CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXII)

James Haldane points out that Paul clearly pronounced a curse on anyone, human or angelic, who preached another gospel other than the one he brought. How could any human invent things that the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it every crossed their minds, that is a part of God’s great truths that can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit?1 Mankind can only reveal the things they come to know by learning and experience. They cannot read God’s mind nor know what’s in His thinking.2 Neither does speculation nor preconceived notions meet God’s standards of divine revelation. That’s what confused the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees about Jesus’ teaching.

So who, in Paul’s day, would have ever dreamed about representing the God of the Law, Judgment, and Punishment as being a loving, caring, and forgiving justifier of those who accept His offer of forgiveness and cleansing through the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of His Son? No such thing would have ever entered the human mind. No wonder this became a stumbling-block to many Jews until they were born again and were able to see the kingdom of God in all its glory.3

Peter Lange (1802-1884) sees Paul’s point about his not receiving the revelation of the Gospel from a human, nor through a human, as another way of saying that it was not composed by any human nor did the revelation of the Gospel come by way of human explanation. It only involved the question of whether God used another human being to deliver it to Paul or not. This applied to the origin and the character of the Gospel message. In fact, this was the Gospel that all the Apostles preached. How else could what they preached be compared to what others preached in order to determine which came from God other than its simplicity and power to save?4

Sir Robert Anderson, called the Gospel Detective, focuses on where Paul talks about the Gospel he preached as “My Gospel.” Paul uses this phrase only three other times,5 so it was an unusual expression even for him. He explains more fully what he means by “My Gospel” to the Ephesians and Colossians.6 But here in Galatians, Paul declares in very explicit and emphatic terms that the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles was the subject of a special revelation peculiar to himself. Not only was he not taught it by those who were Apostles before him, but he went to Jerusalem seventeen years after his conversion from Judaism for the specific purpose explaining it to them.7

It is certain, therefore, that his testimony was somewhat distinct in character and scope from anything we find in the ministry of the other Apostles. And this, he declares, they themselves acknowledged. “They saw,” he says, “that the Gospel for the Gentiles was put in my hands, and the Gospel for the Messianic Jews was given to Peter.8 Peter’s Gospel was a promise according to the Scriptures of the prophets; Paul’s Gospel was a proclamation according to the revealing of a mystery kept secret from eternity. But now it was open for all to hear, just as the prophets prophesied it would be.9

So what can be taken away from Paul’s claim that he was given a specific Gospel for a specific part of humanity? He didn’t say, “another gospel,” but “The Gospel” designed to meet certain needs of the Gentiles. In the three churches I pastored – one in Germany and two in the USA, it was clear to me that even though I sometimes preached from the same text in all three places, the Holy Spirit helped me craft my message to impact that particular congregation I was pastoring. It wasn’t a “different Gospel,” or “another Gospel.” It was from the same and only Gospel I knew to be part of Scripture. But the Holy Spirit knew what I didn’t know. He knew the spiritual level of my flock, the problems and challenges they were dealing with – one congregation was in a town in Germany, another was in a medium size city, and the other out on the prairie surrounded by farm land. That’s why when I prayed for a message from God through the Spirit, I needed to be very sensitive to His leading. This is, more or less, what Paul is saying about “His Gospel.”

William O’Conor points to the fact that Paul now proceeds to illustrate how the manner in which he received the Gospel kept him from preaching what pleased his listeners, and made him the servant of the Anointed One. This was because the Gospel which he held and preached, was characterized, not by others, but by the Anointed One. He did not receive it from men; he was not taught it by a human teacher; and so it was not accompanied with pleasantries so it could be passed from hand to hand. It was not wrapped in the soft coverings with which successive teachers disguise it to render it easier to swallow, first for themselves, and then for their disciples. This was the full-strength, unadulterated Word from God Himself.10

Bible scholar Alvah Hovey prefers the English Revised Version’s rendering of verse eleven: “For I make known to you, brethren.” This helps us see the connection between Paul not wanting to preach something that only pleased people and being a faithful bondservant of the Anointed One. The Gospel he preached was received from the Anointed One Himself and so expresses His will, not Paul’s will. Hovey also notes, Paul now addresses the members of the churches of Galatia as “brethren.” They are not, then, in his estimation, apostates from the Anointed One. They have not rejected the Gospel of the grace of God. But they are in danger of doing this, for they are looking in the wrong direction, allowing themselves to be taught a dangerous error, and involved in a movement which, if continued, will separate them from God. And the whole object of his Epistle is to stop this movement in its tracks and bring them back to steadfast confidence in the Anointed One as their sole and sufficient Savior.11

