Preface to the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Galatia was anciently a part of Phrygia and the neighboring countries. It had its name from the Gauls, who, having in several bodies invaded Asia Minor, as Pausanius (Attic., cap. iv.) relates, conquered this country and settled in it. As these were mixed with various Grecian families, the country was also called Gallograecia, see Justin, lib. xxiv. 4; xxv. 2; xxvii. 3; xxviii. 3; and Strabo, xiv. Under the reign of Augustus Caesar, about the year of Rome 727, and 26 years before our Lord, it was reduced into the form of a Roman colony, and was governed by a propraetor, appointed by the emperor.
This country is bounded on the east by Cappadocia; on the west by Bithynia; on the south by Pamphylia; and on the north by the Euxine Sea. These are its limits according to Strabo, which some think too extensive; but the different provinces of Asia Minor being the subjects of continual contentions and inroads, very frequently changed their boundaries as well as their masters, and were seldom at one stay.
The Galatae were divided into three tribes, the Tectosages, the Trocmi, and the Tolistobogi. According to Pliny their country was divided into 195 tetrarchies, and, according to Strabo, each of the three divisions above mentioned was subdivided into four cantons, each of which had a tetrarch; and besides these twelve tetrarchs, there was a general council of the nation, consisting of 300 senators. These tetrarchs were at last reduced in number to three, then to two, and lastly to one; the last tetrarch and king of Galatia was Amyntas, who, from being secretary to Dejotarus, the first person that possessed the whole tetrarchy, was made king of Pisidia in the year of Rome 714. And in the year 718, Mark Antony made him tetrarch of Galatia. After the death of Amyntas, Galatia was ranked by Augustus among the Roman provinces, and governed as aforesaid. The administration of the propraetors continued till the reign of Theodosius the Great, or Valens; and, under the Christian emperors, it was divided into two provinces, Galatia prima being subject to a consul; Galatia secunda, or salutaris, governed by a president.
The religion of the ancient Galatae was extremely corrupt and superstitious; and they are said to have worshipped the mother of the gods under the name of Agdistis, and to have offered human sacrifices of the prisoners they took in war.
They are mentioned by historians as a tall and valiant people, who went nearly naked; and used for arms only a sword and buckler. The impetuosity of their attack is stated to have been irresistible; and this generally made them victorious.
It appears, from the Acts of the Apostles, that St. Paul visited this country more than once. Two visits to this region are particularly marked in the Acts, viz. the first about a.d. 53, Acts 16:6 : "Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia," etc.; the second about a.d. 56, Acts 18:23 : "He went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples."
St. Paul was probably the first who had preached the Gospel in this region, as appears pretty evident from Galatians 1:6 : "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that Called You into the Grace of Christ;? and from Galatians 4:13 : "Ye know how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the Gospel unto you at the first." Others suppose that it is not unlikely that St. Peter had preached the Gospel there to the Jews or Helenists only, as his first epistle is directed "to the strangers who were scattered abroad throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia;" and it is supposed, also, that the persons converted by St. Peter probably occasioned those differences among the Galatian converts, which induced St. Paul to write this epistle, in which he takes pains to establish his own character as an apostle, which had been disputed by some, with a view of placing him below Peter, who preached generally to the Jews only, and observed the law. See Calmet and the New Encyclopedia, article Galatia. That St. Peter thought at first that the Gospel should be confined to the Jews is sufficiently evident from the Acts of the Apostles; but after his Divine vision, which happened about a.d. 41, related Acts 10, he saw that God had also called the Gentiles into the Church; and his first epistle, which was written in a.d. 64, was probably twelve years posterior to that written by St. Paul to the Galatians.
