He wondereth that they have so soon left him and the Gospel; and pronounceth a sacred curse on those that preach any other Gospel than he did: he learned the Gospel not of men, but of God: and sheweth what he was before his calling, and what he did presently after it.
Anno Domini 49.
BECAUSE the false teachers had called St. Paul an Apostle of men, and had said that he was made an Apostle by the church at Antioch, or at best by the Apostles in Jerusalem, he began his letter with affirming, that he was not an Apostle of men; but an Apostle appointed by Jesus Christ himself, and by God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead, Galatians 1:1—By mentioning the resurrection of Jesus, St. Paul glanced at the miraculous manner in which he himself was made an Apostle by Christ after his resurrection; and of which St. Luke has given an account, Acts 9:3-9. He alluded to it likewise Galatians 1:5 where he calls it God's revealing his Son to him. So that St. Paul, both in respect of the time and of the manner of his being raised to the apostolic office, instead of being inferior, was superior to the other Apostles: Christ came from heaven to qualify him for that office, and to confer it on him.—Next he told the Galatians, that all the brethren who were with him joined him in this letter; by which he insinuated that they attested the whole of the facts he was going to relate, Galatians 1:2.—Then expressed his surprise, that the Galatians were so soon removed from his doctrine to another gospel, Galatians 1:6.—which he told them was no gospel at all, Galatians 1:7.—And because the false teachers affirmed, that after conversing with the Apostles in Jerusalem, Paul had become sensible of his error, and now enjoined circumcision, chap. Galatians 5:11 he twice anathematized every one who preached contrary to what they had heard him preach, though it were himself, or an angel from heaven, who did it, Galatians 1:8-9.—Then asked his opponents, whether in so speaking he endeavoured to please men or God, Galatians 1:10.—It seems, the Judaizers had represented him to the Galatians, as one who suited his doctrine to the inclinations of his hearers. Besides, the Judaizers were for the most part bad men, and capable of affirming any falsehood which they thought would promote their views.
Farther, the Apostle's enemies pretended not only that he was an Apostle sent forth by men, but that he was taught the Gospel by Ananias, or by the brethren at Antioch, or by the Apostles at Jerusalem: But he solemnly averred, that he received the Gospel from no man, nor body of men whatever, but from Christ himself, Galatians 1:11-12.—And in proof of that asseveration, he appealed to his manner of life both before and after his conversion, as a thing well known: that before his conversion he furiously persecuted the church, Galatians 1:13.—And was exceedingly zealous of thetraditions of the fathers, Galatians 1:14.—In that period of his life, therefore, he had neither opportunity nor inclination to learn any thing from the Christians. And being so great a zealot for the law, if he afterwards taught that no man could be justified by the law, nothing but the strongest evidence had induced him to take up that opinion.—He told them farther, that when it pleased God to make him an Apostle, he consulted with no person in Damascus, no Jewish doctor concerning his commission as an Apostle, nor any of the brethren concerning the things that he was to preach, Galatians 1:15-16.—Neither did he go to Jerusalem, to receive the Gospel from them who were Apostles before him; but he went into Arabia, and again returned to Damascus; and there, acting as an Apostle, he preached the Gospel, which he had received by revelation from Christ, in the synagogues, where, as St. Luke informs us,Acts 9:22 he confounded the Jews who dwelt at Damascus, proving that Jesus is the very Christ, Galatians 1:17.—And did not go to Jerusalem till three years after his conversion: and then abode fifteen days with St. Peter, lest, keeping any longer at a distance from the Apostles, it might be suspected that he was acting in opposition to them, Galatians 1:18.—On that occasion St. Paul saw no other of the Apostles except James, the Lord's brother, Galatians 1:19.—Having related these facts, he solemnly appealed to God for the truth of them, because they effectuallyestablished his apostleship, and confuted the calumnies of his enemies. For if it was true, that in his first visit to Jerusalem, after his conversion, he saw none of the apostles but Peter andJames, (supposing it had been in their power to have made him an apostle,) it is not probable that without the knowledge and consent of the rest they would confer that office on him, a new convert, of whose sincerity they had not as yet sufficient proof, Galatians 1:20.—After spending fifteen days with St. Peter, which was too short a space of time for him to be instructed by St. Peter in the complete knowledge of the Gospel, he went into the countries of Syria and Cilicia, whither he was sent by the brethren, because the Jews in Jerusalem, exceedingly enraged against him for having deserted their party and gone over to the Christians, sought to kill him, Galatians 1:21.—And from Cilicia, where he abode several years, he went I suppose into Galatia. Thus it came to pass, that for a long time after St. Paul's conversion, he was personally unknown to the churches in Judea; who had heard nothing or little more concerning him, but that he who formerly persecuted the Christians, now preached the faith and facts concerning Christ, which he had formerly endeavoured to disprove. Galatians 1:22-23.—This so great a change of behaviour in so violent an enemy, occasioned the churches to glorify God on account of his conversion, Galatians 1:24.
