NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES
CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXV)
Let’s look again at what Paul meant when he said that he would be willing to suffer all the punishment that was coming on his fellow Jews because of their calling Jesus the Anointed One a curse, if somehow it would bring them back to God. All they needed to do was to accept Jesus the Anointed One as their Messiah, Lord, and Savior.1 And Paul used this same analogy when he told the Corinthians that if they are filled with the Holy Spirit, then it would be impossible to call the Anointed One cursed, as many of the Jews did. At the same time, it is equally as impossible to call the Anointed One “Lord” unless the Holy Spirit dwells within.2
In fact, Paul went so far as to tell the Corinthians that if anyone who calls themselves a Christian does not really love the Lord Jesus, let them be cursed. In other words, that they miss out on the Rapture.3 And the Apostle Peter was not far behind, for he told his readers that he prayed that those who once knew the Lord and returned back into sin. They did so because they found more satisfaction in serving sin than serving the Lord. This would only send them to hell.4
This was so important to Paul, that he repeated himself by saying that if anyone comes along preaching a Gospel that is not based on God’s Word and the revelation of the Anointed One, let them suffer the embarrassment of having a curse placed on them. And Paul wasn’t fooling. He once told the Corinthians that when he says “yes” he means “yes,” and when he says “no” he means, “no.”5 So they should take him seriously. He has no tolerance for those who corrupt the Gospel in order to benefit themselves, nor should we.6
In other words, Paul didn’t want anything he said to be watered down so that it didn’t sound too harsh, or advance too high as to give the impression that only intellectuals could understand it. He was totally against those who were out to mislead and redirect people away from the Gospel of salvation by grace, not by works. Did not Agur son of Jakeh7 say, “Every word of God has been proven true. He is a safe-covering to those who trust in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will speak strong words to you and prove you to be a liar.”8 So it is no mystery why the Apostle John used these same words at the end of his Revelation.9
Paul now raises the bar of proof for these Judaizers to show that the good news they preached was not the Good News approved by God and taught by Jesus the Anointed One. Paul refuses to allow the Good News he preached to be served alongside other so-called gospels, like a side dish. There is only one true Gospel of the Anointed One. For Paul, the true test of whether to accept a message from anyone who came preaching good news was how it matched up with God’s Word, even if that messenger claimed to have come from heaven.
Unfortunately, some ministers want their authority to be based on their position in the organization. If they preach something that does not conform to the Gospel of the Anointed One and confronted by laity or ministers of lower rank, they point to their position of authority and feel insulted that anyone of lesser importance dare question their interpretation. Paul felt no fear in declaring that even if one thought of themselves as being part of God’s angelic ranks, if they preached a gospel other than what the Anointed One ordained, denounce them, and get rid of them.
The Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius (293-373 AD) was closely associated with the Coptic Orthodox Church in Constantinople rather than the Catholic Church in Rome. He was somewhat of a rebel when it came to the Church’s hierarchy, but never left his solid belief in the Word of God as being sovereign over the believer’s faith. As a member of the Nicene Council, he penned a defense of the Council’s stand on how the Word of God was wrongly used by the Arians who objected to the Council’s conclusions.10 He said that they were like the Jews who questioned why Jesus healed on the Sabbath.
He points out how each generation since Adam, passed on what the Lord revealed to them. Likewise, what Paul received directly from the Anointed One he passed on to the Galatians. That’s why he was so shocked that they so suddenly were led astray by another gospel. So the Arians needed to be careful that they would not be declared anathema by the Council.11 We see already that the Church which grew mostly out of Paul’s ministry was now facing what Paul himself faced in Galatia.
Early church scholar Jerome (347-420 AD), says that we must understand this idea of angels preaching another gospel, as a hyperbole. It is true that some angels were doing so – not meaning that an Apostle or an angel would preach something other than what he preached. Yes, angels are changeable because some listened to Lucifer and fell with him when God cast him out of heaven. And his tendency, to this day, is to confuse everyone through deceit. And Bishop Theodoret feels that Paul certainly knew that the holy angels were incapable of distorting the truth. But through this, Paul criticized what he saw as a serious shortcoming of all humanity.12
Vincent of Lérins (d. 446 AD), a French monk and early church Christian writer, felt led to write about how heretics in his day were citing obscure passages in the writings of ancient philosophers in support of their own novel way of looking at Christianity and the Gospel. I like Lérins’ colorful description of those he likens to the wandering Judaizers in the Apostle Paul’s day, who wandered about in provinces and cities, and carrying with them their dishonest teachings, found their way to Galatia, and when the Galatians, on hearing them coughing up their nauseating ideas, and regurgitating their soured doctrines of the Apostolic and Catholic faith, somehow became fascinated with the garbage of their heretical fairy-tales.
