NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES
CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLVII)
1:16a Then, at a predesignated point in time God revealed His Son to me so I could go out and evangelize the Gentiles, telling them the good news about Jesus. At that very moment, I decided not to discuss it with anyone.
Paul’s use of the Greek verb euaggelizō (evangelize) defines the centerpiece of his life and ministry. It is variously translated into English by the King James Version as: “Gospel preached,”1 “glad tidings,”2 “good tidings,”3 “exhortation preached,”4 “to preach,”5 “to declare,”6 “preaching the Gospel,”7 “preaching,”8 etc. So as we can see, it meant to bring good news to announce good things. And in Paul’s case, it involved bringing the Good News about Yeshua the Anointed One whom God the Father sent in order for the whole world to be saved from the death penalty issued by the Law for sinners. But the idea of euaggelizō is not restricted to the Gospel, it can include proclaiming the truth about the Anointed One in order to win souls for Him, and in this case here in Galatians, to instruct believers in knowing the difference between those who share “good news” and those who peddle “bad news.”9 We can see this more clearly when we use the term “evangelize” instead of just “preach” or “preaching.”
Here it sounds very much like Paul experienced something similar to what the Apostle Peter did when he too acknowledges for the first time that Jesus was the Anointed One, the Son of the living God.10 In Paul’s case, he gave all the credit to God for using the Holy Spirit to help him see what no teaching or learning from what people said may have communicated. In fact, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah where it is said, “No eye has ever seen or no ear has ever heard or no mind has ever thought of the wonderful things God has made ready for those who love Him.11”12 While some put this verse in the context of the future, Paul saw it as prophesying what was happening in his day. Perhaps we too can take hope that there are some things yet unrevealed that will happen in our day.
Furthermore, Paul told the Ephesians that many times these revelations are simply waiting on the Holy Spirit to help them gain the wisdom they need in order to understand these secrets that are there for the taking.13 In fact, Paul said that God waited to that particular point in time to reveal some of these mysteries, that believers of old would not have understood in their day.14 And what does that mean for us today? Are there things just waiting to be revealed if we get earnest enough and with plenty of fiery motivation to pray for such an anointing? To tarry until they are endowed with wisdom from on high to understand and participate in what God has waiting for us? When we look back at the Day of Pentecost, the calling of Paul, the Reformation, the Wesleyan Revivals, the Pentecostal Renewal, it tells us that the days of revival are not over.
But that didn’t mean it would be easy. It never has been. Paul experienced that first hand when he went back to Jerusalem to deliver the donations he collected on his last missionary trip. Being among Jews again he went to the Temple to pray. But his reception was not cordial. In fact, when Paul told them about his mission, it caused a riot and a demand to have him killed.15 However, Paul was not deterred. He told the occupying Romans how God helped him carry out his mission.16 Yet he ended up in prison.17 But that was not going to stop him.
Why should he stop? He was given the code to a secret part of God’s plan. He was determined not to quit sharing the Good News even if it killed him.18 Many obstacles were put in his way but with God’s help, he found a way over them, around them, and even through them.19 No other religion proclaimed the message he preached.20 And to his young protégé, Timothy, he sent words of encouragement to keep letting God use him for this same purpose. In the end, his trust in God would be rewarded because the Holy Spirit lived in him to help him cope and continue strong to the end.21
“So,” Paul is telling the Galatians, “you know God was involved by picking a mean-spirited man like me who thought that Jews, and especially Pharisees, were the elite in God’s kingdom, and send him out to preach to Gentiles, something no self-respecting Jew would even think of doing.” Was Paul telling them this in order to win their approval on how he was carrying out God’s commission to the Gentiles? No! Had Paul doubted his calling, or questioned if this was God’s predetermined plan for his life; he certainly would have been outraged when he ended up with so much jail time during his ministry.
When early church scholar Tertullian (155-240 AD), read verse sixteen, he believes that Paul acted with an ulterior motive by not consulting the Apostles. In one of the earliest Roman Catholic Bibles translated into English, verse sixteen reads, “Immediately I condescended not to flesh and blood.”22 Now Paul knew that there might be plenty in the Jerusalem assembly of believers who insisted that only those who were circumcised would rise in the resurrection. So when Paul identified those he decided not to consult with as “flesh and blood,” he was pointing to these Jewish converts who were not yet freed from what Tertullian calls their “old or former conversation” (“way of doing things”).23 In other words, Paul’s intent was to do it God’s way not man’s way, even if it went against custom and tradition.
