Paul introduceth his Epistle, with a short Account of himself, and his Apostleship. He speaks of God's Love, in his Conversion: and awfully describes the State of those, who preach any other Gospel, than what the Lord sent him to preach.
(1) ¶ Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (2) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: (3) Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, (4) Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (5) To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
What a decisive testimony is here produced of Paul's commission and Apostleship? He did not run unsent. Neither did Paul receive his authority from any unauthorized to give it. Christ himself sent him; and God the Holy Ghost ordained him; and God the Father called him by his grace, verse 15. I beg the Reader to mark down, one by one, in the memorandums of his mind, what Paul here saith, on those most interesting points. First, he stiles himself an Apostle. Secondly, he shows his authority to the office. It was not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ. A most positive evidence to the Godhead of Christ. For if no man sent him, and yet Christ sent him; what can more fully prove Paul's firm persuasion, that Christ was, and is, God. And, thirdly, to show Paul's conviction of the oneness in the divine nature, as well as will and purpose in the divine Persons; he joins in the commission given him of his Apostleship, the authority of God the Father. And, fourthly; as none could properly be an Apostle, but such as could bear testimony to the resurrection of Christ from the dead (see Acts 1:21-22.) Paul having received confirmation, both of Christ's resurrection, and ascension, at his conversion, when Jesus called to him from Heaven; the Apostle introduceth the subject of Christ's, resurrection in this place, to show his qualification in that department also. Reader! you and I shall both do well, in often reviewing those evidences Paul here gives, to his Apostleship. It will help, through grace, to silence any and every objection, the carnal, and men untaught of God, bring to the writings of this great Apostle. Let Paul's character be but considered. Regenerated as he was, and then ordained by the Holy Ghost; Acts 13:1-5. and often blessed with the visions of God; (see Acts 16:6-14; Act_16:26; Act_18:9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:1, etc.) and the Lord's blessings over his ministry: yea, even at this hour, the continued testimonies the Lord bears to the word of his grace, by Paul's writings: of what avail ought the writings, or the preachings of any man, or men, to be considered, who plainly prove, that they were never regenerated themselves, nor ordained by the Holy Ghost to preach to others; and therefore, know not of the things which accompany salvation?. Let these things be well considered; and they must tend, under grace, effectually to silence all the objections of the carnal, to the distinguishing doctrines, Paul's ministry was intended, by the Holy Ghost, to establish!
I pass over what the Apostle saith of the brethren, which joined him in his salutation of the Churches of Galatia. The grand feature of Paul's ministry is his preaching Christ. And it is such, both the Writer and the Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, ought to have always in view. The Reader will therefore pardon me, if I dwell but little, on everything I meet with in the Apostolic writings, of men, or things, which have not, immediately, or indirectly, a reference; to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the whole sum and substance of everything that is blessed. And the brethren of the Churches, yea, the Church herself, in all her glory, is only by so much made so, as she derives it from Christ. Reader! let you and I eye Him, as the one great object of every Chapter. And very sure we shall then be, to behold, at the same time, the Church's blessedness in Him; for she is always so in his view: and in him, will then be so in ours.
We must not pass away from this paragraph, before that we have first noticed, how sweetly Paul, upon every occasion, speaks of Jesus. Who gave himself for our sins, saith Paul. Yes! gave himself. It would have been an immense thing, had Christ given a world, or ten thousand worlds, for his Church. But to give himself, and that a sacrifice, for the sins of his people; this called up the more awakened astonishment of the Apostle. Hence that sweet prayer, for which he bent his knees continually, that the Church might be able to comprehend, somewhat of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Ephesians 3:14-19.
