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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 1:1. Paul, an apostle.—He puts his own name and apostleship prominent, because his apostolic commission needs to be vindicated against deniers of it. Not of, or from, men, but by, or from, Jesus Christ and God the Father. The divine source of his apostleship is emphatically stated, as also the infallible authority for the gospel he taught.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 1:1-5
I. That apostolic credentials claim distinctively divine authority.—“Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Galatians 1:1). It must have been a painful moment when Paul first became aware that spurious teachers questioned the validity of his apostolic call, and a still more painful disappointment when he discovered his Galatian converts so readily gave credence to those who maligned him. His fears were roused, not so much for his personal reputation as for the injury to the religious life of his converts if they cherished suspicions as to the divine character of the truth they had been taught. The mischief must be dealt with at once. He boldly and emphatically declared that his commission was direct from God, and bore the same divine stamp as that of the other apostles, whose authority even the false teachers had not the temerity to deny. It has ever been the rôle of the subtle adversary of man to strive to eliminate the divine element from the truth and drag it down to a common human level. Truth then loses its stability, begins to move in a flux of confused human opinions, and the soul is plunged into bewilderment and doubt. Whatever tends to vitiate the truth brings peril to the peace and upward progress of the soul. The power of the teacher increases with an ever-deepening conviction of the divine authority of his message.
II. That apostolic credentials recognise the oneness of the Christian brotherhood.—“And all the brethren which are with me” (Galatians 1:2). Here is the indication that St. Paul was not unduly solicitous about his personal reputation. While insisting upon the unquestioned divine source of his apostleship, he does not arrogate a haughty superiority over his brethren. He is one with them in Christ, in the belief of and fidelity to the truth, in the arduous labours of pioneer work, in building up and consolidating the Church, and unites them with himself in his Christian greeting. It is the sublime aim of the gospel to promote universal brotherhood by bringing men into spiritual union with Christ, the Elder Brother. Christ is the unifying force of redeemed humanity. Ecclesiastical ranks are largely human expedients, necessary for maintaining order and discipline. The great Head of the Church has promulgated the unchallengeable law of religious equality: “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren” (Matthew 23:8).
III. That apostolic credentials justify the use of a sublime and comprehensive greeting.—“Grace be to you and peace,” etc. (Galatians 1:3). A greeting like this from some lips would be fulsome, or at the best mere exaggerated politeness. But coming from one who was in constant communion with the Source of the blessings desired, and from which Source he received his call to the apostleship, it is at once dignified, large-hearted, and genuine. Grace and peace are inclusive of the best blessings Heaven can bestow or man receive. They are divine in their origin and nature—“from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace is the spontaneous outflow of divine love in the redemption of the race, and is the more precious because unmerited; and peace is the conscious experience of that grace in the believing soul—peace from outward dissension and inward fret, peace of conscience, peace with God and man. The blessings the apostle desires God is ever eager to bestow. “Filling up our time with and for God is the way,” said David Brainerd, “to rise up and lie down in peace. I longed that my life might be filled up with fervency and activity in the things of God. Oh the peace, composure, and God like serenity of such a frame! Heaven must differ from this only in degree, not in kind.”
IV. That apostolic credentials are evident in the clear statement of the great principles of the gospel salvation.—“Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us,” etc. (Galatians 1:4-5). In these words we have a suggestive epitome of the whole gospel. Man is delivered from sin and from the present evil age by the self-sacrifice of Jesus; and this method is “according to the will of God,” and brings unceasing glory to His name. This is the gospel in a nutshell, and involves all the grand principles of redemption the apostle was commissioned to declare, and which he develops more clearly in the course of this epistle. Deliverance is divinely provided, irrespective of human effort or merit. The Galatians in seeking to return to legal bondage ignored the root principles of the gospel and imperilled their salvation. The apostle vindicated the credentials of his high office by faithful remonstrance and plain authoritative statement of the truth divinely revealed to him. It is a mark of high intellectual power to make the greatest truths clear to the humblest mind. Christian teaching has all the more weight when associated with irreproachable moral character.
1. God should be gratefully recognised as the Giver of all good.
2. The special endowments of one are for the benefit of all.
3. It is a solemn responsibility to be entrusted with the preaching of the gospel.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 1:1. The Power of the Gospel.—
1. Free grace doth often light upon the most unworthy, not only by giving salvation to themselves, but making them instrumental for the kingdom of Christ and bringing about the salvation of others.
2. Faithful and called ministers of Christ are to be so far from cowardly ceding, or heartless fainting under the bold, bitter, and unjust aspersions of those who question their calling, and thereby weaken their authority and render the truth of their doctrine doubtsome, that they ought the more to avow their calling against all who question it.
3. The office of an apostle had this peculiar to itself, that the designation was not mediately by the election and suffrages of men, as in the calling of ordinary office-bearers, but immediately from God, so that the function of the apostles ceased with them, and did not pass by succession to a pope or any other.
4. The false apostles, that they might shake the truth preached by Paul and establish their own contrary error, alleged that he was no lawful apostle. This Paul refutes by showing he was called by Christ after He was raised from the dead and had taken possession of His kingdom, so that his calling had at least no less dignity and glory in it than if he had been called by Christ when He was on earth.—Fergusson.
Galatians 1:2. The Church a Witness.—
1. The more they are whom God maketh use of to hold out the beauty of truth that we may embrace and follow it, or the deformity and danger of error that we may fly from and hate it, we are the more to take heed how we reject or embrace what is pressed upon us, as there will be the more to bear witness of our guilt and subscribe to the equity of God’s judgment if we obey not.
2. We are not so to stumble at the many sinful failings which may be in Churches, as to unchurch them, by denying them to be a Church, or to separate from them, if their error be not contrary to fundamental truths, or if they err from human frailty, and not obstinately and avowedly.—Ibid.
Galatians 1:3. Christian Salutation.—
1. God’s gracious favour and goodwill is to be sought by us in the first place, whether for ourselves or others, that being a discriminating mercy betwixt the godly and the wicked.
2. Peace is to be sought after grace, and not to be expected before it. Peace without grace is no peace. There can be no peace with God or His creatures, nor sanctified prosperity, except through Jesus Christ we lay hold on God’s favour and grace.
3. Grace and peace we cannot acquire by our own industry or pains. They come from God, are to be sought from Him, and His blessing is more to be depended on than our own wisdom or diligence.
4. They to whom grace and peace belong are such as acknowledge Christ to be their Lord to command and rule them, and yield subjection to Him in their heart and life.—Ibid.
Grace and Peace.
I. Grace is not any gift in man, but is God’s and in God. It signifies His gracious favour and goodwill, whereby He is well pleased with us in Christ.
II. Peace is a gift not in God, but in us.
1. Peace of conscience—a quietness and tranquillity of mind arising from a sense of reconciliation with God.
2. Peace with the creatures—with angels, with the godly, with our enemies.
3. Prosperity and good success.
III. Whereas Paul begins his prayer with grace we learn that grace in God is the cause of all good things in us.
IV. The chief things to be sought after are the favour of God in Christ and the peace of a good conscience.
V. As grace and peace are joined we learn that peace without grace is no peace.—Perkins.
Galatians 1:4-5. The Unselfishness of Jesus.