As to the precise time in which this epistle was written, there have been various opinions among learned men. Some of the ancients believed it to be the very first written of all St. Paul's epistles. See Epiphanius, tom. i., Haeres. 42. Others have supposed that it was written after his second journey to Galatia, Acts 18:23, which in the chronology I have placed in a.d. 54; and others, with more probability, after his first journey, see Acts 16:6, which in the chronology I have placed in a.d. 53. That it was written soon after one of the apostle's visits to that region seems evident from the following complaint: "I marvel that ye are so Soon removed from him that hath called you," Galatians 1:6; it has been therefore conjectured that only one or two years had elapsed from that time, and that the epistle must have been written about a.d. 52 or 53. Beausobre and L'Enfant speak very judiciously on this subject: "We do not find in the Epistle to the Galatians any mark that can enable us to determine with certainty at what time or in what place it was written. It is dated at Rome in some printed copies and MSS., but there is nothing in the epistle itself to confirm this date. Paul does not here make any mention of his bonds, as he does in all his epistles written from Rome. He says, indeed, Galatians 6:17 : 'I bear about in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus;' but he had often suffered before he came to Rome. Some learned chronologers think that it was written between the third and fourth journey of St. Paul to Jerusalem, and between his first and second into Galatia; which opinion appears very probable; for, since the apostle says, he wonders that they were so soon turned to another gospel, this epistle must have been written a short time after he had preached in Galatia.
"Nor can we discern in the epistle any notice of the second journey which St. Paul made into this country. For this reason it is thought that the Epistle to the Galatians was written at Corinth, where the apostle made a long stay, or else in some city of Asia, particularly Ephesus, where he stayed some days on his way to Jerusalem, Acts 18:19-21; therefore, in all probability the epistle was written from Corinth, or from Ephesus, in the year 52 or 53."
Dr. Lardner confirms this opinion by the following considerations: -
1. St. Paul says to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 16:1 : "Now, concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the Churches of Galatia, so do ye;" which shows that at the writing of that epistle to the Corinthians, in 56, he had a good opinion of his converts in Galatia; and that he had no doubt of their respect to his directions, which probably had been sent to them from Ephesus during his long abode there.
2. And now we shall be better able to account for what appears very remarkable: when Paul left Corinth, after his long stay there, he went to Jerusalem, having a vow; in his way he came to Ephesus, Acts 18:10-21 : "And when they desired him to tarry longer with them, he consented not, but bade them farewell saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh at Jerusalem; but I will return unto you again, if God will." When we read this, we might be apt to think that Paul should hasten back to Ephesus and return thither presently, after he had been at Jerusalem; but instead of doing so, after he had been at Jerusalem, he went down to Antioch; "And after he had spent some time there he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening the disciples," Acts 18:22, Acts 18:23. We now seem to see the reason of this course. At Corinth he heard of the defection of many in Galatia, whereupon he sent a sharp letter to them; but, considering the nature of the case, he judged it best to take the first opportunity to go to Galatia, and support the instructions of his letter; and both together had a good effect. Galatians 4:19, Galatians 4:20 : "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again - I desire to be present with you, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you;" or, I am perplexed for you. Now, then, we see the reason of the apostle's not coming directly from Jerusalem to Ephesus. However, he was not unmindful of his promise, and came thither after he had been in Galatia.
3. Upon the whole, the Epistle to the Galatians is an early epistle, and, as seems to me most probable, was written at Corinth near the end of a.d. 52, or the very beginning of 53, before St. Paul set out to go to Jerusalem by the way of Ephesus.
But if any should rather think that it was written at Ephesus, during the apostle's short stay there, on his way from Corinth to Jerusalem, that will make but very little difference; for still, according to our computation, the epistle was written at the beginning of the year 53. See Lardner's Works, vol. vi., page 309.
Every thing considered, I feel no hesitation to place this epistle in the 52nd or 53rd year of our Lord; either the end of the former or the beginning of the latter.
From the complexion of this epistle it appears to have been written to the Jews who were dispersed in Galatia; see Acts 2:9. And although in Galatians 4:8, it is said that the persons to whom the apostle writes did not know God, and did service to them which by nature were no gods; this must be understood of those who had been proselytes to the Jewish religion, as Galatians 4:9 sufficiently shows; for, after they had been converted to Christianity, they turned Again to the weak and beggarly elements.
These Galatians were doubtless converted by St. Paul; see Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23; but, after his departure from them, some teachers had got in among them who endeavored to persuade them, and successfully too, that they should be circumcised and keep the Mosaic law. See Galatians 1:6; Galatians 4:9, Galatians 4:10, Galatians 4:21; Galatians 5:1, Galatians 5:2; Galatians 6:12. And the apostle labors to bring them back from the errors of these false teachers.
