Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
The tone of this Epistle is decidedly controversial. In the first and second chapters the writer establishes against Judaistic assailants his apostolic authority. This, however, is only subsidiary to his main design, which is in the third and fourth chapters, as an accredited servant of God, to establish the gospel of Christ, or justification by faith against Judaism (a different gospel), or justification by the works of the Law. The fifth and sixth chapters may be said to contain the application. There is thus the same central thought in this Epistle that there is in the Epistle to the Romans. Here there is the thought as it flashed out against Judaism as it threatened the very existence of Christianity in a very interesting circle of Churches, and while the writer's feelings were still keen. In the later Epistle there is the thought as it shaped itself against Judaism, when there was time to look at it calmly and in its widest aspects. It is worthy of being remembered that an historical interest attaches to this Epistle. The Romanism with which Luther was confronted bore a striking resemblance to Judaism. On that account he was led to make a special study of this Epistle. "The Epistle to the Galatians," he said, "is my Epistle. I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife."
1. The writer. "Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)." Paul's apostleship was not without relation to men. It was directed to men, and intended for their benefit. His appointment to office was announced to him by a man (Ananias). But the authority under which the appointment was made was not derived from men. Nor was it through man as the medium that it was communicated. It was communicated through Jesus Christ. The Lord said by Ananias, "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my Name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel." When afterwards he essayed to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, he was overruled. While praying in the temple he fell into a trance, and saw Jesus, who said unto him," Depart; for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles." The authority under which Paul acted as apostle was ultimately derived from God. That is not the form in which it is put here. For the same preposition is used in connection with God as with Christ, as if God were in himself both the Medium and the Source of authority. And, in keeping with that view, one of the forms in which Ananias announced to Paul his appointment to apostleship was this: "The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth." Authority was communicated to Paul only through God as the Father, i.e. as acting through his Son Jesus Christ. This great Agent the Father raised from the dead. In the corresponding place in Romans the raising of Christ is also introduced: "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship." The thought there is that, as divinely attested in his resurrection, he could appoint to apostleship. The further thought is suggested here that, as raised, he could appoint him to apostleship. He was not among those who received appointment from Christ when he was in flesh; but the risen Christ had appeared to him, and, without any elective body of men coming between, without any action of the Church as in the election of Matthias, had immediately appointed him to apostleship.
2. Those associated with him. "And all the brethren which are with me." However high ground Paul took as to his apostleship, that did not separate him from his brethren. He even courted their Christian sympathy and support. He was open with. his companions in travel, and divulged to them his thoughts, read to them his letters. On this occasion he could say that they were at one with him. In the whole of his warm remonstrance against giving way to Judaism, there was not one expression which they wished him to tone down.
3. The Churches addressed. "Unto the Churches of Galatia." At the dawn of history the home of the Celtic race, known to the Greeks as Galatians, and to the Romans as Gauls, was the continent west of the Rhine, with these adjoining islands. In their migrations hordes of Celts poured into Italy. They also followed the course of the Danube, turning southward into Greece. Three tribes of them, crossing the Hellespont, after wide devastations, were confined in the heart of Asia Minor. The tract of country which they occupied, about two hundred miles in length, and watered by the Halys, was called after them Galatia (land of the Celts). The head towns of the three tribes were Tavium, Pessinus, and Ancyra. The original inhabitants were Phrygians, and in later times there were additions of Romans and of Greeks and also of Jews. But the predominant element was Celtic, and the Celtic language was spoken along with Greek. To peoples, then, with more or less of a Celtic origin this Epistle to the Celts is invested with special interest. Paul came into contact with this new race in his second missionary tour. There is a singular meagreness of information regarding his visit. All that is recorded is that, being overruled as to his intended route, he passed through the region of Phrygia and Galatia. As meagrely it is said, in connection with his third missionary tour, that he passed through the same region in order, stablishing all the disciples. The result of his evangelizing was the formation of several Churches. They are (as was pointed out by Chrysostom) addressed here without title. What there is of characterization is thrown into the salutation.
II. SALUTATION. Notwithstanding what he refuses to them at the present juncture, he heartily wishes them well.
1. Blessing invoked. "Grace to you and peace." He invokes grace on them, or the bestowment of the Divine favour, not because of merit in them, but because of merit obtained for them. As the result of grace, he invokes peace, or the absence of inward misgiving, and as far as possible the absence also of disturbing influences from without, Judaism included.
2. From whom invoked. "From God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ." He first invokes blessing from God the Father. He goes to the very fountain-head. The fatherhood of God is the ultimate reason for our being blessed. It is impossible to go higher than that. Where is there hope for the child who disobeys his father's command? The hope lies in what the father is. He naturally pities his child, and desires to bless him. So where is there hope for us in our state of disobedience? The hope lies in what God is. He is the Fountain of all fatherly feeling. As the Father, he was moved with compassion toward us, and desired to bless us notwithstanding all our unworthiness. It was the fatherly feeling that moved to redemption. It is the fatherly feeling that moves to bless in connection with redemption. This, then, is the height to which we must lift up our eyes, from whence cometh help. He also invokes blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Father was formerly bound with Christ by the preposition "through," so now Christ is bound with the Father by the preposition "from." Such freedom is significant. He who is the Channel is also the Source of blessing. He is Jesus, the higher Joshua, who saves his people from their sins. It was through him that effect was given to the fatherly feeling in God, and that the Father approaches man with blessing. He is the Christ who was anointed of God for this end. He is our Lord, as the successful Accomplisher of salvation placed over the house of God, to whom it belongs to dispense blessing. It is to him, then, as sovereign Dispenser of blessing that we must look. Central truth made prominent by being thrown into the salutation. "Who gave himself for our sizes, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father." The language has evidently a sacrificial colouring. The worshipper came with his sins before God. The oblation he presented to God was an animal. With his sins taken over, the animal paid the penalty in its death. So the oblation which Christ presented to God was himself. With our sins taken over, he really and fully suffered the desert of them in his death, especially in the hiding of the Father's countenance. What gave this self-oblation infinite value was the dignity of the Sufferer; and also his perfect trust in God, and all-absorbing love for men, and never-failing hope for their salvation in the mysterious forsaking which made trial of him. The object with which Christ gave himself Was, not only that he might deliver us from the guilt of sin, but also that he might deliver us from the manifestation of sin in this present evil world. This world is thought of, not as it might have been, but as it actually is. It might have been a good world; it is instead an evil world. Its evil character consists, not only in its opposing itself in its opinions and practices to men's good, but especially in its opposing itself to God. It is a world that, in its wickedness, forgets God, casts off God. "The Lord shall not see;" "What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?" Now, Christ died that we might be delivered from this tyrannous world, and introduced into the liberty, if not at once of a perfect form of society, yet of a personal condition, and Church condition too, in which God has something of the place to which he is entitled. And all this is to be thought of as according to the will of our God and Father. The Father has the primacy throughout. It was in his will that salvation originated. It was his will that was carried out by Christ. "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy Law is within my heart." The outcome is the doing of the Father's will by man as it is by the angels.
III. DOXOLOGY. "To whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." The foundation of the ascription of glory to God is the glory displayed by God in salvation. There was a glorious display of wisdom in the planning of salvation. There was a glorious display of justice in the satisfaction made for sin. There was a glorious display of power in the overcoming of sin. There was especially a glorious display of love in its overflowing on sinners. In view of such a display it becomes us to ascribe glory to God. We cannot take it to ourselves. Our language must ever be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us." In what God has done for our salvation there will be found subject for our doxologies to the ages of ages. To every ascription of glory it becomes us to add our "Amen." May our "Amen" become ever deeper, and may the circle of such "Amens" evermore increase. - R.F.
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;)