And, let not the Reader overlook, how beautifully Paul blends the love of God the Son with the love of God the Father. For he immediately adds, according to the will of God our Father. Indeed, whoever reads attentively, the Scripture relations of the divine love, will discover, how blessedly the whole Persons of the Godhead have concurred, and cooperated, in the manifestation of love to the Church. In the office-characters, the glorious Persons have graciously assumed, to make known their joint love to the Church; the highly favored objects of this unspeakable mercy, are led, (when under divine teaching,) to contemplate, with equal rapture, and delight; and to have their spirits going forth in equal adoration, and thanks, to the whole Three in One, for their unspeakable grace. How precious is the love of God the Father, in his having chosen the Church in Christ before the foundation of the world? Ephesians 1:4. How precious the love of God the Son, in having betrothed the Church unto himself forever? Hosea 2:19. And, how precious the love of God the Holy Ghost, in his quickening the Church by regeneration, when dead in trespasses and sins? Ephesians 2:1. How infinitely great, and equally blessed, are each of those acts, in the demonstration of the divine love! Had God the Father not chosen the Church in Christ; how would the betrothing of the Church by Christ have been accomplished? Had God the Son not betrothed the Church to himself; how would the Church have been redeemed from the ruins of the fall, in the Adam-nature, in which she was involved, in the present time-state of her being? And, had God the Holy Ghost not regenerated the souls of the redeemed by his quickening grace, how would the Church have ever known, or felt, the electing love of God the Father; or the betrothing, and redeeming love of God the Son? But now by each glorious Person having in Covenant-offices fulfilled the Covenant engagements made with each other, in relation to the Church, the whole Church is made everlastingly blessed in Christ; and hath now in time, and will have to all eternity, cause to bless Jehovah, in his threefold character of Person, with equal adoration, love, and praise, for those united tokens of divine favor. Oh! the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom, and knowledge of God! Well may every redeemed soul, conscious of these things, join the Apostle in his hymn of praise to Jehovah and which way well be supposed to include the whole Persons of the Godhead; To whom be glory, forever, and ever, Amen. To Him who gave himself! To Him who gave his Son! To Him who quickened the Church; be glory, forever, and ever. Amen. Reader! can you join in this hymn of praise.
(6) ¶ I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: (7) Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. (8) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (10) ¶ 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. (11) But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. (12) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I beg the Reader to observe, how Paul hath worded his expression, on God's call of his people: Him that called you (he saith) into the grace of Christ. Not Paul! not ministers, not angels! There is nothing of human strength, or even angelic power, noticed; no, not even as instruments. We cannot be too jealous over our own hearts, how we look to men as instruments, lest in them we overlook the Lord. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord. Zechariah 4:6. It is blessed to keep unmixed, everything from the hallowed work, which is wholly the Lord's. If God was so jealous in the old Church, that He would have the Altar made of earth; (for the earth is the Lord's, Psalms 24:1.) and if of stone, which is also the Lord's, not hewn stone; for the very lifting of the tool upon it, polluted it: Exodus 20:25. can we suppose, that in the new Church, under the Gospel, the Lord is less concerned for his honor, to give his glory to another, and his praise to graven images? Isaiah 42:8. And is it not bordering upon this, when men talk of spiritual fathers, and begetting children to God, by their ministry?
Paul's surprise is strongly expressed, in noticing the backsliding of the Galatians. That it is backsliding, which he meant, by saying they were removed from Him that called them is very clear; because Him that called them, (meaning the Lord,) must have made it an effectual call, and including regeneration. So that, though they were removed, as to certain points of faith, (and as it should seem by what follows in this Epistle on the method of justification,) yet were they still real, and not nominal followers of the Lord. It is highly proper to notice this, for the comfort of the Church in all ages. Backsliding departures, and the like, very painful, and distressing as they are in themselves, and reproachful to God's people; yet they are consistent with the state of a truly regenerated child of God, The Church is described, in a cold, sleepy state, when Jesus called her; and even pleading excuses for not going to him, though she knew his voice. Song of Solomon 5:2-3. Oh! how certain it is, that we carry about with us a body of sin, and death, which often drags down the soul! Romans 7:18, etc.
