Indeed! You’ve got to love Paul the Apostle and is Gospel of Grace. Something happens to a person when they meet Jesus. Paul’s encounter on the Damascus road radically changed him from being a Christ-follower-chasing terrorist to one who followed Christ for the rest of his days. Miraculous! Paul encountered not only a fresh message but the real person of the message. Jesus became Paul’s Lord and the chief source of Paul’s entire message. The Gospel of Grace.
“I was not taught by any man…”
Paul presses his ‘credentials’ to the folk in Galatia by sharing a little of his history. His first 14 to 16 years as a new Christian was rather unremarkable other than this. He spent the first 14 years being personally tutored by Jesus Himself. All that Paul knew and taught was personally revealed to him by ongoing encounters with Jesus.
”I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin, I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” – Galatians 1:11-12 (NIV)
As I was reading this more than 30 years ago, it made a profound impact on me which remains to this day. Essentially, Paul was saying that Jesus had given him the key essentials of Gospel of Grace and he was not deviating one iota from that original revelation and issued a severe warning to those who preached a different gospel. It impressed me that Paul was so confident of his revelation of the Gospel that he rebuked the Galatians for deviating from what he had taught them. I also decided that I needed to study what to Paul was “his gospel”. I needed to align myself with everything he taught and disavow anything he did not teach.
”6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!“ – Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)
Very strong words indeed, but stronger words were to come later in Galatians chapter 3. For Paul, now that the Holy Spirit had come, the Gospel was a Gospel of Grace from beginning to end. It was all and totally by faith in Jesus empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Since God (the Holy Spirit) had come there was no further need for any other authority or governance than the Holy Spirit Himself.
Paul preached a simple, powerful and complete message – it’s all Grace and all Grace means it’s all God.
In Acts 20, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem despite being warned that there is trouble for him there. He wants to meet with the elders of the Ephesus church and send for them. They arrive and Paul has his last visit with them and he has final things to say. It is a final statement to them about his mission priorities. He headlines them and urges them to “keep watch” over the church because “savage wolves” will come into the church and teach distortions of the truth.
Paul is very keen to have his teaching of the gospel of grace defended well against false teachers. Teachers who will come in and distort the Gospel of Grace.
Grace is indeed good and powerful news. It is the gift of the presence and power of God to both justify (make righteous) and to sanctify (make righteous) by faith alone in Jesus. – David Crabtree
Usually, when one has last things to say, they speak about those things that are most important to them. They want to leave a thoughts and ideas legacy with their family or friends. Paul does the same here when speaking with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20).
- Both Jews and Gentiles (Greeks in this case) are on the same footing with Jesus. Both need to turn to God, repent of sin, and have faith in Jesus. (vs 21)
- Paul’s states that his main task is to preach (testify, or give witness to) the good news (Gospel) of God’s Grace. (vs 24)
- Preaching about the Gospel of Grace is the same as preaching the Kingdom of God. (vs 25)
- He has proclaimed to them the whole will of God. (vs 27)
- He warns them to keep watch because savage wolves (false teachers) will come in to distort the truth (of the Gospel of Grace). (vs 28-31)
- God and word of His Grace can build you up and give you an inheritance among the sanctified (those saved and set apart). (vs 32)
Paul’s emphasis is on his message of Grace, and faith in Jesus. It is interesting here that in his last statement to the elders he did not mention Law at all. He rightly assumed that the Holy Spirit was fully competent to govern and to rule in righteousness.
17 “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 25 Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” – Acts 20:17-32 (NIV)