But here in verse eight, the Apostle Paul put into action the authority of his office and delivered his condemnation with the utmost severity. For Paul, such nonsense should not be accepted even it was brought by someone claiming to be an angel. If that happens, says Paul, treat them as scum and order them out of your presence. For Lérins, this is what the church leaders should have been doing back in the Fifth Century.13 If it was the right thing to do in Paul’s day, and in Lérins day, then it should be the right thing to do today.
Haimo of Auxerre (865 AD) feels that Paul may have been more astonished that the Galatians turned away so quickly, rather than that they turned away in the first place. And in addition, that it took so little persuasion to get them to switch from the Gospel Paul preached to the false teachings of those who came in behind him. The Gospel that Paul preached was the “Good Tidings of New News!” The teachings that this others brought was “Bad Tidings of Old News.” Why were they fooled so convincingly, when the plan of salvation that came through the Gospel of the Anointed One was a gift by grace, and the plan of salvation that came through the Law that required hard work. Many of them already learned that it was an impossible task to earn ones salvation by works.14
Bruno the Carthusian (1030-1101) has an interesting comment on Paul’s skillful response to those who opposed him on the grounds that he would not allow Jewish rituals in the Churches in Galatia. Perhaps it was because these Judaizers did not understand that Peter only approved of these things because he thought it was better to nourish the simple faith of Jewish converts to Christianity through these concessions than to destroy it by scaring them away with excessive holiness. In reality, what Peter allowed was only intended for the Messianic Jews. Since Paul was sent to preach to the Gentiles, then these things did not apply to them. As far as the Jews were concerned, the stronger their faith in the Anointed One and the Gospel, the easier it would be for them to eventually abolish such needless rites and rituals.15
On the subject of someone being excommunicated because they came preaching a different Gospel than the one preached by the Apostles, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) dealt with the question of whether or not an individual church member may excommunicate themselves, or excommunicate an equal member, or a superior.16 Aquinas uses what Paul says here in verse eight concerning excommunicating an angel if they came preaching a gospel other than what the Apostles preached. Therefore, it would seem that an individual church member can excommunicate himself, his equal, or his superior.
After all, an angel of God is greater than Paul. And according to what Jesus said, “I tell you, of those born of women, there is no one greater than John the Baptist. The least in the holy nation of heaven is greater than he.”17 Now if Paul suggested excommunicated an angel from heaven for preaching a false gospel, and if the least of those in the Kingdom of God are greater than John the Baptizer, then certainly an individual church member may excommunicate a superior.18 The term excommunicate is used here in the context of an ordinary member of a church telling another member, their pastor, or even a visiting minister to leave, to go away and never return because they were preaching a false and unacceptable gospel.
1 Romans 9:3
2 1 Corinthians 16:22
4 2 Peter 2:14
5 2 Corinthians 1:17
6 See Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; 13:1-5
7 The name “Agur” means “the one who is brave in the pursuit of wisdom;” “son of Jakeh” signifies “he who is free from sin.” – Jewish Encyclopedia
8 Proverbs 30:6
9 Revelation 22:18-19
10 Arianismis a nontrinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus the Anointed One is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to Him, but the Son is also God.
11 De Decretis: Nicene Fathers, op. cit., Ch. 2, p. 506; Also see p. 1212
12 Edwards, M. J. (Ed.)., op. cit., loc. cit., p. 7
13 Vincent of Lérins, A Commonitory, Ch. 8, pp. 273-274
14 Haimo of Auxerre: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.
15 Bruno the Carthusian: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.
16 Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 6, Part (4)-Question (22)-Article (4), p. 192
17 Matthew 11:11
18 Ibid. Thomas Aquinas, Part (4)-Question (22)-Article (4)-Objection (1), p. 192