We know that Paul added to his library of Jewish writings the popular Greek writers of his day.24 Whether or not he read the writings of Plato we don’t know, but perhaps he was aware of the two valuable principles Socrates ascribed to: First, that true knowledge is knowledge of causes. Secondly, the process of learning consists not in what is brought to learners, but in what is drawn out of them.25 One main point of contention between Paul and the Judaizers involved their question of how much was he taught or was he taught at all. Paul’s testimony on the revelation he received from the Anointed One proves that it’s what flows out of him to others that counted most.
Baptist preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1836) in his preaching using the text: Galatians 1:15-16 makes clear to his congregation what Paul seems to be saying to the Galatians, that is, we must not negotiate with uncertainty, but act with promptness and decision. There must be in us a firmness that is immovable: yet such firmness must be moderated with graciousness. There is no reason to think that just because those over us in the Lord are not as eager as we are to grow in the Word and it is inhibiting our growth in the Anointed One, we must not remain submitted to remaining stationary. We have been given the liberty to agree or disagree with their stance just as long as we don’t violate the teachings of the Anointed One.
Simeon finishes by saying that while we guard against any unreasonable conformity to the world’s views and lifestyles, we must also guard against two common corruptive tendencies: they are, “being too much in control of every step believers should take,” and “unnecessary criticism of those who do not agree with us.” Unnecessary criticism has the danger of making something that is not sinful, to be sinful. and too much control can become too out of control when demanding compliance with the rules of sanctification when it has nothing to do with holiness. We must be willing to learn and be taught better ways of doing what we are trying to do in helping others to grow as spiritual adults. When there are differences of opinion, we must be willing to listen. But in matters of remaining faithful and true to God’s Word, we must be firm and faithful no matter what the cost.26 Paul once was that legalistic Pharisee trying to keep people away from the Anointed One, but now he’s learned the Christian way of love, mercy, and grace in convincing people to come to the Anointed One.
Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921), Reformed Baptist minister and noted theologian best known for his Systematic Theology, (and not to be confused with James Strong who published his Concordance in 1890), in answering what he called the “idealists in philosophy,” on the subject or “revelation,” made the point that in order for revelation to be effective it must involve causing a new model of intelligence to develop. In other words, one must have a clear understanding of what they are teaching. However, when it comes to understanding divine mysteries, it is impossible without a divine quickening of man’s cognitive powers. Granted, says Strong, that revelation, when originally imparted, was often internal and subjective. Strong was speaking in reference to what Paul says here in verse sixteen about how God’s Son was to be seen in him in order for him to preach about the Anointed One to Gentiles, that did not come by way of revelation by men but by God.27
Strong then appeals to what George Matheson (1842-1906), blind Scottish minister and hymn writer28 said about Paul’s revelation. Matheson asks, “Can any picture be a vision to the eye? Can a thing be revealed to me which has never been revealed in me?” Looking at a picture of a beautiful landscape is not enough to reveal all that one sees, says Matheson, “There could be no beauty without if there were no sense of beauty within.” The same goes for music, says Matheson, without a sense of harmony within there is no harmony perceived in the ear. Likewise with the beauty and oneness with Jesus the Anointed One.
1 Matthew 11:5
2 Luke 1:19
3 Ibid 2:10
4 Ibid 3:18
5 Ibid. 4:18
6 Ibid. 4:43
7 Ibid. 9:6
8 Acts of the Apostles 8:12
9 Mark A. Nanos: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 288, 293
10 Matthew 16:15-17
11 Isaiah 64:4; 52:16
12 1 Corinthians 2:9
13 Ephesians 1:17-18
14 Ibid. 3:5
15 Acts of the Apostles 22:22-23; 26:21
16 Romans 15:16-19
17 Ephesians 3:1
18 Colossians 1:25-27
19 1 Thessalonians 2:16
20 1 Timothy 2:1-7
21 2 Timothy 1:6-14
22 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition, translated from the Latin Vulgate composed by Jerome around 383 AD from a Greek Manuscript
23 Tertullian: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, op. cit., Vol. 3, on “The Resurrection of the Flesh,” Ch. 50, p. 1057
24 See Acts of the Apostles 17:28
25 See Phaedo in Complete Dialogues of Plato
26 Charles Simeon: On Galatians, op. cit., Sermon #2053, pp. 23-28
27 A. H. Strong: Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, The Doctrine of God, Part 1, Ch. 1, paragraph III, p. 46
28 One of Matheson’s most well-known songs is: “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” published in 1882