I. Prompting self-surrender.—“Who gave Himself.”
II. His self-surrender was an unmerited and unlooked-for expiation.—“For our sins.”
III. Creates the hope and possibility of immediate salvation.—“That He might deliver us from this present evil World.”
IV. Was a suggestive revelation of the divine character.—“According to the will of God and our Father.”
V. Should evoke the spirit of grateful praise.—“To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Galatians 1:4. Christ our Sacrifice.
I. Whereas Christ is the giver of Himself it follows that His death and sacrifice were voluntary.
II. Therefore all merit and satisfaction for sin are reduced to the person of Christ, and there are no human satisfactions for sin, nor meritorious works done by us.
III. Christ our sacrifice works love in us.—We must in mind and meditation come to the cross of Christ.
1. The consideration of His endless pains for our sins must breed in us a godly sorrow. If He sorrowed for them, much more must we.
2. This knowledge is the beginning of amendment of life.
3. Is the foundation of comfort in them that truly turn to Christ.
IV. Christ gave Himself that He might deliver us from this evil world.—
1. We must be grieved at the wickedness of the world.
2. We must not fashion ourselves to the wicked lives of the men of this world.
3. Seeing we are taken out of this world, our dwelling must be in heaven.—Perkins.
The Gift of Christ.
I. The gift.—“He gave Himself.” Regard Christ:
1. As the object of every prophecy.
2. The substance of every type and shadow.
3. The subject of every promise.
4. He was qualified for the work of redemption. Divine, human, spotless.
II. Christ’s marvellous act.—“He gave Himself for our sins.”
1. To what He gave Himself. To all the privations and sorrows of human life, to obscurity and indigence, to scorn and infamy, to pain and anguish, to an ignominious and painful death.
2. The purpose for which He gave Himself. To deliver us from sin’s curse, defilement, dominion, and from the effects of sin in this world and in eternity.
III. The design of Christ’s offering—“That He might deliver us from the present evil world.” From its evil practices, its spirit, from attachment to it, and from the condemnation to which it will be subjected.
IV. Christ’s offering was according to the will of God.—
1. It was the will of God we should be saved.
2. Christ was the appointed agent.
3. The sacrifice of Christ was voluntary.—Helps.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 1:6. I marvel that ye are so soon removed.—So quickly removed; not so soon after your conversion, or soon after I left you, but so soon after the temptation came; so readily and with such little persuasion (cf. Galatians 1:7-9). It is the fickleness of the Galatians the apostle deplores. An early backsliding, such as the contrary view assumes, would not have been matter of so great wonder as if it had taken place later.
Galatians 1:8-9. Any other gospel.—The apostle is here asserting the oneness, the integrity of his gospel. It will not brook a rival. It will not suffer any foreign admixture. Let him be accursed.—Devoted to the punishment his audacity merits. In its spiritual application the word denotes the state of one who is alienated from God by sin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 1:6-9
The One Gospel.
I. Is an introduction into the grace of Christ.—“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6). The true gospel is the emphatic call of God to man to participate and revel in the grace of Christ as the element and the only means by which his salvation can be secured. The grace of Christ, with its persuasive gentleness and vast redemptive resources, is in vivid contrast to the grim formalism and impossible demands of the yoke of bondage into which the Galatians were being so foolishly seduced. There is only one gospel that can introduce the soul into the midst of saving influences and bring it into contact with the living Christ. This one fact differentiates the gospel from all mere human methods, and gives it a unique character as the only remedial agency in dealing with human sin and sorrow.
II. The perversion of the one gospel is not a gospel.—“Unto another gospel which is not another” (Galatians 1:6-7).
1. It is a caricature of the true gospel.—“And would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7). The perversion is not in the one gospel, which is impossible of perversion (for truth is an incorruptible unity), but in the mind of the false teacher. He distorts and misrepresents the true gospel by importing into it his own corrupt philosophy, as the wolf did with Baron Munchausen’s horse. Beginning at the tail, it ate its way into the body of the horse, until the baron drove the wolf home harnessed in the skin of the horse. The gospel has suffered more from the subtle infusion of human errors than from the open opposition of its most violent enemies.
2. It occasions distraction of mind.—“There be some that trouble you” (Galatians 1:7). A perverted gospel works the greatest havoc among young converts. They are assailed before they reach the stage of matured stability. Their half-formed conceptions of truth are confused with specious ideas, attractive by their novelty, and mischief is wrought which in many cases is a lifelong injury. The spirit that aims at polluting a young beginner in the way of righteousness is worse than reckless; it is diabolical.
III. The propagator of a perverted gospel incurs an awful malediction.—“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel, … let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). Let him be devoted to destruction, as one hateful to God and an enemy of the truth. The word denotes the condition of one alienated from God by persistent sin. He not only rejects the truth himself, but deliberately plots the ruin of others. He reaps the fruit of his own sowing. It is impossible to do wrong without suffering. The greater the wrong-doing, the more signal is the consequent punishment. All perversions of truth are fruitful in moral disasters. It is a mad, suicidal act for man to fight against God.
1. There can be but one true and infallible gospel.
2. The best human method for moral reformation is but a caricature of the true.
3. The false teacher will not escape punishment.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 1:6-7. Remonstrance with Revolters against the Gospel.
I. The apostle reproves with meekness and tenderness of heart.
II. He frames his reproof with great wariness and circumspection.—He says not, ye of yourselves do remove to another gospel, but ye are removed. He blames them but in part, and lays the principal blame on others.
III. The revolt was a departure from the calling to the grace of Christ.—
1. They were soon carried away. This shows the lightness and inconstancy of man’s nature, especially in religion. The multitude of people are like wax, and are fit to take the stamp and impression of any religion; and it is the law of the land that makes the most embrace the gospel, and not conscience.
2. That we may constantly persevere in the profession of the true faith we must receive the gospel simply for itself.
3. We must be renewed in the spirit of our minds and suffer no by-corners in our hearts.
4. We must not only be hearers but doers of the word in the principal duties to be practised.
IV. The Galatians revolt to another gospel, compounded of Christ and the works of the law.—Here we see the curious niceness and daintiness of man’s nature that cannot be content with the good things of God unless they be framed to our minds. If they please us for a time, they do not please us long, but we must have new things. The apostle shows that, though it be another gospel in the estimation of the false teachers, it is not another, but a subversion of the gospel of Christ. There is but one gospel, one in number, and no more. There is but one way of salvation by Christ, whereby all are to be saved from the beginning of the world to the end.
V. The apostle charges the authors of this revolt with two crimes.—
1. They trouble the Galatians, not only because they make divisions, but because they trouble their consciences settled in the gospel of Christ.
2. They overthrow the gospel of Christ. They did not teach a doctrine flat contrary. They maintained the gospel in word, and put an addition to it of their own out of the law—salvation by works. They perverted and turned upside-down the gospel of Christ.—Perkins.