I never can say enough to the Reader, in begging him to notice what Paul saith, of another gospel. Not that the Apostle allowed it to be called another gospel, for he immediately corrected himself, and said, it was not another; meaning, it was no gospel at all. And this was then, and is now, and always must be the case. For whatever is set up, different from the faith once delivered to the saints, ceaseth to be the Gospel, by so much, as there is a departure, from that standard. The pure Gospel of Christ, reveals Jehovah, in his threefold character, as raising up a Church, for the divine glory in Christ: and this, before all worlds. And the whole Persons of the Godhead are represented in Scripture, as engaged in Covenant settlements, to make this Church everlastingly blessed, in Christ, and to all eternity. As such the Church had a Being given her in Christ, from the moment the Son of God stood up, at the call of the Father. And for the present time-state of the Church, foreviewed in the Adam-fall of nature, provision was made for her recovery, in a way, which should illustrate the divine glory, and give the Church a blessedness in Christ, to secure her from all future possibility of evil. In this plan, founded in infinite wisdom, and resulting from infinite love, Christ became the One, and the only One Ordinance of Jehovah; for salvation is in no other. And consequently, justification by Christ alone, was the true Gospel, preached to the Galatians. This the Apostle had set forth, and it was called the Gospel. And well might it be called so. For it proclaimed pardon, mercy, and peace, through the sole labors, sufferings, and death, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It appears, however, that through some means, of preachers, or others, the Galatians had been tempted to remove from this faith, unto what for the moment the Apostle called, though he allowed not the expression, another gospel. They still preached Christ as the Head, and thereby deceived the unwary; but they did not preach Christ as the whole of salvation. To the Jews (as should seem by what Paul said in another part of this Epistle, Galatians 5:2-4.) they taught, that it was necessary to add circumcision to a faith in Christ; and to the Gentiles they contended, that the works of the law were essential to salvation. (Galatians 4:21.)
Reader! let us pause over the state of the Galatian Church, for a moment; and see, whether there have not been Churches, as well as in Galatia, tinctured with this leaven. Yea, it may be well to enquire, whether the Church to which we belong, is altogether free from it. Galatians 5:9. Paul's account of himself, and of the freeness, and fullness of salvation, may serve as a standard, to form our conclusions, of what in his view was, and is, truly Gospel. This is a faithful saying, (saith Paul,) and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15. And worthy of all acceptation it is, (for all stand in need of it,) if we have nothing to do but accept it, as a free gift, from free grace. But if it be clogged with doings, and workings of ours; if, with the merits, and blood-shedding of the Savior, there must be the minglings of the labors and merits of the sinner; if we are saved only in part, and we are to make up the deficiency in ourselves; if Christ hath only brought my poor soul into a salvable state, by procuring me favor to my sincere endeavors; and God's acceptance of me after all, will depend upon my tears, and repentance, and faith: this is no gospel, no glad tidings of good things, neither joy to all people; for sure I am, the whole Church of God, would be as certainly lost, in coming short of these things, as though Christ had not died; neither given his soul an offering for sin!
Reader! I beseech you to pause, again and again, over the important subject; for it is important. To talk of the sincerity of the heart in a man's best endeavors, when God, the searcher of hearts, declares, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; and that none but Himself can know it: Jeremiah 17:9. To talk of suspending the grace of God, and the merits of Christ in redemption, upon the endeavors of man; leaving the event at a peradventure, whether God's grace, or man's will, shall triumph: these things are not simply rendering matters uncertain; but totally making the whole blessings of the Gospel ineffectual. And, to call this another gospel, is a false name, as the Apostle saith; for it is no gospel at all. And, though the advocates of such doctrine, put Christ at the head of it, and seem to pay him the compliment, of calling him Savior, while robbing him of his glory, in not allowing him to be wholly so; yet such a religion is neither law nor Gospel, nor can it lay claim to either. It is not law, for the law pronounceth a curse upon everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. See Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10; James 2:10. And it is not gospel, for the Gospel saith, that by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9. And very certain it is, according to Scripture testimony, that as to law, all the world is become guilty before God. Romans 3:19, And, but for Christ's interposition, in redeeming from the curse of the law, every mouth must be stopped. For, as the Apostle in this same Epistle saith; if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21.
