For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
This feels defensive. Paul is obviously responding to criticism. Apparently, the people who preached “another” gospel argued against the true one by attacking the one who taught it—Paul. No surprise there.
So, in defending the gospel he preached to the Galatians, Paul has to defend himself. This is a delicate operation, since he doesn’t want to brag.
That’s why this passage reads the way it does. Paul starts out super self-deprecating—calling himself a bondservant (dou-los, δοῦλος). A doulos is a slave (maybe temporary)—the lowest class of person.
Then he goes on to recount his conversion, simultaneously confessing having committed great wrongs while giving God the full credit for his transformation. It’s very personable and sincere.
But there’s something else that comes out—confidence. Even though this letter starts out admonishing the Galatian church for their quick falling away from the true gospel, it still has a warm, solid feel. Paul planted this church and his bond with them is familial.
These people are his kids.
Fostering, even directing, relationships like this is a key function of the church. New Christians need mentors. Actually, every Christian needs someone to lead them forward in Christ. Often that comes through organizations like The Fellowship of Ailbe.
But churches often neglect this, particularly after the great COVID hiatus. Who’s mentoring or shepherding you? Who are you mentoring or shepherding? Is your church doing anything to push this?
We need to get this back on track.
Strong mentoring grows strong Christians.