VERSE 1.Paul,an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God theFather, who raised him from the dead).
St. Paul wrote this epistle because, after hisdeparture from the Galatian churches, Jewish-Christian fanatics moved in, whoperverted Paul's Gospel of man's free justification by faith in Christ Jesus.
The world bears the Gospel a grudge because theGospel condemns the religious wisdom of the world. Jealous for its own religiousviews, the world in turn charges the Gospel with being a subversive andlicentious doctrine, offensive to God and man, a doctrine to be persecuted asthe worst plague on earth.
As a result we have this paradoxical situation:The Gospel supplies the world with the salvation of Jesus Christ, peace ofconscience, and every blessing. Just for that the world abhors the Gospel.
These Jewish-Christian fanatics who pushedthemselves into the Galatian churches after Paul's departure, boasted that theywere the descendants of Abraham, true ministers of Christ, having been trainedby the apostles themselves, that they were able to perform miracles.
In every way they sought to undermine theauthority of St. Paul. They said to the Galatians: "You have no right tothink highly of Paul. He was the last to turn to Christ. But we have seenChrist. We heard Him preach. Paul came later and is beneath us. It is possiblefor us to be in error--we who have received the Holy Ghost? Paul stands alone.He has not seen Christ, nor has he had much contact with the other apostles.Indeed, he persecuted the Church of Christ for a long time."
When men claiming such credentials come along, they deceive not only the naive,but also those who seemingly are well-established in the faith. This sameargument is used by the papacy. "Do you suppose that God for the sake of afew Lutheran heretics would disown His entire Church? Or do you suppose that Godwould have left His Church floundering in error all these centuries?" TheGalatians were taken in by such arguments with the result that Paul's authorityand doctrine were drawn in question.
Against these boasting, false apostles, Paulboldly defends his apostolic authority and ministry. Humble man that he was, hewill not now take a back seat. He reminds them of the time when he opposed Peterto his face and reproved the chief of the apostles.
Paul devotes the first two chapters to adefense of his office and his Gospel, affirming that he received it, not frommen, but from the Lord Jesus Christ by special revelation, and that if he or anangel from heaven preach any other gospel than the one he had preached, he shallbe accursed.
The Certainty of Our Calling
Every minister should make much of his callingand impress upon others the fact that he has been delegated by God to preach theGospel. As the ambassador of a government is honored for his office and not forhis private person, so the minister of Christ should exalt his office in orderto gain authority among men. This is not vain glory, but needful glorying.
Paul takes pride in his ministry, not to hisown praise but to the praise of God. Writing to the Romans, he declares,"Inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office,"i.e., I want to be received not as Paul of Tarsus, but as Paul the apostle andambassador of Jesus Christ, in order that people might be more eager to hear.Paul exalts his ministry out of the desire to make known the name, the grace,and the mercy of God.
VERSE 1.Paul,an apostle, (not of men, etc.)
Paul loses no time in defending himselfagainst the charge that he had thrust himself into the ministry. He says to theGalatians: "My call may seem inferior to you. But those who have come toyou are either called of men or by man. My call is the highest possible, for itis by Jesus Christ, and God the Father."
When Paul speaks of those called "bymen," I take it he means those whom neither God nor man sent, but who gowherever they like and speak for themselves.
When Paul speaks of those called "byman" I take it he means those who have a divine call extended to themthrough other persons. God calls in two ways. Either He calls ministers throughthe agency of men, or He calls them directly as He called the prophets andapostles. Paul declares that the false apostles were called or sent neither bymen, nor by man. The most they could claim is that they were sent by others."But as for me I was called neither of men, nor by man, but directly byJesus Christ. My call is in every respect like the call of the apostles. In factI am an apostle."
Elsewhere Paul draws a sharp distinctionbetween an apostleship and lesser functions, as in I Corinthians 12:28:"And God hath set some in the church; first, apostles; secondarily,prophets; thirdly, teachers." He mentions the apostles first because theywere appointed directly by God.
Matthias was called in this manner. Theapostles chose two candidates and then cast lots, praying that God wouldindicate which one He would have. To be an apostle he had to have hisappointment from God. In the same manner Paul was called as the apostle of theGentiles.
The call is not to be taken lightly. For aperson to possess knowledge is not enough. He must be sure that he is properlycalled. Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God doesnot bless their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do no edify. Manyof the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverseopinions. On the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a gooddeal of opposition in order that they may become fortified against the runningattacks of the devil and the world.
This is our comfort in the ministry, that oursis a divine office to which we have been divinely called. Reversely, what anawful thing it must be for the conscience if one is not properly called. Itspoils one's best work. When I was a young man I thought Paul was making toomuch of his call. I did not understand his purpose. I did not then realize theimportance of the ministry. I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith because wewere taught sophistry instead of certainty, and nobody understood spiritualboasting. We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, orsatisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words wespeak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.
VERSE 1.And God theFather, who raised him from the dead.
Paul is so eager to come to the subject matterof his epistle, the righteousness of faith in opposition to the righteousness ofworks, that already in the title he must speak his mind. He did not think itquite enough to say that he was an apostle "by Jesus Christ"; he adds,"and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."
The clause seems superfluous on first sight.Yet Paul had a good reason for adding it. He had to deal with Satan and hisagents who endeavored to deprive him of the righteousness of Christ, who wasraised by God the Father from the dead. These perverters of the righteousness ofChrist resist the Father and the Son, and the works of them both.
In this whole epistle Paul treats of theresurrection of Christ. By His resurrection Christ won the victory over law,sin, flesh, world, devil, death, hell, and every evil. And this His victory He donated unto us. These many tyrants and enemies of ours mayaccuse and frighten us, but they dare not condemn us, for Christ, whom God theFather has raised from the dead is our righteousness and our victory.
Do you notice how well suited to his purposePaul writes? He does not say, "By God who made heaven and earth, who isLord of the angels," but Paul has in mind the righteousness of Christ, andspeaks to the point, saying, "I am an apostle, not of men, neither by man,but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."
VERSE 2.And all thebrethren which are with me.
This should go far in shutting the mouths ofthe false apostles. Paul's intention is to exalt his own ministry whilediscrediting theirs. He adds for good measure the argument that he does notstand alone, but that all the brethren with him attest to the fact that hisdoctrine is divinely true. "Although the brethren with me are not apostleslike myself, yet they are all of one mind with me, think, write, and teach as Ido."