From these things it is evident, that when St. Paul went into Cilicia, and from Cilicia into Galatia, he had seen none of the Apostles, except St. Peter and St. James; and that he had never been at any general meeting of the Apostles to receive from them, either the office of an apostle, or the doctrine of the Gospel. And therefore if, through divine grace, he was the favoured instrument of converting the Galatians in some journeywhich he made into their country from Cilicia, the doctrine that he preached and the miracles which he wrought, must have been bestowed on him, not by man, but by the Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father, as he himself has affirmed.
Galatians— The subject and design of this epistle is much the same with that of the epistle to the Romans; but treated in somewhat a different manner. The grand business of it is, to dehort and hinder the Galatians from bringing themselves under the bondage of the Mosaical law. The two epistles indeed have particular relation to different sorts of Jews; that of the Romans, to Jews who opposed and rejected the whole Gospel, as unnecessary; this of the Galatians, to Jews who, while they believed the Gospel, urged that a submission to the law of Moses was at the same time necessary. But as the principles of those Jews did in some things coincide, and their sentiments were the same with regard to the perpetual obligation of the law of Moses; so there may be an affinity and agreement in the arguments which the Apostle advances in confutation of the one and the other. The Galatians were descended from those Gauls who had formerly invaded Greece, and afterwards settled in Lower Asia. St. Paul was the first who preached the Gospel among them; and therefore, referring ch. Galatians 1:8-9 to what he had before taught them, he does not in this epistle lay down at large the doctrines of the Gospel, as he does in that to the Romans. He also speaks with greater freedom and pathos to the Galatians than he does to the Romans; to whom, being a stranger, he writes not in so familiar a stile; nor in his reproofs and exhortations uses so much the tone of a master. The following disorders had crept into the churches of Galatia: First, Some zealots for the Jewish constitution had very nearly persuaded the Galatians out of their Christian liberty, and made them willingto submit to circumcision, and all the rituals of the Jewish church, as necessary under the Gospel, ch. Galatians 1:7, Galatians 3:3, Galatians 4:9-21, Galatians 5:1-10. Secondly, Their dissentions and disputes in this matter had raised great animosities among them, to the disturbance of their peace, and the setting them at strife one with another, ch. Galatians 5:6-15. The reforming them in these two points seems to be the main business of this epistle; wherein St. Paul endeavours to establish them in a resolution to stand firm in the freedom of the Gospel, which exempts them from the bondage of the Mosaical law; and labours to reduce them to a sincere love and affection one of another: concluding with an exhortation to liberality and general benevolence, ch. Galatians 6:1-10. These being the matters, about which he had it in his mind, under the infallible direction of the Spirit of God, to write to them, he seems here as if he had finished; but upon mentioning Galatians 1:11 how large a letter he had written to them with his own hand, the former argument concerning circumcision, which filled and warmed his mind, broke out again into what we find Galatians 1:12-17 of the 6th chapter.
