|Galatians Chapter 1|
MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
By David L. Hannah
[KJV] Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
* Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, *
Paul affirms that his position as an apostle is not a result of some appointment of man, but rather a result of a divine call.
* by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) *
He was appointed an apostle by the Lord Jesus, and by His Father; the One Who raised Him from the dead. He seems to be making this assertion because the Judaizers were saying he was not an apostle of the same magnitude as the twelve.
[KJV] And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
* And all the brethren which are with me, *
This greeting was from Paul, along with all the brethren that were with him, possibly his fellow ministers that were traveling with him.
* unto the churches of Galatia: *
The letter was intended for all the churches in the province of Galatia. Of these churches the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says, “Pessinus and Ancyra were the principal cities; but doubtless there were many other churches in Galatia (Acts 18:23; 1Cor 16:1). He does not attach any honorable title to the churches here, as elsewhere, being displeased at their Judaizing. See First Corinthians; First Thessalonians, &c. The first Epistle of Peter is addressed to Jewish Christians sojourning in Galatia (1Peter_1:1), among other places mentioned. It is interesting thus to find the apostle of the circumcision, as well as the apostle of the uncircumcision, once at issue (Gal_2:7-15), co-operating to build up the same churches.
[KJV] Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
* Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, *
He wishes them to be recipients of the grace and peace that comes from God the Father, and from His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
[KJV] Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
* Who gave himself for our sins, *
Our sins necessitated the intervention of a loving God. We were hopelessly lost (Eph 2:12), and powerless to help ourselves (Rom 5:6 NIV). Consequently, Jesus did for us what we could not do, He gave Himself for our sins. He died on a rugged cross and
totally satisfied a Holy God, Who had brought the charges against us. Paul is probably reminding the Galatians that the sacrifice of Christ, not the keeping of the Law, is responsible for their salvation.
* that he might deliver us from this present evil world, *
The purpose of God in the death of Christ was to rescue us from the evil, and the consequences of that evil, of this present fallen world. The wages of our sin is death (Rom 6:23), both physical and spiritual. Christ died for us to rescue us from that consequence of our sin that is a result of the fallen nature that we have being a part of this present world, plagued with sin.
* according to the will of God and our Father:
This is the eternal purpose and will of God the Father. Before there was the “fall,” before there was Adam, there was the cross (Rev 13:8); and before there was Adam passing sin and death to all mankind (Rom 5:12), there was the Lamb’s Book of Life with every born-again believer’s name already in it (Rev 17:8). God’s will has eternally been to call, to justify, and to glorify all those that He pre-determined according to His foreknowledge to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29-30).
[KJV] To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
* To whom be glory for ever and ever.
May we faithfully give glory to God the Father for His giving His only Son (John 3:16) as a sacrificial Lamb for the redemption of the “whosoever wills,” and to His Son for His willingness to suffer and die on our behalf. God must get all the credit for our salvation! None of it should go to our keeping the Law of Moses, or any other set of codes. We are saved only by faith in His blood! To Him be all the glory!
[KJV] I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
* I marvel that ye are so soon removed *
Paul was absolutely amazed at how rapidly the Galatians had changed doctrines/belief systems. He could have been referring to how quickly they fell from truth since he last saw them and found them to be standing in the very truth they now forsook, or to how quickly they bought into the doctrine of the Judaizers, once they arrived on the scene. The doctrine they were now embracing was the doctrine of legalism. We discover that by studying this epistle. They were buying into the notion that they were saved by faith, but in order to maintain/keep that salvation they must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.
According to Robertson and Vincent, and other expositors of the Greek, the middle voice of the Greek word being translated “removed” in the KJV indicates that they were in the process of removing themselves from the truth of the Gospel, rather than already having completely removed themselves.
* from him that called you into the grace of Christ *
“From him that called you” presents different possibilities. Adam Clarke believes it to refer to the Apostle Paul, who led them into the Gospel/good news of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly they had left the love for Paul that they first felt when they would have “plucked out” their own eyes and given them to him if possible (Gal 4:15), and now seemed to hold to a certain distrust of him, and his doctrine. However, as almost all other commentators believe, this “removing” was of far greater concern than the simple falling away of a certain trust you had in the minister that introduced you to Christ. John Gill mentions that the Arabic and Syriac versions rend it “from Christ who called you by His own grace.” But the overwhelming opinion of commentators is that the reference is to God, the Father, who called them into, or by, the grace of Christ. In other words, they were in the process of removing themselves from God, into the position of once again trusting man/themselves for salvation. All legalism places the burden of getting to Heaven on the shoulders of the individual Christian. “God saves us by His grace, then leaves it up to us to stay saved”, is what that doctrine teaches. If we sin here, or stray there, then we will not get to Heaven.