VERSE 2.Unto thechurches of Galatia.
Paul had preached the Gospel throughoutGalatia, founding many churches which after his departure were invaded by thefalse apostles. The Anabaptists in our time imitate the false apostles. They donot go where the enemies of the Gospel predominate. They go where the Christiansare. Why do they not invade the Catholic provinces and preach their doctrine togodless princes, bishops, and doctors, as we have done by the help of God? Thesesoft martyrs take no chances. They go where the Gospel has a hold, so that theymay not endanger their lives. The false apostles would not go to Jerusalem ofCaiaphas, or to the Rome of the Emperor, or to any other place where no man hadpreached before as Paul and the other apostles did. But they came to thechurches of Galatia, knowing that where men profess the name of Christ they may feel secure.
It is the lot of God's ministers not only tosuffer opposition at the hand of a wicked world, but also to see the patientindoctrination of many years quickly undone by such religious fanatics. Thishurts more than the persecution of tyrants. We are treated shabbily on theoutside by tyrants, on the inside by those whom we have restored to the libertyof the Gospel, and also by false brethren. But this is our comfort and ourglory, that being called of God we have the promise of everlasting life. We lookfor that reward which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hathentered into the heart of man."
Jerome raises the question why Paul calledthem churches that were no churches, inasmuch as the Galatians had forsaken thegrace of Christ for the law of Moses. The proper answer is: Although theGalatians had fallen away from the doctrine of Paul, baptism, the Gospel, andthe name of Christ continued among them. Not all the Galatians had becomeperverted. There were some who clung to the right view of the Word and theSacraments. These means cannot be contaminated. They remain divine regardless ofmen's opinion. Wherever the means of grace are found, there is the Holy Church,even though Antichrist reigns there. So much for the title of the epistle. Nowfollows the greeting of the apostle.
VERSE 3.Grace be toyou, and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
The terms of grace and peace are common termswith Paul and are now pretty well understood. But since we are explaining thisepistle, you will not mind if we repeat what we have so often explainedelsewhere. The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantlybecause the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectlyand to believe it with all our heart.
The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing.Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. OnlyChristians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms,grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins,peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for noperson is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills theconscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken awayby man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit forhimself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take awaysin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy topersuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, weobtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.
The world brands this a pernicious doctrine.The world advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works,as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gainpeace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience provesthis. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing peaceof conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures because suchdevices only increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for our weary bonesunless we cling to the word of grace.
The Apostle does not wish the Galatians graceand peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God theFather. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when Hesaid, "Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you." Worldlypeace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction,particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will notdeliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strongand courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself,because we have the victory of Christ's death and the assurance of theforgiveness of our sins.
Men Should Not Speculate About the Nature of God
The Apostle adds to the salutation the words,"and from our Lord Jesus Christ." Was it not enough to say, "fromGod the Father"?
It is a principle of the Bible that we are notto inquire curiously into the nature of God. "There shall no man see me,and live," Exodus 33:20. All who trust in their own merits to save themdisregard this principle and lose sight of the Mediator, Jesus Christ.
True Christian theology does not inquire intothe nature of God, but into God's purpose and will in Christ, whom Godincorporated in our flesh to live and to die for our sins. There is nothing moredangerous than to speculate about the incomprehensible power, wisdom, andmajesty of God when the conscience is in turmoil over sin. To do so is to loseGod altogether because God becomes intolerable when we seek to measure and tocomprehend His infinite majesty.
We are to seek God as Paul tells us in ICorinthians 1:23, 24: We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeksfoolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ thepower of God, and the wisdom of God."Begin with Christ. He came down to earth, lived among men, suffered, wascrucified, and then He died, standing clearly before us, so that our hearts andeyes may fasten upon Him. Thus we shall be kept from climbing into heaven in acurious and futile search after the nature of God.
If you ask how God may be found, who justifiessinners, know that there is no other God besides this man Christ Jesus. EmbraceHim, and forget about the nature of God. But these fanatics who exclude ourMediator in their dealings with God, do not believe me. Did not Christ Himselfsay: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto theFather, but by me"? Without Christ there is no access to the Father, but futile rambling; no truth, but hypocrisy;no life, but eternal death.
When you argue about the nature of God apartfrom the question of justification, you may be as profound as you like. But whenyou deal with conscience and with righteousness over against the law, sin,death, and the devil, you must close your mind to all inquiries into the natureof God, and concentrate upon Jesus Christ, who says, "Come unto me, all yethat labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Doing this, youwill recognize the power, and majesty condescending to your condition accordingto Paul's statement to the Colossians, "In Christ are hid all the treasuresof wisdom and knowledge," and, "In him dwelleth all the fulness of theGodhead bodily." Paul in wishing grace and peace not alone from God theFather, but also from Jesus Christ, wants to warn us against the curiousincursions into the nature of God. We are to hear Christ, who has been appointedby the Father as our divine Teacher.
Christ is God by Nature
At the same time, Paul confirms our creed,"that Christ is very God." We need such frequent confirmation of ourfaith, for Satan will not fail to attack it. He hates our faith. He knows thatit is the victory which overcometh him and the world. That Christ is very God isapparent in that Paul ascribes to Him divine powers equally with the Father, asfor instance, the power to dispense grace and peace. This Jesus could not dounless He were God.
To bestow peace and grace lies in the provinceof God, who alone can create these blessings. The angels cannot. The apostlescould only distribute these blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. Inattributing to Christ the divine power of creating and giving grace, peace,everlasting life, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, the conclusion isinevitable that Christ is truly God. Similarly, St. John concludes from theworks attributed to the Father and the Son that they are divinely One. Hence,the gifts which we receive from the Father and from the Son are one and thesame. Otherwise Paul should have written: "Grace from God the Father, andpeace from our Lord Jesus Christ." In combining them he ascribes themequally to the Father and the Son. I stress this on account of the many errorsemanating from the sects.
The Arians were sharp fellows. Admitting that Christ had two natures, and thatHe is called "very God of very God," they were yet able to deny Hisdivinity. The Arians took Christ for a noble and perfect creature, superior evento the angels, because by Him God created heaven and earth. Mohammed also speakshighly of Christ. But all their praise is mere palaver to deceive men. Paul'slanguage is different. To paraphrase him: "You are established in thisbelief that Christ is very God because He gives grace and peace, gifts whichonly God can create and bestow."