J. B. Lightfoot makes note that Paul is assuring the believers in Galatia that the Gospel he preached to them did not come from attending classes and through painful study. It was like a flash of lightning out of heaven. In fact, it came when he was least prepared to receive it. He was on his way to persecute those who believed what Jesus taught. So no matter what those Judaizers were saying, he did not want the Galatians to be ignorant of the truth. His Gospel came from the Anointed One who preferred Grace, while their gospel came from those who anointed them that preferred Law. Theirs was “man-made.” His was “God-made.”12

Charles Spurgeon preached on this eleventh verse and said a lot, of which we cannot fully reproduce it here in its entirety. But in the practical theology portion of his message, Spurgeon told his audience that they too did not receive the Gospel from mankind, but from God. So he encourage them to continue to receive truth by the divinely-appointed channel of faith. He asked if they really wanted to gain the full understanding the truth of God? With most people, the understanding is like a narrow secondary gate to a fortified city, and the great things of God cannot be so cut down so as to be brought through that small entrance. The door is not wide enough. But our city has a great gate called faith, through which even the infinite and eternal may be admitted.

So get over the hopeless effort of dragging into the mind by efforts of reason that which can so readily dwell in a person by the Holy Spirit through faith. Spurgeon said that we that speak against rationalism are ourselves apt to reason too much; and there is nothing so unreasonable as to hope to receive the things of God by reasoning them out. Let us believe them upon the divine testimony; and when they try us, and even when they seem to aggravate the sensibilities of humanity, let us receive them anyhow. We are not to be judges of what God’s truth ought to be; we are to accept it as the Lord reveals it.13

Thomas W. Griffith (1797-1838) a Prebendary, (a senior member of the clergy) of St. Paul’s of London, notes that the greater part of our knowledge must always rest on the authority of others. No single individual is able to ascertain for themselves the innumerable facts, in all the various fields of human investigation, out of which alone a personal conviction can grow. Nor can we always reason out the conclusions that we accept on other people’s testimony. We must accept them by faith. False teachers in Galatia attempted to weaken Paul’s authority by asserting that he, having never been a personal disciple of Jesus, and not, therefore, included in the original commission, was to be looked on as no more than a self-appointed proclaimer of a self-invented doctrine, or as the agent only of other persons who employed his zeal and talents to diffuse their error, or perhaps as the ignorant perverter of the truths which he at first was taught by the Apostles at Jerusalem, and from which he went astray. Paul here refutes these accusations and insinuations with his personal testimony.14

Philip Schaff (1819-1874) points to the opening verb “make known” (KJV), “want you to know” (NIV), in verse eleven is gnōrizō in the Greek text. Out of the twenty-four times it is used in the Final Covenant, sixteen of those the KJV translates as “to make known.” Strong, in his Concordance, says that it should be understood as a transitive verb. In other words, Paul was not just reminding them or even informing them of something, he wanted them to recognize and acknowledge this something being given to them and where it came from. For instance, it you ask someone, “Would you please go to Starbucks and bring me back a Cappuccino?” you are asking for a specific object to be transferred from one place to another. So it is used here by Paul. He wanted the Galatians to understand that the Gospel he transferred from himself to them was not something he just dreamed up. It came directly from God. That’s what he wants them to know and recognize. That way, they should easily recognize that the so-called gospel the Judaizers brought with them came from another source and, therefore, was not genuinely sent from God through Jesus the Anointed One. This he makes crystal clear in verse twelve15

1 See 1 Corinthians 2:9

2 Ibid. 2:11

3 James A. Haldane: On Galatians, op. cit., loc cit., pp. 44-46

4 Lange, John Peter: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 23

5 Romans 2:16; 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8

6 See Ephesians 3:1-7; Colossians 1:25, 26

7 Galatians 1:11-2:12

8 Galatians 2:7

9 Sir Robert Anderson: op. cit., Silence of God, p. 55

10 O’Conor, W. A: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 12–13

11 Hovey, Alvah: On Galatians op. cit., loc cit., pp. 17–18

12 J. B. Lightfoot: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit. p. 223

13 C. H. Spurgeon: “Our Manifesto,” Text: Galatians 1:11. Delivered on Friday, April 25, 1890 at an Assembly of Ministers of the Gospel.

14 Thomas W. Griffith, The Biblical Illustrator – Vol. 48 – Pastoral Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Location 2065)

15 Philip Schaff: On Galatians, op. cit.., loc., cit., p. 298

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s