Study 3 THE MARKS OF A GOOD TESTIMONY
(Scripture Portion: Galatians 1: 13-24)
Paul was a great theologian and a great preacher, but he loved to give his testimony because he knew that there is a tremendous power in the word of personal testimony. Testimonies can never take the place of preaching and teaching the Word - look up 1 Corinthians 1:21; but the personal testimony of God’s people empowers the word that is preached. Every converted person should be willing to tell what the Lord has done for him or her - look up Psalm 107:2 and Acts 4:20. There are, however, good and bad testimonies. What are the marks of a good testimony?
- It should be SHORT and to the point. The much-used advice is very good – “Stand up, speak up - and shut up!”
- It should ring with ASSURANCE. Read the testimony of the man who had been born blind - John 9:25, and compare 2 Timothy 1:12.
- It should be UP-TO-DATE. There is a value in telling what the Lord has done for us in the past, but most of all we must tell that He is our living, day-by-day Saviour.
- It should be CHRIST-CENTRED. We must obviously speak about ourselves and of what the Lord has done for us, but let us be careful to give Him all the glory look up – John 3:30.
- It should be ABSOLUTELY TRUE. It is easy to add just a little more to our story each time we tell it - and this is wrong!
A sincere, heart-felt, burning word of testimony will do more to convince men and women of the power of the gospel than all the arguments and reasoning in the world. It was partly because of this that Paul gave his testimony in this letter to the Galatians. The false teachers who had come into the church were questioning the apostle’s authority and his right to call himself an apostle, so Paul told them of the Lord’s dealings with him; he gave his testimony, and this is recorded in Galatians 1:13 - 2:14. Let us ask Paul to give us his testimony in everyday language.
1. “As a young man I was religious, yet I was spiritually lost, blind and dead.”
Paul tells us this in verses 13 and 14. Twice he speaks of “Judaism”. Saul of Tarsus had a very strict, religious upbringing, and he was familiar with all the teachings, the rites and ceremonies and the traditions connected with the Hebrew economy - look up Acts 26:5; yet, in spite of all his religious background and his religious convictions, Saul was an unsaved, spiritually dead and blind man. There are many people like that - religious, but lost.
2. “I was absolutely sincere in thinking that Jesus Christ was an imposter, that Christianity was a false system, and that Christians were deluded, and I did all I could to persecute those who loved and followed the Lord.”
We are told this in verse 13, and it must have grieved Paul to have to write this. Wherever he heard of Christians he had turned upon them, made havoc of them and had devastated them with the fury of an invading army. He really thought he was serving God – look up Acts 26:9-12. Is there any hope for a man like this? Yes, there is! - look up 1 Timothy 1:12-15. The grace of God which arrests and transforms a man like this is still the same, is still available and is still operative.
3. Suddenly, while I was persecuting God’s children, a miracle took place!”
Verses 15 and 16 tell us how the Lord graciously broke into the life of this man, and in Acts 26:13-16 we have a fuller account. Notice four things that God did in accomplishing Paul’s salvation, and that He still does for all those whom He saves by His grace:
- “He set me apart” (verse 15). Notice when the Lord set Paul apart, and compare Jeremiah 1:5; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:3-4 and 2:10. Those of us who have been saved by God’s grace can rejoice in the wonderful truth that the Lord has loved us and purposed our salvation from eternity past.
- “He called me by His grace” (verse 15). Acts 26:14 amplifies this for us. What wonderful grace it was that wrought the miracle in Paul; but what wonderful grace it is that has wrought a similar miracle in every sinner saved by grace!
- “He revealed His Son in me” (verse 16). Notice the preposition “in”. Should it not be “to”? We read in Acts 9:3-5 that the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to Saul of Tarsus; but having revealed Himself to him He also revealed Himself in him. A Christian is one who has received the Lord Jesus into his life - look up John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 1:29.
- “He commissioned me to my life-work” (verse 16). God wanted Paul to be a foreign missionary. Are we doing the work that God has planned for us to do?
4. “Immediately after my conversion I went into the desert to be alone with God.”
This is indicated in verses 16 and 17. Why does Paul tell us this? He is emphasising the fact that after his conversion he did not go up to Jerusalem to meet the other apostles, to be “accredited” by them as an apostle, because he had already received his apostleship from God. We know very little of what actually happened during these three years in Arabia, but it is generally thought that they were years of quiet waiting on God and preparation for his life-work.
5. “After I left Arabia, I returned to the scene of my conversion.”
We are told this in verse 17. How moved the apostle would have been as doubtless he met again some of those Christians whom in earlier days he had persecuted! It is great when God’s children go back to their friends and give a clear testimony as to what the Lord has done for them.
6. “Then I had wonderful fellowship with Peter, James, Barnabas, Titus, John and many others.”
Compare Galatians 1:18, 19, 22; 2:1 and 9. All these servants of the Lord accepted the fact that Paul was an apostle. Christian fellowship is a most wonderful thing!
7. “From the moment the Lord saved me, I set out to make Him known to as many people as possible.”
If you read through Galatians, and indeed all his other Letters, you will be impressed with the burden which rested upon the heart of this man to make Christ known to as many people as possible in the quickest possible time - look up 1 Corinthians 9:22.