VERSE 4.Who gavehimself for our sins.
Paul sticks to his theme. He never loses sightof the purpose of his epistle. He does not say, "Who received ourworks," but "who gave." Gave what? Not gold, or silver, orpaschal lambs, or an angel, but Himself. What for? Not for a crown, or akingdom, or our goodness, but for our sins. These words are like so manythunderclaps of protest from heaven against every kind and type of self-merit.Underscore these words, for they are full of comfort for sore consciences.
How may we obtain remission of our sins? Paulanswers: "The man who is named Jesus Christ and the Son of God gave himselffor our sins." The heavy artillery of these words explodes papacy, works,merits, superstitions. For if our sins could be removed by our own efforts, whatneed was there for the Son of God to be given for them? Since Christ was givenfor our sins it stands to reason that they cannot be put away by our ownefforts.
This sentence also defines our sins as great,so great, in fact, that the whole world could not make amends for a single sin.The greatness of the ransom, Christ, the Son of God, indicates this. The viciouscharacter of sin is brought out by the words "who gave himself for oursins." So vicious is sin that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone forsin. When we reflect that the one little word "sin" embraces the wholekingdom of Satan, and that it includes everything that is horrible, we havereason to tremble. But we are careless. We make light of sin. We think that bysome little work or merit we can dismiss sin.
This passage, then, bears out the fact thatall men are sold under sin. Sin is an exacting despot who can be vanquished byno created power, but by the sovereign power of Jesus Christ alone.
All this is of wonderful comfort to aconscience troubled by the enormity of sin. Sin cannot harm those who believe inChrist, because He has overcome sin by His death. Armed with this conviction, weare enlightened and may pass judgment upon the papists, monks, nuns, priests,Mohammedans, Anabaptists, and all who trust in their own merits, as wicked anddestructive sects that rob God and Christ of the honor that belongs to themalone.
Note especially the pronoun "our"and its significance. You will readily grant that Christ gave Himself for thesins of Peter, Paul, and others who were worthy of such grace. But feeling low,you find it hard to believe that Christ gave Himself for your sins. Our feelingsshy at a personal application of the pronoun "our," and we refuse tohave anything to do with God until we have made ourselves worthy by good deeds.
This attitude springs from a false conceptionof sin, the conception that sin is a small matter, easily taken care of by goodworks; that we must present ourselves unto God with a good conscience; that we must feel no sin before we may feel thatChrist was given for our sins.
This attitude is universal and particularlydeveloped in those who consider themselves better than others. Such readilyconfess that they are frequent sinners, but they regard their sins as of no suchimportance that they cannot easily be dissolved by some good action, or thatthey may not appear before the tribunal of Christ and demand the reward ofeternal life for their righteousness. Meantime they pretend great humility andacknowledge a certain degree of sinfulness for which they soulfully join in thepublican's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner." But the realsignificance and comfort of the words "for our sins" is lost uponthem.
The genius of Christianity takes the words ofPaul "who gave himself for our sins" as true and efficacious. We arenot to look upon our sins as insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we arenot to regard them as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe thatChrist was given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but formountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can bediscarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained.
Practice this knowledge and fortify yourselfagainst despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sinsassails the conscience. Say with confidence: "Christ, the Son of God, wasgiven not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not needChrist. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, Iam all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against the firsttable, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitudetowards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against thesecond table, dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting ofanother's possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery,theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all thecommandments of God.
"Because my transgressions are multipliedand my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance,therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins." Tobelieve this is to have eternal life.
Let us equip ourselves against the accusationsof Satan with this and similar passages of Holy Scripture. If he says,"Thou shalt be damned," you tell him: "No, for I fly to Christwho gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you arecutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God's fatherly goodnesstoward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son thatwhosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Incalling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure." With suchheavenly cunning we are to meet the devil's craft and put from us the memory ofsin.
St. Paul also presents a true picture ofChrist as the virgin-born Son of God, delivered into death for our sins. Toentertain a true conception of Christ is important, for the devil describesChrist as an exacting and cruel judge who condemns and punishes men. Tell himthat his definition of Christ is wrong, that Christ has given Himself for oursins, that by His sacrifice He has taken away the sins of the whole world.
Make ample use of this pronoun"our." Be assured that Christ has canceled the sins, not of certainpersons only, but your sins. Do not permit yourself to be robbed of this lovelyconception of Christ. Christ is no Moses, no law-giver, no tyrant, but theMediator for sins, the Giver of grace and life.
We know this. Yet in the actual conflict withthe devil, when he scares us with the Law, when he frightens us with the veryperson of the Mediator, when he misquotes the words of Christ, and distorts forus our Savior, we so easily lose sight of our sweet High-Priest.
For this reason I am so anxious for you to gain a true picture of Christ out ofthe words of Paul "who gave himself for our sins." Obviously, Christis no judge to condemn us, for He gave Himself for our sins. He does not tramplethe fallen but raises them. He comforts the broken-hearted. Otherwise Paulshould lie when he writes "who gave himself for our sins."
I do not bother my head with speculationsabout the nature of God. I simply attach myself to the human Christ, and I findjoy and peace, and the wisdom of God in Him. These are not new truths. I amrepeating what the apostles and all teachers of God have taught long ago. Wouldto God we could impregnate our hearts with these truths.
VERSE 4.That he mightdeliver us from this present evil world.
Paul calls this present world evil becauseeverything in it is subject to the malice of the devil, who reigns over thewhole world as his domain and fills the air with ignorance, contempt, hatred,and disobedience of God. In this devils's kingdom we live.
As long as a person is in the world he cannotby his own efforts rid himself of sin, because the world is bent upon evil. Thepeople of the world are the slaves of the devil. If we are not in the Kingdom ofChrist, it is certain we belong to the kingdom of Satan and we are pressed intohis service with every talent we possess.
Take the talents of wisdom and integrity.Without Christ, wisdom is double foolishness and integrity double sin, becausethey not only fail to perceive the wisdom and righteousness of Christ, buthinder and blaspheme the salvation of Christ. Paul justly calls it the evil orwicked world, for when the world is at its best the world is at its worst. Thegrossest vices are small faults in comparison with the wisdom and righteousnessof the world. These prevent men from accepting the Gospel of the righteousnessof Christ. The white devil of spiritual sin is far more dangerous than the blackdevil of carnal sin because the wiser, the better men are without Christ, the more they are likely to ignore andoppose the Gospel.
