Galatians 1:19


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. Galatians 1:19

The wording of this verse is rather difficult to be dogmatic about. At the same time, there are logical conclusions we can make as we evaluate its words. The first problem is the standing of James. Paul says that he “saw none of the other apostles except James.” This can be taken in one of two ways.

1) “I saw none of the other apostles with one exception, James.” (James is the only other apostle that Paul saw).
2) “I saw none of the other apostles, but I saw James.” (Of the apostles, Paul only saw only Peter. He also saw James.)

The second makes less sense because there would be no reason to mention seeing James if he were of no direct importance to the narrative in an apostolic capacity. Paul is refuting the “false apostles” in this letter, and therefore any mentioning of true apostles is what is considered bearing on his words to the Galatians.

Therefore, it can be inferred that “James” is an apostle. However, it does not logically follow that he was one of the Twelve. If he were, then it would be probable that he would be noted as such. Rather, it is possible that he is an apostle in the wider sense of the word, just as Barnabas is noted in Acts 14:14.

The reason why this is so complicated is because of the final words of the verse which designate him as “James, the Lord’s brother.” If one believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary, a wholly unscriptural tenet, then this cannot be a literal brother of the Lord, unless he is a son of Joseph from a previous marriage. But there is nothing in Scripture to indicate this and it needs to be read into the Bible.

Other views are 1) that the word “brother” means a cousin; 2) that this is James, the son of Alphaeus who is one of the Twelve noted in Matthew 10:3; or 3) that it is James, the son of Zebedee (who had not yet been killed with the sword).

If this is not one of the Twelve, then this would exclude the two apostles, James, the son of Alphaeus, and James, the son of Zebedee. If it is one of the Twelve, then the term “the Lord’s brother” seems to be an unusual term of designation. It would imply that one was considered a “brother” of the Lord, while the other wasn’t.

What seems the most logical, and without inserting anything into the Bible in order to come to a conclusion which the Bible cannot fully support, is that the answer is that this is a literal brother of Jesus – born of Joseph and Mary after the virgin birth of Christ. This is why in Acts 12:17, James is noted separately from the “brothers” by Peter. He is named James, but is not one of the Twelve. That he is an actual brother of the Lord would follow naturally from the words of Matthew 1 –

“Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:24, 25

The Bible says that Joseph “did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.” The meaning is evident on the surface. Joseph “knew,” or had relations with, Mary after Jesus’ miraculous birth. Any other view is entirely forced, and is only given to elevate Mary in an unhealthy way. This has led down a very sad path for those who have taken their eyes off of Jesus and fixed them on her.

It is this James, the Lords brother, who later was to be the leader of the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15 and also the author of the book of James which is the 59th book of the Bible.

Life application: There are passages which are very confusing in the Bible. Further, there are things that people intentionally want to believe because of a presupposition they hold to. However, with a thorough study of what is related to a confusing subject, a logical conclusion can normally be made which is supportable by the rest of the Bible. Be diligent and be sure to carefully evaluate the Bible without getting caught up in unscriptural tenets simply because someone says something is so. Check, verify, and be ready to accept what is written when all of the evidence is in.

Heavenly Father, You have asked us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Help us to follow through with that. Help us not to get caught up in crazy things which have no biblical support, like praying to the saints or to Mary for protection and help. There is one Mediator between God and man; our Lord Jesus. As Your word says this is so, then help us to remember this truth and to be obedient to what You have established. Keep us from the false teachings of man, and help us to be faithful adherents to Your word alone. Amen.


Galatians 1:18


Monday, 15 February 2016

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. Galatians 1:18

Paul is being exceptionally methodical in his words here for a reason. He has already established that the gospel he preached was neither received from man, nor was he taught it. He further gave the timeline of what occurred after his conversion, including his trip to Arabia. Now he says that “after three years I went up to Jerusalem.” This “three years” is probably from his original conversion and not from the later events which included his return from Damascus.

