Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
In sending an Epistle to an apostate people, Paul does not indulge in unmeaning compliments. These Celts in Asia had been showing some of their proverbial fickleness, and going back from the doctrine of justification by faith to a ritualism whose development must be self-righteousness. It is needful for their recovery from apostasy that the authority of the apostle and the truth of the gospel should be put before them in unmistakable terms. Hence we find Paul plunging at once into the needful expositions of his own apostleship and of the gospel of Christ with which as an apostle he was charged. In this salutation we have the following lessons distinctly taught: -
I. PAUL'S APOSTLESHIP WAS RECEIVED DIRECTLY FROM JESUS CHRIST. (Ver. 1.) Doubtless he had merely human hands laid upon his head at Antioch (Acts 13:3), but the imposition of the hands of the brethren was not the conveyance of authority, but simply the recognition of authority as already conveyed. The "ordination" at Antioch was the recognition by the Church of' authority and mission already conveyed by the Lord to the apostle. Accordingly in this instance before us Paul claims an apostleship directly from the hands of Christ. He was an apostle "not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Revised Version). No intermediate hands conveyed the authority to him; he was conscious of having received it directly from the fountain-head. This gave him confidence consequently in dealing with the Judaizing teachers. It mattered not to him what parade of authority these teachers made; he stood as a rock upon his own commission with all its hallowed associations. And should this not instruct every true teacher as to the source of his authority? It is a mistake to imagine that men can do more than recognize God-given authority. It is from Christ directly we must each receive our office. Church officers, in putting their imprimatur upon any of us, merely recognize a Divine work which they believe on due evidence to be already there.
II. THE DESIRE OF THE APOSTLE FOR THE GALATIANS' WELFARE. (Vers. 2, 3.) The deep longing of Paul and those associated with him in his captivity for these apostate Galatians was that grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ might be theirs. "Grace," the gratuitous, undeserved favour which wells forth from the Divine heart, when it is received into the sinner's soul, produces "peace which passeth all understanding." It was this blessed experience Paul desired for the Galatians. They may have traduced his office and his character, but this did not prevent him entertaining the deep desire that into "truths of peace" they, like himself, should be led. And indeed we cannot wish people better than that grace and peace from heaven should be theirs. To live in the felt favour of God, to realize that it is at the same time quite undeserved, produces a peace and a humility of spirit beyond all price!
III. THE GOSPEL PAUL PREACHED WAS THAT OF THE SELF-SACRIFICE OF CHRIST, (Ver. 4.) Jesus, he asserts, "gave himself for our sins." The foundation of the gospel is self-sacrifice. But we must always remember that self-sacrifice, if for the merest trifle, may be moral madness. In self-sacrifice as such there is no necessary virtue. A man may lose his life in an utterly unworthy cause. Hence the necessity for the self-sacrifice of Christ must be made out before its real virtue is established. This necessity appears when we consider that it was "for our sins ' he gave himself. For if our sins had been removed at some meaner cost than the blood of the Son of God, we should be disposed to say that sin is after all a light thing in God's sight, a mere bagatelle to him. But inasmuch as it required such a sacrifice to take away sin, its enormity is made manifest to all. Christ laid down his life, then, in a noble cause. Surely to take away sin, to remove from human hearts their heavy burdens, to bestow on men peace and deliverance from all fear, was a worthy object in self-sacrifice. We stand before the cross, therefore, believing that the sacrifice upon it is of infinite value and efficacy. He was no martyr by mistake as he died upon the tree, but the most glorious of all heroes.
IV. CHRIST'S AIM IN SELF-SACRIFICE WAS OUR DELIVERANCE FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD. (Ver. 4.) The world is the totality of tendencies which oppose themselves to God. To love such a world is incompatible with love to God the Father (1 John 2:15). It is, moreover, made up of "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Now, it is to this world that the ritualist falls a prey. This was the danger of the Galatians. The revival of rites and ceremonies, which had been fulfilled and therefore done away in Christ, pandered to the lust of the eyes and to the pride of life. Hence Paul proclaims at the outset that one purpose of the gospel of self-sacrifice is to deliver its recipients from the power of this present evil world which is constantly trying to bring us into bondage. The religion of Christ is freedom. He means to deliver us from bondage. It is our own fault if we are not delivered.
V. THE FINAL END OF THE GOSPEL IS ALWAYS THE GLORY OF THE FATHER. (Ver. 5.) Hence the doxology with which the apostolic desire closes. It is with doxologies that the dispensation of grace must end. Heaven itself is the concentration of the doxologies which have been gathering upon earth; the full concert after the terrestrial rehearsals. And it is here that the safety of the whole dispensation may be seen; for if the glory of some imperfect Being were contemplated, his designs would of necessity run contrary in many cases to the real good of others. But God the Father is so perfect that his glory always consists with the real good of all his creatures. Doubtless some of his creatures will not believe this, and will insist on suspecting and hating his designs. In consequence they must be exposed to his righteous indignation. But this is quite compatible with the fact that the Divine glory and the real good of all are meant to harmonize. Happy will it be for us if we join in the rehearsals of his glory here, and are promoted to the chorus full-orbed and like the sound of many waters above. But even should we insist on discord, our own discomfort alone shall be secured; discords can, we know, be so wedded to harmony as to swell and not diminish the effect of the full orchestra. And God will secure his glory even in our poor despite. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)