The Perversion of Truth—
I. Supplants the gospel with a valueless imitation.—“Another gospel which is not another.”
II. Is contrary to the divine purpose.—“From Him that called you into the grace of Christ.”
III. Creates a gulf between the soul and God.—“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him.”
IV. Unsettles the faith of new converts.—“There be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”
Galatians 1:6. Disappointed Hopes in Christian Work.—
1. It is the duty of Christian ministers, not only to hold out the pure truth of the gospel, but to defend it by convincing gainsayers and reproving solidly those who are carried away with contrary errors.
2. Ministers in all their reproofs are to use much wariness and circumspection, not omitting any circumstance which may justly extenuate the sin or furnish ground of hope of amendment. Hereby the bitter potion of a medicinal reproof is much sweetened and the guilty patient allured to the more thorough receiving of it.
3. The most quick-sighted may be deceived and disappointed in their expectation of good things from some eminent professors, and so may readily fall short of their hope.
4. As the dangerous consequences which follow upon error ought to be presented unto people that they may fly from it, so there are some errors in doctrine which do no less separate from God than profanity of life doth, of which errors this is one—the maintaining of justification by works.
5. It is ordinary for seducers to usher in their errors by some excellent designations, as of new lights, a more pure gospel way, and what not, as here they designate their error by the name of another gospel.—Fergusson.
Galatians 1:7. The Inviolable Unity of the Gospel.—
1. There is but one gospel, one in number and no more, and but one way to salvation, which is by faith.
2. The effect of error is to trouble the Church’s peace; peace among themselves, the patrons of error being zealous of nothing so much as to gain many followers, to attain which they scruple not to make woeful rents and deplorable schisms; inward peace of conscience, while some are perplexed and anxious what to choose and refuse until they question all truth, and others to embrace error for truth and so ground their peace on an unsure foundation.
3. The doctrine which maintains that justification is partly by Christ and partly by the merit of good works is a perverting and total overturning of the gospel, in so far as it contradicts the main scope of the gospel, which is to exalt Christ as our complete Saviour, Mediator, and Ransom, and not in part only.—Fergusson.
Galatians 1:8. The Inviolability of Christianity.
I. The import and construction of the gospel cannot be vague and indeterminate.—The character of the gospel was alleged to be its truth. This was, to the sophists of that era, a strange and novel pretension. To require faith to a testimony only so far as conformable to fact, only so far as supported by evidence, appeared to them a startling affectation. In the fixed character we recognise the true perfection of the gospel. It is the same through all ages, not changing to every touch and varying beneath every eye, but unfolding the same features and producing the same effects. Unless there was this invariableness in the Christian system, if a fixed determination of its purport is impossible, we should be at a loss in what manner to follow the conduct and imbibe the spirit of the early Christians. Those lights and examples of the Church would only ensnare us into a mien and attitude ridiculous as profane. It would be the dwarf attempting to bare a giant’s arm, a wayfaring man aspiring to a prophet’s vision. The truth as it is in Jesus is contained in that word which is the truth itself; there it is laid up as in a casket and hallowed as in a shrine. No change can pass upon it. It bears the character of its first perfection. Like the manna and the rod in the recess of the Ark, it is the incorruptible bread of heaven, it is the ever-living instrument of might, without an altered form or superseded virtue.
II. Its divine origin and authority cannot be controverted.—The history of Saul of Tarsus has often been cited with happy success in confirmation of Christianity.
1. What must have been the strength and satisfaction of conviction entertained by the writer! The conviction has to do with facts. It pertains to no favourite theory, no abstract science, but occurrences which he had proved by sensible observation and perfect consciousness. Wonders had teemed around him; but his own transformation was the most signal wonder of all. Nothing without him could equal what he discerned within.
2. As we estimate the measure and force of his convictions, inquire what weight and credibility should be allowed them. Put his conduct to any rack, his design to any analysis, and then determine whether we are not safe where he is undaunted, whether we may not decide for that on which he perils all, whether the anathema which he dares pronounce does not throw around us the safeguard of a divine benediction.
III. Its efficacy cannot be denied.—It was not called into operation until numberless expedients of man had been frustrated. Philosophy, rhetoric, art, were joined to superstitions, radicated into all habits and vices of mankind. The very ruins which survive the fall of polytheism—the frieze with its mythological tale, the column yet soaring with inimitable majesty, the statue breathing an air of divinity—recall the fascinations which it once might boast and of the auxiliaries it could command. Yet these were but the decorations of selfishness most indecently avowed, of licentiousness most brutally incontinent, of war the most wantonly bloody, of slavery the most barbarously oppressive. And Christianity subverted these foundations of iniquity; and yet so all-penetrating is its energy, that it did not so much smite them as that they sank away before it. It reaches the human will and renews the human heart. And a thousand blessings which may at first appear derived from an independent source are really poured forth from this.
IV. The authority and force of the present dispensation of divine truth cannot be superseded.—It is final. In it He hath spoken whose voice shall be heard no more until it “shake not the earth only but also heaven.” No other sensible manifestation can be given, the doctrine is not to be simplified, the ritual is not to be defined to any further extent, nothing more will be vouchsafed to augment its blessings or ratify its credentials. We possess the true light, the perfect gift, the brightest illumination, the costliest boon. Such a dispensation, constituted to be coexistent with all future time, must resist every view which would impress a new form or foist a strange nature upon it.
V. No circumstance or agency can endanger the existence and stability of the Christian revelation.—When the security of the gospel is to be most confidently predicted and most strongly ascertained, supernatural power is restrained—a curse encloses it round about, a “flaming sword turning every way guards this tree of life.” It shall endure coevally with man. Feeble are our present thoughts, confused our perceptions; we see everything as from behind a cloud and in a disproportion. Our convictions are more like conjectures and our speculations dreams. But we shall soon emerge from this state of crude fancies and immature ideas. Worthy sentiments and feelings will fill up our souls. Each view shall be as a ray of light striking its object, and each song the very echo of its theme. Then shall we adequately understand why apostles kindled into indignation and shook with horror at the idea of “another gospel,” and why even angels themselves must have been accursed had it been possible for them to have divulged it.—R. W. Hamilton.
A Supernatural Revelation.—There can be no doubt whatever, as a matter of historic fact, that the apostle Paul claimed to have received direct revelation from heaven. He is so certain of that revelation that he warns the Galatians against being enticed by any apparent evidence to doubt it. It would be impossible to express a stronger, a more deliberate, and a more solemn conviction that he had received a supernatural communication of the will of God.—Dr. Wace, Bampton Lectures.
The Best Authority to be obeyed.—A dispute having arisen on some question of ecclesiastical discipline and ritual, King Oswi summoned in 664 a great council at Whitby. The one set of disputants appealed to the authority of Columba, the other to that of St. Peter “You own,” cried the puzzled king to Colman, “that Christ gave to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven: has He given such power to Columba?” The bishop could but answer, No. “Then I will obey the porter of heaven,” said Oswi, “lest when I reach its gates he who has the keys in his keeping turn his back on me, and there be none to open.”
Latitudinarianism.—Referring to Erasmus’s temporising policy in the Reformation, Froude says: “The question of questions is, what all this latitudinarian philosophising, this cultivated epicurean gracefulness, would have come to if left to itself, or rather, what was the effect which it was inevitably producing? If you wish to remove an old building without bringing it in ruin about your ears, you must begin at the top, remove the stones gradually downwards, and touch the foundation last. But latitudinarianism loosens the elementary principles of theology. It destroys the premises on which the system rests. It would beg the question to say that this would in itself have been undesirable; but the practical effect of it, as the world then stood, would have been only to make the educated into infidels, and to leave the multitude to a convenient but debasing superstition.”
