Friday, 29 January 2016
Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),… Galatians 1:1
The book of Galatians contains 149 verses of immensely important doctrine. It is a book which every Christian should read and take to heart, understanding that Paul’s words are doctrine for this Gentile-led church age. He will point out what is heresy and thus what constitutes a false gospel. And yet, his words are almost entirely overlooked by a vast swath of misled and misguided people in the world today.
In particular, Paul will speak against “Judaizers.” These are those people who come into Christian circles and demand that the Law of Moses is binding today and that it must be observed, in part or in whole. As a benchmark for this, Paul will use the practice of circumcision. He will argue that if a Christian allows himself to be circumcised (meaning implicitly as a means of obtaining God’s favor) they have set aside the grace of God and are bound to the entire law; it is a self-condemning act.
Though circumcision is the benchmark, it can be equated to any precept in the law – dietary restrictions, Sabbath observances, etc. Let us pay special heed to his words, because they are the very words of God, revealed through His designated apostle.
To open this marvelous book, he begins by identifying himself and then giving his qualifications for writing the letter – “Paul, an apostle.” However, the Greek contains no article. Instead, it says “Paul; apostle.” It is an affirmative statement that he is uniquely qualified to write the words of doctrine which follow. The term “apostle” is to be taken in its strictest sense. In other words, he meets the requirements of an apostle of Jesus, having been instructed by Him and having witnessed Him in His resurrected state.
In his claim as an apostle, he shows that he bears the authority to make doctrinal statements which are to be accepted and adhered to. He is the messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ and his words are to be taken as such.
His next words are, “…not from men.” This indicates that he was not sent by any particular body of people. Further his commission was not from a human origin. His apostleship was higher than any such level. The meaning of “apostle” is “sent one” or “a messenger.” He was sent by Christ and His message is that of the Lord. His words then bear far more weight than those who had come to infect the church with their heretical doctrine. Paul will exactingly define this in the coming verses.
He also says, “…nor through man.” Not only was he not commissioned by any body of men, but he was not appointed by any man. Further, no man had any part in his calling. It was solely of God. He was selected entirely by the choice of Jesus Christ for this apostolic ministry. Acts 9 shows this clearly with words spoken by Jesus –
“Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15, 16
Going on, he confirms exactly that appointment with the words, “but through Jesus Christ.” It was the Lord who appeared to Him on the road to Damascus and it was He who ordered Ananias to lay his hands on Paul for him to receive his sight once again. The commission is solely the choice of the Lord and therefore his words in this epistle are to be taken as the very words of God for life, doctrine, and practice. Anything less is to ignore the One who commissioned him.
And to finish off the verse, he notes that his authority is also from “God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” As God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, it then shows that His stamp of approval rests on the Son. This is confirmed numerous times in Scripture, but Romans 1:4 states it concisely. There Paul says that Christ Jesus is –
“…declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
It is upon Jesus Christ that God’s stamp of approval rests. This defining act of God shows that Christ was approved in His earthly ministry and prevailed over the Law of Moses; God’s standard for the people of the world. This is key to understanding Paul’s authority to write this epistle. It is also key to see that his words concerning the law, and all of its precepts, are fulfilled in Christ on our behalf. Because of this, we are to rely not on works of the law, but on the grace of Jesus Christ alone.
God’s approval is in the Son; we accept the work of the Son; and therefore, our approval will also be from God the Father who will then also raise us from the dead. Without trusting in Christ’s sufficiency alone, God will not approve of us and we will stand condemned. This is the message that Paul will explain in this marvelous epistle.
Life application: Paul’s words are doctrine for the church. They are to be received as such and accepted at face value. By not showing faith in what Paul writes, we are also not showing faith in the surety of the word of God, or in Christ’s commission of Paul which is clearly recorded in Acts 9. Be sure to pay close attention to the words which flow from Paul’s pen as we evaluate them in the months ahead.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the grace of Jesus Christ who fulfilled the law on our behalf. Help us to never, never trust in our own works as a means of attempting to please You enough to save us. Instead, help us to trust that the work of Jesus Christ, which was accomplished on our behalf, is sufficient to save us. Please keep us from those false teachers that add in works of the law, saying we must accomplish those things in order to be saved. If this is true, then what on earth did Jesus accomplish? Rather, help us to trust in Him alone. And we shall! Thank You for our Lord Jesus. Amen.