With the words, "that he might deliverus," Paul argues that we stand in need of Christ. No other being canpossibly deliver us from this present evil world. Do not let the fact disturbyou that a great many people enjoy excellent reputations without Christ.Remember what Paul says, that the world with all its wisdom, might, andrighteousness is the devil's own. God alone is able to deliver us from theworld.
Let us praise and thank God for His mercy indelivering us from the captivity of Satan, when we were unable to do so by ourown strength. Let us confess with Paul that all our work-righteousness is lossand dung. Let us condemn as filthy rags all talk about free will, all religiousorders, masses, ceremonies, vows, fastings, and the like.
In branding the world the devil's kingdom ofiniquity, ignorance, error, sin, death, and everlasting despair, Paul at thesame time declares the Kingdom of Christ to be a kingdom of equity, light,grace, remission of sin, peace, saving health, and everlasting life into whichwe are translated by our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.
In this passage Paul contends against thefalse apostles for the article of Justification. Christ, says Paul, hasdelivered us from this wicked kingdom of the devil and the world according tothe good will, the pleasure and commandment of the Father. Hence we are notdelivered by our own will, or shrewdness, or wisdom, but by the mercy and loveof God, as it is written, I John 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we lovedGod, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for oursins."
Another reason why Paul, like John, emphasizesthe Father's will is Christ's habit of directing attention to the Father. ForChrist came into the world to reconcile God with us and to draw us to theFather.
Not by curious inquiries into the nature ofGod shall we know God and His purpose for our salvation, but by taking hold ofChrist, who according to the will of the Father has given Himself into death for our sins. When we understand this to bethe will of the Father in Christ, then shall we know God to be merciful, and notangry. We shall realize that He loved us wretched sinners so much indeed that Hegave us His only-begotten Son into death for us.
The pronoun "our" refers to both Godand Father. He is our God and our Father. Christ's Father and our Father are oneand the same. Hence Christ said to Mary Magdalene: "Go to my brethren, andsay unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and yourGod." God is our Father and our God, but only in Christ Jesus.
VERSE 5.To whom beglory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrew writing is interspersed withexpressions of praise and gratitude. This peculiarity can be traced in theapostolic writings, particularly in those of Paul. The name of the Lord is to bementioned with great reverence and thanksgiving.
How patiently Paul deals with his seducedGalatians! He does not pounce on them but, like a father, he fairly excusestheir error. With motherly affection he talks to them yet he does it in a waythat at the same time he also reproves them. On the other hand, he is highlyindignant at the seducers whom he blames for the apostasy of the Galatians. Hisanger bursts forth in elemental fury at the beginning of his epistle. "Ifany may," he cries, "preach any other gospel unto you than that yehave received, let him be accursed." Later on, in the fifth chapter, hethreatens the false apostles with damnation. "He that troubleth you shallbear his judgment, whosoever he be." He pronounces a curse upon them."I would they were even cut off which trouble you."
He might have addressed the Galatians afterthis fashion: "I am ashamed of you. Your ingratitude grieves me. I am angry with you." But his purpose was to call them back to the Gospel.With this purpose in his mind he speaks very gently to them. He could not havechosen a milder expression than this, "I marvel." It indicates hissorrow and his displeasure.
Paul minds the rule which he himself lays downin a later chapter where he says: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in afault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Toward those who have beenmisled we are to show ourselves parentally affectionate, so that they mayperceive that we seek not their destruction but their salvation. Over againstthe devil and his missionaries, the authors of false doctrines and sects, weought to be like the Apostle, impatient, and rigorously condemnatory, as parentsare with the dog that bites their little one, but the weeping child itself theysoothe.
The right spirit in Paul supplies him with anextraordinary facility in handling the afflicted consciences of the fallen. ThePope and his bishops, inspired by the desire to lord it over men's souls, crackout thunders and curses upon miserable consciences. They have no care for thesaving of men's souls. They are interested only in maintaining their position.
VERSE 6.That ye areso soon.
Paul deplores the fact that it is difficultfor the mind to retain a sound and steadfast faith. A man labors for a decadebefore he succeeds in training his little church into orderly religion, and thensome ignorant and vicious poltroon comes along to overthrow in a minute thepatient labor of years. By the grace of God we have effected here in Wittenbergthe form of a Christian church. The Word of God is taught as it should be, theSacraments are administered, and everything is prosperous. This happy condition,secured by many years of arduous labors, some lunatic might spoil in a moment.This happened in the churches of Galatia which Paul had brought into life in spiritual travail. Soon after his departure, however, these Galatian churcheswere thrown into confusion by the false apostles.
The church is a tender plant. It must bewatched. People hear a couple of sermons, scan a few pages of Holy Writ, andthink they know it all. They are bold because they have never gone through anytrials of faith. Void of the Holy Spirit, they teach what they please as long asit sounds good to the common people who are ever ready to join something new.
We have to watch out for the devil lest hesow tares among the wheat while we sleep. No sooner had Paul turned his back onthe churches of Galatia, than the false apostles went to work. Therefore, let uswatch over ourselves and over the whole church.
VERSE 6.Imarvel that ye are so soon removed.
Again the Apostle puts in a gentle word. Hedoes not berate the Galatians, "I marvel that ye are so unsteady,unfaithful." He says, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed." Hedoes not address them as evildoers. He speaks to them as people who havesuffered great loss. He condemns those who removed them rather than theGalatians. At the same time he gently reproves them for rather themselves to beremoved. The criticism is implied that they should have been permitting a littlemore settled in their beliefs. If they had taken better hold of the Word theycould not have been removed so easily.
Jeromethinks that Paul is playing upon the name Galatians, deriving it from the Hebrewword Galath, which means fallen or carried away, as though Paul wanted to say,"You are true Galatians, i.e., fallen away in name and in fact." Somebelieve that the Germans are descended from the Galatians. There may besomething to that. For the Germans are not unlike the Galatians in their lack ofconstancy. At first we Germans are very enthusiastic, but presently our emotionscool and we become slack. When the light of the Gospel first came to us many were zealous, heard sermons greedily, and held the ministry of God'sWord in high esteem. But now that religion has been reformed, many who formerlywere such earnest disciples have discarded the Word of God, have becomesow-bellies like the foolish and inconsistent Galatians.