Galatians 1:9. The True Gospel to be preached and believed.
I. The repetition of these words by Paul signify that he had not spoken rashly but advisedly, whatsoever he had said before.
II. That the point delivered is an infallible truth of God.
III. That we may observe and remember what he had said as the foundation of our religion—that the doctrine of the apostles is the only infallible truth of God, against which we may not listen to Fathers, Councils, or to the very angels of God.
IV. They are accursed who teach otherwise than the Galatians had received.—As Paul preached the gospel of Christ, so the Galatians received it. The great fault of our times is that whereas the gospel is preached it is not accordingly received. Many have no care to know it; and they who know it give not unto it the assent of faith, but only hold it in opinion.—Perkins.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 1:11. Not after man.—Not according to man; not influenced by mere human considerations, as it would be if it were of human origin.
Galatians 1:12. But by the revelation of Jesus Christ.—Probably this took place during the three years, in part of which the apostle sojourned in Arabia (Galatians 1:17-18), in the vicinity of the scene of the giving of the law: a fit place for such a revelation of the gospel of grace which supersedes the ceremonial law. Though he had received no instruction from the apostles, but from the Holy Ghost, yet when he met them his gospel exactly agreed with theirs.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 1:10-12
The Superhuman Origin of the Gospel.
I. The gospel is not constructed on human principles.—“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man” (Galatians 1:11). Its character is such as the human mind would never have conceived. When it was first proclaimed it was the puzzle of the religious and the ridicule of the learned—“unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” It is wholly opposed to the drift of human tendencies. Its supreme aim is to effect a complete transformation of human nature. Not to destroy that nature, but to renew, elevate, and sublimate it. By its principle of self-sacrificing love, its insistence of the essential oneness of the race, its methods in dealing with the world’s evils, its lofty morality, and its uncompromising claims of superiority the gospel transcends all the efforts of human ingenuity. Augustine, the father of Western theology in the fifth century, divided the human race into two classes—the one who lived according to man and the other who lived according to God. The gospel is the only revelation that teaches men how to live according to God.
II. The gospel does not pander to human tastes.—“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” (Galatians 1:10). The adversaries of the apostle insinuated that he was a trimmer, observing the law among the Jews and yet persuading the Gentiles to renounce it; becoming all things to all men that he might form a party of his own. Such an insinuation was based on an utter misconception of the gospel. So far from flattering, Paul preached a gospel that humbled men, demanding repentance and reform. It often came in collision with popular tastes and opinions; and though the apostle was a man of broad views and sympathies, he was ever the faithful and uncompromising servant of Christ. Public opinion may be hugely mistaken, and there is danger of over-estimating its importance. It is the lofty function of the preacher to create a healthy public opinion and Christianise it, and he can do this only by a scrupulous and constant representation of the mind of Christ, his divine Master. The wise Phocion was so sensible how dangerous it was to be touched with what the multitude approved that upon a general acclamation made when he was making an oration he turned to an intelligent friend and asked in a surprised manner, “What slip have I made?” George Macdonald once said, “When one has learned to seek the honour that cometh from God only, he will take the withholding of the honour that cometh by man very lightly indeed.”
III. The gospel has a distinctly superhuman origin.—“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). Paul’s reception of the gospel was not only a revelation of Christ to him, but at the same time a revelation of Christ in him. The human vehicle was spiritually prepared for the reception and understanding of the divine message; and this moral transformation not only convinced him of the superhuman character of the gospel, but also empowered him with authority to declare it. The gospel carries with it the self-evidencing force of its divine origin in its effect upon both preacher and hearer. It is still an enigma to the mere intellectual student; only as it is received into the inmost soul, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, is its true nature apprehended and enjoyed.
1. Man everywhere is in dire need of the gospel.
2. The human mind is incapable of constructing a saving gospel.
3. The gospel is inefficacious till it is received as a divine gift.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 1:10. Fidelity in the Ministry.
I. The proper nature of the ministry is not the word or doctrine of man but of God.—Ministers are taught to handle their doctrine with modesty and humility, without ostentation, with reverence, and with a consideration of the majesty of God, whose doctrine it is they utter
II. The dispensing of the word must not be for the pleasing of men but God.—Ministers must not apply and fashion their doctrine to the affections, humours, and dispositions of men, but keep a good conscience and do their office.
III. If we seek to please men we cannot be the servants of God.—He that would be a faithful minister of the gospel must deny the pride of his heart, be emptied of ambition, and set himself wholly to seek the glory of God in his calling.—Perkins.
The Servant of Christ.
I. There is nothing dishonourable in the idea of a servant absolutely considered.—On the contrary, there may be much in it that is noble and venerable. Nothing can be more contemptible than an affectation of independence which resents or is ashamed of a servant’s name. And many who despise servants should be told that they themselves are so worthless that nobody would think of honouring them with hiring them for service. It was Christ’s honour that His Father so employed Him for the work of our salvation, and said, “Behold My Servant, whom I have chosen”; and the highest honour of the preachers of the gospel is that they are the ministers, that is, the servants, both of Christ and His Church. There are cases, no doubt, in which servitude is degrading. The master may be infamous; though even then the servant’s condition is not dishonourable, unless he be employed in infamous work. Many servants have wrought out most honourable names for themselves in doing good work under bad masters. Matthew Henry has said well that there is nothing mean but sin, and with such meanness and dishonour is every man affected who is not a servant of Christ. There is for us all the choice of only two conditions; there is not a third and neutral one. The alternative is a servant of the Son of God or a slave of sin. It may not be of sin in its most hideous forms, in the form in which it tyrannises over the drunkard, the lewd man, or the ambitious, but even in its milder and less-offensive form, when it may reign only with the power which it exercises over the worshipper of wealth or of human applause; still, it is a degrading vassalage. Let no worldly man, then, affect to pity or scorn the disciple of the gospel as being one whom superstition enslaves, though it were admitted to be a slavery; he himself labours under one infinitely more oppressive and degrading. Whose appears the greater liberty and the least oppression, his who is governed by the salutary laws of the gospel, or his who is the sport and victim of his own ignorance and passions, or of the opinion of the world, to which, at the expense of the violation of his own conscience, he feels himself compelled ignominiously to submit? The question needs not an answer. There is everything honourable in the one service, everything dishonourable in the other. Only that man is truly a free man who is a servant of Christ.
II. The servant of Christ.—Others profess that they are servants of God; the Christian replies that he is a servant of Christ. There is perhaps nothing by which his faith is more distinctly characterised than this. “Is he not, then, a servant of God?” some one may ask, either in the spirit of a scorning objector or in that of an astonished inquirer who is as yet ignorant of the beautiful mystery of Christian salvation. When others profess that they are the servants of God, and when the Christian replies that he is a servant of Christ, does it signify that he is not a servant of the eternal Father? Such is the question; and our reply is, that in serving Christ he approves himself not only the best servant of God, but the only one whose service is genuine. In serving Christ he serves God, because God has so appointed and ordained. He has ordained that we be the servants of His Son; and if we serve not His Son, then we resist His ordination, so that we serve neither His Son nor Himself.