The purpose of the visit was “to see Peter.” This seems innocuous enough, but there is exacting purpose in why he says this. First, the word rendered “to see” is an uncommon one, being found only here in the New Testament. It is historeó. One can see the germ of our modern word “history” in it. It is what one does in order to ascertain information by a personal examination and inquiry. For example, it is the word one would use when visiting a great city to find out all about it. Scholars puzzle over why Peter is singled out, but understanding what Paul writes about Peter in chapter 2 clears up the reason.

Peter is noted as one of the “pillars” of the church in Galatians 2:9. It may seem peculiar that his words are directed only at Peter, but this directed line of wording is given as a build-up to the events of Galatians 2:11-13. In other words, Paul is continuing to establish his apostleship and the truth of the gospel message he preaches, showing that it is on the same level of authority as that of any other apostles, including the noted Peter.

In this visit to Peter, he notes that he was there with him for “fifteen days.” Again, this is important to understand because it established the fact that this extremely short time was insufficient in length for Paul to have somehow obtained his apostleship by Peter or anyone else. There would not have been time to evaluate him, test his sincerity, place the needed trust in him, and commission him. Paul himself, while speaking to Timothy, shows that granting a commission after such a short time is imprudent –

“Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.” 1 Timothy 5:22

Finally, during this fifteen-day period, Paul stayed with Peter, but he did not spend all of his time with him. This is evidenced by the account found in Acts 9 –

“So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.” Acts 9:28-30

Paul has methodically given the record of his conversion to demonstrate that what he preaches is both sound and on an equal footing with that of even the most noted of apostles. When a challenge is made to the true gospel, he was willing to go to almost unimaginable efforts to protect its purity. This will be seen as the epistle unfolds.

Life application: We are being given a continuous stream of verses which clearly establish Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles, and one whose message is to be adhered to as doctrine for the church age. Of course this is why Paul’s letters are attacked continuously by legalistic Judaizers such as the Hebrew Roots Movement and other “messianic” groups. He is also diminished by countless other churches as well. By weakening the authority of Paul’s letters, one is left with nothing but a convoluted religion that will inevitably fall back on works-based salvation. Hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ which says that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.

Heavenly Father, a new week of work lies ahead of us. While we are busy with that, help us to keep our hearts and thoughts directed to You. Keep us from idle hands and wandering minds and help us to be productive and honorable people who will be an example to others and a light back to You. Let us not do anything that would bring a stain upon Your name. Help us in this as the week unfolds before us. Amen.

Galatians 1:17


Sunday, 14 February 2016

…nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Galatians 1:17

Paul continues to reveal his qualifications as an apostle who is to be trusted in the message he brought to Galatia. In the previous verse, he said that he did not “confer with flesh and blood.” This was to show that what he received was superior to anything taught by fallen, fallible man. Instead, he received his instructions from a divine Source.

He continues with this thought now saying, “…nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me.” As they were flesh and blood men, it would seem superfluous to say this. But it is not. Their training had come from the Lord. They were personally selected and commissioned by Him. Therefore, had he gone to them in Jerusalem, it would not be contradictory to his previous words.

And yet, it would also mean that he felt it necessary to have his commission testified to by them; he did not. Instead, his words “who were apostles before me” clearly imply that he was to be considered an apostle, having been selected by the same divine Source as they had, and having received his full apostolic commission from Him. He did not require men to confirm what the Lord had established. Instead of going to them, he “went to Arabia.”

This clause, consisting of just a few words, is one of the most highly debated set of words to be found in Paul’s life and travels. At this point, the conversion and early ministry of Paul needs to be cited from Acts 9 –

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

There seems to be no room in Luke’s record for Paul’s words here in Galatians. However, Luke was concerned with Paul’s ministry in a particular way. Recording this trip to Arabia was not a necessary part of his account. The trip to Arabia would fit logically in the middle of verse 19 of Acts 9. As Paul did not “confer with flesh and blood,” it is probable that he immediately felt his calling to go to Arabia and then return after that.

