NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES
CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLV)
Some early twentieth century English translations express the Greek verb didōmi as the “splendor of His grace,”1 “the manifest splendor of that grace,”2 the “generosity of His grace,”3 “His gracious gift of grace,”4 to “enhance that glorious manifestation of His loving-kindness” (grace),5 being “enriched by His grace,”6 “taken us into His favor,”7 “made us welcome in the everlasting love He has for His beloved Son,”8 and “gave us in The Beloved.”9 No wonder this Greek verb is only used two times in the Final Covenant.10
Even though these translations were not available to Bunyan, he gives his own list and says that the word “grace” signifies all these things,11 in order to make it clear each of these is free to us as an act of God’s own will. That’s why we attribute Grace to our heavenly Father.12 But it is also attributed to Jesus the Anointed One His Son.13 Also to the Holy Spirit.14 Bunyan feels that he can safely say that the grace of God is extended only on those who will go to heaven. Also, that this assurance of Grace is based on the fact that God ordained His Son to secure our redemption. This Grace is so secure that it gave the Anointed One the power to bring us into a right standing with God the Father.
What is more, due to God’s Grace, the kingdom of heaven was placed in His Son’s hands who was then to share it with whosoever He chooses and makes them co-heirs with Him. Not only that, but all the riches needed to supply our needs are also in the Anointed One’s control.15 But for Bunyan, one of the most important is that because of God’s Grace we have fellowship with the Anointed One because it was His choice, not ours. It is a gift! No wonder Paul exclaimed here in verse fifteen that he was clueless about being already chosen by the Grace and mercy of God for the ministry given to him before his conversion! 16
Biblical expositor William Burkitt (1650-1703) feels that here in verse fifteen we are given more evidence to prove that Paul is an Apostle extraordinaire, called by God Himself into the ministry for His special service; and that the doctrine he delivered was not immediately from the mouths of the Apostles, but from the mouth of Yeshua the Anointed One. Based on this, says Burkitt, we can draw a couple of conclusions on the qualifications and person needs to have in order to be accepted as a personal spokesperson for the Divine Godhead.
First, the qualification necessary in a minister in order to reveal Jesus the Anointed One to people is, namely, that the Anointed One must be revealed to them and in them. They must learn about the Anointed One themselves before they attempt to preach Him to others. After it pleased God to reveal His Son to Paul, he felt emboldened to preach Him among the Gentile Heathens. As there is no knowledge like the knowledge of experience; so there is no preaching like experimental preaching. Happy are those who can say, not only that which they heard and read, but have also tasted, and felt, and experienced from the Holy Spirit’s operation in and upon their hearts they then declare to others.
Secondly, how quickly the Apostle Paul is willing to obey the call and command of God after he received it. Immediately, he did not confer with other Apostles or ministers, nor did he consult with his own feelings and logic. Furthermore, he did not raise any questions about his own safety nor other interests but instantly did exactly what he was commanded to do. Once the mind of God is revealed, and a person’s conscience is thoroughly satisfied, they cannot be too quick nor too prompt in the execution of divine commands. Their response, especially ministers, missionaries, and mentors should say as Isaiah said, “Here I am, LORD, send me!” What better way to answer and obey God’s call, and implement God’s will and do what pleases Him, not ourselves. As the young Psalmist said to his LORD, “I will hurry, without delay, to obey Your commands.”17 When doing God’s work we are not expected to do it quickly, but we are quick to do what God gives us to do.18
Charles Simeon (1759-1836) compares Paul’s conversion to our own. It is evident that Paul was not chosen because of his self-righteous, but that he was chosen to know the Anointed One for himself and to preach about Him to others. Up to the moment of his conversion, he was a blasphemer, injurious villain, and vicious persecutor. His election can be traced to nothing but the sovereign will of God. And to this must our conversion also be traced if we are truly converted at all. We did not choose the Anointed One, but the Anointed One chose us. In fact, we were chosen of God to be part of the Anointed One before the foundation of the world, and “predestined to be adopted as His children” into His family.