III. The Christian is Christ’s servant, not by hire, but by purchase.—This is a circumstance which claims our most thoughtful consideration. In the case of a servant who is hired there is a limitation of the master’s right, by the terms of the agreement, in respect of the kind and amount of labour to be exacted. There is also a definite term, at the expiry of which the right of service ceases, and the remuneration of the service is exigible by law. There is a vast difference in the case of a purchased servant, or, as otherwise expressed, a slave. He is his master’s property, to be treated entirely according to his master’s discretion. There is no limitation either to the amount or nature of the work which he may exact. The period of service is for life, and no remuneration can be claimed for the labour, howsoever heavy and protracted. Our servant-condition in relation to Christ is of this character: He does not hire us, but has purchased us—purchased us by His blood, and made us His property, to be used according to His sovereign will. But this is far from being all. Our gracious Master often sinks, as it were, the consideration of His past services—of His humiliation, His privation, His wounds and agony by which he saved us from punishment and woe—and reasons and deals with us as if we were hired servants and could merit something at His hand, animating us in our work by exhibiting to our hope that crown of glory which He will confer on all who are faithful unto death. Blessed servitude—the servitude of the Christian! Servitude of peace! Servitude of honour! Servitude of liberty! Servitude of victory and everlasting glory!
1. The Christian, as a servant, submits his mind to the authority of Christ—submits it to Him in respect of his opinions; at the utterance of His word renounces its own judgments and prejudices, and turns away from the teaching of the world’s philosophy and priesthood in scorn, saying, “You have no part in me. Christ is the Lord of my conscience; I will listen to Him.”
2. As the servant of Christ, the Christian subjects his body to His control and regulation in the gratifying of its appetites, and in providing for its comfort and adornment; his lips in what they speak; his hands in what they do; his ears in what they listen to; his eyes in what they read and look at; and his feet in all their journeyings and movements.
3. As the servant of Christ, he regulates his family according to his Master’s mind and law.
4. As a servant of Christ, he conducts his business according to Christ’s law, with the strictest honesty, and for Christ’s end, distributing his profits in a proportion—I shall say a large proportion; nay, I shall say a very large proportion—to the maintenance and education of his family, and some provision of an inheritance for them, and even a considerable proportion for the gratification of his own tastes. Is not that a large allowance for a slave? But oh, some of you! you seize on all—wickedly appropriate all to yourselves, or part, and that with a grudge, a murmur, and a scowl, with but the smallest fraction to the Master’s poor and the Master’s Church! Slaves indeed! Slaves of Avarice and his daughter, Cruelty!
5. As a servant of Christ, the country of the Christian is Christ’s, to be regulated, so far as his influence and vote may extend, by Christ’s rule, for Christ’s ends.—W. Anderson, LL. D.
Galatians 1:11-12. The Gospel and the Call to preach it.
I. It is necessary that men should be assured and certified that the doctrine of the gospel and the Scripture is not of man but of God.—That the Scripture is the word of God there are two testimonies.
1. One is the evidence of God’s Spirit imprinted and expressed in the Scriptures, and this is an excellence of the word of God above all words and writings of men and angels.
2. The second testimony is from the prophets and apostles, who were ambassadors of God extraordinarily to represent His authority unto His Church, and the penmen of the Holy Ghost to set down the true and proper word of God.
II. It is necessary that men should be assured in their consciences that the calling and authority of their teachers are of God.—To call men to the ministry and dispensation of the gospel belongs to Christ, who alone giveth the power, the will, the deed; and the Church can do no more than testify, publish, and declare whom God calleth.
III. The gospel which Paul preached was not human—he did not receive it, neither was he taught it by man; and preached it not by human but by divine authority.
1. Christ is the great prophet and doctor of the Church. His office is:
(1) To manifest and reveal the will of the Father touching the redemption of mankind.
(2) To institute the ministry of the word and to call and send ministers.
(3) To teach the heart within by illuminating the mind and by working a faith of the doctrine taught.
2. There are two ways whereby Christ teaches those who are to be teachers.
(1) By immediate revelation.
(2) By ordinary instruction in schools by the means and ministry of men.
IV. They who are to be teachers must first be taught, and they must teach that which they have first learned themselves. They are first to be taught, and that by men where revelation is wanting. This is the foundation of the schools of the prophets. All men should pray that God would prosper and bless all schools of learning where this kind of teaching is in use.—Perkins.
The Gospel a Divine Revelation.
I. It is not constructed by human ingenuity.—“The gospel which was preached of me is not after man” (Galatians 1:11).
II. It derives no authority from man.—“For I neither received it of man” (Galatians 1:12).
III. It is not acquired by mere mental culture.—“Neither was I taught it.”
IV. It is a direct and special revelation from heaven.—“But by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Apostolic Assurance of the Supernatural Character of the Gospel.—
1. It is the custom of the adversaries of the truth, when they have nothing to say in reason against the doctrine itself, to cast reproach on those who preach it, and to question their call and authority to preach, that so they may indirectly at least reflect upon the doctrine.
2. As none may take upon him to dispense the word of God publicly unto others without a call from God, so there are several sorts of callings: one of men and ordinary when God calls by the voices and consent of men; another of God and extraordinary, the call of the Church not intervening.
3. It is required of an apostle to have the infallible knowledge of the truth of the gospel, and this not wholly by the help of human means, as we learn at schools and by private study, but mainly by immediate inspiration from the Spirit of God. Paul shows that the gospel was not taught him of man; and this he saith, not to depress human learning, but that he may obviate the calumny of his adversaries who alleged he bad the knowledge of the gospel by ordinary instruction from men only, and so was no apostle.—Fergusson.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 1:14. Exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.—St. Paul seems to have belonged to the extreme party of the Pharisees (Acts 22:3; Acts 23:7; Acts 26:5; Philippians 3:5-6), whose pride it was to call themselves “zealots of the law, zealots of God.” A portion of these extreme partisans, forming into a separate sect under Judas of Galilee, took the name of zealots par excellence, and distinguished themselves by their furious opposition to the Romans.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 1:13-14
A Zealous Ritualist—
I. Is conspicuous for his adherence to religious formalities.—“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion” (Galatians 1:13)—of my manner of life formerly in Judaism. Saul of Tarsus was a full-blown ritualist, and a master-leader in the art, setting the pattern to all his contemporaries. He did not play at forms and ceremonies. Their observance was to him a matter of life and death. An intense nature like his could do nothing by halves. The listlessness and pictorial parade of modern ritualism he would have denounced with withering scorn. Religious formality has for some minds an irresistible fascination. It appeals to the instinct of worship which is latent in all, and to the love of æstheticism which is shared by most in varying degrees. The votary deludes himself into the belief that signs and symbols represent certain great truths; but the truths soon fade away into the background, and he is in turn deluded in regarding the outward ceremonies as everything. Formality is the tendency of the mind to rest in the mere externals of religion to the neglect of the inner life of religion itself. It is the folly of valuing a tree for its bark instead of its goodly timber, of choosing a book for its ornate binding irrespective of its literary genius, of admiring the finished architecture of a building regardless of its accommodation or the character of its inmates. “There are two ways of destroying Christianity,” says D’Aubigné; “one is to deny it, the other is to displace it.” Formality seeks to displace it. Ritualism may be of use in the infantile stage, either of the world or the individual. It is a reversion to the petrifaction of ancient crudities. A robust and growing spiritual manhood is superior to its aids.