Galatians 1:1. Paul, an Apostle,— The first four verses contain the preface or introduction to this epistle: the general view of it plainly shews St. Paul's chief design to be, to keep theGalatiansfromhearkeningtothoseJudaizing seducers, who had almost persuaded them to be circumcised. These perverters of the Gospel of Christ, as St. Paul himself calls them, Galatians 1:7 had, as may be gathered from Galatians 1:8; Galatians 1:10 and from ch. Galatians 5:11 and other passages of this epistle, made the Galatians believe that St. Paul himself was for circumcision. Till he had set them right in this matter, and convinced them of the falsehood of this aspersion, it was in vain for him by other arguments to attempt the re-establishing of the Galatians in the Christian liberty, and in that truth which he had preached to them. His first endeavour therefore was, to remove this calumny; and to that purpose the present introduction,—different from what we find in any other of his epistles,—is extremely well adapted. He declares here, at the entrance, very expressly and emphatically, that he was not sent by men, on their errands: nay, that Christ, in sending him, did not so much as convey his apostolical power to him by the ministry orintervention of any man; but that his commission and instructions were all entirely fromChrist himself by immediate revelation. This of itself was an argument sufficient to induce them to believe, first, that what he taught them, when he first preached the Gospel to them, was the truth, and that they ought to adhere firmly to it. Secondly, That he changed not his doctrine, what ever might be reported of him. He was Christ's chosen officer, and had no dependence on men's opinions, nor regard to their authority or favour in what he preached; and therefore it was not likely that he should preach one thing at one time, and another thing at another.
Not of men,— Not sent by men at their pleasure, or by their authority; not instructed by men what to say or do, as we see Timothy and Titus were, when sent by St. Paul; and Judas and Silas, when sent by the church of Jerusalem. Neither by men; that is, his choice and separation to his ministry and apostleship was so wholly an act of Christ, that there was no intervention of any thing done by any man in the case, as there was in the election of Matthias. We may see all this explained at large, Galatians 1:10-12; Galatians 1:16-17 and ch. Galatians 2:6-9. It is with great propriety that the Apostle mentions here the resurrection of Christ from the dead, as perfectly agreeable to the main point that he had in view, which was, to assert the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ; since God the Father declared, by raising him from the dead, that he accepted the atonement which Christ had made, and gave him a discharge for all his faithful saints, from any further claim upon him for the satisfaction of his justice:and as it is this which is the great foundation of our faith in Christ, so the Apostle says elsewhere that he was raised again for our justification. Romans 4:25.
Galatians 1:2. And all the brethren, &c.— Not all believers in general, but those who accomplished St. Paul in his travels, and assisted him in preaching the Gospel. Such were Timothy, Clement, and others, who are denominated fellow-labourers in other places. See Philippians 4:3. 1 Thessalonians 3:2. When St. Paul writes to the Christians of any particular city, he generally uses the singular number, the church: but the province of Galatia contained several cities and churches. This was an evident seal of his apostleship, since in Galatia, a small province of the Lesser Asia, he had, after no long stay among them, planted several distinct churches. It is remarkable, that the Apostle does not make use of any of the endearing epithets, as the beloved, the saints, the brethren, &c.; and there might be good reason for it: the Galatians had suffered his verymission to be called in question, without attempting any vindication of it, and had given countenance to doctrines which were subversive of the very foundation of Christianity.
Galatians 1:3. Grace be to you, &c.— These words are both a Christian salutation, and an apostolical benediction. As they are a salutation, they express a wish and desire of the best blessings in behalf of those saluted: whence we may learn, that religion does not abolish and destroy, but spiritualize and improve civility, humanity, and common courtesy. The heathens wished health to their saluted friends; the Jews, peace; that is, all manner of good: but the Christians, grace and peace. Again, the words may be understood as an apostolical and ministerial blessing. The Apostles were the patriarchs of the church of the New Testament; and as a spiritual Father, St. Paul here blesses his children, wishing them first grace, then peace. Peace must be sought after grace, and not expected before it; peace without grace is no peace; there can be no peace with the Creator, no sanctified peace with the creatures, except we are first made partakers of the gracious love and favour of Almighty God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Galatians 1:4. From this present evil world,— "From the vicious customs and practices of the world."—The original is ambiguous: some would render it from the evil of this present world. Mr. Locke argues from 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:8 that the term Αιων ουτος signifies the Jewish nation, under the Mosaic constitution; and supposes these words to contain an intimation, that God intended to take the Jews themselves out of it, so far was he from any purpose of bringing the Gentiles under it. But it is certain that the word Αιων often signifies the same with the word κοσμος, that is, the world. See Matthew 13:39-40. 2 Corinthians 4:4. Titus 2:12.