The arguments which the apostle uses to prove the truth of the Christian religion, as well as the nullity of the Mosaic institutions, are the following: -
1. That himself, immediately after his conversion, without having any conference with any of the apostles, preached the pure doctrines of Christianity doctrines strictly conformable to those preached by the genuine disciples of the Lord; and this was a proof that he had received them by immediate inspiration, as he could have known them no other way.
2. That he was led to oppose Peter because he had withdrawn himself from communion with the converted Gentiles, and thereby gave occasion to some to suppose that he considered the law as still binding on those who believed; and that the Gentiles were not to be admitted to an equality of religious privileges with the Jews.
3. That no rites or ceremonies of the Jewish law could avail any thing in the justification of a sinner; and that faith in Christ was the only means of justification.
4. That their own works could avail nothing towards their justification: -
(1.) For the Spirit of God was given them in consequence of receiving the Christian doctrine, Galatians 3:2-5.
5. That it is absurd for the sons of God to become slaves to Mosaic rites and ceremonies.
The rest of the epistle is of a practical nature. Although subjects of this kind may be gathered out of the epistle, yet it is very evident that the apostle himself has observed no technical division or arrangement of his matter; his chief design being,
1. To vindicate his own apostleship, and to show that he was not inferior to Peter himself, whom their false teachers appear to have set up in opposition to St. Paul.
2. To assert and maintain justification by faith in opposition to all Judaizing teachers.
3. To call them back to the liberty of the Gospel, from which, and its privileges, they had shamelessly apostatized. And,
4. To admonish and exhort them to walk worthy of their vocation, by devoting themselves to the glory of God and the benefit of their brethren. Lastly, he asserts his own determination to be faithful, and concludes with his apostolical benediction.
St. Paul shows that he was especially called of God to be an apostle, Galatians 1:1. Directs his epistle to the Churches through the regions of Galatia, Galatians 1:2. Commends them to the grace of Christ, who gave himself for their sins, Galatians 1:3-5. Marvels that they had so soon turned away from the grace of the Gospel of Christ, to what falsely pretended to be another gospel, Galatians 1:6, Galatians 1:7. Pronounces him accursed who shall preach any other doctrine than that which he had delivered to them, Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9. Shows his own uprightness, and that he received his doctrine from God, Galatians 1:10-12. Gives an account of his conversion and call to the apostleship, Galatians 1:13-17. How three years after his conversion he went up to Jerusalem, and afterwards went through the regions of Syria and Cilicia, preaching the faith of Christ to the great joy of the Christian Churches in Judea, Galatians 1:18-24.
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 - Not commissioned by any assembly or council of the apostles.
Neither by man - Nor by any one of the apostles; neither by James, who seems to have been president of the apostolic council at Jerusalem; nor by Peter, to whom, in a particular manner, the keys of the kingdom were intrusted.
But by Jesus Christ - Having his mission immediately from Christ himself, and God the Father who raised him from the dead, see Acts 22:14, Acts 22:15, and commanded him to go both to the Jews and to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might obtain remission of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified. See Acts 9:1, etc., and the notes there.
And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:And all the brethren which are with me - It is very likely that this refers to those who were his assistants in preaching the Gospel, and not to any private members of the Church.
Churches of Galatia - Galatia was a region or province of Asia Minor; there was neither city nor town of this name. See the preface. But as, in this province, St. Paul had planted several Churches, he directs the epistle to the whole of them; for it seems they were all pretty nearly in the same state, and needed the same instructions.
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,Grace be to you, etc. - See on Romans 1:7 (note).
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 - Who became a sin-offering to God in behalf of mankind, that they might be saved from their sins.
Deliver us from this present evil world - These words cannot mean created nature, or the earth and its productions, nor even wicked men. The former we shall need while we live, the latter we cannot avoid; indeed they are those who, when converted, form the Church of God; and, by the successive conversion of sinners is the Church of Christ maintained; and the followers of God must live and labor among them, in order to their conversion. The apostle, therefore, must mean the Jews, and their system of carnal ordinances; statutes which were not good, and judgments by which they could not live; Ezekiel 20:25; and the whole of their ecclesiastical economy, which was a burden neither they nor their fathers were able to bear, Acts 15:10. Schoettgen contends that the word πονηρος, which we translate evil, should be translated laborious or oppressive, as it comes from πονος, labor, trouble, etc. The apostle takes occasion, in the very commencement of the epistle, to inform the Galatians that it was according to the will and counsel of God that circumcision should cease, and all the other ritual parts of the Mosaic economy; and that it was for this express purpose that Jesus Christ gave himself a sacrifice for our sins, because the law could not make the comers thereunto perfect. It had pointed out the sinfulness of sin, in its various ordinances, washings, etc.; and it had showed forth the guilt of sin in its numerous sacrifices; but the common sense, even of its own votaries, told them that it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. A higher atonement was necessary; and when God provided that, all its shadows and representations necessarily ceased. See the note on Galatians 4:3.