II. Violently opposes the representatives of genuine piety.—“How that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it” (Galatians 1:13). Animated by extravagant zeal for the religion of his forefathers, the bigoted Pharisee became the deadliest enemy of the Church of Christ in its infant days. Indifferent to personal peril or to the feelings of the oppressed, he prosecuted his work of destruction with savage energy. He was a type of the Jewish fanatics who afterwards thirsted and plotted for his life, and the forerunner of the cruel zealots of the Inquisition and the Star Chamber in later times. The curse of ritualism is excessive intolerance. Blinded and puffed up with its unwarrantable assumptions, it loses sight of the essential elements of true religion. It sees nothing good in any other system but its own, and employs all methods that it dare, to compel universal conformity. It admits no rival. It alone is right; everything else is wrong, and all kinds of means are justifiable in crushing the heresy that presumes to deny its supreme claims. “Christ and Ritualism,” says Horatius Bonar, “are opposed to each other, as light is to darkness. The cross and the crucifix cannot agree. Either ritualism will banish Christ or Christ will banish ritualism.”
III. Is distinguished by his ardent study and defence of traditional religionism.—“And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14). The apostle had studied the Mosaic law under the ablest tutors of his day. He knew Judaism by heart, and won a distinguished reputation for learning and for his strict adherence to the minutest details of traditional legalism. He was one of the ablest champions of the Mosaic system. The zealous ritualist spends his days and nights in studying, not the word of God, but the sayings of men and the rules of the Church handed down by the traditions of past generations. Divine revelation is ignored, and human authority unduly exalted. His studies are misdirected, and his zeal misspent. He is wasting his energy in defending a lifeless organism. No man can honestly and prayerfully study God’s word and catch its meaning, and remain a mere ritualist.
1. Ritualism, is the worship of external forms.
2. It breeds a spirit of intolerance and persecution.
3. It supplants true religion.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 1:13-14. Mistaken Zeal—
I. May create a reputation for religious devotion.—“Ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion” (Galatians 1:13).
II. Breeds the spirit of violent persecution.—“How that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it” (Galatians 1:13).
III. Makes one ambitious for superiority.—“Profited … above many my equals, … being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14).
IV. Is neither good nor wise.
V. Stores up a retrospect of bitter and humiliating regret.
Review of a Misspent Life.—
1. A sincere convert will not shun to make confession of his wicked life, not omitting anything which may tend to a just aggravation of it, not in a boasting manner, but that the freedom of God’s grace may be commended.
2. That the Scriptures were indited by the Spirit of God, and the penmen not actuated with human policy, appears from this, with other evidences in the Scripture itself, that they concealed not their own faults, but blazed them to the world when the glory of God did so require.
3. Though the Church of God, as to the inward estate, cannot be utterly wasted, neither can the outward state be so far decayed as to cease to be, yet the Lord may so far give way to the rage of persecutors that the outward face and beauty of the Church may be totally marred, the members partly killed, partly scattered, the public ordinances suppressed, and the public assemblies interrupted.
4. The life and way of some engaged in a false religion may be so blameless and, according to the dictates of their deluded conscience, so strict, as that it may be a copy unto those who profess the true religion and a reproof for their palpable negligence.
5. As our affections of love, joy, hatred, anger, and grief are by nature so corrupt that even the choicest of them, if not brought in subjection to the word by the Spirit, will lay forth themselves upon forbidden and unlawful objects, so our zeal and fervency of spirit will bend itself more toward the maintenance of error than of truth. Error is the birth of our own invention; so is not truth.—Fergusson.
True and False Zeal.
I. Zeal is a certain fervency of spirit arising out of a mixture of love and anger, causing men earnestly to maintain the worship of God and all things pertaining thereto, and moving them to grief and anger when God is in any way dishonoured.
II. Paul was zealous for the outward observance of the law and for Pharisaical unwritten traditions.
III. He himself condemns his zeal because it was against the word, and tended to maintain unwritten traditions, and justification by the works of the law, out of Christ. What Paul did in his religion we are to do in the profession of the gospel.
1. We are to addict and set ourselves earnestly to maintain the truth of the gospel.
2. We are to be angry in ourselves and grieved when God is dishonoured and His word disobeyed.
3. We are not to give liberty to the best of our natural affections as to zeal, but mortify and rule them by the word.—Perkins.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 1:16. To reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him.—The revealing of His Son by me to the Gentiles was impossible, unless He had first revealed His Son in me; at first on my conversion, but especially at the subsequent revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12), whereby I learnt the gospel’s independence of the Mosaic law.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 1:15-19
The Imperative Claims of a Divine Commission—
I. Are independent of personal merit.—“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace” (Galatians 1:15). From the beginning the apostle was divinely destined to fulfil his high vocation. His Hebrew birth and Hellenistic culture combined to prepare him for his future work. When he developed into a hot persecutor of the Christian faith he seemed far away from his life-mission. But a change took place, and it soon became apparent that, not on the ground of any merit of his own, but because it pleased God, the training from his birth was the best possible preparation for his lofty calling. We cannot see far into the future, or forecast the issue of our own plans or of those we form for others.
“There is a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them as we may.”
The divine element in our lives becomes more evident as we faithfully do the duty imposed on us. Joseph recognised this when he declared to his brethren, “It was not you that sent me hither, but God” (Genesis 45:8).
II. Are based on an unmistakably divine revelation.—“To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen” (Galatians 1:16). The dazzling appearance of Christ before his eyes, and the summons of His voice addressed to Saul’s bodily ears, formed the special mode in which it pleased God to call him to the apostleship. But there was also the inward revelation of Christ to his heart by the Holy Ghost. It was this which wrought in him the great spiritual change, and inspired him to be a witness for Christ to the Gentiles. His Judaic prejudices were swept away, and he became the champion of a universal gospel. The same revelation that made Paul a Christian made him the apostle of mankind. The true preacher carries within his own spiritually renovated nature evidence and authority of his divine commission.
“This is what makes him the crowd-drawing preacher,
There’s a background of God to each hard-working feature;
Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced
In a blast of a life which has struggled in earnest.”
III. Are superior to the functions of human counsel.—“I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me” (Galatians 1:16-17). The counsel of the wise and good is valuable, and ordinarily should be diligently sought and thoughtfully pondered. But when God calls, the commission is beyond either the advice or the opposition of men. Paul had reached a stage into which no human authority could lift him, and from which it could not dislodge him. He might legitimately confer with others as to methods of work, but his call to work was imposed upon him by a power to which all human counsellors and ecclesiastical magnates must submit. Channing once said: “The teacher to whom are committed the infinite realities of the spiritual world, the sanctions of eternity, the powers of the life to come, has instruments to work with which turn to feebleness all other means of influence.”
