“But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God in me” (Galatians 1:23-24).
The final sentence of Galatians chapter one is more significant than it may appear: “…they glorified God because of me” (RSV). For instance, there are at least two important insights tucked away within these words for those who wish to uncover them.
First, this passage reminds us that a simple question can often help us identify good, God-honoring spiritual leaders: “Does he or she inspire others to glorify God?” You see, Paul the Apostle brought the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ to the churches of Galatia. Unlike the false teachers of his day, Paul focused his message upon Jesus and not upon himself or any human effort to find favor with God. Those who subsequently heard about God’s work in Paul’s life and the Christ-oriented message he brought as a result were thus prompted to glorify God.
This small detail has important 21st century implications. While God may use an individual speaker’s personality, life experience, and communication style to reach a particular audience, it helps to remember that God’s Word should serve as the primary focus of his or her message. For example, a spiritual leader may be recognized as a highly skilled communicator yet he or she may do little to inspire others to glorify God.
One way to measure a teacher’s real spiritual impact is to simply count the number of “I’s” or self-references that turn up within his or her message. A message with repeated self-references to the speaker is likely to come from someone who is focused upon something other than God’s Word. Other examples might include messages that are filled with humorous stories that make the speaker seem funny and sophisticated but fail to illustrate genuine Biblical truth or sermons that highlight the speaker’s opinion but little or nothing from the Scriptures.
However, this principle does not only apply to spiritual leaders. This brings us to our second application: we can be people who inspire others to glorify God. While the world may be filled with individuals who do little to inspire us to offer thanks to God, we can be the kind of people who cause others to say, “Thank God for him or her” whenever they think of us.
With this in mind, we should prayerfully seek to be (and become) people who inspire others to offer thanks to God for the impact we make upon their lives.