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Paul's Apostleship of God, Not of Men
Summary —Greetings. Paul's Wonder That the Galatians had Swerved from the Gospel They Had Received. Anathemas on Those Who Preach Another Gospel. The Gospel Communicated to Paul by Christ Himself. Paul's Early Life. A Persecutor. Christ Revealed. Goes Not Then to Jerusalem. After Three Years, Abode With Peter Fifteen Days. Then Preached in Cilicia.
1–5. Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man. This verse is the text of the first two chapters. In the Introduction I have pointed out that this Epistle was written on account of the disturbance made among the churches of Galatia by false teachers. These teachers sought to prepare a way for their doctrines by discrediting Paul. If they admitted that he was an apostle at all, they claimed that he was inferior to Peter and the Twelve; that he had received his gospel from them, and hence all must look to Jerusalem for the true gospel. Hence Paul here begins by declaring that his apostleship is not from man, but directly from Christ. The other apostles did not convert, choose, or appoint him, but Christ came from heaven to commission him. 2. And all the brethren which are with me. His fellow-laborers, such as Timothy, Titus, Silas, Luke, etc., some of whom at least were with him at this time. The word “all” implies that a number were with him. Unto the churches of Galatia. The inference from the language is that there were a considerable number scattered through the province. 3. Grace … and peace. The salutation is a benediction, a petition that the blessings of Father and Son may be bestowed upon them. 4. Who gave himself for our sins. The name of Christ causes the utterance of a grand truth, of which the heart of Paul was always full, and which needed at this time to be impressed on the Galatian brethren. It was not Moses, but Christ who gave himself for them. This present evil world. The existing state of things, where sin and death reign. 5. To whom be glory. This doxology is an indirect rebuke to those who were exalting Moses to share the glory of Christ.
6–10. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you. Paul abruptly springs into the midst of his subject. With the fickleness of their race, they had so soon swerved from “him that called” them. The analogy of Paul's language (compare 1:15; 1 Cor. 1:9; Rom. 8:30) would show that he refers to God. The call was a divine one. Paul was only the instrument that God used. Into the grace of Christ. The gospel privileges. Called into these, they had “removed” unto another gospel, one of a different kind, not worthy of the name. 7. Which is not another. Is not a gospel at all, but only a perversion of the only gospel of Christ, due to false teachers. 8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, etc. He supposes an impossibility in order to make his statement emphatic. These false teachers said, “Our gospel is of Peter, or of James.” Paul replies, “Even though they, or we, or even an angel, preach another gospel, let him be accursed.” He who corrupts divine truth is an enemy of God, and is under the curse. Accursed. Anathema; given over to the judgments of God. See 1 Cor. 16:22. 9. As we said before. This refers, it is generally supposed, to Paul's last visit to Galatia, mentioned in Acts 18:23, at which time he had warned the brethren against the Judaizers. The strong language shows how great a sin it is to pervert the gospel or Bible truth. 10. For do I now persuade men, etc. Is this his motive, or to please God? If he sought to please men, he would never have become the servant of Christ. By so doing he had displeased all his own nation and brought on himself the hatred of men. See 2 Cor. 11:23.
11, 12. The gospel which was preached by me is not after to man. It is not preached to please man, nor is it of human origin. 12. For I neither received it of man, etc. It could not be of man, for it did not come to him from man. No preacher or apostle taught it to him, but it came by a direct revelation of Christ. The first revelation was on the way to Damascus (Acts 26:13–18). There were no doubt successive revelations (2 Cor. 12:1).
13, 14. Ye have heard of my manner of life. While he was still a Jew. In order to show that his gospel did not come from man, he cites his history, of which they knew something. I persecuted the church of God. See Acts 9:21. He made a determined effort to destroy Christianity. Compare Acts 22:4; 26:10, 11. 14. Profited in the Jews' religion. Made progress in it. He was a Pharisee, was well educated, exceedingly zealous, and reached a high degree. Traditions of my fathers. Not only the law of Moses, but the traditions handed down which were taught so assiduously. See Matt. 15:2; Mark 7:3, 13. Our Lord condemned these Jewish traditions.
15–17. But when it pleased God. The language that follows implies that, like Moses, John the Baptist, Isaiah (Isa. 49:1), and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5), Paul was destined to his work from birth. 16. To reveal his Son in me. It was one thing to call him, as was done on the way to Damascus; another to reveal Christ to him. This was needful that he should be a witness of the resurrection to the Gentiles. I conferred not with flesh and blood. He did not go to men to learn more, or for counsel. 17. Neither went I … to them which were apostles. He did not seek those who were apostles before him at Jerusalem to be taught. I went into Arabia. This is the only place where this fact is mentioned. Like Moses and Elijah, he spent a season, perhaps for reflection, communion with God, and preparation, amid the Arabian solitudes. He then returned to Damascus. Here he probably did his first preaching (Acts 9:20–22). Arabia lay south and east of Palestine, extending to the vicinity of Damascus.
18–24. Then after three years. Three years after conversion. This journey to Jerusalem, hurried by persecution at Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32), was probably a.d. 40. To see Peter. He had probably never met him before. He desired to form his acquaintance and counsel over their great work. He then remained fifteen days, not long enough to have been taught the gospel by Peter, if that had been his object. 19. Other of the apostles saw I none. The other apostles were probably absent among churches of Judea (Acts 9:31). Save James. Not James the brother of John, an apostle, but James, “the brother of the Lord,” named in Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18. This James was not one of the Twelve, but rose to great dignity and influence in the church at Jerusalem. He is called here “the brother of the Lord,” to distinguish him from “James, the son of Zebedee,” and “James, the son of Alpheus,” who were of the Twelve. See Introduction to Epistle of James. 20. Behold, before God, I lie not. This statement, an important one in view of the declarations of the Judaizers, Paul makes very solemnly. 21. Afterwards I came into … Syria and Cilicia. See Acts 9:30. He was forced to leave Jerusalem by the attempt of the Hellenistic Jews to kill him. 22. And was unknown by face, etc. The churches of Judea had heard of him, but few had seen him. 23. They had heard. Rather, they kept hearing. That he was busy planting churches in Syria and Cilicia at this time we know from the fact that we find them in existence soon after (Acts 15:41). 24. They glorified God in me. Glorified God for the work I was doing. The idea of glorifying men for the success of their work was unknown in the early church.
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