More on Paul’s Apostolic Authority
Have you ever been unjustly charged? Have you had your motives impugned or your honesty called into question? Such accusations can be devastating, especially when you have willing given of your time and done your best to tell the truth in your desire to help others. Those who have gone through such an experience can begin to grasp the feelings of the apostle Paul, who realizes not only is his person being challenged but also the validity of the message that means so much to him.
When one is attacked in such a way, it is natural to give an autobiographical defense in hopes of clearing both yourself and more importantly your intentions. This is precisely what Paul does as he attempts to clear his name and more importantly clear up any confusion regarding his message, which is the Gospel. From chapter 1 verse 10 through chapter 2 verse 14 Paul gives an autobiographical defense in which he hopes to clear his unjustly tarnished reputation and defend the gospel message that he holds so near and dear to his heart.
For Paul there is no compromise, there is no middle ground for what is at stake is the matter of life and death, eternal life or eternal death. So confident is Paul that he is even willing to declare that the gospel he proclaims is the only true gospel.
Perhaps you like me upon seeing such a defense then begin to question Paul as to how he can be so confident in his understanding. After all, the point he has just made comes across as arrogance, or at least seems to on the outside. So where did this statement come from? Did he just dream it up? Did he get it from the other apostles in Jerusalem and then change (pervert) it (the position that the Judaizers seem to hold)? This is what the Judaizers seem to think. In verses 11 and 12 Paul will declare that his gospel came directly from God. His claims have nothing backward or even humble about it.
We must and should then ask of Paul, “what is your proof?”
In verse 13 Paul begins to rebut the accusations. He does this by pointing back to the life he had before. No one is on record as being a more violent and persistent enemy of the early Christian church than Paul. He himself claims that he persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. Interestingly the word he uses for “destroy” is the same employed to describe utterly sacking a city.
We should ask, and it would be logical for anyone to ask, why was he so adamant about destroying the church? Interestingly enough his hostility probably centered on the crucifixion of Jesus. To Paul as to every other Jews, a crucified Messiah (Christ) was not only an insult to his national and political messianic hopes, it was also incomprehensible absurdity since the Messiah was, almost by definition, one uniquely favored by God, whereas a hanged man was, according to the law, cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23). Paul must have seen in the cross the decisive refutation of the claim that Jesus was the Messiah . . . and Christians further claim that he was risen could not be treated as anything but criminal deception.
No wonder the unconverted Paul sought to stamp out the new sect. To his mind and that of the priests and Pharisees the Christians were a deceptive and dangerous band of utter heretics.
Yet after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, he was now willing to give his life for the very cause he sought to wipe out.
In verse 14 he provides us with a second thumbnail sketch of his past by stating that in Judaism he advanced beyond many of my own age. So extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. To state it simply, he had been fanatic for the law. The life had been his life and it had been the one object of his study to know it; it had been the one effort of his life to keep it. Yet now the one dominating center of his life was grace.
The power of Christ to change us when we become a member of God’s community of believers is no more evident than when comparing Paul before and after his conversion. The one who had once destroyed people over issues of the Cross, Resurrection and Grace, now find himself coming to the defense of those three concepts. He did it with as much ardor has he once had shown when he went to war against them.
To silence the critics, he finishes chapter one thru and to verse one of chapter two by stating, “Hey, I never had the time from the time of my conversion to this day to have been for long period of time in Jerusalem and since my time there has been so short the arguments of my opponents falls flat.” Why, because my message, the message of the Cross, Resurrection, and Grace came only from God.