The Reader ought not to wonder therefore, that Paul speaks so pointedly, against the awfulness of preaching such a doctrine. If an angel from Heaven were to preach it, let him be accursed, saith the Apostle. Paul doth not mean by this expression, to suppose such a thing possible; and everyone knows that the thing is impossible. For when the birth of Christ was made known on earth, Angels of Heaven, ambitious to be the first preachers of the wonderful event, posted down with the glad tidings. So that if an host of angels were to come again, they would only preach the same. But, saith Paul, if you could suppose it possible, for an angel to come from Heaven, and preach any other gospel than that I have preached, let him be accursed. And the Apostle repeats it, that no one might suppose he spake it from the warmth of the moment, or from inadvertency. But, as Paul very properly adds, it is not I, that seek to please, or to persuade men, but it is God!
It were earnestly to be wished, that Paul's faithfulness and zeal, were more followed than it is. When we look round, and behold, in the present awful day of the Church, what a mixture, of law and gospel, grace and works, make up for the most part, what is called evangelical preaching; how much the creature is cried up, and the Person, glory, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, put down; how men are taught to live upon themselves, and their attainments, instead of living upon the Lord Jesus Christ; we have cause to tremble for the eventual consequences. And, although it would be highly unbecoming, and improper, in any, unless inspired as Paul was, to pronounce the Anathema he pronounced; (see Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:22.) yet this methinks I would do: wheresoever, and whensoever I hear the free will of man extolled, and the grace of God little regarded, I would do as holy men of old did, rent my garment, and pluck off my hair, in token of indignation, for the foul ingratitude offered to my God. I would look up to God, and say in language like his, who fell down astonied at the mingling of the holy seed, in direct defiance of God's law: O my God! I am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the Heaven. Ezr 9 throughout.
(13) For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: (14) And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (15) But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, (16) To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (17) Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. (18) Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. (19) But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. (20) Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. (21) Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; (22) And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: (23) But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. (24) And they glorified God in me.
What a beautiful and affecting history the Apostle hath here given of himself. It is indeed but short, but it is strikingly interesting. He takes it up from the days of his unregeneracy; and makes no reserve, in describing the bitterness of his mind at that time, against the faith of Christ. Paul tells the Galatians, that they had heard of his conversation, when in the Jews' religion, how he had persecuted the infant Church of Christ. Reader! it is a very high proof of a change of heart, when the soul looks back, and takes pleasure, in ascribing glory to God's grace; at the same time taking shame in acknowledging our own undeservings. And, in ministers, and preachers of the word, I believe nothing is so likely, under grace, to win souls to Christ, as by showing how the Lord first graciously wrought on our own.
Paul, having shown what he once was by nature, next proceeds to show, what he then was by grace. And he runs it up to the fountain-head of mercy, in declaring, that it was God's free grace, and nothing of his own deserving. When it pleased God (said he) who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me! Reader! There is a set time to favor Zion! Psalms 102:13. And, it is blessed to behold, that He, who is the God in nature and in providence, is the same also in grace. He who separates from the womb of nature, did long before separate in the womb of eternity his chosen ones. And he who appoints the time of their birth in nature, hath marked their time in the new birth of grace. As it was by Christ, so it is by all the members of his mystical body. When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son. Galatians 4:4. And when the fullness of time is come, for the recovery of Christ's members from the Adam-nature of sin; God sends forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, whereby we cry Abba Father! So minutely doth the Lord attend to all the concerns of his people!
Reader! it is to rob our souls of comfort, when we rob Christ of glory. Oh! had we eyes to see, or hearts to contemplate, things as they are, we should not confine our thoughts respecting Christ, to the act of redemption. Redemption is but part of His office-work. It is the Son of God's work, in his union with our nature, to reign in, and rule over, all the departments of nature, providence, grace, and glory. He is the head over all things to the Church, which is his body: the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:23. It will be well, if you and I can bear testimony to the same work of the Lord, in all the departments of it, as it concerns ourselves; and say, as Paul did: He who separated me from my mother's womb, hath called me by his grace!