Galatians 1:6.— We have before observed, that St. Paul's first endeavour in this epistle was to satisfy the Galatians, that the report spread of him, that he preached circumcision, was false. Till this obstruction which lay in his way was removed, it was to no purpose for him to go about to dissuade them from circumcision, though that be what he principallyaims at in this epistle. To shew them that he promoted not circumcision, he calls their hearkening to those who persuaded them to be circumcised, their being removed from him; and those that so persuaded them, perverters of the Gospel of Christ, Galatians 1:6-7. He further assures them, that the Gospel which he preached every where, was that, and that only, which he had received by immediate revelation from Christ, and was no contrivance of man; nor did he vary it to please men; that would not consist with his being a servant of Christ, Galatians 1:10. And he expresses such a firm adherence to what he had received from Christ, and had preached to them, that he pronounces an anathema upon himself, Galatians 1:8-9 or any other man, or angel, that should preach any thing else to them. To make out this to have been all along his conduct, he gives an account of himself for many years backwards, even from the time before his conversion; wherein he shews, that from a zealous persecuting Jew he was made a Christian, and an Apostle by immediate revelation; and that having no communication with the Apostles, or with the churches of Judea, or any man in this sense for some years, he had nothing to preach but what he had received by immediate revelation. Nay, when fourteen years after he went up to Jerusalem, it was by revelation; and when he there communicated the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles, Peter, James, and John approved of it without adding any thing, but admitted him as their fellow-apostle. So that in all this he was guided by nothing but divine revelation, which he inflexibly adhered to so far, that he openly opposed St. Peter for his Judaizing at Antioch. All which account of himself tends clearly to shew, that St. Paul made not the least step towards complying with the Jews in favour of the law; nor did, out of regard to man, deviate from the doctrine which he had received by revelation from God, ch. Galatians 1:6.—ii. 21.
From him that called you into the grace of Christ— These words might be rendered with equal propriety, called you by, or through the grace of Christ. The passage plainly points out St. Paul himself. See ch. Galatians 5:8. But then one might wonder how he came to use there words; since at first light it might appear to have sounded better to have said, Removed from the Gospel I preached to you, to another Gospel, than, Removed from me who called you into the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel. But if it be remembered that St. Paul's design here is to vindicate himself from the aspersion cast on him, that he preached circumcision, nothing could be more suitable to that purpose than this way of expressing himself.
Galatians 1:7. Which is not another;— I take the Greek here to signify, says Mr. Locke, which is not any thing else. For, first, the words themselves, the context, and the business the Apostle is upon, do all concur in this sense. Secondly, It is suitable to St. Paul's design here to tell them, that to their being removed to another Gospel, nobody else had contributed, but it was wholly owing to those Judaizing seducers. Dr. Heylin renders this and the preceding verse as follows: I wonder you have so soon deserted unto another Gospel from me, who called you by the grace of Christ; which comes only from this, that there are some who perplex your minds, and would subvert the Gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:8. Though we, or an angel from heaven,— Some have imagined, that the Apostle uses this expression as a prophetical prevention against crediting the pretences of Cerinthus and Mahomet, who both pretended to have received their revelations by the ministry of an angel.It may likewise glance at the manner of giving the law, which, according to the Apostle, was by the ministration of angels. By preaching any other Gospel, he means the preaching any thing as Gospel besides what he had preached.
Galatians 1:9. Let him be accursed.— Though we may look upon the repetition of the anathema here to be for the adding of force to what he says; yet we may observe, that by joining himself with an angel in the foregoing verse, he does as good as tell them, that he is not guilty of what deserves that anathema: skilfully insinuating to the Galatians, that they might as well suspect an angel should preach to them a doctrine different from his, that is to say, a false gospel, as that he himself should; and then in this verse he lays the anathema wholly and solely upon the Judaizing seducers. See on 1 Corinthians 16:22.
Galatians 1:10. Do I now persuade men,— Do I court the favour of men;—or, Do I ingratiate myself with men, rather than with God? The words now and yet cannot be understood without a reference to something in St. Paul's past life. What that was which he had particularly then in his mind, we may see by the account he gives of himself in what immediately follows; namely, that before his conversion he was employed by men in their designs, and made it his business to please them, as may be seen Acts 9:1-2. But when GOD called him, he received his commission and instructions from him alone, and immediately entered upon his office, without consulting any man whatever; preaching that, and that only, which he had received from Christ; so that it would be senseless folly in him, and no less than the forsaking his Master Jesus Christ, if he should now, as was reported of him, mix any thing of man's with the pure doctrine of the Gospel, (which he had received immediately by revelation from Jesus Christ,) to please the Jews, after he had so long preached only that; and, to avoid all appearance or pretence of the contrary, had so carefully shunned all communication with thechurches of Judea; and had not, till a good while after his conversion, and then very sparingly, conversed with any, and those but a few, of the Apostles themselves, one of whom he openly reproved for Judaizing. This is a plain assertion of the divinity of the doctrine which he had preached. The word Πειθω, translated persuade, is sometimes used for making application to any one to obtain his good will or friendship. Hence, Acts 12:20 the words πεισαντες Βλαστον, are translated, having made Blastus their friend. See 1 Thessalonians 2:4.
Galatians 1:11. The gospel which was preached of me— This being spoken indefinitely, must be understood "in general—every where," and so gives us the import of the foregoing verse.
Galatians 1:13. In the Jews' religion;— This does not signify the religion originally taught by Moses, but that which was practised among the Jews at this time, and much of it built upon the tradition of the elders. Grotius.
Galatians 1:14. And profited—my equals in, &c.— And made proficiency—my cotemporaries of, &c.
Galatians 1:15. Who separated me— See Jeremiah 1:5 and the history of this Apostle's call, Acts 9:1; Acts 9:43.
Galatians 1:16. That I might preach him among the heathen;— This was undoubtedly the scheme of Providence concerning St. Paul, who has been accordingly distinguished by the name of The Apostle of the Gentiles. Dr. Wells and some others understand the last clause of this verse as if the Apostle had said, "Immediately after the recovery of mysight, without conferring with any man in the world, or so much as applying to Ananias himself for advice, I retired by divine direction into the desert of Arabia; where, after some time spent in devotion, I had a full revelation made to me of the most important facts and doctrines of Christianity; [which some suppose to be the rapture referred to, 2 Corinthians 12:2.] and then, after my return thence, preached at Damascus for the first time." Mr. Locke too insists, that the word ευθεως does not refer to St. Paul's immediately engaging in the work of the ministry, without applying for advice to any man; but to his going into Arabia: but the same word is used by St. Luke in his history of the Acts, who, without taking any notice of St. Paul's departure into Arabia, says, that after he had recovered strength, he continued certain days at Damascus, and ( ευθεως ) immediately preached Christ in the synagogues, Acts 9:19-20. So that it seems most probable that, after his conversion, St. Paul was so well instructed in the knowledge of the Gospel by the revelation that was then made to him, that he immediately began, without consulting any man, to preach the word at Damascus, before he went thence into Arabia: which is most suitable to the natural order of the words, and best agrees with the account in the Acts of his first entering on his ministry.
Galatians 1:17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem— What the Apostle says in this and the preceding verse, is toevince to the Galatians the full assurance that he had of the truth and perfection of the Gospel, which he had received from Christ by immediate revelation; and how little he was disposed to have any regard to the pleasing of men in preaching it; insomuch that he did not even communicate or advise with any of the Apostles about it, to see whether they approved it or not.
Galatians 1:18. After three years— That is, from his conversion. The Apostle seems to have used great caution, to prevent any suspicion that he had gone even to St. Peter for the sake of instruction; for he says, first, that he went only to see him, and then that he abode with him; but says not a word of having been taught by him.
Galatians 1:19. James, the Lord's brother.— He was the Son of Alpheus and Mary, the sister of the virgin; so that he was cousin-german to Jesus. See Mark 3:18.
Galatians 1:20. Before God, I lie not.— A revelation of the facts and doctrines of Christianity immediately from Jesus Christ himself, without the assistance of any human teacher, so wonderfully agreeing in all its branches with that which the Lord Jesus Christ had taught on earth, both before and after his resurrection, was so extraordinary an event, and of so great importance to those whom St. Paul visited, and to whom he wrote, that one cannot wonder he should think proper to assert it in so solemn a manner. We have great reason, while we read the attestation which he has given to the truth of what he says, to acknowledge, that it is of a piece with the many signs and wonders attending both his conversion and his ministry.
Galatians 1:22. Which were in Christ:— That is, "believing in Christ." See Romans 16:7. What he takes such particular notice of here, does not tend to the proving that he was a true Apostle; but serves very well to shew, that in what he preached, he had no communication with those of his own nation, nor took any particular care to please the Jews in preference to the Gentiles.