IV. Stimulate to active service.—“But I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Galatians 1:17). Immediately after his conversion the history tells us, “Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues” (Acts 9:20). In Arabia, a country of the Gentiles, he doubtless preached the gospel, as he did before and after at Damascus, and thus demonstrated the independence of his apostolic commission. A call to preach demands immediate response, and impels to earnest and faithful endeavour. It is said that Whitefield’s zealous spirit exhausted all its energies in preaching, and his full dedication to God was honoured by unbounded success. The effect produced by his sermons was indescribable, arising in a great degree from the most perfect forgetfulness of self during the solemn moment of declaring the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. His evident sincerity impressed every hearer, and is said to have forcibly struck Lord Chesterfield when he heard him at Lady Huntingdon’s. The preacher, as the ambassador for Christ, is eager to declare His message, and anxious it should be understood and obeyed.
V. Are recognised by the highest ecclesiastical authority.—“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and … James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:18-19). The claims of Paul to the apostleship, evidenced by such supernatural signs and such solid Christian work and patient suffering, were at length acknowledged by the chief leaders of the mother Church in Jerusalem. Good work advertises itself, and sooner or later compels recognition. What an eventful meeting of the first gospel pioneers, and how momentous the influence of such an interview and consultation! Though the call of God is unacknowledged, ridiculed, and opposed, its duties must be faithfully discharged. The day of ample reward will come.
1. God only can make the true preacher.
2. A call to preach involves suffering and toil.
3. The fruit of diligent and faithful work will certainly appear.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 1:15-17. The Conversion and Vocation of St. Paul.
I. The causes of St. Paul’s conversion.—
1. The good pleasure of God.
2. His separation from the womb, which is an act of God’s counsel whereby He sets men apart to be members of Christ and to be His servants in this or that office.
3. His vocation by grace—the accomplishment of both the former in the time which God had appointed.
II. The manner of his vocation.—“To reveal His Son in me.”
1. By preparation. God humbled and subdued the pride and stubbornness of his heart and made him tractable and teachable.
2. By instruction.
(1) Propounding unto him the commandment of the gospel, to repent and believe in Christ.
(2) Offering to him the promise of remission of sins and life everlasting when he believed.
3. By a real and lively teaching when God made Paul in his heart answer the calling. Ministers of Christ must learn Christ as Paul learned Him.
III. The end of Paul’s conversion.—To preach Christ among the Gentiles.
1. Christ is the substance or subject-matter of the whole Bible.
2. To preach Christ is:
(1) To teach the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ, and His offices as King, Prophet, and Priest.
(2) That faith is an instrument to apprehend and apply Christ.
(3) To certify and reveal to every hearer that it is the will of God to save him by Christ if he will receive Him.
(4) That he is to apply Christ with His benefits to himself in particular.
3. To preach to the Gentiles:
(1) Because the prophecies of the calling of the Gentiles must be fulfilled.
(2) Because the division between the Jews and Gentiles is abolished.
IV. Paul’s obedience to the calling of God (Galatians 1:16-17).—
1. God’s word, preached or written, does not depend on the authority of any man—no, not on the authority of the apostles themselves.
2. There is no consultation or deliberation to be used at any time touching the holding or not holding of our religion.
3. Our obedience to God must be without consultation. We must first try what is the will of God, and then absolutely put it into execution, leaving the issue to God.
4. Paul goes into Arabia and Damascus, and becomes a teacher to his professed enemies.—Perkins.
Galatians 1:15-16. Conversion as illustrated by that of St. Paul.—In the case of St. Paul there are many circumstances not paralleled in the general experience of Christians; but in its essential features, in the views with which it was accompanied and the effects it produced, it was exactly the same as every one must experience before he can enter into the kingdom of God.
I. Its causes.—
1. Paul was chosen by God before his birth to be a vessel of honour. “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb.” Are not all genuine Christians addressed as “elect of God” or chosen of God, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ? Why should not the real Christian give scope to those emotions of gratitude which such reflections will inspire?
2. The more immediate cause was the call of divine grace. “And called me by His grace.” There is a general call in the gospel addressed to all men indiscriminately. There is, in every instance of real conversion, another and inward call, by which the Spirit applies the general truth of the gospel to the heart. By this interior call Christ apprehends, lays hold on the soul, stops it in its impenitent progress, and causes it to hear His voice.
II. The means by which conversion is effected.—“To reveal His Son in me.” The principal method which the Spirit adopts in subduing the heart of a sinner is a spiritual discovery of Christ. There is an outward revelation of Christ—in the Scriptures; and an internal, of which the understanding and the heart are the seat.
1. The Spirit reveals the greatness and dignity of Christ.
2. The transcendent beauty and glory of Christ.
3. The suitableness, fulness, and sufficiency of Christ to supply all our wants and relieve all our miseries.
III. The effect of conversion on St. Paul.—“Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” He set himself without hesitation or demur to discharge the duties of his heavenly vocation.
1. His compliance with the will of Christ was immediate.
2. Universal and impartial.
3. Constant and persevering.—Robert Hall.
Galatians 1:16. The Qualification of the True Minister—
I. Begins in an unmistakable revelation of Christ to his own soul.—“To reveal His Son in me.”
II. Urges him to declare the gospel to the most needy.—“That I might preach Him among the heathen.”
III. Raises him above the necessity of mere human authority.—“Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”
Galatians 1:17. The Divine Call to the Apostleship.—
1. That extraordinary way whereby the Lord made known His mind to the penmen of Scripture was so infallible in itself and so evident to those to whom it came to be no delusion that they were above all doubt, and needed not to advise with the best of men in order to their confirmation about the reality of it.
2. The Lord maketh sometimes the first piece of public service as hazardous, uncouth, and unsuccessful as any wherein He employs them afterwards, that His ministers may be taught to depend more on God’s blessing than on human probabilities, and that they may give proof of their obedience. Thus it was with Moses (Exodus 2:10), and Jeremiah (Galatians 1:19).
3. The apostles were not fixed to any certain charge, as ordinary ministers are. Their charge was the whole world. They went from place to place as the necessities of people required, or as God by His providence and Spirit directed.—Fergusson.
Galatians 1:18. Retirement a Preparation for Work.—“I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”
1. Affording opportunity for thought and self-testing.
2. Gives leisure for study and forming plans for future service.
3. Is often the prelude of a busy and prosperous career.
Galatians 1:18-19. The Divine Call acknowledged.—
1. That nothing of Peter’s supposed supremacy over Paul and the rest of the apostles can be gathered from this place appears from this, that Paul went first to his work before he came to Peter, and that his business with Peter was not to receive ordination from him or to evidence his subjection to him, but from respect and reverence to give him a friendly visit.
2. It ought to be the endeavour of Christ’s ministers to entertain love and familiarity one with another, as also to make their doing so evident to others, it being most unseemly for those who preach the gospel of peace to others to live in discord among themselves.
