For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.
Galatians 1:11-19 (Epistle of the 20th Sunday)
The word “exegesis” means to go through a piece of Scripture verse by verse and study not a specific chapter or even a specific passage of Scripture but to study a specific verse. While every verse of the Bible will not yield a treasury of material, meditating on many verses will. Take a few verses from this Sunday’s Epistle Lesson.
For I would have you know, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not man’s Gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (1:11-12) Saint Paul is writing to the Galatians and in the introductory chapter of his Epistle to them, he is talking about how he came to know Christ. In Saint Paul’s case, his conversion was very dramatic. He was very zealous in his Judaism, so much so that he persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy both the church and the Christian members of that church. His conversion happened in a “thunderbolt” moment. He saw a bright light on the road to Damascus, and heard the voice of Jesus telling him to stop persecuting the church. Then he became blind. After three days, one of the followers of Jesus named Ananias came to visit Paul and laid his hands on Paul, who regained his sight, and then baptized him.
One lesson to be taken away from these verses is that people are brought to Christ in different ways. Some come in “lightning bolt” conversion moments. There are people who can tell you that there was one specific moment when they knew Christ and knew they wanted to follow Him. Others do learn in more subtle ways. They listen to preaching, they are taught, they read and research. For most, conversion comes over time, in gradual stages. At different ages and stages of life, they come to know Christ on a deeper level.
Another lesson is about the origin of Scripture. The Scriptures, including the Gospels which chronicle the life of Jesus Christ, were written by man. However, we believe that they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. The experience of Christ was witnessed by some, His words were heard by many, and His teaching were both written down and passed down orally.
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. (1: 13-14)
Zeal, when used appropriately, is a good thing. Zeal can be used for positive growth and achievement. However, zeal can be used for destruction, as evidence by the admission of St. Paul. Paul was so zealous for Judaism, or his perception of it, that he thought being a good Jew allowed for persecuting and killing non-Jews, in this case the early Christians. There are lots of lukewarm Christians. And there are lots of zealous church goers who do not act very Christian. The goal is to be appropriately zealous and to be zealous for Christ, for genuine Christianity.
But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through His grace, was please to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away to Arabia and against I returned to Damascus.
God calls each of us in different ways and at different times. Some people have felt the call to the priesthood, as an example, in middle age, not from childhood. Many others have felt their life’s calling well into adulthood. God set each of us apart before we were born, to do something special. He calls each of us to something unique and special. We just have to be open to the call. God called Paul, who would have been seen as an unlikely candidate based on his past history. But Paul repented and allowed God to change him so that he went from the greatest of sinners to the greatest of saints. He can change our hearts as well.
We the believers now theologize about the inexplicable, incomprehensible unspoken mystery of Your crucifixion and resurrection. For today the realm of death and of Hades has been despoiled, and vested is the human race with incorruptibility. And therefore in thanksgiving we cry aloud: Glory to Your resurrection, O Christ. (Second Resurrectional Kathisma of the second set, 3rd Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Allow God to speak to your heart so that it changes and grows towards Him every day!