NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCH
CHAPTER ONE (Lesson VI)
So it doesn’t matter what the church may say or do, says Arminius, she can do nothing to add any weight to this authority because she owes her existence to His word from which she has been given her own authority. She is not a true church unless she has openly declared her faith in what’s written here by Paul as being divinely inspired and seeks to obey it. Because of this, any effort to suspend the authority of the Scriptures over the church is to deny that God has all authority and supreme power and that this testimony allows her to exist as a true church.1 So what Arminius is pointing out is that Paul is claiming the same authority for his ministry. And unless it can be proven that anything he is saying is false or out of line with God’s word, then his message must be accepted as having God’s approval. If it was true in Paul’s day, and Arminius’ day, it must surely be true on our day.
British Reformer Matthew Poole (1624-1679) makes clear the need for recognizing Jesus as the Messiah as Paul states here in verse one. After Jesus the Messiah was sent by God to earth to bring the Good News of His plan of salvation, and it was this same Jesus the Messiah that sent Paul out into the world to preach this good news to all nations, not just to the Jews. So he too was bringing the message of the Messiah. While the non-Jews were open to tidings of good news, many of his fellow Jews were incensed that anyone could claim to be walking in the footsteps of the Messiah without their being involved in their selection. And to show that he was not a lone nonconformist who escaped the prison of the Jewish Rabbis interpretation of the Torah, Paul includes the names of his fellow well-known believers in the Messiah who in allowing him to do so were thereby endorsing his message to the churches in Galatia.2
Johann Bengel (1687-1752 AD) sees a notable contrast here in the way Paul asserts his Apostleship and divine calling. First, it did not come from a human agency but a divine encounter. Secondly, most receive instruction from one teacher to many followers. Therefore, Paul’s teaching by the authority of the Anointed One fits that mode, because the Anointed One was his only Teacher.3 Then Evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791 AD) goes a little further by noting that not only was Paul’s calling not due to any “men,” but his instructions were not due to any “man.” Jesus the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God was his teacher.4
In his history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon (1737-1794 AD), points out that many ancient writers ascribe the destruction of the Roman monuments to the Goths (Galatians) and the Christians. But they neglected to look into what hostile principle they were motivated by and how if they even possessed the time and the means to satisfy such hostility.5 In a footnote, we read that it goes without saying that on the subject of Galatia, Sir Charles Fresne of Cange (1610-1688), was a distinguished French philologist and historian of the Middle Ages, his history is accurate and full. He describes the inhabitants of Galatia as being so vain and ignorant, that they deserved what the Apostle Paul said about them in his Epistle to them as being “stupid.”6
One of the great Bible scholars of the Wesleyan revival period, Adam Clarke (1760-1832 AD), sees why Paul was so adamant in making sure the Galatians, as well as the false teachers, knew that His calling came directly from the Anointed One. He points out that the believers there in Galatia knew that James was the president of the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem and that Peter was the one to whom the keys to the kingdom of heaven were entrusted. But he wanted them to see that One higher than both James and Peter was the Anointed One who called and sent him to them with the Gospel.7 This then set the bar higher than the ecclesiastical authority that existed in Jerusalem or even Antioch in Syria. So if they were having a problem with Paul’s credentials, take it to Jesus and see what He says, not to Jerusalem for their comments.8
Some years later Catholic scholar George Haydock (1774-1849 AD) shares what he feels is important about Paul receiving his calling, mission, and Gospel directly from God through the Anointed One. In doing so, Paul was attempting to show the equality of the Son with the Father; also, to destroy another objection of the Arians,9 who pretended that the Father, always named first, never the Son, making the Father as rightly God. Furthermore, another of their arguments to prove only the Father was truly God, was that here in verse one He is called “God “the” Father, using the Greek article “tou.” But Jesus was called “the” Son, with the same Greek article. So this cannot be misinterpreted as making the Son a second class member of the Godhead. In addition, they also pretended that the Son was not God, because the Father was said to deliver Him to death. Yet, here in verse three, the Son is said to give and deliver himself.10 So we can see how important Paul’s letter was to the Galatians, not only for their day and age but up to the present time.