And so this brings in the next fundamental question, “Where in Arabia?” Arabia of Paul’s day was considerably different than that of Saudi Arabia today. As it is only referred to one other time in the New Testament, Galatians 4:25, all we have is that one verse to give us a clue as to where Paul went.

In that verse, Paul says that Mount Sinai is in Arabia. For this reason, we can logically (although not dogmatically) suppose that Paul went to the very spot where Moses received the law, and where Elijah was drawn to after his great ordeal with the false prophets of Baal (see 1 Kings 19), in order to receive the instruction for his ministry after having received the commission of his apostleship. There is no reason to dismiss this, and a valid reason to accept it.

Regardless of this though, after his time in Arabia, it says he “returned again to Damascus.” This then would be in line with the words in Acts 9:19 that he “spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.” The time of his divine instruction is hidden in part, and yet it is revealed here in his few words to the wayward churches in Galatia.

For those who were willing to understand and accept his words, they would see that the same God who had given the law to Moses had also given the instructions to Paul for his apostolic ministry to the Gentiles. Thus, the gospel of Grace stands on the same level of authority as the Law of Moses, but it also stands in replacement of it.

Life application: Bible study is hard work, but it is greatly rewarding. Study your Bible.

Heavenly Father, the more we peer into Your wonderful word, the more amazing it gets! It is a delight to our eyes, a marvel to our minds, a wonder to our taste buds, and a source of health to our souls. Help us to put the study of it into its proper place – high among the things we do each day. Grant us the willing desire to not neglect this most precious gift which comes directly from Your mind and heart to us. Grant us this desire even now! Amen.




Galatians 1:16


Saturday, 13 February 2016

…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:16

The words “to reveal His Son in me” refer to the calling of Paul through God’s grace. It was this calling that was intended to accomplish exactly that. Paul had fought against Christ by fighting against His church, but God intended to reveal Him to Paul in an act of grace and with the intent that he “might preach among the Gentiles.”

He was uniquely qualified to accomplish this. His attitude, demeanor, learning of Scripture, language abilities, and so much more made him the logical (and even perfect) choice to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. The other apostles could not grasp that this message would go out to the Gentile world. Passages such as Acts 11:18, and the general idea which brought about the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15, show that there was continued resistance to the truth of the gospel as it was understood by Paul. Peter will also show this resistance in Chapter 2 of Galatians.

But Paul, well trained in the Hebrew Scriptures, was able to pull out the pertinent verses and passages from those same Scriptures to see that how God would work in the Gentiles was how He had actually worked all along. All of his writings methodically show the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, and they meticulously rely on the very Hebrew Scriptures which he had been so well trained in.

For this reason he says, “I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.” Rather than relying on the doctrines of man, he determined to immediately turn away from such fallible resources and devote himself further to comprehending the great body of Scripture which he was already well trained in. He would do it without presupposition or the weakened, fallible interpretation of man. Instead, he would do it with the leading of the Holy Spirit who gave the Scriptures to man in the first place.

The term “flesh and blood” is used four times in the New Testament, and each time it is connected to a hint of either human weakness or ignorance. In contrast to this is the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. A good example is found in Matthew 16:17 –

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.'”

As he has been doing thus far, he is showing the supremacy of the gospel he preached over the fallible and misguided path those in Galatia had chosen to follow by listening to the false apostles. Scripture can be twisted by any fallible human to produce the most wretched of heresies. But the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are willing to put aside biases, presuppositions, and lies in order to hold fast to what is properly revealed concerning Christ Jesus.

Life application: Paul’s words are clear and concise, but they are often twisted by those who have a perverse agenda. Peter mentions exactly this in 2 Peter 3:14-16. Never trust the interpretation of man without checking and rechecking what you have been taught.