To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.To whom be glory for ever - Let him have the glory to whom alone it is due, for having delivered us from the present evil world, and from all bondage to Mosaic rites and ceremonies.
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 - It was a matter of wonder to the apostle that a people, so soundly converted to God, should have so soon made shipwreck of their faith. But mutability itself has not a more apt subject to work upon than the human heart; the alternate workings of different passions are continually either changing the character, or giving it a different colouring. Reason, not passion, the word of God, not the sayings of men, should alone be consulted in the concerns of our salvation.
From him that called you - The apostle seems here to mean himself. He called them into the grace of Christ; and they not only abandoned that grace, but their hearts became greatly estranged from him; so that, though at first they would have plucked out their eyes for him, they at last counted him their enemy, Galatians 4:14-16.
Another gospel - It is certain that in the very earliest ages of the Christian Church there were several spurious gospels in circulation, and it was the multitude of these false or inaccurate relations that induced St. Luke to write his own. See Luke 1:1. We have the names of more than seventy of these spurious narratives still on record, and in ancient writers many fragments of them remain; these have been collected and published by Fabricius, in his account of the apocryphal books of the New Testament, 3 vols. 8vo. In some of these gospels, the necessity of circumcision, and subjection to the Mosaic law in unity with the Gospel, were strongly inculcated. And to one of these the apostle seems to refer.
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.Which is not another - It is called a gospel, but it differs most essentially from the authentic narratives published by the evangelists. It is not gospel, i.e. good tidings, for it loads you again with the burdens from which the genuine Gospel has disencumbered you. Instead of giving you peace, it troubles you; instead of being a useful supplement to the Gospel of Christ, it perverts that Gospel. You have gained nothing but loss and damage by the change.
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.But though we, or an angel - That Gospel which I have already preached to you is the only true Gospel; were I to preach any other, I should incur the curse of God. If your false teachers pretend, as many in early times did, that they received their accounts by the ministry of an angel, let them be accursed; separate them from your company, and have no religious communion with them. Leave them to that God who will show his displeasure against all who corrupt, all who add to, and all who take from the word of his revelation.
Let all those who, from the fickleness of their own minds, are ready to favor the reveries of every pretended prophet and prophetess who starts up, consider the awful words of the apostle. As, in the law, the receiver of stolen goods is as bad as the thief; so the encouragers of such pretended revelations are as bad, in the sight of God, as those impostors themselves. What says the word of God to them? Let them be accursed. Reader, lay these things to heart.
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.Let him be accursed - Perhaps this is not designed as an imprecation, but a simple direction; for the word here may be understood as implying that such a person should, have no countenance in his bad work, but let him, as Theodoret expresses it, Αλλοτριος εστω του κοινου σωματος της εκκλησιας, be separated from the communion of the Church. This, however, would also imply that unless the person repented, the Divine judgments would soon follow.
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? - The words πειθειν τον Θεον may be rendered to court or solicit the favor of God as the after clause sufficiently proves. This acceptation of πειθειν is very common in Greek authors. While the apostle was a persecutor of the Christians, he was the servant of men, and pleased men. When he embraced the Christian doctrine, he became the servant of God, and pleased Him. He therefore intimates that he was a widely different person now from what he had been while a Jew.
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.But I certify you, brethren, etc. - I wish you fully to comprehend that the Gospel which I preached to you is not after man; there is not a spark of human invention in it, nor the slightest touch of human cunning.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.I neither received it of man - By means of any apostle, as was remarked Galatians 1:1. No man taught me what I have preached to you.
But by the revelation of Jesus Christ - Being commissioned by himself alone; receiving the knowledge of it from Christ crucified.
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:Ye have heard of my conversation - Την εμην αναστροφην· My manner of life; the mode in which I conducted myself.