I admire the Apostle's expression, in his account of a saving, and effectual call, when he terms it, to reveal his Son in me. He doth not say merely to me, but in me. Not simply opening to the Apostle's view who Christ is; neither showing to Paul his infinite fullness, and suitability: but in him; that is, giving the Apostle an apprehension of Christ, and Paul's right in him. Reader! do not hastily pass away from this distinguishing feature of personal grace. Many hear of Christ, and in this sense may be said to have an outward revelation of him; but Paul's was, and so must every child of God's be, an inward manifestation in him. Job, ages past, marked the vast difference, in his own experience, when he said: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear. Thus do thousands, and go no further. But now (saith Job) mine eye seeth thee. Similar to Paul: God revealed his Son in me. Here is the sweet mark of God's children. Job 42:5.
And, what makes this in-revelation so truly blessed, in distinction to all outward proclamations, is the assurance it brings with it, that all the Persons of the Godhead do graciously concur, and cooperate in this gifted mercy. God (saith Paul, meaning the Father,) revealed his Son in me. And it is God the Son which reveals himself to his people, for so he promised; and so it is said: in thy light shall we see light. John 14:21; Psalms 36:9. For as the sun in nature, in his own light, gives light to the objects in nature: So the Sun of Righteousness, in grace, gives light from his own light, whereby we discover his divine light, shining in our souls. And no less, God the Holy Ghost becomes a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: Ephesians 1:17. Indeed, all the knowledge we have of each Person of the Godhead, is from each other, concerning each other, and by each other. No man hath seen God at any time. But the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. John 1:18. In like manner, it is said, no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son wilt reveal him. Matthew 11:27. And Jesus, in promising the Holy Ghost, declared, that when He was come, he should make known both the Father and the Son to his people. At that day, (saith Christ,) ye shall know, that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. John 14:20; Reader! what saith your heart's experience to these things? Paul here tells you; that at the time God, who separated him from his mother's womb, was pleased to call him by his grace; that then, he revealed his Son in him. Hath it been so with you? Depend upon it, he that separated in nature, is the same which sets apart in grace. Hath he so wrought in you? Have you seen, and do you now see, the glory of God as it relates to your own soul, in the face of Jesus Christ?
I must not, in a work of this kind, enlarge upon all the particulars, to which Paul refers in his history. But if the limits of the Poor Man's Commentary would admit of it, many sweet subjects arise out of them. His authority to preach, his faithfulness in preaching, his abstractedness from all human teaching, and the glory the Churches gave to God, both for his wonderful conversion, and his call to the ministry; these would lead to very inprovable, and profitable discourse. But, having already swollen the observations on this Chapter beyond the usual length, I add no more.
SWEET testimony to my Lord in the account here given by his servant, of his call to the Apostleship! No man could commission to the office, Paul knew. And it was Paul's joy to consider, that he neither received it from man, nor was called to it by man, but by God his Savior! Jesus! who miraculously called to him from Heaven, made him an Apostle, and sent him to preach his Gospel. Oh! precious testimony, both to Paul's Apostleship, and to Paul's preaching; and to the Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Reader! listen to what Paul hath here again related, of his original state of nature, and unregeneracy. Oh! who to all appearance, more unpromising, more unlikely to be called by sovereign grace, when breathing out threatenings, and slaughter, against the disciples of the Lord! Listen to what he hath said of the Lord's call to him! See what God can accomplish, on the stoutest hearts of sinners! Behold him preaching the pure, unadulterated Gospel, of the Lord Jesus Christ! Ask Paul, from whence the wonderful change? A Persecutor, Blasphemer, Injurious! And now behold him, preaching the faith which once he denied. What cannot God accomplish? What will He not accomplish, to bring home his own to himself; and to rescue his whole Church from the hand of the enemy?
Reader! let you and I glorify God, in him, and for him, and for all the mercies and blessings the Church hath derived, and will derive from Paul's ministry, to the latest period of time. And, oh! for grace to keep always in remembrance, as the conclusion of all Paul's discourses, which he himself made, as the end, and consequence of his conversion: For this cause, (said he,) I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them, which should hereafter believe on him, to life everlasting.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Galatians 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany