seems to be this: "Jerusalem" was supposed to be the place where a man could go to get "Truth" (but that had not worked for Paul) and "Arabia" was the place where the distortion had begun.