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Daily Devotional • January 23

Elizabeth Baumann
Who Does He Say You Are?
A Reading from Galatians 1:1-17

1 Paul an apostle — sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

10 Am I now seeking human approval or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin, 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when the one who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the gentiles, I did not confer with any human, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterward I returned to Damascus.

Paul’s epistle to the Galatians opens like his other letters, with an introduction of himself, his name, and some little description of himself as an apostle. He includes a blurb about Jesus as well, declaring the most important thing we can know about our Lord.

What interests me about this particular opening is that he goes out of his way to state that his apostolic credentials come not through people or their institutions, but rather directly from Jesus. On the one hand, you can’t argue directly with Jesus. On the other, it means everything Paul will go on to teach depends completely on whether or not you believe his story about seeing Jesus. You know, the time when Paul saw and heard something no one else could? Would you believe him? Would you blame anyone for doubting him?

He’ll go on to make a pretty blunt case against other teachers in Galatia. As evidenced by Paul writing a latter, he isn’t there. So others are going to have to do — or not do — something about it. Not doing anything is easy — especially when you’re not sure what to do. If there’s any doubt, Paul is pretty well burning his bridges with these people. It all hangs on who Jesus told Paul he is in a vision.

Do we have that kind of faith in who Jesus tells us we are? Do we immediately link our identities to who he is, as Paul does? Often, God uses others — our families, friends, churches — to reinforce our identities. In particular he uses the authority of the Church, especially in baptism, to tell us who we are, and community makes it easier. But not always. God alone has the last word, as he did with Moses and Mary and Paul. Sometimes he doesn’t tell anyone else who you are, and you have to stake everything on it.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. Andrew's Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts
The Diocese of Pankshin – The Church of Nigeria 
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