Paul an Apostle of Christ
"Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 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: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Galatians 1:1-5)
The Book of Galatians shows us the way to true freedom. Genuine liberty is neither legalism nor licentiousness. It is the blessed freedom of voluntary bondage to Christ. It is the liberty of willing captivity to the Son of God, willingly surrendering our lives to the rule and dominion of Christ as our Lord, voluntarily giving up our lives to him, being conquered by his omnipotent, saving grace (Mk. 8:34-35; Lk. 14:25-33).
This true freedom is discovered when sinners are graciously forced to willingly cease from every effort to save themselves and trust Christ alone as Lord and Savior, glorying only in his cross, and trusting him as “the Lord our Righteousness” by whose blood and righteousness all the demands of God’s holy law have been fully met and satisfied forever (Jer. 23:6; Rom. 10:4). All who have been brought by God’s sovereign, irresistible grace to trust Christ are dead to the law. You cannot be freer than that!
The law of God no longer has dominion over us. Guided by the Holy Spirit and bringing forth fruit unto God (“the fruit of the Spirit”), the saints of God, out of gratitude and love to Christ and for God’s free gift of salvation in him, adorn the doctrine of God our Savior and seek to live for his honor and glory as the children of God in this world. The terror and fear of the law no longer rule our lives, but the love of Christ. The proud hope of earning rewards from the Almighty to gratify our lusts no longer motivates us, but the grace of God. The prison door has been opened; and we have entered into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Not only have we found the blessing; but we have become a blessing. For it is through the children of God that God blesses the world.
Paul addresses this epistle to the churches of Galatia in Asia minor. These churches were established during Paul’s first missionary journey and were located in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and perhaps other places. It is difficult to determine exactly when this letter was written, but it was definitely among the apostle’s first epistles. We know that it was written after the council at Jerusalem, because it describes Paul’s relation to the other leaders at that great meeting. It was written after the two previous visits to Galatia, which are recorded in Acts 13-16. It must not have been very long after this, because Paul speaks of the conversion of the people there as a recent thing (1:6). It was probably written on his second missionary journey while he was at Corinth, before the arrival of Timothy and Titus. This would fix the date of writing about 50-53 A.D.
That which prompted Paul to write this book was the sinister, and to some extent successful, influence of Judaizers who crept in among the saints. It was his purpose to counteract this dangerous error by reemphasizing the glorious gospel of God’s free-grace in Jesus Christ, and by urging the believers to adorn their faith and prove its genuine character by loving and caring for one another.
In this book Paul calls for a return to the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, denouncing all human merit and legal effort, and warning solemnly against apostasy from the faith of the gospel. He tells us plainly that the yoke of legal bondage is a bewitching system of works religion that utterly denies the grace of God and brings people to eternal ruin (Gal. 3:1; 5:1-4). Here Paul gives a clarion call for a return to the old Gospel. It is God’s power and God’s means by which he saves (1:6-9).
The divisions of this book are very simple and clear:
1. The Origin and Authority of the Gospel (chapters 1-2)
2. The Vindication of the Gospel (Chapters 3-44)
3. The Application of the Gospel (Chapters 5- 6).
The Judaizers who sought to undermine Paul’s ministry and his doctrine accused him of falsely pretending to be an apostle of Christ. Their deceitful practice is common in all ages. The doctrine of the gospel cannot be refuted. Therefore, those who wish to keep others from hearing and embracing the gospel attempt to scandalize the men who teach it. In this first section of Galatians, Paul is forced (and inspired by God) to set forth his authority as an apostle of Christ, as a messenger of Christ to eternity bound men and women.
The apostolic office was a temporary office in the New Testament church. There are no apostles, in the official sense of the word, today. However, the word basically means “messenger.” In that sense all true gospel preachers are apostles. But how do we know who the messengers of Christ are? How are we to determine who are true messengers of Christ to our souls? Paul gives us some guidelines in these opening verses of Galatians.
Paul could have said many things about himself that would have given him credibility in the eyes of men. He was a man of great learning and tremendous usefulness, and was highly respected by his peers. But it was not Paul’s desire to have his name held in high esteem. He took no titles of distinction or superiority to himself. He was but a sinner saved by grace, just like his brothers and sisters in Christ at Galatia. He does not identify himself as the apostle, but as an apostle. He was one of many messengers of Christ.
What a tremendous weight of responsibility he carried on his heart as a messenger of Christ! He daily carried upon his heart “the care of all the churches” (2 Cor. 12:28). Any man to whom this responsibility is given knows something of the high honor and great responsibility the Lord has put upon him.