In this very epistle St. Paul makes a great point of this. He speaks of the Galatians as having known God, but fearing that was not enough, they were persuaded to begin the work of salvation on their own even after Paul said “you knew God,” or rather “God knew you.”19 Let us keep in mind, says Simeon, that if we are converted, it is “not because we loved God, but because He loved us.”20 In fact, “He loved us with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness, He has drawn us.”21
James Haldane (1768-1851) offers some thoughts on the reason for Paul’s calling as the emissary to the Gentiles instead of one of the Apostles in Jerusalem. While the Apostles in Jerusalem no doubt would have rejoiced if Saul of Tarsus met a tragic end in order to stop his persecution of the assemblies of believers. But had that occurred, there is no doubt it would have been a repeat of what happened at the Antioch Church when Peter decided to eat with the Jewish converts instead of the Gentiles. What better candidate was there then to arrest the blood-thirsty persecutor of the Church, one born outside of Israel, and send him to both the Jews and Gentiles? Haldane says that to think otherwise would be poor judgment of God’s decision-making process.22
In Johann Lange’s (1802-1884) commentary we find an interesting point on Paul’s calling that states: “The moving cause of the call was the Divine pleasure; the mediating cause, the boundless grace of God; the instrument, the heaven-sent voice.”23 In other words. God’s unending grace is what brought Him great pleasure in calling out to Paul on the road to Damascus. It involved nothing about what Paul did or was going to do, it was all about God’s plan for his life from the beginning.
Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885), professor of Ancient Languages in Wesleyan University, studied law and spent some years pastoring. He was the editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review for more than twenty years. He says that in Paul’s reasoning that God set him apart from his mother’s womb, it should not be understood as “occurring in the womb” or “before he was born,” but from the moment of his being delivered at birth.24 At that very instant God knew the basic elements of his physical and mental being were such as to make him an obvious choice. In order to be an Apostle he needed to be a Jew; to be an Apostle to the Gentiles, he needed to be a Hellenized Jew.25 He needed powerful vitality, a piercing intellect, and iron will. He needed to be one molded before birth for this wonderful future. Yet, says Whedon, we are not to speculate that Paul’s natural generative process or formation was supernaturally overridden by God to include a divine nature shaped in him as part of nature’s development. His selection and call were placed on him on account of the endowments and qualities that were part of him, which were already in the foreknowledge of God.26
William Anderson O’Conor (1820-1887) feels that Paul’s temperament was such that it tended to make him an individual thinker. He was conscious of having lived from childhood in a self-imposed spiritual cocoon, brooding over his own thoughts and uninfluenced by the outer world. Judaism, which to other men was a great congregational system, binding the masses together by a conventional worship and a superficial sympathy, was to him a depository of divine truth, which he nourished early in life by the warmth of his personal zeal. He who owed nothing to his fellow-men or to any human method for the vitality of his Jewish vows was still above all others and best fitted to be the recipient of a living Christianity.
O’Conor goes on to make note that there was harmony between Paul’s soul and his understanding of the Anointed One and the plan of salvation, and to that portion of mankind to whom he was appointed as an Apostle. The Gospel was to be given without any legal mixture to those who were not under the law. He was to be an Apostle with a special temperament and training, who was so absorbed in the spirit of the law that he was able to leave each letter of the law behind like corn husk. That’s why he was the one chosen to be their teacher. It must be remembered, that the law was a temporary solution for an ongoing problem, and was only a temporary part of God’s divine plan. It was not given to the patriarchs: it was part of Israel’s desperate descent into Egypt, and the demoralized discipline of the Israelites when departing from that country. Moreover, the fact that Paul did not think for a moment of consulting any human being, was not merely from lack of opportunity. He was determined to keep the Gospel given to him pure from legal impurities: it resulted from his long-held attitude and thought process.27
1 Richard Weymouth: Modern Speech New Testament, 1903
2 Ronald Knox: New Testament, 1945
3 J. B. Phillips: New Testament in Modern English, 1958
4 New English Bible: 1961
5 Twentieth Century New Testament: 1904
6 Ibid. Weymouth
7 Ibid. Knox
8 Ibid. Phillips
9 Ibid. Twentieth Century New Testament
10 Acts of the Apostles 1:8; Ephesians1:6
11 Ephesians 1:7; Romans 2:4; Isaiah 63:9; Titus 3:4, 5
12 Romans 7:25; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4; Philemon 3
13 2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 6:18; Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18; Philemon 25, Revelation 22:21
14 Zechariah 12:10; Hebrews 10:29
15 Philippians 4:19
16 John Bunyan: Saved by Grace, Vol. 7, Ch. 2, p. 24
17 Psalm 119:60 – New Living Translation (NLT)
18 William Burkitt: Expository Notes, On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 303-304
19 Galatians 4:9
20 1 John 4:10
21 Jeremiah 31:3
22 See Galatians 4:9; Philippians 3:12
23 Johann P. Lange: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 17
24 Cf. Psalms 22:10; Isaiah 44:2; 49:1; 49:5; Matthew 19:12; Acts of the Apostles 3:2; 14:8.
25 Hellenized is the term given to describe those who, whatever their ethnic or racial origin was, live among the adopted Greek ideas, customs, and language.
26 Daniel D. Whedon: Commentary on New Testament, Vol IV, Galatians, Published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1876, pp. 214-215
27 O’Conor, W. A: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit. pp. 15–16