Galatians 1:24. In me.— On my account. Doddridge.
Inferences.—With what entire satisfaction may we depend upon the divine authority of the Gospel which was delivered by the Apostle Paul, who has testified, even upon oath, that he received it, together with his commission to preach it, not from any mere man, but immediately from Jesus Christ, who is God-man! He is evidently God, as all apostolic and ministerial authority, spiritual blessings, and the whole of the Gospel revelation, proceed jointly and equally from the Father and him, in distinction from, and in opposition to, all that is derived from men; and he is as evidently Man, as he died and rose again from the dead: and O how infinitely important and beneficial is his death, who gave himself an atoning Sacrifice for our sins, that he might deliver us from them, and from all the evils of this present world; and whose resurrection is a high demonstration of the acceptableness and efficacy of his death for these great and holy purposes! On this ground we may, if we be real believers or genuine penitents, comfortably hope for grace and peace from the Father and the Son. But with what holy detestation should we reject those who would corrupt the Gospel of Christ, and substitute another pretended gospel in its stead, for justification in any other way than alone through faith in him! How grievous and astonishing is it, that any, who once seemed to embrace this blessed Gospel, should be turned aside from it to some other scheme of doctrine, which, in reality, is no gospel at all, and never can bring salvation to them! And how heavy is the curse that lies upon those who pervert them! But O, what a wonderful and happy change does the grace of our Lord Jesus make, when it effectually reaches the heart! It reveals Christ in them who were utter strangers to him before; and makes them ready to confess the ignorance and error, in which they formerly gloried; it turns the greatest bigots for superstition and human traditions, and the most inveterate enemies to Christ, into sincere believers; it changes the most furious persecutors of his people into true lovers of him and them, and frequently into zealous preachers of that Gospel which they before sought to destroy: and it makes those, who preserve this union with the Lord Jesus, such faithful servants of Christ, that they no longer seek to please men by any sinful compliances with them: and when he calls such faithful souls to his work, they yield obedience to him, without consulting the interests of the flesh, or the opinion of men. And O what matter of thanksgiving and joy is it to his churches, whenever they hear of such monuments being raised to the praise of the glory of his grace, whether they have ever seen their faces or not! They glorify God for his power and mercy exercised in their behalf, and for all the service to his people and cause, which is done and may be further hoped for by them. And for the encouragement of such ministers, if they be faithful unto death, they have the glorious promise, that "they shall shine as the stars for ever and ever." Daniel 12:3.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Among, the heaviest burdens which lay on the great Apostle Paul, was the care of all the churches, where many errors soon crept in, and Judaizing teachers sought to corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel, and therewith to decry him who was the zealous defender of its glorious privileges. Nowhere had these seducers practised with more success than among the Galatians; for whose recovery to the purity of the faith, the Apostle writes this epistle.
1. He begins with his apostolical address. Paul an Apostle, not of men, neither by man, not assuming a character to which he had no title, nor acting under any ordination merely human, but immediately called to this high office, and commissioned by Jesus Christ himself, who personally appeared to him; and God the Father, who raised him from the dead, declaring thereby his perfect satisfaction in the great atonement of his Son: and therefore St. Paul's commission bore this eminent distinction, that while the chief Apostles were only ordained by Jesus in the days of his humiliation, the great Apostle of the Gentiles received his call and office from the glorified Redeemer, exalted on his mediatorial throne.
2. All the brethren who were with him, joined the Apostle in his address to the churches of Galatia, concurring with him in sentiment, and declaring thereby their approbation of the doctrines which he maintained, and of the just reproofs that he was about to give.
3. He wishes that the best of blessings may attend them. Grace be to you, in all its happy effects of pardon, comfort, strength, purity, and peace, the consequence thereof; all proceeding of free grace and unmerited love from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, the meritorious cause of all our mercies; who gave himself for our sins, in infinite compassion to our wretched state, humbling himself to take our nature upon him, and, as our substitute, to bear our sins in his own body on the tree; that he might obtain eternal redemption for his faithful saints, and deliver us from this present evil world, from the guilt and condemnation under which it lies, and from the power of iniquity by which it is enslaved; and this has our adored Redeemer done for his faithful followers according to the will of God, and, or even, our Father; who is reconciled to his believing people by the blood of the cross, and regards them as dear children. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen! Both to the Father and his co-equal Son, for such a contrivance of infinite love and grace, in order to the redemption of lost souls, be all praise and honour ascribed by men and angels, in time and to eternity! Note; 1. The oblation of Jesus, once for all, is the only substantial foundation of the sinner's hope towards God. (2.) This world in which we dwell is full of evil: we must in spirit and temper be delivered from it, or we shall be condemned with it.
