“Paul, an apostle — not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, the very title which the false teachers were evidently denying him. An apostle is a special messenger — literally someone “sent out” — who had a unique status, enjoying an authority and commission that came from Christ himself. As Paul says here, his apostleship did not come from men nor through men — it came through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul spoke and acted with the authority of Jesus.
Note: Some refer to him as “Saint Paul,” but this is a description we should not use for him. Scripture is clear that every Christian is a saint by virtue of being called by Christ. However, we may certainly call him the Apostle Paul, as he was uniquely sent out by Christ to be one of his special representatives.
The Bible views every Christian as a saint, as someone set apart for God’s work. As you read through the NT, you will notice several verses where God refers to believers as saints. For example, Ephesians 4.12 teaches that the spiritual gifts are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Paul’s apostleship was a special case, because he was commissioned and taught directly by the risen Jesus himself. Acts 9 tells us the dramatic fashion by which the Lord called Paul:
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9.1-2)
Here was Saul of Tarsus (his name prior to his apostleship), on the way to Damascus with the intent of arresting any Jews who professed the Christian faith. The text says he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Saul hated and persecuted Jews who became Christians. What happens next is quite unexpected:
“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Act 9.3-6)
In dramatic fashion the One whom Saul claimed was a false Messiah appears, identifies himself as Jesus, and speaks to Saul. Can you imagine how Saul was feeling at that moment? Can you imagine what he was thinking?
“The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:7-9)
The bright light and voice of the Lord stunned everyone in the group. Not surprisingly, no one knew what to say. The Lord had blinded Saul, so his traveling companions did the only thing they could do, and took Saul into Damascus. The once proud and arrogant Saul must have appeared truly humbled as he was led by hand into the city. For three days Saul was blind, and during that time did not eat or drink. What he did do was pray.
“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (Acts 9:10-12)
The Lord spoke to Ananias — a Jewish Christian in Damascus — and instructed him to find Saul and lay hands on him so that he would regain his sight. No doubt God wanted Saul to experience the Lord working in and through the very Jewish Christians whom Saul sought to persecute. We don’t know the content of Saul’s prayers, but no doubt he was confessing, repenting, and asking the Lord for guidance. The Lord answered his prayers!
However, Ananias knew of Saul’s reputation, and therefore was quite hesitant to go find Saul. Here is what Ananias said in response to the Lord: “But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name” (Acts 9:13-14). Ananias was understandably fearful of getting anywhere near Saul, the infamous persecutor of Christians. I am sure he feared not only for himself, but also for his family and others in the Christian fellowship in Damascus.
Ananias was confronted with a decision point: Live by faith or live by fear. Focus on the danger and risks of laying hands on and praying for the hostile Saul of Tarsus, or respond in faithful obedience to the Lord’s command.
The difference between a response of faith versus a reaction of fear is what you focus on. Fear focuses on the negative and fixates on the worst-case scenario. Faith focuses on the purpose, the power, and the presence of God. It fixates on what needs to be done.
Trusting and obeying God drives out fear. The apostle John tells us why: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4.18)
- Grateful drives out fearful. When you recognize what God has done for you because he loves you, fear is driven out. Despite the accusations and condemnations of the enemy, you focus on trusting God and his grace.
- Faithful drives out fearful. When you respond to what God commissions you to do, fear is driven out. Despite distractions and adversity, you focus on obeying God and fulfilling the mission to which he calls you.
What about you? Do you have courage when it counts? When you are threatened by something challenging and difficult—or even dangerous—how do you respond? Do you stand strong and trust God’s presence and power in your life?
The enemy wants you to walk by fear. God calls you to walk by faith.