I was recently treated to a brief video clip of a very animated preacher confronting a man in the pews who was nodding off. Rather than ignore the man’s offense and give attention to keeping everyone else awake, the preacher became indignant and publically confronted the man before the congregation, and now via video, before hundreds of thousands of online viewers.
The calloused disregard displayed in the preacher’s admonishment was more than enough to arch my eyebrow, but beyond that, I believe what the preacher said in his rebuke was astonishingly arrogant.
“Don’t you go to sleep on ME,” he shouted, coming out from behind his over-sized pulpit. “I’m somebody! I’m important!”
His narcissistic spewings continued for several minutes, but that’s sufficient to give you a gauge of the man’s temperament.
Such displays of self-aggrandizement are terribly off-putting, and I believe this man needs to get over himself. I know of no society or culture that views arrogance as a virtue. Recognizing this, there are some who look at statements from the apostle Paul as indicative of an exaggerated self-opinion.
Take, for example . . .
And they were glorifying God in me. – Galatians 1:24, BLB
Is this arrogance in Paul?
Elsewhere we see him make similar remarks. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV). He told the church at Philippi, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
Paul’s statement that others were glorifying God in him sounds similar to Jesus saying in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” and we do not think Jesus presumptuous for saying this. Jesus was the full manifestation of the Father to humanity.
Paul said he had been set apart from his mother’s womb, called through grace, and that God “was pleased to reveal His Son in me” (Galatians 1:15-16). Elsewhere, he said, “the truth of Christ is in me” (2 Corinthians 11:10), and he made reference to “Christ who speaks in me” (2 Corinthians 13:3).
Looking back at our target verse, “And they were glorifying God in me,” many, if not most translations will translate εν as “because of” to say others were glorifying God because of Paul. Paul was previously a relentless persecutor of the church and was now a staunch advocate of the same. As the theologian, Theodoret of Cyrus noted, “the former wolf is now acting the shepherd’s part.” There is no doubt that the church glorified God because of Paul, but that is not what the verse says when translated literally.
One of the most comforting realities of life in Christ is also one of its greatest mysteries – that is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus indwells every believer through his Holy Spirit. Paul told the churches of Galatia that he no longer lives, but now Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20).
In this reality, that of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, the apostle Paul can say with absolute humility,” they were glorifying God in me.”
This is the same man who said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV). This is the same man who taught the church at Corinth “Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). This is the apostle who spoke condescendingly of himself, saying, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Romans 7:18, NASB).”
For the apostle Paul, and subsequently, for us, the issue at hand is always the glory of God.
- “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV).
- “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).
- “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:20, ESV).
The same Holy Spirit who indwelt the apostle Paul indwells every Christ-follower today.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. – Romans 8:9, NASB
Knowing this to be true, each of us should be equally able to say with Paul, “they glorify God in me,” and “follow me, as I follow Jesus.” Walk boldly, Christ-follower, with Christ in you, the hope of glory.