VERSE 6.Fromhim that called you into the grace of Christ.
The reading is a little doubtful. Thesentence may be construed to read: "From that Christ that called you intograce"; or it may be construed to read: "From God that called you intothe grace of Christ." I prefer the former for it seems to me that Paul'spurpose is to impress upon us the benefits of Christ. This reading alsopreserves the implied criticism that the Galatians withdrew themselves from thatChrist who had called them not unto the law, but unto grace. With Paul we decrythe blindness and perverseness of men in that they will not receive the messageof grace and salvation, or having received it they quickly let go of it, inspite of the fact that the Gospel bestows all good things spiritual: forgivenessof sins, true righteousness, peace of conscience, everlasting life; and all goodthings temporal: good judgment, good government and peace.
Why does the world abhor the glad tidings ofthe Gospel and the blessings that go with it? Because the world is the devil's.Under his direction the world persecutes the Gospel and would if it could nailagain Christ, the Son of God, to the Cross although He gave Himself into deathfor the sins of the world. The world dwells in darkness. The world is darkness.
Paul accentuates the point that the Galatianshad been called by Christ unto grace. "I taught you the doctrine of graceand of liberty from the Law, from sin and wrath, that you should be free inChrist, and not slaves to the hard laws of Moses. Will you allow yourselves tobe carried away so easily from the living fountain of grace and life?"
VERSE 6.Untoanother gospel.
Note the resourcefulness of the devil.Heretics do not advertise their errors. Murderers, adulterers, thieves disguisethemselves. So the devil masquerades all his devices and activities. He puts onwhite to make himself look like an angel of light. He is astoundingly clever tosell his patent poison for the Gospel of Christ. Knowing Satan's guile, Paulsardonically calls the doctrine of the false apostles "anothergospel," as if he would say, "You Galatians have now another gospel,while my Gospel is no longer esteemed by you."
We infer from this that the false apostleshad depreciated the Gospel of Paul among the Galatians on the plea that it wasincomplete. Their objection to Paul's Gospel is identical to that recorded inthe fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts to the effect that it was not enoughfor the Galatians to believe in Christ, or to be baptized, but that it wasneedful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses, for"except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot besaved." As though Christ were a workman who had begun a building and leftit for Moses to finish.
Today the Anabaptists and others, finding itdifficult to condemn us, accuse us Lutherans of timidity in professing the wholetruth. They grant that we have laid the foundation in Christ, but claim that wehave failed to go through with the building. In this way these perverse fanaticsparade their cursed doctrine as the Word of God, and, flying the flag of God'sname, they deceive many. The devil knows better than to appear ugly and black.He prefers to carry on his nefarious activities in the name of God. Hence theGerman proverb: "All mischief begins in the name of God."
When the devil sees that he cannot hurt thecause of the Gospel by destructive methods, he does it under the guise of correcting and advancing the cause of the Gospel. He would like best ofall to persecute us with fire and sword, but this method has availed him littlebecause through the blood of martyrs the church has been watered. Unable toprevail by force, he engages wicked and ungodly teachers who at first makecommon cause with us, then claim that they are particularly called to teach thehidden mysteries of the Scriptures to superimpose upon the first principles ofChristian doctrine that we teach. This sort of thing brings the Gospel intotrouble. May we all cling to the Word of Christ against the wiles of the devil,"for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, againstspiritual wickedness in high places."
VERSE 7.Whichis not another; but there be some that trouble you.
Here again the apostle excuses the Galatians,while he blames the false apostles for disturbing their consciences and forstealing them out of his hand. How angry he gets at these deceivers! He callsthem troublemakers, seducers of poor consciences.
This passage adduces further evidence thatthe false apostles defamed Paul as an imperfect apostle and a weak and erroneouspreacher. They condemn Paul, Paul condemns them. Such warfare of condemnation isalways going on in the church. The papists and the fanatics hate us, condemn ourdoctrine, and want to kill us. We in turn hate and condemn their curseddoctrine. In the meanwhile the people are uncertain whom to follow and which wayto turn, for it is not given to everybody to judge these matters. But the truthwill win out. So much is certain, we persecute no man, neither does our doctrinetrouble men. On the contrary, we have the testimony of many good men who thankGod on their knees for the consolation that our doctrine has brought them. LikePaul, we are not to blame that the churches have trouble. The fault lies with theAnabaptists and other fanatics.
Every teacher of work-righteousness is atrouble-maker. Has it never occurred to you that the pope, cardinals, bishops,monks, and that the whole synagogue of Satan are trouble-makers? The truth is,they are worse than false apostles. The files apostles taught that in additionto faith in Christ the works of the Law of God were necessary unto salvation.But the papists omit faith altogether and teach self-devised traditions andworks that are not commanded of God, indeed are contrary to the Word of God, andfor these traditions they demand preferred attention and obedience.
Paul calls the false apostles troublers ofthe church because they taught circumcision and the keeping of the Law asneedful unto salvation. They insisted that the Law must be observed in everydetail. They were supporters in this contention by the Jews, with the resultthat those who were not firmly established in faith were easily persuaded thatPaul was not a sincere teacher of God because he ignored the Law. The Jews wereoffended at the idea that the Law of God should be entirely ignored by Paul andthat the Gentiles, former idol-worshippers, should gratuitously attain to thestation of God's people without circumcision, without the penitentiaryperformance of the law, by grace alone through faith in Christ Jesus.
These criticisms were amplified by the falseapostles. They accused Paul of designs to abolish the law of God and the Jewishdispensation, contrary to the law of God, contrary to their Jewish heritage,contrary to apostolic example, contrary to Paul's own example. They demandedthat Paul be shunned as a blasphemer and a rebel, while they were to be heard astrue teachers of the Gospel and authentic disciples of the apostles. Thus Paulstood defamed among the Galatians. He was forced to attack the false apostles.He did so without hesitation.
VERSE 7.And would pervert the gospel ofChrist.
To paraphrase this sentence: "Thesefalse apostles do not merely trouble you, they abolish Christ's Gospel. They actas if they were the only true Gospel-preachers. For all that they muddle Law andGospel. As a result they pervert the Gospel. Either Christ must live and the Lawperish, or the Law remains and Christ must perish; Christ and the Law cannotdwell side by side in the conscience. It is either grace or law. To muddle thetwo is to eliminate the Gospel of Christ entirely."