Heavenly Father, learning the Bible isn’t easy. So many commentaries disagree in their interpretation of verses and passages. So many pastors and preachers claim that others are preaching heresy, implying that they are preaching the truth. But what if they are the heretics? The world is full of trolls, antagonists, and deceitful liars concerning your word. And so Lord, I must come to You and ask that You lead me to proper teachers. And help me to be discerning over the doctrine I assimilate. My heart is set on You, but my level of knowledge is limited. Guide me and protect me from that which is false. Amen.



Galatians 1:15


Friday, 12 February 2016

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, Galatians 1:15

This verse falls into the biblical doctrine of “predestination.” God has a set plan which will come about and which cannot be thwarted. In the case of the calling of Paul, it is one which God knew would be the most effective calling, both in the individual selected and in the time-period in which his selection was made.

Paul begins with, “But when it pleased God.” This actually ties together with the words of the next verse which say, “…to reveal His Son in me.” There was a specific time in Paul’s life for his calling. However, though his calling came at a later point in life, the preparation for that call came at a much earlier time. Paul says that God “separated me from my mother’s womb.”

This is a common theme for those selected by God for His redemptive purposes. Samson’s calling was made even before his conception, as was Samuel (which is implied in the account), and John the Baptist as well. Isaiah’s words concerning the coming Messiah show the same –

“Listen, O coastlands, to Me,
And take heed, you peoples from afar!
The Lord has called Me from the womb;
From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.” Isaiah 49:1

Further, Jeremiah shows this was the case with him. The Lord said to him –

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

In the case of Jeremiah and Paul, they didn’t actually receive their commission until much later, and yet their designated paths were set from the womb. In Paul’s specific case, it was after years of learning under Gamaliel and after countless persecutions of Christians, among many other things. In other words, these things, which seem contrary to being a servant of the gospel message, were actually being used as a part of his ability to convey that message.

He could not well refute the Judaizers to those in Galatia without having the credentials that he possessed. And so even what we would consider as evil can be used for a good purpose by God. This same idea also permeates the Bible. What happened to Joseph was evil, and yet God used it for good. Thus, we can see that God has a plan which is far greater than any temporary woe or misstep on our part.

Paul was separated from the womb and at the perfect moment he was called “through His grace.” Every part of Paul’s life was leading up to that magnificent moment on the road to Damascus where he was shown grace. And that moment led to each subsequent moment of his life. The marvelous plan of God was working out exactly as intended in order to bring the world to a fuller understanding of the work of Christ.

The reason for Paul’s use of this verse is to show that it was by grace alone that he was saved. If this is so, then the pattern follows through with each other person who is saved. There is no works involved in the salvation of any person, except the finished work of Christ; a work which is of grace alone through faith alone.

However, this then asks us to consider, if Paul has to tell them this because they were falling back under works of the law, then free-will must be a part of the process, even if God is fully aware of it. There would be no need for Paul to even write these words unless there was the possibility that a different outcome would result if a different choice were made. This will become perfectly evident when a situation concerning Peter is introduced into Paul’s words in chapter 2.

It is clearly and perfectly evident that even though God knows all things that will occur in all people forever, He does not make our choices for us. Thus, predestination has a dual nature – God knows the choices man will make, but the free-will of man is a part of the equation. It is a complicated issue, but it is both reasonable and self-evident in the pages of the Bible.

Life application: Everything that occurs is known to God before it happens. Though that doesn’t take away any pain we may feel, it should give us great comfort to know that if we are in Christ, all things are heading to a very good end. Living through the present may be difficult, but it is only a weigh-station on the highway to glory.

Lord God, Your word shows that You are aware of all things and that You have predestined them according to Your foreknowledge. And yet, Your word shows that we have free will in the decisions we make. Help us then to yield ourselves to You and to make decisions which will be pleasing to You. And above all, hear our prayer for those who have not yet received the gift of eternal life through Christ the Lord. Open their eyes and prompt their hearts according to Your wisdom and love. Amen.