NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES
CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXVII)
Methodist minister Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) thinks that after what Paul says here, it is then incorrect to speak of a “Pauline theology” and a “Pauline gospel,” as if his mind was able to somehow put this all together as his personal idea of the Gospel’s plan of salvation. No mind of man could have ever invented or discovered the marvelous truths of the Gospel on its own. It is supernatural in its revelation and in its power. This makes his experience even more remarkable when we trace and discover what a religious, zealous, law-keeping Pharisee he was before. And where did all this zeal and pain-staking law-keeping dedication lead him? It made him a persecutor of God’s church. On the road to Damascus, the God who separated him at birth called him by His grace, and the Son of God in His glory was revealed to him as well as in him so that He might preach Him to the Gentiles. And he did not confer with Barnabas or Ananias after his conversion, neither did he go to Jerusalem to visit the other Apostles.
To have gone up to Jerusalem, says Gaebelein, would have been for him a natural thing; to go back to the city where he wrought such havoc as a persecutor and there to confess his guilt and testify of the Anointed One, may have appealed to his manhood. But he did not confer with flesh and blood; he did not follow his own reasoning. And why should he go to Jerusalem to consult with the other Apostles? Should he go there to report to them what happened, ask their council and gain their sanction? All this was unnecessary at the moment because he received his calling and commission from the Lord, and there was no need to go and consult any man about it. His independence of Jerusalem and his dependence on the Lord as His servant is thereby established. Those in Jerusalem did not make him an Apostle; the Lord Yeshua did this. After all, once the disciples were called and then sent out by the Anointed One, they didn’t go back to the Rabbis and Elders in Jerusalem to see if they approved.
After three years he went up to Jerusalem to visit with Peter. What happened during that visit? The Apostles did not meet in council to examine Paul about his experience and fitness to preach the Gospel. He did not seek the sanction or authority of the Jerusalem Church counsel, but he visited there with Peter for only fifteen days to become acquainted with him. The other Apostles did not see him at all, not even the beloved disciple, John. Only James the Lord’s brother. The many churches of Judæa did not know him by face but heard that the former persecutor now preached the faith he once tried to destroy.
All this proves his claim “an apostle not from men, nor through man,” notes Gaebelein, Afterwards he went into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia preaching and teaching his God-given Gospel everywhere. He tells the Galatians how little time he spent with Peter and the other Apostles. The false teachers brought this against him and challenged his authority as an Apostle on account of not being linked with Peter. He fully affirms all this and shows that his apostleship was entirely independent of Jerusalem and the twelve Apostles. And here we have the character of a true Final Covenant ministry. It is from the Lord, independent of mankind and ecclesiastical authority. Its message is the message of God, from God.1 I don’t believe that Gaebelein is discounting the need and blessing of having the leadership of a church or denomination behind you. But that’s not where it begins. It starts with a calling from God through His Holy Spirit.
J. C. Philpot, a descendant from Huguenot Protestants,2 has an interesting point of view on this verse. He feels that by looking at God’s people in general and their ordinary mode of spiritual living, the revelation of the Anointed One to the soul is a gracious internal discovery by the power of the Holy Spirit that reveals to them who the Anointed One really is by eyes of faith. Nothing is seen or heard by the bodily senses, and yet the presence of His glorious Person is as real as if He could be visibly seen, and His voice is as clear as if He could audibly be heard. It is as though the believer’s eyes and ears have seen His glory and listened to His words.
It is all the result of grace, entirely heavenly and divine, and, therefore, natural senses and reason have no place here. It is a divine bringing into the heart of the power and presence, grace and glory, love and blood of the Anointed One in a way that may only be felt spiritually. Under these spiritual operations and influences – for it is the Spirit’s work to take the things of the Anointed One and reveal them to the soul; it is the Spirit’s role to testify of Jesus – under these sacred influences, divine anointings, and gracious operations, the Anointed One is made known to the heart and looked up to by the spirit. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, the Anointed One is saying to all who believe in Him, “Look to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God; there is no other.3”4
Jewish scholar W. Adriaan Liebenberg offers some insights into what he sees here in relationship to Paul’s Jewish heritage. In spite of the fact that Paul’s letter was written in Greek, Liebenberg sees the reference here in Hebrew. So for a Jewish believer, the point Paul is trying to make begins in verses ten and eleven, and in the Jewish Bible this section reads: “Now does that sound as if I were trying to win human approval? No! I want Elohim’s approval! Or that I’m trying to cater to people? If I were still doing that, I would not be a servant of the Anointed One. Furthermore, let me make clear to you, brothers, that the Good News as I proclaim it is not a human product; because neither did I receive it from someone else nor was I taught it – it came through a direct revelation from Yeshua the Messiah. ”
Paul makes it clear that he is not out to please people, but rather to please YaHWeh by teaching His will and using His Words and not the words of mankind. Where can these words of YaHWeH be found? Only in the Hebrew TaNaKh.5 No wonder Yeshua used the same reference to these documents consistently by saying, “It has been written.”6 Now Paul makes the claim that Jesus the Anointed One taught him the Good News. Does this mean that the Anointed One taught him anything that is not written in the Hebrew Scriptures? Definitely not! We can know this because of what is written in the Book of Acts.