It seems a small matter to mingle the Law andGospel, faith and works, but it creates more mischief than man's brain canconceive. To mix Law and Gospel not only clouds the knowledge of grace, it cutsout Christ altogether.
The words of Paul, "and would pervertthe gospel of Christ," also indicate how arrogant these false apostleswere. They were shameless boasters. Paul simply had to exalt his own ministryand Gospel.
VERSE 8.Butthough we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than thatwhich we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Paul's zeal for the Gospel becomes so ferventthat it almost leads him to curse angels. "I would rather that I, mybrethren, yes, the angels of heaven be anathematized than that my gospel beoverthrown."
The Greek word anathema, Hebrew herem, means to accurse, execrate, to damn. Paul first (hypothetically) curseshimself. Knowing persons first find fault with themselves in order that they mayall the more earnestly reprove others.
Paul maintains that there is no other gospelbesides the one he had preached to the Galatians. He preached, not a gospel ofhis own invention, but the very same Gospel God had long ago prescribed in theSacred Scriptures. No wonder Paul pronounces curses upon himself and uponothers, upon the angels of heaven, if anyone should dare to preach any other gospel thanChrist's own.
VERSE 9.Aswe said before, so say I now again. If any man preach any other gospel unto youthan that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Paul repeats the curse, directing it now uponother persons. Before, he cursed himself, his brethren, and an angel fromheaven. "Now," he says, "if there are any others who preach agospel different from that you have received from us, let them also beaccursed." Paul herewith curses and excommunicates all false teachersincluding his opponents. He is so worked up that he dares to curse all whopervert his Gospel. Would to God that this terrible pronouncement of the Apostlemight strike fear into the hearts of all who pervert the Gospel of Paul.
The Galatians might say: "Paul, we donot pervert the Gospel you have brought unto us. We did not quite understand it.That is all. Now these teachers who came after you have explained everything sobeautifully."
This explanation the Apostle refuses toaccept. They must add nothing; they must correct nothing. "What youreceived from me is the genuine Gospel of God. Let it stand. If any man bringsany other gospel than the one I brought you, or promises to deliver betterthings than you have received from me, let him be accursed."
In spite of this emphatic denunciation somany accept the pope as the supreme judge of the Scriptures. "TheChurch," they say, "chose only four gospels. The Church might havechosen more. Ergo the Church is above the Gospel." With equal force onemight argue: "I approve the Scriptures. Ergo I am above the Scriptures.John the Baptist confessed Christ. Hence he is above Christ." Paulsubordinates himself, all preachers, all the angels of heaven, everybody to theSacred Scriptures. We are not the masters, judges, or arbiters, but witnesses,disciples, and confessors of the Scriptures, whether we be pope, Luther, Augustine, Paul,or an angel from heaven.
VERSE 10.Fordo I now persuade men, or God?
With the same vehemence Paul continues:"You Galatians ought to be able to tell from my preaching and from the manyafflictions which I have endured, whether I serve men or God. Everybody can seethat my preaching has stirred up persecution against me everywhere, and hasearned for me the cruel hatred of my own people, in fact the hatred of all men.This should convince you that by my preaching I do not seek the favor and praiseof men, but the glory of God."
No man can say that we are seeking the favorand praise of men with our doctrine. We teach that all men are naturallydepraved. We condemn man's free will, his strength, wisdom, and righteousness.We say that we obtain grace by the free mercy of God alone for Christ's sake.This is no preaching to please men. This sort of preaching procures for us thehatred and disfavor of the world, persecutions, excommunications, murders, andcurses.
"Can't you see that I seek no man'sfavor by my doctrine?" asks Paul. "If I were anxious for the favor ofmen I would flatter them. But what do I do? I condemn their works. I teachthings only that I have been commanded to teach from above. For that I bringdown upon my head the wrath of Jews and Gentiles. My doctrine must be right. Itmust be divine. Any other doctrine cannot be better than mine. Any otherdoctrine must be false and wicked."
With Paul we boldly pronounce a curse uponevery doctrine that does not agree with ours. We do not preach for the praise ofmen, or the favor of princes. We preach for the favor of God alone whose graceand mercy we proclaim. Whosoever teaches a gospel contrary to ours, or differentfrom ours, let us be bold to say that he is sent of the devil.
VERSE 10.Or do I seek to please men?
"Do I serve men or God?" Paul keepsan eye on the false apostles, those flatterers of men. They taught circumcisionto avoid the hatred and persecution of men.
To this day you will find many who seek toplease men in order that they may live in peace and security. They teachwhatever is agreeable to men, no matter whether it is contrary to God's Word ortheir own conscience. But we who endeavor to please God and not men, stir uphell itself. We must suffer reproach, slanders, death.
For those who go about to please men we havea word from Christ recorded in the fifth chapter of St. John: "How can yebelieve, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comethfrom God alone?"
VERSE 10.Forif I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Observe the consummate cleverness with whichthe false apostles went about to bring Paul into disrepute. They combed Paul'swritings for contradictions (our opponents do the same) to accuse him ofteaching contradictory things. They found that Paul had circumcised Timothyaccording to the Law, that Paul had purified himself with four other men in theTemple at Jerusalem, that Paul had shaven his head at Cenchrea. The falseapostles slyly suggested that Paul had been constrained by the other apostles toobserve these ceremonial laws. We know that Paul observed these decora out ofcharitable regard for the weak brethren. He did not want to offend them. But thefalse apostles turned Paul's charitable regard to his disadvantage. If Paul hadpreached the Law and circumcision, if he had commended the strength and freewill of man, he would not have been so obnoxious to the Jews. On the contrarythey would have praised his every action.
VERSES 11, 12.But I certify you,brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For Ineither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation ofJesus Christ.
This passage constitutes Paul's chief defenseagainst the accusations of his opponents. He maintains under oath that hereceived his Gospel not from men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In declaring that his Gospel is not afterman, Paul does not merely wish to state that his Gospel is not mundane. Thefalse apostles made the same claim for their gospel. Paul means to say that helearned his Gospel not in the usual and accepted manner through the agency ofmen by hearing, reading, or writing. He received the Gospel by specialrevelation directly from Jesus Christ.