Beyond measure I persecuted the Church - For proofs of this the reader is referred to Acts 9:1-2 (note); Acts 22:4 (note), and the notes there. The apostle tells them that they had heard this, because, being Jews, they were acquainted with what had taken place in Judea, relative to these important transactions.
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 - The apostle does not mean that he became more exemplary in the love and practice of the pure law of God than any of his countrymen, but that he was more profoundly skilled in the traditions of the fathers than most of his fellow students were, or, as the word συνηλικιωτας may mean his contemporaries.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,Who separated me from my mother's womb - Him whom I acknowledge as the God of nature and the God of grace; who preserved me by his providence when I was a helpless infant, and saved me by his grace when I was an adult persecutor. For some useful remarks on these passages see the introduction, sec. 2.
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 - To make me know Jesus Christ, and the power of his resurrection.
That I might preach him among the heathen - For it was to the Gentiles, and the dispersed Jews among the Gentiles, that St. Paul was especially sent. Peter was sent more particularly to the Jews in the land of Judea; Paul to those in the different Greek provinces.
I conferred not with flesh and blood - I did not take counsel with men; σαρξ και αἱμα, which is a literal translation of the Hebrew בשר ודם basar vedam, flesh and blood, is a periphrasis for man, any man, a human being, or beings of any kind. Many suppose that the apostle means he did not dally, or take counsel, with the erroneous suggestions and unrenewed propensities of his own heart, or those of others; but no such thing is intended by the text. St. Paul was satisfied that his call was of God; he had therefore no occasion to consult man.
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 - The aim of the apostle is to show that he had his call so immediately and pointedly from God himself, that he had no need of the concurrence even of the apostles, being appointed by the same authority, and fitted to the work by the same grace and Spirit, as they were.
But I went into Arabia - That part of Arabia which was contiguous to Damascus, over which Aretas was then king. Of this journey into Arabia we have no other account. As St. Luke was not then with him, it is not inserted in the Acts of the Apostles. See introduction to this epistle. Jerusalem was the stated residence of the apostles; and, when all the other believers were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, we find the apostles still remaining, unmolested, at Jerusalem! Acts 8:1.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.After three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter - These three years may be reckoned either from the departure of Paul from Jerusalem, or from his return from Arabia to Damascus.
To see Peter - Ιστορησαι Πετρον, to become personally acquainted with Peter; for this is the proper import of the verb ἱστορειν, from which we have the word ἱστορια, history, which signifies a relation of things from personal knowledge and actual acquaintance. How far this is, now, from the sense in which we must take the word, ninety-nine of every hundred of our histories sufficiently show. They are any thing but true relations of facts and persons.
And abode with him fifteen days - It was not, therefore, to get religious knowledge from him that he paid him this visit. He knew as much of the Jewish religion as Peter did, if not more; and as to the Gospel, he received that from the same source, and had preached it three years before this.
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.James the Lord's brother - Dr. Paley observes: There were at Jerusalem two apostles, or at least two eminent members of the Church, of the name of James. This is distinctly inferred from the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 12:2, where the historian relates the death of James, the brother of John; and yet, in Acts 15:13-21, and in Acts 21:18, he records a speech delivered by James in the assembly of the apostles and elders. In this place James, the Lord 's brother, is mentioned thus to distinguish him from James the brother of John. Some think there were three of this name: -
1. James, our Lord's brother, or cousin, as some will have it;
2. James, the son of Alphaeus; and
3. James, the son of Zebedee. But the two former names belong to the same person.
Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.Before God I lie not - This he speaks in reference to having seen only Peter and James at Jerusalem; and consequently to prove that he had not learned the Gospel from the assembly of the apostles at Jerusalem, nor consequently received his commission from them.
Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria, etc. - The course of the apostle's travels, after his conversion, was this: He went from Damascus to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem into Syria and Cilicia. "At Damascus the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket; and when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples;" Acts 9:25, Acts 9:26. Afterwards, when the brethren knew the conspiracy formed against him at Jerusalem, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, Acts 9:30. This account in the Acts agrees with that in this epistle.
And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:And was unknown by face - I was not personally acquainted with any of the Churches of Judea; I was converted in another place, and had not preached the Gospel in any Christian congregation in that country; I knew only those at Jerusalem.
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 - As a persecutor of the Church of Christ, I was well known; and as a convert to Christ I was not less so. The fame of both was great, even where I was personally unknown.
And they glorified God in me.They glorified God in me - Hearing now that I preached that faith which before I had persecuted and endeavored to destroy, they glorified God for the grace which had wrought my conversion. I owe nothing to them; I owe all to God; and they themselves acknowledge this. I received all from God, and God has all the glory.
1. It appeared of great importance to St. Paul to defend and vindicate his Divine mission. As he had none from man, it was the more necessary that he should be able to show plainly that he had one from God. Paul was not brought into the Christian ministry by any rite ever used in the Christian Church. Neither bishop nor presbyter ever laid hands on him; and he is more anxious to prove this, because his chief honor arose from being sent immediately by God himself: his conversion and the purity of his doctrine showed whence he came. Many since his time, and in the present day, are far more anxious to show that they are legitimately appointed by Man than by God; and are fond of displaying their human credentials. These are easily shown; those that come from God are out of their reach. How idle and vain is a boasted succession from the apostles, while ignorance, intolerance, pride, and vain-glory prove that those very persons have no commission from heaven! Endless cases may occur where man sends and yet God will not sanction. And that man has no right to preach, nor administer the sacraments of the Church of Christ, whom God has not sent; though the whole assembly of apostles had laid their hands on him. God never sent, and never will send, to convert others, a man who is not converted himself. He will never send him to teach meekness, gentleness, and long suffering, who is proud, overbearing, intolerant, and impatient. He, in whom the Spirit of Christ does not dwell, never had a commission to preach the Gospel; he may boast of his human authority, but God will laugh him to scorn. On the other hand, let none run before he is sent; and when he has got the authority of God, let him be careful to take that of the Church with him also.
2. The apostle was particularly anxious that the Gospel should not be corrupted, that the Church might not be perverted. Whatever corrupts the Gospel, subverts the Church. The Church is a spiritual building, and stands on a spiritual foundation. Its members are compared to stones in a building, but they are living stones - each instinct with the spirit of a Divine life; Jesus is not only the foundation and the head-stone, but the spirit that quickens and animates all. A Church, where the members are not alive to God, and where the minister is not filled with the meekness and gentleness of Jesus, differs as much from a genuine Church as a corpse does from an active human being. False teachers in Galatia corrupted the Church, by introducing those Jewish ceremonies which God had abolished; and the doctrine of justification by the use of those ceremonies which God had shown by the death of his Son to be of none effect. "If those," says Quesnel, "are justly said to pervert the Gospel of Christ, who were for joining with it human ceremonies which God himself instituted, what do those do, who would fondly reconcile and blend it with the pomps of the devil? The purity of the Gospel cannot admit of any mixture. Those who do not love it, are so far from building up that they trouble and overturn all. There is no ground of trust and confidence for such workmen."
3. If he be a dangerous man in the Church who introduces Jewish or human ceremonies which God has not appointed, how much more is he to be dreaded who introduces any false doctrine, or who labors to undermine or lessen the influence of that which is true? And even he who does not faithfully and earnestly preach and inculcate the true doctrine is not a true pastor. It is not sufficient that a man preach no error; he must preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
4. How is it that we have so many Churches like those in Galatia? Is it not because, on one hand, we disturb the simplicity of the Christian worship by Jewish, heathenish, or improper rites and ceremonies; and on the other, corrupt the purity of its doctrines by the inventions of men? How does the apostle speak of such corrupters? Let them be accursed. How awful is this! Let every man who officiates as a Christian minister look well to this. His own soul is at stake; and, if any of the flock perish through his ignorance or neglect, their blood will God require at the watchman's hand.
5. St. Paul well knew that, if he endeavored to please man, he could not be the servant of Christ. Can any minor minister hope to succeed, where even an apostle, had he followed that line, could not? The interests of Christ and those of the world are so opposite, that it is impossible to reconcile them; and he who attempts it shows thereby that he knows neither Christ nor the world, though so deeply immersed in the spirit of the latter.
6. God generally confounds the expectations of men-pleasing ministers; they never ultimately succeed even with men. God abhors them, and those whom they have flattered find them to be dishonest, and cease to trust them. He who is unfaithful to his God should not be trusted by man.