Meditations on Scripture - Galatians 1

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The increasing efforts of false teachers whose endeavor was to put Christians under the law, was the occasion which the Lord used to lead the apostle, Paul, to write, and to send this epistle to the assemblies of the province of Galatia.
We see in Acts 15:23-3123And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 30So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 31Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. (Acts 15:23‑31), how the apostles dealt with this evil in the letter they sent to the Gentile assemblies. In Acts 21:20, 2120And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (Acts 21:20‑21), we still find many of the Jewish converts in bondage to keep the law, and to circumcise their children. The God of all grace saw how much this Epistle would be needed in the history of the assembly on earth, and inspired His servant, Paul, to write it, that the grace of God, and the love of Christ might have their place in our hearts. Strange indeed it is, that so many of God’s dear children are entangled in this bondage, yet the Word is plain, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14, 1514For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (Romans 6:14‑15)).
“Paul an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead).” In this parenthesis we see that his apostleship was neither of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father. This is important. It was wholly independent of men. He was never, what men call, ordained, a thing for which there is no authority in Scripture. We are pointed to Acts 13:2-42As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 13:2‑4), but both Paul and Barnabas were preaching the gospel before. It was fellowship in the work to which the Lord had called them (see Acts 9:15-17; 26:15-1815But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. 17And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (Acts 9:15‑17)
15And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:15‑18)
). It was neither ordination, nor placing them over a congregation—that also is unknown in Scripture. In turning to Ephesians 4:8-118Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:8‑11), we find that all true ministry of evangelists, pastors, or teachers, comes from the glorified Head, Christ Jesus. The apostles were His ambassadors sent by our Lord Jesus Christ. We are built on their foundation (Eph. 2:2020And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20)).
Scripture speaks of men choosing their teachers, but only to rebuke it (2 Tim. 4:33For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Timothy 4:3)), and in Revelation 2:6-156But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. 8And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; 9I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. 12And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (Revelation 2:6‑15) the word “Nicolaitanes” has the meaning of “conquering the laity”, or men set up by themselves or others, over congregations, “which thing I hate”, the Lord says.
Eldership and Deacons were not gifts, but offices; they were appointed by the apostles or their delegates, not by the assembly, and with their passing away, we find no authority to appoint them.
Verses 2-5. All the brethren were with the apostle in writing, and join in sending to these assemblies gathered mostly from among the Gentiles. “Grace and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
We see here two aspects of the death of Christ—the one is “for our sins,” the other is “for sin,” and in this aspect we are to learn that we are dead with Christ (see chap. 6:14 and 2:20). We see in His death at what a cost we are cleansed and delivered, and we may see how it also delivers us from the law (2:19). What love the Father bore to us is proved in His gift, “His unspeakable gift.” He spared not His own Son, that we might be cleansed and delivered from the power of sin.
Verses 6-12. The apostle wonders that they were so soon removed from Him who called them into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which was really not another, as there was no good news in it, but bondage, trying to keep the law instead of simply following Christ, receiving strength and grace from Him all the way along. Those Judaizing teachers were troublers, who were perverting the gospel of Christ.
Ah! dear reader, if you are under the law, you are under the curse. If you are a true believer, you are forever freed from it (chap. 3:10-13). And so the apostle goes on— “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” and again to emphasize it, he repeats it, “As we said before, so say I now again, ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’” He was not seeking to please men, but speaking as a servant of Christ. The gospel which he preached unto them was not after man, for he neither received it of man, nor was he taught it, but the Lord Himself revealed it to him (see 1 Cor. 15:33For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1 Corinthians 15:3)).
Verses 13, 14. They had heard of his zeal in the Jews religion, even to persecuting the assembly of God, how cruelly he had treated the saints—believers in Christ (Acts 26:10,1110Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26:10‑11)), and scattered them in his fleshly earnestness fulfilling John 16:22They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2). He was away ahead of his contemporaries in his zeal of all the traditions of the Jews. Then the Lord met him, and the change came. He writes, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles (Nations), immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”
Where he was or what he was doing during those three years, we are not told, but we can well believe that he was in the school of God that fitted him for the work, and suffering that was before him. All this is to show that he had not counseled with men, but was fitted by the Lord as His servant.
After three years he went to Jerusalem to see Peter for fifteen days; he saw also James, the Lord’s brother, but none other of the apostles. Then he was at Syria and Cilicia, but was still unknown by face unto the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ, but they had heard only, that the great persecutor of the assembly in times past, now preached the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God about him.