Paul received his Gospel on the way toDamascus when Christ appeared to him. St. Luke furnishes an account of theincident in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. "Arise," saidChrist to Paul, "and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thoumust do." Christ did not send Paul into the city to learn the Gospel fromAnanias. Ananias was only to baptize Paul, to lay his hands on Paul, to committhe ministry of the Word unto Paul, and to recommend him to the Church. Ananiasrecognized his limited assignment when he said to Paul: "Brother Saul, theLord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sentme, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the HolyGhost." Paul did not receive instruction from Ananias. Paul had alreadybeen called, enlightened, and taught by Christ in the road. His contact withAnanias was merely a testimonial to the fact that Paul had been called by Christto preach the Gospel.
Paul was forced to speak of his conversion tocombat the slanderous contention of the false apostles to the effect that thisapostleship was inferior to that of the other apostles.
If it were not for the example of the Galatian churches I would never havethought it possible that anybody who had received the Word of God with sucheagerness as they had, could so quickly let go of it. Good Lord, what terriblemischief one single false statement can create.
The article of justification is fragile. Notin itself, of course, but in us. I know how quickly a person can forfeit the joyof the Gospel. I know in what slippery places even those stand who seem to havea good footing in the matters of faith. In the midst of the conflict when weshould be consoling ourselves with the Gospel, the Law rears up and begins torage all over our conscience. I say the Gospel is frail because we are frail.
What makes matters worse is that one-half ofourselves, our own reason, stands against us. The flesh resists the spirit, oras Paul puts it, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit." Therefore weteach that to know Christ and to believe in Him is no achievement of man, butthe gift of God. God alone can create and preserve faith in us. God createsfaith in us through the Word. He increases, strengthens and confirms faith in usthrough His word. Hence the best service that anybody can render God isdiligently to hear and read God's Word. On the other hand, nothing is moreperilous than to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking he knows enough, a personbegins little by little to despise the Word until he has lost Christ and theGospel altogether.
Let every believer carefully learn theGospel. Let him continue in humble prayer. We are molested not by puny foes, butby mighty ones, foes who never grow tired of warring against us. These, ourenemies, are many: Our own flesh, the world, the Law, sin, death, the wrath andjudgment of God, and the devil himself.
The arguments which the false apostlesadvanced impress people to this day. "Who are you to dissent from thefathers and the entire Church, and to bring a contradictory doctrine? Are youwiser than so many holy men, wiser than the whole Church?" When Satan,abetted by our own reason, advances these arguments against us, we lose heart, unless wekeep on saying to ourselves: "I don't care if Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine,Peter, Paul, John, or an angel from heaven, teaches so and so. I know that Iteach the truth of God in Christ Jesus."
When I first took over the defense of theGospel, I remembered what Doctor Staupitz said to me. "I like itwell," he said, "that the doctrine which you proclaim gives glory toGod alone and none to man. For never can too much glory, goodness, and mercy beascribed unto God." These words of the worthy Doctor comforted andconfirmed me. The Gospel is true because it deprives men of all glory, wisdom,and righteousness and turns over all honor to the Creator alone. It is safer toattribute too much glory unto God than unto man.
You may argue that the Church and the fathersare holy. Yet the Church is compelled to pray: "Forgive us ourtrespasses," I am not to be believed, nor is the Church to be believed, orthe fathers, or the apostles, or an angel from heaven, if they teach anythingcontrary to the Word of God. Let the Word of God abide forever.
Peter erred in life and in doctrine. Paulmight have dismissed Peter's error as a matter of no consequence. But Paul sawthat Peter's error would lead to the damage of the whole Church unless it werecorrected. Therefore he withstood Peter to his face. The Church, Peter, theapostles, angels from heaven, are not to be heard unless they teach the genuineWord of God.
This argument is not always to our advantage.People ask: "Whom then shall we believe?" Our opponents maintain thatthey teach the pure Word of God. We do not believe them. They in turn hate andpersecute us for vile heretics. What can we do about it? With Paul we glory inthe Gospel of Jesus Christ. What do we gain? We are told that our glorying isidle vanity and unadulterated blasphemy. The moment we abase ourselves and givein to the rage of our opponents, Papists and Anabaptists grow arrogant. TheAnabaptists hatch out some new monstrosity. The Papists revive their old abominations. What to do? Let everybody becomesure of his calling and doctrine, that he may boldly say with Paul: "Butthough we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than yehave received, let him be accursed."
VERSES 13, 14.Forye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how thatbeyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited inthe Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation.
This passage does not contain doctrine. Pauladduces his own case for an example. "I have," he says, "at onetime defended the traditions of the Pharisees more fiercely than any of yourfalse apostles. Now, if the righteousness of the Law had been worth anything Iwould never have forsaken it. So carefully did I live up to the Law that Iexcelled many of my companions. So zealous was I in defense of the Law that Iwasted the church of God."
VERSE 14.Beingmore exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Speaking now of the Mosaic Law, Paul declaresthat he was wrapped up in it. To the Philippians he wrote: "As touching thelaw, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching therighteousness which is in the law, blameless." He means to say, "I cancompare myself with the best and holiest of all those who are of thecircumcision. Let them show me if they can, a more earnest defender of theMosaic Law than I was at one time. This fact, O Galatians, should have put youon your guard against these deceivers who make so much of the Law. If anybodyever had reason to glory in the righteousness of the Law, it was I."
I too may say that before I was enlightenedby the Gospel, I was as zealous for the papistical laws and traditions of thefathers as ever a man was. I tried hard to live up to every law as best I could. I punished myself with fasting, watching,praying, and other exercises more than all those who today hate and persecuteme. I was so much in earnest that I imposed upon my body more than it couldstand. I honored the pope as a matter of conscience. Whatever I did, I did witha single heart to the glory of God. But our opponents, well-fed idlers that theyare, will not believe what I and many others have endured.
VERSES 15, 16, 17.But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called meby his grace.
To reveal his Son in me, that I mightpreach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Neither went I up toJerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, andreturned again unto Damascus.
Here Paul relates that immediately upon beingcalled by God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, he went into Arabia withoutconsulting a single person. "When it had pleased God," he writes,"I did not deserve it. I had been an enemy of Christ. I had blasphemed HisGospel. I had shed innocent blood. In the midst of my frenzy I was called. Why?On account of my outrageous cruelty? Indeed not. My gracious God who shows mercyunto whom He will, pardoned all mine iniquities. He bestowed His grace upon me,and called me for an apostle."