James Haldane (1768-1862), brother to Robert Haldane, notices a parallel between Moses and Jesus and how the teachings they were given existed in part with more to come. Neither Moses nor the Anointed One fully explained the doctrine which they taught, as founders of other religions did. They indicated that the full development of their doctrine would be seen in the future. For Haldane, this is one argument in favor of their teachings having come from God. The prophets certainly were inspired to add more depth to some of what Moses said, just as the Apostles were chosen to do the same for the Gospel. That’s why Paul was so eager to point out that the Anointed One explained His Gospel to him more fully. That’s why he journeyed around to share what the Anointed One gave him.11
John Brown (1800-1874) mentions that it was common among Roman citizens to give their children a nickname in addition to their personal name and family name. The nickname often referred to their appearance or some characteristic, or even a remarkable event in the history of the individual. Brown suggests that it is not unlikely that “Sha’ul” of Tarsus received the Latin name of “Paulus” as a nickname due to his “weak bodily appearance. According to church writer, Terence, Paul was of very small stature.12 This may also account for some of Paul’s apprehension about his appearance when he went into Galatia. It was easy for his talking tough in his letters, but what about walking tall when he was there in person?
To say that Paul’s calling was unique is an understatement. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) describes Paul as being so intensely desirous that the Galatians should understand that he was no mere repeater of other men’s doctrines, but that what he taught he received directly from God by supernatural revelation. They knew that he once was one a fanatical opposer of the Gospel. Indeed, he was a man of such great determination that, whatever he did he did with all his might. So, no sooner did God reveal the Anointed One to him, so that he knew Jesus to be the Messiah, than he earnestly sought to learn yet more of the truth, not by going up to the Apostles at Jerusalem to borrow from them, but by getting alone in the arid plains of Arabia. There, by thought and meditation upon the Word and direct communion with God, he learned yet more concerning the divine mysteries God wanted to reveal.13
Edward Huxtable (1833-1893) parses what Paul says here in verse one that is important to keep in mind about how Paul received the revelation of the Gospel. He introduces himself as Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by a man, but through Jesus the Anointed One and from God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. These prepositions point to the primary fountain of it being delegated by the medium through which it was conveyed to Paul. The necessity for this twofold negation arose from the fact that the word “apostle,” was frequently applied by Christians to messengers deputized by Churches, or, some important representative officer of the Church, whether on a mission for the preaching of the Gospel or for the discharge of matters of church business connected with the Christian Communities far and wide. Paul himself frequently served both these forms of apostleship, as commissioned by the Church in Antioch to carry abroad the message of the Gospel, and also later to go around between Churches on errands of charity. None of which would have happened were it not for his calling by God and commission to preach the Gospel by the Anointed One as delivered to him by the same One who called and the same One who commissioned him.14
Methodist scholar Joseph A Beet (1840-1924, says that Paul’s apostleship was through the agency of the Anointed One is self-evident. However, it was also through God the Father which requires further explanation. This is given in the words, “who raised Him from the dead.” These words stand boldly in the first verse of the Epistle and reveal the importance in Paul’s thought of this great fact and its essential connection to his mission as an Apostle. It was by the risen Savior that Paul was sent. If the Anointed One did not rise from the dead, Paul would have heard no voice on the way to Damascus. And, if the Apostles were not sent out to preach, the resurrection of the Anointed One would have been without value. Therefore, by raising the Anointed One through His own immediate power and without any human agent, God was Himself personally taking part in the mission of the Apostles. Paul thus begins his letter of rebuke by bringing his readers into the presence of the infinite power of God as manifested on earth through His Son who gave Paul his commission to the Gentiles.15
1 Jakob Arminius: op. cit., Disputation 6, On the Authority and Certainty of the Sacred Scriptures, p. 12
2 Matthew Poole, On Galatians, op. cit., (Kindle Location 149-216).
3 Johann Bengel: The Critical English Testament, op. cit., p. 571
4 John Wesley: On Galatians, p. 473
5 Edward Gibbon: The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, op. cit., pp. 379-380
6 Ibid. Chapter 59, The Fourth Crusade, Part 2, footnote 186, p. 57
7 See Acts of the Apostles 22:14-15
8 Adam Clarke’s Commentary: On Galatians, loc. cit., Wesleyan Heritage Publications, 1998
9 These are followers of Arius (c. AD 250-336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt who did not believe that Jesus the Anointed One preexisted as the Son of God with the Father, but was created by God, which he grounded on Jesus’ saying in John 14:28. Therefore, while he accepted Jesus as the Son of God, he held that He was entirely distinct from and subordinate to God the Father.
10 George Leo Haydock: English Catholic Bible Commentary, loc. cit.
11 James A. Haldane: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, Published by William Whyte and Co., Edinburgh, 1848, p. 18
12 John Brown: An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, William Oliphant and Sons, Edinburgh, 1853. p. 17
13 Charles H. Spurgeon: Exposition of Galatians, e-book by Precept Austin
14 The Pulpit Commentary: Edited by H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S, Exell, Galatians, Exposition by Prebendary E. Huxtable, Homiletics, Professor T. Croskery, Funk & Wagnalls Co. New York, 1880, p. 2
15 Joseph A. Beet: Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 6th Edition, 1903, p. 14