When the Pharisees asked John the Baptist who he was, his reply was, I am a voice, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.” There are multitudes of preachers listed in every telephone directory. But we have few messengers of God, few messengers of the grace of God. The pulpit, in our day, has lost its clarity. Its testimony has been spoiled because doubtful voices have arisen and been scattered among the people. Those who ought to preach the truth and nothing but the truth are telling out for doctrines the imaginations of men and the inventions of the age. Instead of revelation, we have philosophy. Instead of divine infallibility, we have human speculation. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is taught as the production of progress, a thing to be amended and reformed year by year. We live in an age of liberality, of broad views, of boundless universalism, of rapidly spreading apostasy.
If the world will not come to Christ, if the people of our “enlightened” age will not accept the gospel of Christ, the wisdom of the world tells us that we must make Christ more acceptable, we must tone down his teachings, that we must take the offence out of the gospel. Such foolishness we have come to expect from self-serving, man-pleasing religious hucksters. Sadly, today there are many who claim to believe the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ who have succumbed to the philosophy of the world. They vainly imagine that the offence can be taken out of the cross and that the gospel of the grace of God can be presented in a way that will make it palatable to unregenerate men.
Rather than proclaiming the gospel as good news, the good news of redemption accomplished (Gal. 3:13), they present it as good advice and an offer of possible redemption. Rather than proclaiming God’s grace as the special, distinct operation of salvation (Gal. 1:15-16; Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 1:12), they present it as a thing common to all. Rather than proclaiming the efficacy of God’s grace (Gal. 3:14; Rom. 9:16), they present a notion of grace that makes the operation of grace dependent upon the will of man. Rather than setting forth the distinct love of God for his own elect which results in their salvation (Gal. 2:21; Jer. 31:3; Rom. 9:13-18; 1 John 4:19), they make the love of God a universal, and therefore insignificant, helpless passion in God. Rather than declaring that faith is that which God gives to and works in chosen sinners by the revelation of Christ in them (Gal. 1:15-16; Col. 1:12), they make faith a work done by the sinner for God. While claiming to preach the gospel of Christ, they have so perverted the gospel that the gospel they preach is another gospel, a gospel that is no gospel at all (Gal. 1:6-9).
How often I have been told that my message is out of date, that it will not suit people, and that if I would reach the people of this age I must tone down my message and modify my doctrines. Such a message is all right for the Bible College or seminary, or for private, intellectual discussion, but it ought to be modified for the pulpit. Oh, we may use the old phrases so as to please the obstinately orthodox, but we must dress them in new meanings so as to neutralize their force and make them palatable to natural men. The spirit of the age suggests that the wise preacher will abandon all that is too severely righteous and all that is too surely of God. Away with such nonsense! God has given us the message that men need, and he has supplied us with the means of communicating that message. The message is the gospel of the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ and his death upon the cross. And God’s method of communicating that message is preaching. We must not be deterred by the opinions of men. We must not be “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). We must not be “removed from him that called us into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6).
He, and he alone, who preaches the gospel that Paul sets before us in this epistle is the messenger of the grace of God. Such men have many characteristics by which they are identified. They are set forth in many ways in the Book of God. But as they are revealed in these verses, they are threefold.
He who is God’s messenger is a man with one Master (vv. 1-2). As Paul opens this letter his heart and mind are filled with diverse emotions. For the perverters of the gospel there is a withering denunciation springing from holy indignation. For the churches there is marked disapproval and an earnest desire to restore. For the One who has called him there is profound reverence and humble gratitude.
In his opening words, Paul declares two cardinal gospel doctrines: The equality of Jesus Christ with God the Father and the resurrection of Christ. These things are essential. If Christ is not himself God, then he cannot be our Savior. If he did not rise from the dead, then he did not put away sin.
Paul was a man committed to Christ and committed to the gospel (Rom. 1:1). Christ was his Master. He was his Master’s devoted servant. He was altogether separated to the gospel (1 Tim. 4:13-16). Paul was God’s messenger. He spoke by divine authority. Those who rejected him rejected God who sent him.
It is important to note that this letter and this salutation did not come from Paul alone, but from all of the brethren who were with him and who assisted him in the ministry. Those who labor for Christ are co-laborers. The letter is to all of the churches of Galatia. These were not national churches or parts of a denominational organization, but individual congregations, local churches. Each local assembly was autonomous, functioning independently without control by the others.
One Message (vv. 3-4).
Paul was a man with just one message—“grace”. “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 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.” He simply proclaimed the matchless, free, eternal, sovereign, saving grace of God in Christ. He had no other issue. He had no other doctrine. He preached Christ crucified, all the counsel of God (1 Cor. 2:2; Acts 20:27).