3. As ministers may and ought to meet sometimes together, to evidence and entertain mutual love and concord, and because of that mutual inspection which they ought to have one of another, so their meetings ought neither to be so frequent nor of so long continuance as that their flocks suffer prejudice.—Fergusson.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 1:24. They glorified God in me.—He does not say, adds Chrysostom, they marvelled at me, they praised me, they were struck with admiration of me, but he attributes all to grace. They glorified God in me. How different, he implies to the Galatians, their spirit from yours.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 1:20-24
God glorified in His Servant—
I. By the undoubted truthfulness of his statements.—“Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not” (Galatians 1:20). The assertions of the apostle flatly contradicted the allegations of his enemies. They insinuated that Paul was but a messenger of the authorities of the Church at Jerusalem, and that all he knew of the gospel had been learned from the twelve. So far from this being the case it is evident that for several years he had been preaching the gospel, and had not seen any of the twelve, except Peter and James, and that only for a fortnight at Jerusalem about three years after his conversion. “In the present case,” remarks Professor Jowett, “it is a matter of life and death to the apostle to prove his independence of the twelve.” Having said all he can to substantiate his point, he concludes by a solemn appeal to God as to his veracity: “Behold, before God, I lie not.” The apostle never makes an appeal like this lightly, but only in support of a vital truth he is specially anxious to enforce (Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 1:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:5).
“When fiction rises pleasing to the eye,
Men will believe, because they love the lie;
But truth herself, if clouded with a frown,
Must have some solemn proof to pass her down.”
The vigorous and faithful maintenance of the truth brings glory to God.
II. By his evangelistic activity.—“Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia” (Galatians 1:21). During this tour very probably the Churches were founded, referred to in Acts 15:23; Acts 15:41. “A man’s work,” says George Macdonald, “does not fall upon him by chance, but it is given him to do; and everything well done belongs to God’s kingdom, and everything ill done to the kingdom of darkness.” God is the sublime end of all human activity, and our powers can never be more nobly employed than in expounding His will, unfolding His gracious character, advancing the interests of His kingdom, and striving to promote His glory among the children of men. Man is never so great, so luminous, so grand as when he is doing work for God with the light and help of God; and all such work is a revelation of the character and purposes of God open to the eyes of all who will see.
III. By the reputation of his changed life.—“And was unknown by face unto the Churches: … they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preached the faith which once he destroyed” (Galatians 1:22-23). The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was one of the most striking events in the early history of the Church. It was a marvel to all who had known his previous life. It was an unanswerable testimony to the power of the gospel, and an argument that has been used in all ages to illustrate the possibility of the salvation of the worst of sinners. It is said the Duke of Burgundy was born terrible. He would indulge in such paroxysms of rage that those who were standing by would tremble for his life. He was hard-hearted, passionate, incapable of bearing the least opposition to his wishes, fond of gambling, violent hunting, the gratifications of the table, abandoned to his pleasures, barbarous, and born to cruelty. With this was united a genius of the most extraordinary kind; quickness of humour, depth and justice of thought, versatility and acuteness of mind. The prodigy was, that in a short space of time the grace of God made him a new man. He became a prince, affable, gentle, moderate, patient, modest, humble, austere only to himself, attentive to his duties, and sensible of their extent. If we could lay a hand on the fly-wheel of the Scotch express, running fifty or sixty miles an hour, and stop it, we should perform an astounding miracle. But this is what God does in His miracles of conversion. He laid His mighty hand on the fly-wheel of Paul’s life, and not only stopped its mad career, but turned it right round in the opposite direction. The persecutor becomes a preacher.
IV. By the recognition of His divine call.—“And they glorified God in me” (Galatians 1:24). The attempt to disparage the authority of Paul was the work of a few malcontents, who sought to ruin his influence in order to extend their own. The Churches of Jerusalem and Judea, though many of them had not seen the apostle, acknowledged and praised God for the divine work done in him and by him. A few false teachers may work much mischief, but they cannot overturn the work of God, nor prevent its full recognition. The faithful servant may safely leave his reputation in the hands of God. It lifts humanity, especially Christianised humanity, into special dignity, when it is discovered that God is glorified in man.
1. The gospel elevates man by transforming him.
2. The conscientious worker has God on his side.
3. God is glorified by obedient toil.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 1:20. Self-conscious Truth.—
1. The choicest servants of Christ may be looked upon as liars and unworthy to be trusted, even by those to whom they are sent, and yet they must not give over to preach as knowing that the word spoken by them doth still get credit from some, and will beget trust to itself from others, and for the rest it will seal up their condemnation and make them inexcusable.
2. It is not unlawful for Christians to take an oath, providing it be with these conditions:
(1) That the thing we swear be truth.
(2) That there be weighty reasons for taking an oath.
(3) That we swear only by the name of God, and not by the creatures, seeing none but God can bear witness to the secrets of the heart.—Fergusson.
Galatians 1:21-24. The Self-evidencing Proof of a divinely commissioned Messenger.—
1. Seen in disinterested labours and travels (Galatians 1:21-22).
2. Seen in a remarkable change of character and conduct (Galatians 1:23).
3. Seen in that the glory of his work is ascribed to God (Galatians 1:24).
Practical Proofs of Apostleship.
I. Paul went from Jerusalem into Syria and Cilicia.—
1. Because he was ordained specially to be the apostle of the Gentiles.
2. Because Cilicia was his own country, and his love to his country was great. If any apostle above the rest be the pastor and universal bishop of the Church over the whole world, it is Paul and not Peter.
II. Paul was known to the Christian Jews only by hearsay, because it is the office of an apostle not to build on the foundation of another or to succeed any man in his labour, but to plant and found the Church of the New Testament.
III. Seeing the intent of the devil and wicked men is to destroy the faith, we must have a special care of our faith.—
1. We must look that our faith be a true faith.
2. We must keep and lock up our faith in some safe and sure place—in the storehouse or treasury of a good conscience.
3. Our care must be to increase in faith that our hearts may be rooted and grounded in the love of God.
IV. Our duty is to sanctify and glorify the name of God in every work of His.—Neglect in glorifying and praising God is a great sin.—Perkins.
Galatians 1:24. God glorified in Good Men.—We are taught to honour God in man and man in God. We are taught to avoid, on the one hand, all creature idolatry, and, on the other, that cynical severity, or ungrateful indifference to the Author of all good in man, which undervalues or neglects the excellencies which ought to be held up to admiration that they may be imitated by ourselves and others. Each of these extremes robs God of His just revenue of grateful praise. In what does creature idolatry consist but in honouring and trusting in the natural and acquired excellencies of creatures to the exclusion of God? But is there then no wisdom, no might, no excellence, in man? As it were absurd to deny this, it would be affectation to pretend to overlook it. Admire and deny not this wisdom, acknowledge this efficiency, and affect not to lower its estimate; only glorify God who worketh all in all. If He has chosen any of them to be more eminently His instruments for the furtherance of His purposes of mercy to mankind, He does it by virtue of His sovereignty. If he continues their useful lives, whilst you have their light rejoice in the light and glorify Him from whom it comes as its original and source; and when He chooses to quench these stars of His right hand in the darkness of death, still glorify Him. As to us, this is to remind us of our dependence on Him, who appointed their orbit and invested them with their different degrees of glory; and as to them, though their lustre fades from these visible skies, it is that it may be rekindled in superior glory in the kingdom of their Father.—R. Watson.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Galatians 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28