Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Desert Places

Let’s look at Galatians 1:13-14, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” Now Paul begins to share his testimony. It is estimated that Paul hand a consenting hand in the killing of at least 10,000 Christians before his conversion. He was the crem-de-la-crem of his class. He said in Philippians 3:5-6, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” He also had a hand in the stoning of Stephan according to Acts 7:54-60 through Acts 8:1-3.

Notice v.15, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,” That calling came on the Damascus Road in Acts 9:1-6. Have you ever felt that God couldn’t love you because of the person you’ve been? Saul did far more evil than most and yet God still loved him.

Notice v.16a, “To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;” Jesus called Saul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Something very interesting is that Saul and Paul are the same. One is Hebrew while the other is Gentile. It would be the equivalent of John and Juan today. The Lord simply wanted him to identify with his mission field.

Notice vv.16b-17, “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.” Notice that God called Paul and not man. We are not sure how long Paul was in the Arabian Desert. The only thing that we do know was that it took three years from his conversion experience to make it to Jerusalem to visit with the other apostles.

There is a recurring theme in the Bible. God takes those whom he wants to use into the desert. I.e. Moses in Ex 3:1-6 to lead the people out of Egypt. Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1-7 to show a widow how to trust the Lord. Jesus in Matt.4:1-11 to prepare him for the cross (Matt.26:36-46). Are you in the desert? What is God preparing you for? We must learn to look at desert places as preparation places.

Notice v.18, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.” After three years Paul visits with Peter in Jerusalem.

Notice vv.19-20, “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.” Paul also sees an apostle that he refers to as "James, the Lord's brother." One of the most contradictory doctrines in the Catholic Church is the teaching that Mary was a perpetual virgin. The Bible clearly teaches that Mary had more children after Jesus. Of course, they were half brothers and sisters because they had different fathers. As a matter of fact, Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters (Mark 6:3; Jude 1). We are told that they were married in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and that they had a hard time believing in Him in John 7:1-9.

This also exposes another false teaching within the Church of Rome; celibacy. Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-3, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” This verse also exposes the false teaching of Ash Wednesday within the Catholic Church as well.

Notice vv.21-24, “Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 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.” God received the glory for Paul’s life.

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