Here we see that Paul used the Hebrew Scriptures to teach the truth of Jesus the Anointed One. If he did not, then the Jews of Berea would not have believed him at all.7 Paul taught only from the Hebrew Scriptures. Another fact is that the Final Covenant, especially the Book of Acts, was not yet written so it was impossible to quote from.8 It is very clear that Paul used the Scriptures, the TaNaKh, to teach about the Anointed One. So the Anointed One Himself did not teach Paul anything new that is not already found in the Hebrew Scriptures.9
Grant Osborne notes that Paul attended no classes, nor did he studied under any Christian teacher. The Gospel was given to him directly by “revelation from Jesus the Anointed One.” There is a question whether this should be interpreted as a general revelation or as a specific revelation. The latter is more likely, referring to the specific revelation Paul received from Jesus on the Damascus road.10 There is also a question whether this was “a revelation from Jesus” or “a revelation about Jesus.” It is likely that Paul was wanting to show that he received both revelations, they were already his. And he was crystal clear in verse sixteen that it was God who called him, and it was God’s Son Who was revealed to him. So since Yeshua is both God and man, then Paul fully understood about Yeshua from Yeshua.
Osborne points out that it is difficult to determine how much meaning to read into the word “revelation” (Greek apokalypsis) since this word normally has prophetic overtones dealing with the unveiling of God’s heavenly secrets about the last days. It is unlikely that Paul was thinking here of the second coming and the end of this age. Rather, he appears to be saying that the giving of the Gospel is part of the inauguration of the age to come, the age that began with the Anointed One’s incarnation. In the back of his mind may have been the kingdom truths represented in the Gospel of Mark,11 which summarizes Jesus’ message as “The time has come. The kingdom of God has arrived. Repent and believe the Good News!” The main emphasis here, however, is on the Damascus road vision of the Anointed One who called Paul to be an Apostle and revealed to him these Gospel truths.12
English Sunday School teacher J. L. Nye offers this illustration on how the message that Paul brought to the Galatians was not something he or someone else made up. It was from God, and, therefore, possessed more power than anything he could have come up with. Nye says:
During the 1880s in Lawrence, England13 evangelist E. P. Hammond held an evangelistic campaign. As a result, several thousand were brought to the Lord. One of those was the wife of a local theater owner. So many townspeople were converted that both theaters in town went out of business. The husband, whose wife was converted, was so upset about this, plus the closing of their theater, it caused their marriage to suffer and they separated. He vowed secretly that if that evangelist ever came back to Lawrence he would kill him. Sure enough, two years later Evangelist Hammond was back for a special meeting. The theater owner sneaked in to get a good look at this culprit who ruined his marriage and business. The Spirit of the Lord was so strong that he ended up at the altar. At the end, he gave his testimony in which he revealed his intentions of harming the evangelist. He joined his wife’s church and became a co-laborer with other Christians to win more souls for the Anointed One in that town.14
No wonder Paul said with confidence that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, of which he was not ashamed.15 So neither should we. Just remember, you will never be shamed by the Gospel if you are not ashamed of the Gospel. That’s why the writer of Hebrews said, Jesus, our leader, and teacher. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward. So keep your eyes on Him.16
1 Arno Gaebelein: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.
2 Huguenots were part of the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther after it spread to France where it was fostered and promoted by such Reformers as John Calvin, William Farel, Pierre Viret, and Theodore Beza.
3 Isaiah 45:22
4 J. C. Philpot: On Galatians: Over 30 Parallel Bible Commentaries in One Volume: Study God’s Word Verse-by-Verse Alongside History’s Great Theologians, Kindle Locations 11511-11518
5 TaNaKh is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the three subdivisions of the Jewish Bible: Torah – the Pentateuch; Nevi’im – the Prophets; and Ketivim – the Writings.
6 See Matthew 4:4 (Deuteronomy 8:3), Matthew 4:7 (Deuteronomy 6:16), Matthew 4:10 (Deuteronomy 6:13), Matthew 21:13 (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11) and many more…
7 Acts of the Apostles.17:10-11
8 Ibid 17:2-3
9 W. Adriaan Liebenberg: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 23-24
10 Acts of the Apostles 9; 22; 26
11 Mark 1:15
12 Osborne, G. R: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 32–33
13 Anecdotes on Bible Text: Corinthians and Galatians, by J. L. Nye, Sunday School Union, London, 1890-1900, p. 107
14 J. L. Nye: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit., p. 107
15 Romans 1:16
16 Hebrews 12:2