Saturday, 30 January 2016
…and all the brethren who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia: Galatians 1:2
Greek scholars very easily find a coldness in Paul’s words here which show his immense disapproval of the situation that he must address in regard to the churches of Galatia. First, he notes “all the brethren who are with me.” The way this is structured – “and the with me all brothers,” or as the Pulpit Commentary translates it, “and the brethren which are with me, one and all” gives an emphasis on the word “all.” As they say it, “…there is not one of those about him who does not feel the like grief and indignation as himself in reference to the news just now received.”
Further, it is to be noted that none of the brothers are highlighted as he so often names them in his other letters. He gives a general, blanket greeting without any additional note of personal greeting. It is as if there was a cumulative hush from the individuals because of their thorough disgust at what had transpired in the churches being addressed.
The severity of this tone should be a wake-up call to every Christian concerning the issue to be discussed. Every rational thinking person who reads Galatians should say, “I will hold to the gospel of grace alone, and I will reject anyone who attempts to reinsert even one precept from the law.” This epistle contains the epitome of disregard for the Judaizers of the world and their corrupt attitude towards what Jesus Christ has done for us.
Whoever these “brethren” are is unknown and actually unimportant to the issue at hand. The lack of mentioning them is sufficient as a rebuke to the Galatians. All that matters to Paul is that there is a unified voice among them concerning what must be addressed. If we are to speculate, possibly those in Acts 20:4 are there with him. The record of Acts in regards to the placement of where Paul is now cannot be determined with precision.
Along with not naming the brothers with him, another note of censure can be inferred. Paul normally opens his letters with a note of commendation and thanks for the faith of the believers. Even the dysfunctional church at Corinth was given such a hearty note of approval. In 1 Corinthians 1:2, he notes those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus. Two verses later, he gives thanks “concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.”
There is no such note to the Galatians. His coming comments in verses 3 & 4 don’t carry nearly the same noteworthy tone. They are simply a hopeful blessing towards them.
In Corinth, there was transgression which needed to be dealt with, it is true. But what has happened in Galatia is far worse and deals with heresy which can only lead to an apostate church. As Charles Ellicott notes, “The Corinthians had failed in the practical application of Christian principles; the Galatians (so far as they listened to their Judaising teachers) could hardly be said to have Christian principles at all. The Apostle is angry with them with a righteous indignation, and his anger is seen in the naked severity of this address.”
Where these Judaizers came from isn’t known, all that is known is that they have come and they have infected more than just a single church; hence, the letter being addressed to all of the churches in Galatia. It seems that someone or some group intentionally followed behind Paul’s ministry and purposely infected each church with their same sour doctrine. He has a special curse coming for such people. His pen will hold nothing back as he condemns them and anyone else who would so twist and abuse the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Life application: Context is king when it comes to biblical interpretation. If something is taken out of its intended context and inserted where it does not belong, then only bad doctrine, or even heresy, will result. One must always identify the points related to proper context before solidifying one’s doctrine.
Heavenly Father, there are a world of heretics out there who would attempt to change the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into a works-based path to You. But Your word is clear concerning this heresy. Just as Abraham was declared righteous by faith alone apart from any work, we too are counted as sons of Abraham by faith alone. Help us to never be infected by those who would introduce a false gospel. Keep them far from us. Help us to trust the work of Christ alone. What more could we ever add to what He has done! Amen.