Galatians 1:11-17 (ESV)
For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it 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 was advancing 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 who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Paul’s Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He explains here how he came to know it. It was revealed to him directly by Jesus. Not many of us get such revelation. I didn’t, and chances are you didn’t either.
My coming to understand and accept the Gospel was through being raised in the church. As long as I can remember, my relationship with God has been important to me. Having been raised Catholic, I was baptized at about two weeks. But as I grew up, even at an early age, I knew Christ and did my best to follow Him. As a rebellious youth, I did some things that I should not have, but I was always convicted of such by the Holy Spirit, and repented of my sin.
Much later, while stationed in Germany with the Army, I changed from Catholic to Protestant. A chaplain that I knew and respected there, baptized me by immersion, not because the first one did not take, but I had a desire to do it. And I was re-dedicating my life at that point to God. Like Paul, I had a crisis in my faith, but I did not get a personal visit from God. But then again, I am not as important to the church as Paul was.
My point here is that we all have encounters with God—although most of us have to study the Scriptures—learning and questioning as we go. The Holy Spirit will reveal His truth to us by insights as we study His Word, and through other people. None of us live in a vacuum, so we should always seek another to check our understanding of the Word. As John wrote in his epistle, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 (ESV)
One way to test the spirits is to measure everything believed against the whole of Scripture, for anything which contradicts Scripture is NOT from God. God’s Word has been handed down to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and He does not contradict Himself. God is consistent. He is Holy, and He does not change. Another way is to have a mentor that you know is well grounded in his/her relationship with Christ. We all need to check our understanding of the Scriptures, as the warning in 1 John tells us that many false prophets have gone out. And this was written back in about AD 90. If they had false prophets back then, we definitely have them now...
So to sum up, be certain of your faith. If you don’t have a good mentor, get one. Disciple a young believer when you are a mature Christian. Never stop learning. Challenge your own understanding to ensure you stay in the orthodox faith. May God help us all to be His faithful witnesses. Not spreading our own theories, but His Word and Truth.
by Virgil Stripes