* unto another gospel: *
Paul refers to this teaching as “another gospel.” The Greek word for “another” is “heteron,” which means this is a gospel of another kind. Had he used the Greek word “allos,” it would have meant another gospel of the same kind. Jesus sent another [allos] Comforter, another of the same kind (John 14:6). Paul saw another [heteron] law at work in our members, another of a different kind (Rom 7:23). In the text at hand, the word is “heteron.” The so-called gospel they were removing themselves to was a gospel of a different kind from the one they had trusted for their salvation.
[KJV] Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
* Which is not another;
Paul states this “gospel” that they were buying into was not really another gospel at all. The Greek word used in this verse for “another” is “allos.”
Vine says, “Allos expresses a numerical difference and denotes ‘another of the same sort’; heteros expresses a qualitative difference and denotes “another of a different sort.”
In the previous verse Paul states that this “gospel” they were now hearing was another gospel of a totally different sort. Now he states in this verse that it is not another gospel of the same sort as the one they had first heard from Paul and had believed unto salvation. In other words, the so-called gospel they were now in the process of removing themselves to, was not at all like the gospel/good news they had received from Paul, but was absolutely, totally, in every was different from that one. This new message was not good news at all. It again placed the burden of their salvation on their own shoulders. What they did, now in their current standing in Christ, would determine whether or not they would get to Heaven. Under the economy of the “gospel” these Judaizers were teaching them, only a life of keeping the Law of Moses could secure them a spot in Heaven. It’s very similar to what is taught in many circles today. Yes, you’re saved by faith, but now you must keep the rules that some church decides is a prerequisite for your getting to Heaven. Faith in Christ, plus keeping the rules of some church, is the way of salvation. That’s not the gospel. That’s not good news. That’s simply adding Christ to the Old Testament message.
* there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. *
Paul states that the preachers of such fallacy were troubling them, trying to “pervert” the true gospel. The Greek word for “pervert” is only used two other times in the New Testament. It is used in (Acts 2:20), and is there translated “be turned.” It says the sun will be turned into darkness. It is also used in (James 4:9) where it is again translated “be turned.” We are told there to let our laughter be turned to mourning and our joy to heaviness. The idea in both places is that one thing will be turned into something else quite different, the sun to darkness and laughter and joy into mourning and heaviness. These preachers of false doctrine were with their message trying to turn the true gospel that saves and liberates the hearer into something entirely different, a different gospel of another sort that keeps the hearer in the bondage they were in before they ever heard the true gospel.
NOTE: As we’ll see throughout this epistle, the error of the Judaizers’ doctrine was essentially that we are saved by grace, but kept in the state of salvation by works, i.e., by human effort. In other words, Jesus is the Author of our faith, but we are the finishers of it, contrary to what the Scripture says (Heb 12:2). Or, Jesus begins this good work in us, but then leaves it up to us to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, again contradicting the sure word of God (Phil 1:6). Paul shows this teaching to be a false gospel, because it has no good news in it. It, like the Law of Moses, leaves your salvation, your getting to Heaven, entirely on your own two shoulders. The true Gospel teaches that Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He Who began this work of salvation in us will continue to work in us His will. He Who authored this great work of salvation in us will finish what He started. We can trust Him to always be at work in us. God forbid that we sin along the way, but if we sin we have an Advocate (1 John 2:1). You may claim that Jesus saved you, but now you must do your part (always live right, keep the Law, keep the rules of your church, etc.) in order to get to Heaven, but if getting to Heaven depends on you, then you have saved yourself. Jesus is only your Savior if what He did is responsible for your getting to Heaven, not what you’ve done since the day you “put your faith in Him.” I am going to Heaven because I am a Christian, not because I am doing right things. My doing right things is a by-product of my being a new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17). I am not a new creature because I am doing new things that are right; I am a new creature because I am in Christ! Being a new creature causes me to do new things, in other words, to live differently than I used to. However, the who I am, the new creature in Christ, has nothing to do with what I am doing, but rather, it has to do totally with what Jesus has done for me
[KJV] 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.
* though we, —, preach any other gospel *
After stating his utter unbelief that the Galatian believers would so soon be in the process of removing themselves from the true Gospel, unto a false gospel, Paul now directs himself to the absolute integrity of the Gospel he preached. He states to his readers that if he, or any one from his company, should return to that region to proclaim a gospel different from the one they had already presented to them, then they should be under the curse of God. The Greek word is “anathema,” and denotes in N.T. usage “eternal damnation.”
* an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel
He then states his case even stronger by saying that if an angel were to step out of Heaven proclaiming a gospel that was different from the one Paul had preached to them, then that angel should be eternally damned.
Paul’s Gospel had been attacked! He understood beyond question that his Gospel was really God’s Gospel. He had received it by divine revelation. It wasn’t merely Paul’s opinion, it was divine truth! He knew his divinely appointed role of preaching divine truth/Scripture to his listeners, but more than that, his divine role of writing Scripture/the infallible truth of divine revelation, that would instruct the church throughout all ages. It’s logical to conclude that if the Apostle Peter knew that Paul’s writings were Scripture (2 Peter 3:16), that Paul understood this as well. Knowing that he was laying the foundation that the church would be built on, the truth of the Holy Scriptures/his Gospel, he fought to instill in these believers the utter seriousness of embracing a so-called gospel, and rejecting the true/only Gospel. This Gospel is so important that Paul would desire the curse of God/eternal damnation on himself, a co-worker, or even an angel from Heaven, if any would dare preach any contrary gospel (message that teaches how one might be saved, and how one might continue on to spiritual maturity) to what Paul had already preached to them.
[KJV] 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.
* If any man preach any other gospel *
Now Paul gets to the real issue at hand. He, nor anyone in his company, nor an angel from Heaven, was going to preach some false gospel. But there were those who were preaching another gospel of a different sort, different from the one that he had preached to them. And these men, these Judaizers, were being effective in causing these Galatian believers to, at the time of Paul’s writing, be in the process of removing themselves from God, Who had called them into the grace of the Lord Jesus, unto a belief system that placed the overwhelming burden of getting to Heaven on the shoulders of the hearers of that false gospel. The integrity of the only true Gospel was at stake.
* any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. *
In the previous verse he states that anyone altering the Gospel that he had preached should be cursed. Here he says that anyone altering the Gospel that these Galatian believers had received should be cursed. He was reminding them that they had received this true Gospel, the one that brings salvation to all who hear with faith. This was the road they had begun their journey on. They needed to avoid all other roads. They all lead to a dead-end. They must stay on the road that led them to Jesus! In this verse Paul states, without naming names, that these false teachers were living under a curse.
[KJV] For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
* do I now persuade men, or God? *
Are Paul’s actions motivated by a desire to have others believe well of him, or rather, is he more concerned with what God thinks of him? The Judaizers claimed Paul preached the Gospel of Grace as a means to please people. His hearer would prefer the easy message of grace to the harder message of law, and thus Paul would be more popular, was the contention they put forth. Paul would say “Nonsense! All the persecution I face has come as a result of this Gospel I preach!” The real reason the Judaizers preached the Law of Moses was, in fact, to escape the persecution that came with the preaching of the cross, which is the Gospel (Gal 6:12). Paul seems to ask, “Do you really think that my aim is simply pleasing men now that I’ve pronounced a curse on those who pervert the Gospel?” The comments of verses eight and nine should ever put to rest that accusation.
* do I seek to please men? *
Certainly there were many times when Paul did seek to please men. He said that we should please our neighbor, and not ourselves, so that our neighbor might be strengthened (Rom 15:1-2), and that he pleased the many, so that the many might profit from his ministry, rather than he being the one who would profit (1 Cor 10:33). He also said that he was made all things to all men that he might see some saved (1 Cor 9:22). He was not opposed to pleasing others. However, he wanted to please others to win their salvation,
and their edification, which necessitated his convincing them of the true Gospel. Only in that true Gospel do we discover the power of God to save (Rom 1:16), and the power of God to bring spiritual growth to the believer (Gal 3:2-3), so Paul would never compromise that message to please men, because it was that message that brings them salvation and growth. Also, Paul’s first loyalty was to God. He would never please man at the expense of failing to please God.
* if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. *
This is the real issue to Paul. He would please man whenever it was possible within the greater scheme of pleasing God. He always kept in mind that God had entrusted him with the great task, and privilege, of sharing this great, and true, Gospel, and he would never seek to please man at the expense of compromising the truth of that Gospel (1 Thess 2:4). It was God Who commissioned him! It was God Who would judge him! It was God Who even then was judging the motives of his heart. It would always be his first, and greatest, desire to please the One Who he loved first, and foremost. He understood the words of Jesus, that no man can serve two masters (Matt 6:24). Jesus, alone, was his Master. He was, and always would be, the servant of Christ. Yes, as Christians we please others! Yes, we serve others! Yet, when it comes to service in the sense of serving a Master, we only serve Christ!
[KJV] But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
* I certify you, brethren, *
This is a strong appeal from Paul to his reader to understand that he is telling them the absolute truth regarding what he is about to say. Other translations render it, “I make know to you,” “I would have you know,” etc. The Living Bible renders it, “I solemnly swear.” He is about to re-affirm to them things he undoubtedly told them when he was there concerning the origin of his gospel.
Notice he calls them “brethren.” In spite of their doctrinal error, they are still children of God, and therefore in the same spiritual family as Paul.
* that the gospel which was preached of me *
This is the message that has been challenged. The Judaizers were claiming Paul’s Gospel was not really sanctioned by God, or by the Jerusalem Apostles, the Twelve. Paul was now undertaking his defense of that Gospel.
* is not after man. *
Paul begins his defense by addressing the very origin of his Gospel. Where did his message come from? He states emphatically that its origin was not human! This is the Gospel through which God exercises His power to save the believing sinner (Rom 1:16). We must have more than simply man’s opinion. We must be assured that this message is from God Himself! Paul begins his case to assure us of that very fact.
[KJV] For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
* For I neither received it of man, *
Regarding the Greek words used here, allow me to quote from the commentary in the Zondervan NIV Bible Library, “According to Gerhardsson and others of the Scandinavian school, these even belong to a set of technical words used of the process of memorization by which rabbis passed along rabbinic traditions to students.” He’s telling us that he did not receive this teaching the way he might of received some teaching while learning at the feet of the respected Pharisee, Gamaliel, as a youth. He didn’t receive instruction in these matters from some honored teacher, and then commit it to memory. He uses this same expression, in another area, to indicate that he received the basic tenets of the Christian faith from other Christian leaders (1 Cor 15:3), but, in still another area, that he received instruction concerning the Lord’s Supper from the Lord, Himself (1 Cor 11:23).
* neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ *
He says that this Gospel came to him, not by the teaching of some man, but through the Lord Jesus revealing it to him. The word “revelation” is from “apokalupto,” which Wuest says refers “primarily to the removal of that which conceals, an uncovering.” By Divine revelation Paul came to understand what the cross of Christ means, first, to the lost sinner; i.e., the hope of eternal salvation, and second, to the believer; i.e., the vehicle to
spiritual growth. The first part is not what so many have struggled with, but rather, the second part. This message has a Heavenly origin, not an earthly.
[KJV] For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
* For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, *
To underline his strong declaration that his Gospel was received, by revelation, directly from God, Paul begins to remind his readers of his former devotion to the Jewish religion. The word translated “conversation” is “anastropheen” (NT:391). It doesn’t refer to conversation as we think of it today, but rather, to one’s manner of life [Vincent]. He’s saying that the Jews’ religion was his manner of life before He became a Christian. In the following verses he emphasizes how devout a follower of that religion he was. He was far more devout before his conversion than his many critics were, who claimed to defend Judaism. He also commented to the Philippians (Phil 3:4-6) that he was a devout Jew of unswerving loyalty before he was gloriously saved.
* how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: *
“Beyond measure” comes from “huperboleen” (NT:5236), and means “according to excess” [Vincent]. Paul excessively brought persecution to bear on the church. He was driven by a desire to “waste it.” The NIV, the NAS, the Revised Standard, and the New King James Version all render this as “tried to destroy it.” As a Pharisee he vigorously persecuted the church, desiring its utter destruction. He was showing his reader two things: first, that he was a true zealot for the Law prior to his experience with Christ; and second, that this Gospel that he preached was surely not taught to him by any of his Jewish comrades before he was saved. He later shows that it wasn’t taught to him by any Christian after he was saved. His desire is to convince the Galatians that he had truly received this Gospel by direct revelation from God.
Paul had converted from Judaism, the religion of the Jews, to the Church, the religion of the Christians. He taught that God had taken believers from both the ranks of Jews, and non-Jews, and made out of them “one new man” (Eph 2:11-22). Many Jews in his day, non-Christian and Christian, resented that message. Even in our day, many Christian Jews struggle with Paul’s writings. As in the first century, some twenty-first century Jews, who follow Christ, see Paul’s writings in opposition to the Law. Some seem to think that the Law is what gives them their uniqueness; what enables them to hold on to their Jewish roots. They see Paul’s epistles as contrary to what they want to see as sound Christian doctrine, concerning the Law, so they have to devise a way to make Paul’s inspiration different from, and inferior, to Moses’ inspiration (In the first century the “Christian” Jews who opposed him wanted to make his inspiration inferior to that of the twelve Apostles). Consequently, if Paul says any thing different, or contrary, to what Moses said, they point to the superiority of Moses’ inspiration. They base their opinion on what God said regarding to how he spoke to Moses differently than he spoke to others (Num 12:1-8). However, they forget that God spoke to Moses before the cross, and to Paul after the cross. Moses introduced the Law; Paul spoke of its fulfillment. Moses had a
direct revelation of how God would operate among His people from the time of His giving of the Law, to the time of the cross of Christ. Paul had a direct revelation of how God would operate among His people from the time of the cross, to the end of this age. Which is more pertinent to us today, rather Gentile or Jew? I state emphatically, Paul’s revelation!
[KJV] And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
* And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, *
He trained as a youth at the feet of Gamaliel, a well-respected Pharisee. Under his tutorage, Paul was excelling in the religion of the Jews. The Greek for “equals” is “suneelikiootas” (NT:4915), and the meaning is equals in “age” [Vincent]. Paul was saying that his zeal was so strong that he was excelling in the training he was receiving more than many other Jews who were his age.
* being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. *
Not only was Paul zealous for the Law, but also for the traditions of those Pharisees that had gone on before him. The Pharisees, throughout the years, had added much to the Law of Moses. Those additions were considered as weighty as the Law. The Law says, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” The Pharisees expanded that with rules of explanation. They determined things like how far you could journey on the Sabbath, what
kind of things you could do on that Day, what constituted the washing of your hands, etc. They had enormously increased the weight of the Law with their add-ons, and Paul was just as zealous for these traditions as he was for the Law. It was this zeal that enabled him to excel above the others in his training.
[KJV] But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
* But when it pleased God, *
His conversion was a direct result of what God wanted to do in his life. God always acts in accordance with His “good pleasure” (Eph 1:5,9). God’s “eternal purpose” has always been the church (Eph 3:10-11). Before there was a universe, before there was Adam, before there was the fall of man, God already saw the church, His eternal purpose. Israel, Abraham’s natural descendants, was the vehicle through which He would bring the Savior into the world. Before the foundations of this world were laid, God already purposed the cross (Rev 13:8), His vehicle through which He would bring redemption. Through His redemptive work, the church, Abraham’s spiritual descendants, was born. This church was always the focus of God.
Paul was an important part in the bringing to pass of this eternal purpose of God, the working of His good pleasure in the growth of His church. Paul was not the instrument used of God to birth the church; Jesus was. However, he was a major instrument used of
God in the growth of the church, both in numbers, and in spiritual maturity, as well as the major factor God used in carrying this Gospel message to the Gentile world.
Israel was made up of Jewish people, the natural born descendents of Abraham. However, the church of God, the spiritual descendents of Abraham, would be made up of Jews and Gentiles. God had purposed to make of the two (Jews and Gentiles) one new man (Eph 2:15), and He had purposed to use Paul to this end. Therefore, it was pleasing to God to bring salvation to him.
* who separated me from my mother’s womb, *
The word “separated” is “aphorizo,” which means, “to mark off from a boundary or line” [Wuest]. It comes from the verb “horizo,” as does “proorizo,” which is translated “predestinate” (Rom 8:29). In the latter, the prefix “pro” is added, which means “before,” which together gives us the thought of pre-destination, or, pre-determined. In Galatians, we get the idea of determined at the time being referred to. In other words, when Paul’s mother became pregnant, God determined that her offspring would not be simply the Pharisee she and her husband might have had in mind for him, but the preacher of the Gospel that He had in mind for him. Before Paul was born, before the earthly ministry of Jesus, before the cross, God has already determined what He would do with this child that was being carried in the womb of its mother. I believe God’s choice goes even farther back, as the above mentioned verse in Romans would indicate, but that Paul only has in mind the determination of God for his life at the time of his conception. We should ask ourselves at this time, if God had a determined purpose for Paul before he was born, is it logical to conclude that He had a determined purpose for your life before you were born. If that is so, should we wonder what God might have had in mind for the countless numbers of those who were slaughtered in their mothers’ wombs?
* and called me by his grace, *
The call of God on his life, which from God’s perspective was from before his very birth, but from the human perspective was from the day of his conversion, which occurred on his way to Damascus, was a result of God’s grace to him. Even though Paul had trained at the feet of Gamaliel, even though he had exceeded, in the training, and in the ranks of the Pharisees, over those others of his age, because he was far more zealous than they, even though when it came to legalistic righteousness he was blameless (Phil 3:6), Paul understood that he was absolutely worthless of this call of God. Therefore, his call to be the apostle to the Gentiles, as well as his very salvation, was totally dependant on the grace (the undeserved favor) of the One Who called him.
[KJV] To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
* To reveal his Son in me, *
What pleased God in verse 15 was the revealing of His Son to Paul. The word “reveal” is “apokalupto,” which is “the disclosure of something by the removal of that which hitherto concealed it” [Vine]. Paul was blind to the truth of Jesus, but now, by the grace of God [verse 15], he saw. What did he see? What was revealed to him? He saw a vision of Jesus
on the road to Damascus, but this seems to be much deeper. God revealed something to Paul, perhaps as he sought God for the three days of his physical blindness, that he is now making a point to emphasize was Divinely revealed. Certainly, the vision had Heavenly origin, but that’s not the point of Paul’s writing here. He’s defending the Heavenly origin of his Gospel, not his vision. That’s the context of this passage. Consequently, I’m convinced the revelation of God’s Son to Paul being discussed here was more than the revelation of Jesus as Savior, but rather, the revelation of everything Jesus accomplished for us. This was a revelation that became his Gospel. He saw Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), and just as the decisions of the first Adam impacted all who were born into him, so the decisions of the last Adam impact all who are born into Him. Just as we were there in Adam when he sinned, an so sin and death passed on to all of us (Rom 5:12-14), so we were in Jesus when He obeyed the Law, when He died His sacrificial death for us, when He was buried, when He resurrected, and when He ascended to the right hand of His Father. His victories are our victories! Because He died, He has died unto sin. We are in Him! We died when He died! We, too, are dead to sin! In Him, we have resurrected to a new way of living, the way of the Spirit (Rom 7:6) [NIV].
Can you imagine what Paul must have went through, this zealot of the Law, when God began to reveal to him His Son through the Old Testament Scriptures that he was so familiar with? Imagine the agonizing journey, the process of discovering that everything he had ever preached, that every effort of his to destroy the church, was wrong, and in total opposition to the One he had thought he was serving.
* that I might preach him among the heathen; *
Why did God, by His grace, reveal His Son to this man? This man was in direct opposition to everything God was doing. This man was trying to destroy the church, which was the eternal purpose of God. Yet God chose him! Why? Because it pleased Him [verse 15]! In this case, God was pleased to take the church’s greatest human enemy, and change him into its greatest defender! God does what God wants!
God’s desire for choosing Paul was to raise him up to preach this revealed Gospel to the heathen, the non-Jews. Paul certainly preached to Jews, but his primary function was to carry the Gospel to the non-Jews.
* immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: *
Some commentators connect the word “immediately” with the phrase “I went into Arabia” in verse 17. However, it appears to me that those who connect it with the phrase “I conferred not with flesh and blood,” which immediately follows the word, have the correct idea. He is defending his Gospel as coming from the Lord, not man. He seems to be emphasizing that after the Lord gave him this revelation he intentionally did not consult with any man.
[KJV] Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
* Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; *
Not only didn’t he seek out any mature believers in Damascus to instruct him in the truths
of the Gospel, he didn’t go up to Jerusalem to sit at the Apostles’ feet and learn this Gospel. Again, his point is that the Gospel he preached came to him directly from God, without the help of any man. He felt a need to seek God for clarity, not man, no matter how great that man might be. He was so convinced God was revealing truth to him that he saw no need to go to the ones who were Apostles before him.
Notice that Paul recognized that he was an Apostle as surely as were Peter, and the rest of the twelve. They were Apostles first, but now Paul sees himself as an equal in this calling of the Lord.
NOTE: Please remember that Paul was raised up by God to write Scripture. No writer of Scripture ever had to go to other men to critique the message God had given him to write. You and I are not writers of Scripture, and we need the ministries God puts before us to help us stay balanced in our studies. No one of us should gather from these verses that somehow we are having a similar experience to Paul, and if our revelation is overtly different from everyone else’s, it’s because God has shown us some great thing that has not been revealed to anyone else. The canon of Scripture is closed! When we receive revelation in our study, it’s only revelation that was previously not known to us. God, in keeping with His eternal purpose, chose Paul to reveal this Gospel to, that he, in turn, might reveal it to us. We never have had, nor ever will have, a similar experience to that!
* but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. *
Barnes said of Arabia, “Arabia was south of Damascus, and at no great distance. The line indeed between Arabia Deserta and Syria is not very definitely marked, but it is generally
agreed that Arabia extends to a considerable distance into the Great Syrian Desert. To what part of Arabia and for what purpose that Paul went is wholly unknown.” Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles, tells us nothing of this journey. That has led some commentators to believe that the time spent in Arabia was not a time of ministry, but a time spent seeking God, and learning from Him. If this is the case, and I believe it to be, then it’s possible that he spent most of the three years, mentioned in the following verse, in Arabia. After God had fully taught him this Gospel, that He began to reveal to him in Damascus, then the Apostle returned to that city.
[KJV] Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
* Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, *
He continues his narrative of how God, without the aid of any human, revealed the Gospel to him. Three years after his conversion, after God had worked the process of instructing him in these valuable truths, he traveled to Jerusalem. He didn’t go to be instructed by them, as this passage shows us. Wycliffe says, “The verb ‘see’ (in the Greek) is in deliberate contrast to ‘conferred’ (Gal 1:16), for the latter suggests conferring with a view to being enlightened on a subject, while the former refers to becoming acquainted with a person or thing. It is sometimes used of sightseeing.” He simply went to meet the famous Peter.
* and abode with him fifteen days. *
He only spent fifteen days in Jerusalem at that time. He spent part of that time getting to know Peter. Many commentators believe this to be the trip spoken of by Luke (Acts 9:26-30).
[KJV] But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
* But other of the apostles saw I none, *
If this trip is the one recorded by Luke, then the Apostles mentioned (Acts 9:27) were Peter and James, not the entire group of them. The majority of them were undoubtedly busy preaching Christ in other cities.
* save James the Lord’s brother. *
This is not one of the two James who were originally among the twelve disciples. They were James, the son of Zebedee, and James, the son of Alphaeus (Matt 10:2-4). This is James, the Lord’s brother (Matt 13:55). It is this James who wrote the Epistle of James.
For those religious organizations who teach that a denomination must have twelve Apostles in leadership in order to be in line with the Scriptures, there are far more than twelve Apostles mentioned in the New Testament. On the Day of Pentecost there were twelve Apostles, Matthias having replaced Judas, who had hung himself (Acts 1:15-26). However, as time went on God added others to the ranks of the Apostles: Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Andronicus and Junias (Rom 16:7), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), as well as Silas and Timothy (1 Thess 2:6) [compare to (1 Thess 1:1)]. Also, Titus and an unnamed man are referred to as Apostles (2 Cor 8:16-23). The word “messenger,” referring to Epaphroditus, and to the two mentioned in the last example, is the same Greek word translated “Apostle” throughout the Scripture. As you can see, there is no set amount of Apostles one must have, or any New Testament teaching instructing that a church, or denomination, must have any Apostles in leadership.
[KJV] Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
* the things which I write unto you, *
What he had written in verses eleven through nineteen for the purpose of defending himself from the accusations of the Judaizers. What he had written in verse eleven: he didn’t manufacture the Gospel he had preached to them; in verse twelve: he never learned it from any man, but received it by revelation from God; in verses thirteen and fourteen: his previous zeal and success as an up and coming Pharisee in the religion of the Jews; in verse fifteen: God Himself called him by His grace; in verse sixteen: after God revealed His Son to, and in, Paul, so that he might carry that revelation to the Gentiles, he didn’t seek understanding from any man; in verse seventeen: he didn’t even seek understanding from the Apostles in Jerusalem, but went to Arabia to seek it from God; in verse eighteen: when he did go to Jerusalem to see Peter, it was three years after this revelation was given to him, and it was primarily a trip to become acquainted with Peter that lasted only fifteen days; and in verse nineteen: the only other Apostle he saw was James, the
Lord’s brother; he now affirms as truth.