We also have come to the knowledge of thetruth by the same kindness of God. I crucified Christ daily in my cloisteredlife, and blasphemed God by my wrong faith. Outwardly I kept myself chaste,poor, and obedient. I was much given to fasting, watching, praying, saying ofmasses, and the like. Yet under the cloak of my outward respectability Icontinually mistrusted, doubted, feared, hated, and blasphemed God. Myrighteousness was a filthy puddle. Satan loves such saints. They are hisdarlings, for they quickly destroy their body and soul by depriving them of the blessingsof God's generous gifts.
I tell you I stood in awe of the pope'sauthority. To dissent from him I considered a crime worthy of eternal death. Ithought of John Huss as a cursedheretic. I counted it a sin even to think of him. I would gladly have furnishedthe wood to burn him. I would have felt I had done God a real service.
In comparison with these sanctimonioushypocrites of the papacy, publicans and harlots are not bad. They at least feelremorse. They at least do not try to justify their wicked deeds. But thesepretended saints, so far from acknowledging their errors, justify them andregard them as acceptable sacrifices unto God.
VERSE 15a.Whenit pleased God.
"By the favor of God I, a wicked andcursed wretch, a blasphemer, persecutor, and rebel, was spared. Not content tospare me, God granted unto me the knowledge of His salvation, His Spirit, HisSon, the office of an apostle, everlasting life." Paul speaking.
God not only pardoned our iniquities, but inaddition overwhelmed us with blessings and spiritual gifts. Many, however, areungrateful. Worse, by opening again a window to the devil many begin to loatheGod's Word, and end by perverting the Gospel.
VERSE 15.Whoseparated me from my mother's womb.
This is a Hebrew expression, meaning tosanctify, ordain, prepare. Paul is saying, "When I was not yet born Godordained me to be an apostle, and in due time confirmed my apostleship beforethe world. Every gift, be it small or great, spiritual or temporal, and everygood thing I should ever do, God has ordained while I was yet in my mother'swomb where I could neither think nor perform any good thing. After I was bornGod supported me. Heaping mercy upon mercy, He freely forgave my sins,replenishing me with His grace to enable me to learn what great things are ours in Christ. To crown it all, He called me to preach theGospel to others."
VERSE 15.Andcalled me by his grace.
"Did God call me on account of my holylife? Or on account of my pharisaical religion? Or on account of my prayers,fastings, and works? Never. Well, then, it is certain God did not call me onaccount of my blasphemies, persecutions, oppressions. What prompted Him to callme? His grace alone."
VERSE 16.Toreveal his Son to me.
We now hear what kind of doctrine wascommitted to Paul: The doctrine of the Gospel, the doctrine of the revelation ofthe Son of God. This doctrine differs greatly from the Law. The Law terrorizesthe conscience. The Law reveals the wrath and judgment of God. The Gospel doesnot threaten. The Gospel announces that Christ is come to forgive the sins ofthe world. The Gospel conveys to us the inestimable treasures of God.
VERSE 16.ThatI might preach him among the heathen.
"It pleased God," says the Apostle,"to reveal himself in me. Why? For a twofold purpose. That I personallyshould believe in the Son of God, and that I should reveal Him to theGentiles."
Paul does not mention the Jews, for thesimple reason that he was the called and acknowledged apostle of the Gentiles,although he preached Christ also to the Jews.
We can hear the Apostle saying to himself:"I will not burden the Gentiles with the Law, because I am their apostleand not their lawgiver. Not once did you Galatians hear me speak of therighteousness of the Law or of works. My job was to bring you the Gospel.Therefore you ought to listen to no teachers of the Law, but the Gospel: notMoses, but the Son of God; not the righteousness of works, but the righteousnessof faith must be proclaimed to the Gentiles. That is the right kind of preaching for Gentiles."
VERSE 16.ImmediatelyI conferred not with flesh and blood.
Once Paul had received the Gospel fromChrist, he conferred with nobody in Damascus. He asked no man to teach him. Hedid not go up to Jerusalem to sit at the feet of Peter and the other apostles.At once he preached Jesus Christ in Damascus.
VERSE 17.Neitherwent I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went intoArabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
"I went to Arabia before I saw any ofthe apostles. I took it upon myself to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles withoutdelay, because Christ had called me for that purpose." This statementrefutes the assertion of the false apostles that Paul had been a pupil of theapostles, from which the false apostles inferred that Paul had been instructedin the obedience of the Law, that therefore the Gentiles also ought to keep theLaw and submit to circumcision.
VERSES 18, 19.Thenafter three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with himfifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord'sbrother.
Paul minutely recounts his personal historyto stop the cavil of the false apostles. Paul does not deny that he had beenwith some of the apostles. He went to Jerusalem uninvited, not to be instructed,but to visit with Peter. Luke reports the occasion in the ninth chapter of theBook of Acts. Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles and related to them howPaul had met the Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus, also how Paul had preachedboldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Paul says that he saw Peter and James,but he denies that he learned anything from them.
Why does Paul harp on this seemingly unimportant fact? To convince the churchesof Galatia that his Gospel was the true Word of Christ which he learned fromChrist Himself and from no man. Paul was forced to affirm and re-affirm thisfact. His usefulness to all the churches that had used him as their pastor andteacher was at stake.
VERSE 20.Nowthe things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
Was it necessary for Paul to go under oath?Yes. Paul is reporting personal history. How else would the churches believehim? The false apostles might say, "Who knows whether Paul is telling thetruth?" Paul, the elect vessel of God, was held in so little esteem by hisown Galatians to whom he had preached Christ that it was necessary for him toswear an oath that he spoke the truth. If this happened to Paul, what businesshave we to complain when people doubt our words, or hold us in little regard, wewho cannot begin to compare ourselves with the Apostle?
VERSE 21.AfterwardsI came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
Syria and Cilicia are adjacent countries.Paul traces his movements carefully in order to convince the Galatians that hehad never been the disciple of any apostle.
VERSE 22, 23, 24.Andwas unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But theyhad heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth thefaith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.
In Syria and Cilicia Paul won the indorsementof all the churches of Judea, by his preaching. All the churches everywhere,even those of Judea, could testify that he had preached the same faitheverywhere. "And," Paul adds, "these churches glorified God inme, not because I taught that circumcision and the law of Moses should beobserved, but because I urged upon all faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."