Grace is not a helpless passion in God, a helpless desire to save sinners. Grace is not something God gives men by which they are enabled to be saved. Grace is God’s free, spontaneous, unmerited favor in action, his freely bestowed loving kindness and salvation upon guilty sinners who turn to Christ for refuge. It is free, undeserved, unmerited, and effectual. It is the effectual, irresistible, omnipotent operation of God in us. God’s grace is given to all sinners that go to Christ for it (John 6:36; 1 Tim. 1:15). It is God’s riches at Christ expense. It is this gracious favor and good will of God by which his elect have been blessed of God, made accepted in Christ and pleasing to God in him from eternity (Eph. 1:3-7).
Grace, and grace alone brings peace. Wherever grace is given, peace is given. We have peace with God, because Christ has reconciled us to God. We have peace in our hearts, because we have the Spirit of Christ within us (John 14:27; Phil. 4:7; Rom. 8:1). We have peace in our consciences, because the blood of Christ, answering the demands of God’s holy law, has been sprinkled on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We have peace with one another, because grace has united our hearts, teaching us to love one another. We even have peace with our enemies, because we are assured that they can do us no harm. These two graces come from God the Father, the source and fountain of grace and peace, through our Mediator, Christ Jesus the Lord.
Paul’s was a message of grace and peace through Christ, our Substitute. The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s darling Son, voluntarily laid down his life for his people upon the cursed tree. The Good Shepherd gave his life for his sheep, in our room and stead, as our Substitute (John 10:11, 17, 18). His purpose in doing so was to rescue us from this present evil world (John 15:19, 17:14), and he keeps us for the world to come (2 Pet. 3:13-14). Paul states this blessed gospel doctrine with profound simplicity and beauty in 2 Corinthians 5:21. —"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
What a profound truth, what stupendous grace, what wondrous mystery those words contain! “He,” God the Father, “hath,” in holy justice and infinite mercy, “made,” by divine imputation, “him,” the Lord Jesus Christ, his infinite, well-beloved, only begotten, immaculate Son, “to be sin,” an awful mass of iniquity, “for us,” helpless, condemned, sinful rebels!
“The heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ” (C.H. Spurgeon). Substitution is the foundation truth of Christianity, the rock upon which our hopes are built. This is the only hope of the sinner, and the joy of every true believer. “He hath made him to be sin for us!”
This is the greatest transaction that ever took place upon the earth, the most marvelous sight that men ever saw, and the most stupendous wonder that heaven ever executed. Jesus Christ was made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Jesus Christ, the spotless Son of God, was made to be sin!
This transaction that took place at Calvary two thousand years ago —The great substitutionary work of Christ, the mighty transfer of sin from the sinner to the sinner’s Surety —The punishment of the Surety in the sinner’s place —The pouring out of the vials of divine wrath, which were due to us, upon the head of our Substitute —is the only ground upon which the holy Lord God can be, as he describes himself, both “a just God and a Savior.”
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was made to be sin for us. No man living upon this earth will ever really understand this truth. Yet, we ought to be gripped by the glorious reality of it. Oh, may God cause it to get hold of our hearts! The gospel of Christ must not be pushed aside as an old piece of furniture in the house of God. The glorious gospel of substitutionary redemption is the strength, the glory, and the life of God’s church.
This substitutionary work of Christ, of necessity (Blessed necessity!), involves the absolute sovereignty of God (Eph. 1:3-14; Heb. 10:5-10). Paul was never bashful about asserting God’s glorious sovereignty in all things, especially in the salvation of his elect. He states it as a matter of fact, usually without defense or explanation, assuming that all who trust Christ understand and rejoice in it. That is certainly the case here. Paul simply asserts the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for his people and that the sure result of his doing so shall be their everlasting salvation, “according to the will of God and our Father.”
As Paul was a man with one Master and one message, he was a man with one motive —The glory of God (v. 5). He urged God’s saints to do all to the glory of God; and that was his own heart’s great ambition in all things. Most distinctly, throughout his epistles, he tells us that the salvation of our souls is for the glory of our God (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 11:33-36). He has saved us in such a way, and saved such people as we are that he shall be forever glorified by saving us (Eph. 2:7). Imagine that. The Lord God, our great God, shall forever be praised because of his great grace toward us and wrought in us! Let our hearts ever be motivated by and our lives ruled by his glory. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
 Judaizers are people who teach that believers are still under the law of Moses as a rule of life, though they profess to be followers of Christ.