2nd, Abruptly the Apostle hastens to his point, and expresses,
1. His astonishment at their defection from the faith. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, from the blessed God himself, and from us his ministers, unto another gospel, different from that which we preached to you, wherein the glorious grace of a Redeemer was exalted; which new doctrine is not indeed another gospel, bringing no glad tidings to the sinful soul of free pardon and salvation by Jesus Christ; but the truth is, there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ, destroying the riches of the grace thereof, and adulterating the truth with the base alloy of error. Note; there is but one way to regain the lost favour of God, and that is by grace through faith; and they who propose any other must perish with a lie in their right hand.
2. He expresses his detestation of any other pretended gospel besides that which he had preached to them. But though we, or an angel from heaven, if we could suppose it possible, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed, and lie down under the most dreadful anathemas of divine vengeance. As we said before, with the deepest solemnity I repeat it, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received from us, let him be accursed.
3rdly, To vindicate himself from the aspersions of the Judaizing teachers, who affected to set up St. Peter and the other apostles as far his superiors, he enters into a detail of his divine mission and miracles.
1. He declares the scope of his preaching. Do I now persuade men, or God, endeavouring to engage the Galatians to obey human inventions, or to submit to the gospel of the blessed God? (see the Annotations;) or do I seek to please men, and ingratiate myself with you, as the Jewish zealots? No. For I am well persuaded, that if I yet pleased men, and made that my study, to accommodate the gospel to their prejudices, I should not be the servant of Christ, and with fidelity and simplicity discharge the trust committed to me. Note; (1.) To please God, not men, must be our great design. (2.) It is impossible that our fidelity in preaching the gospel should not offend those, who, in pride and self-sufficiency, cannot bear the humbling truth of the necessity of submission to the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Jesus Christ for our acceptance before him.
2. He demonstrates so them the divinity of his mission. The gospel that he preached was not after man, a human invention, or received at second-hand from men's information, but immediately by revelation from the exalted Jesus, now entered into his glory. They knew his past conversation; what a bigot he had been for Judaism; how greatly he had excelled many of his fellow-students in rabbinical knowledge, exactly skilled in all their laws and traditions: to propagate these, he had exerted all his zeal, and, with rage approaching to madness, had persecuted the professors of the Christian name with the savage fury of the most barbarous foe. No prejudices of education, therefore, could have led him to embrace Christianity; but, on the contrary, such a riveted enmity against it could be only overcome by some very extraordinary method of conviction. But when it pleased God, who, of his rich grace, separated me from my mother's womb to serve him in the gospel, and called me by his grace, in such a distinguishing manner, when I was going with the most implacable enmity to persecute the disciples at Damascus; when, I say, God was graciously pleased then to reveal his Son in me, making my inmost soul, by divine irradiation, acquainted with the fulness of the redemption which is in him, that I might preach him among the heathen, as peculiarly ordained to be their apostle,—immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, consulting no longer my own worldly ease, interest, or honour, or asking advice about what God had so clearly determined: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me, as if I needed instruction, or a confirmation in my office; but, divinely taught and ordained, I immediately entered on my work, and went into Arabia, where the gospel had not been preached before, and returned again unto Damascus. Then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, not to learn of him, but to communicate the success of my labours, and enjoy the comforts of Christian fellowship with him and other brethren there; and abode with him only fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother, or near kinsman; so that I received not my knowledge or commission from them. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not, but with the deepest solemnity appeal to him for the truths that I advance. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, preaching the gospel; and was, during many years, unknown by face unto the churches of Judea, which were in Christ, and professed faith in his name; so that from them I could not have received any knowledge of the truth. But they had heard only that he which persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me, ascribing to him praise for my wondrous conversion. Note; Christ must be revealed by his Spirit in us, as well as by his word to us, if we would know him to the saving of our souls.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Galatians 1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter