The false prophets, who had seduced the churches of Galatia from the gospel of free grace and persuaded them that the observance of the Levitical ceremonies (fulfilled and abolished by Christ) was necessary for salvation and that justification and salvation were partly from faith in Christ and partly from their own works, had also charged that Paul was not a true apostle and that his doctrine was a fake. This is what Paul is dealing with in these verses. We are certainly in trouble if Paul is not an apostle, for he is responsible for about one half of the New Testament which we read and believe.
v.11. These false teachers did not say that the gospel was man-made nor that it came from men (for they themselves pretended to preach the gospel), but they argued that Paul had no authority for what he preached other than human authority and thus was not to be followed. Therefore, Paul says that the gospel of free grace in Christ alone (which he preached) is 'not from man', nor is he an ordinary preacher, but an appointed apostle of Christ.
v. 12. You and I do receive the gospel from men, and we are taught by men. It is true that the Holy Spirit opens our hearts, enlightens our minds and reveals the gospel to us; but he uses human teachers, preachers and witnesses. This is why we should search the Word, try the spirits and take heed what we hear! But an apostle (like Paul) did not receive the gospel this way; he learned it by revelation from Jesus Christ. That is why we can quote the apostle and be sure that we are quoting and following God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21).
vv. 13,14. 'I am no stranger to the Levitical law and ceremonies,' he says. The works, deeds and circumcision which the false teachers wished to add to the gospel and required of them were at one time his only hope for salvation and his only message.
1. Paul was born of Jewish parents, had a Jewish education, followed the Jewish law to the letter and lived as a Pharisee (Acts 26:4,5; Phil. 3:5,6).
2. He hated Jesus Christ and persecuted the church. Salvation by grace (apart from human merit) was a gospel which he tried to destroy.
3. His ability to defend the law was above and beyond that of many who were his equal in age. He was the champion and leader (both in ability and zeal) of those who defended the traditions and laws of his fathers. In other words, these works and law advocates were not dealing with a novice. Paul exceeded them all in every way as an advocate of salvation by works.
v. 15. Here Paul begins to relate his conversion - his call, the revelation of Christ in his heart and the direct revelation of the gospel to him by the Master.
1. God chose Paul to salvation and to the apostleship before he was born, yes, before the foundation of the world, as God has chosen all of his people (Jer. 1:5; Eph. 1:3,4; 2 Thess. 2:13).
2. When it pleased God (in God's own time), he stopped Paul on his road of rebellion, enlightened him and called him to Christ (Rom. 8:29,30; 2 Tim. 1:9; John 6:3 7,44,45).
v.16. Christ was revealed to Paul as the Messiah, the atonement, the sin-offering, the fulfilment of every type, prophecy and ceremony, and in the glory of his person and work. But Christ was revealed in Paul, for Christ was formed in him. Christ's Spirit dwelt in him, Christ's grace was implanted in him and now he lived by the faith of the Son of God. Paul needed no ceremony, circumcision, nor works to make him complete; he was complete in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). After this revelation of Christ in Paul, he did not confer with other men to verify it or complete it.
v.17. 'I did not seek out those who were apostles before I was called to be an apostle, but I went to Arabia; afterwards I came back to Damascus.' What he did there, how long he stayed and what ministry he pursued we are not told anywhere.
vv.18,19. 'After three years I visited the apostle Peter and spent fifteen days with him. I did not talk to any of the other apostles except James.' This is observed to show that Paul did not receive his gospel from men, even from the other apostles of Christ. His sole authority and revelation came from Christ.
vv.20-24. 'What I have written to you is the truth. I did not receive my gospel from the apostles nor from the churches of Judea. I did not visit them and was unknown to them except by reputation. They heard of me, rejoiced and praised God that he was pleased to save me and call me to preach Christ.'
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