* before God, I lie not. *
His credibility had been so attacked by the false teachers that he felt it necessary to confirm what he had written with an oath before God. Considering that Paul was their spiritual father, that he had brought them the Gospel, that God had saved them as a result of his efforts, this was unfortunate, indeed.
[KJV] Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
* Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; *
Again, if the time in Jerusalem he had been referring to in the previous verses was the one Luke recorded (Acts 9:27), then it appears he actually went first to Cilicia, Tarsus being its capital city, (Acts 9:30), then later, he and Barnabas went to Antioch, the capital of Syria (Acts 11:25-26). However, chronology is not Paul’s purpose here, but rather to show that he spent the next part of his life away from Jerusalem, and was not being tutored by any one. He continues to unfold his history before his readers to hopefully convince them that the Gospel they were abandoning, that he had preached to them, was not merely his Gospel, but was from God. That being the case, they needed to cling to the truths of that Gospel, and not to the lies of the false gospel they were not leaning towards.
[KJV] And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
* And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea *
As he continues on with this account, he turns now his attention to the churches throughout Judea started by the twelve Apostles. If he was a disciple of one, or more, of the Twelve, and was accompanying them as they preached Christ, then these churches would have seen him, but they had not. This was further proof that he had not received his Gospel from the Twelve. It was also proof that none of the leaders in any of these churches instructed Paul in the ways of the Lord, because they never even met him. So, he wasn’t taught by the Apostles, and he wasn’t taught by any other spiritual leader. He was taught this Gospel by God.
* which were in Christ: *
Of “in Christ” Vincent says, “‘In Christ Jesus, in Christ, in Jesus, in the Lord, in him,’ are common Pauline formulas to denote the most intimate communion with the living Christ. These phrases are not found in the Synoptic Gospels. En (NT:1722) emoi (NT:1698) “in me” (Christ) is frequent in the Fourth Gospel. The conception is that of a sphere or environment in which a Christian or a church lives, as a bird in the air, or the roots of a tree in the soil.” Paul was not here referring to temples where Judaism was taught, but churches where Jesus was taught.
[KJV] But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
* they had heard only *
They had heard certain things about Paul, but that’s all. They had never laid their eyes upon him. It could be possible that a few of them had seen him when he was a leader in the persecution against the church, for example, when he watched the garments of those who stoned Steven, and gave his approval of that murderous act (Acts 22:20). After all, that horrible injustice did take place in Jerusalem. But, certainly none of them had seen him after his conversion.
* That he which persecuted us in times past *
Paul, when he was known as Saul of Tarsus, had persecuted the church of Christ. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he had ever persecuted any of the individuals in the churches he referred to in the previous verse, but he had persecuted many who were with them in the family of God. It is also possible that there were Christians in those churches who were directly impacted by the persecution that Paul brought to bear on other believers. They might have had friends, or loved ones, or other acquaintances, beaten, arrested, or even murdered, as a result of his persecution. I would imagine that when he preached in some city, in some church, where a friend or relative of one he had injured, arrested, or murdered, attended, it was indeed very humbling.
* now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. *
Concerning the word “destroyed,” Wuest says, “Destroyed is from ‘portheo,’ which means ‘to ravage, to overthrow, to make havoc.’ It is in the imperfect tense which speaks of continuous action in past time.” He was never able to destroy the church, but he certainly ravaged it, and created havoc in it, with the intention of destroying it. These Christians knew that about Paul, but now they also had heard some wonderful news. They had heard that this same man was now preaching the very same faith-in-Christ message he once tried to destroy.
[KJV] And they glorified God in me.
* they glorified God in me. *
What a testimony to the work of God! Again, many of these saints might have personally known Steven. They knew that Paul played a major part in his murder. And yet, they gave God glory for saving him, and for using him to spread the very message he once tried to destroy. Think of how so many saints today hold grudges against others in the church, and for what? Sitting in their pew one Sunday morning? These saints forgave Paul for murder! What a testimony to the love of God! What a testimony to God’s power to deliver us from unforgiveness and bitterness.
Paul is also showing his readers, through this statement, that the churches in Judea, those churches watched over by the Twelve, rejoice in the Lord for what God is doing through him. They aren’t questioning his message, and his credibility.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church