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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Galatians 1

 

 


Other Authors
Verses 1-24

Galatians 1:1. Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by man. Paul was not a member of the church of the firstborn, suckled with her breasts, and edified by her ministry. Christ had specially appeared to him, and stopped him in the way. He saw the holy and Just One; was made by the grace of God a witness of the resurrection, and legate of God to the Gentiles. Acts 9:4; Acts 22:13; Acts 22:15. Thus his ministry was purely of God, as Christ is of God the Father, who raised him from the dead by the Spirit, which justified him from the condemnation of the Jews. Therefore the Spirit of Jehovah rested upon him in the plenitude of divine endowments. Nor should it escape remark, that the Saviour who spake to Paul in Damascus, spake to him on special occasions in every future crisis of duty and danger. He spake to him in Corinth; and while lying in prison at Cæsarea, that he must also bear witness of him at Rome, and in other places.

Galatians 1:2. The churches of Galatia. This was a province of Asia minor, bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the south by Pamphylia, on the west by Phrygia, and on the north by the Black sea. It was called Gaulo- Grecia, because the Gauls who burnt Rome established themselves there. In the fourth century it was divided into Paphlagonia, Galatia, and Isuria. The capital was Ancyra. The apostles were missionaries here, and this epistle is a circular letter to all the churches, to whom it was intended to be read in the hours of devotion.

Galatians 1:3-5. Grace to you, and peace — from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, a vicarious sacrifice, that he might bring us to God, and deliver us from the present evil world, by calling us out of the world, by forming us into a peculiar people, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, that we might declare his glory and righteousness to the world. So he said by Isaiah: “This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise:” Isaiah 43:21. The church is now the called, the Israel of God.

Galatians 1:6-7. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you — to another gospel, a gospel mixed with all the yoke of the ceremonial law. Which indeed is not another; but the false apostles, as angels of light, trouble you. It would seem from the replies of St. Paul, in chap. 4. and Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 12:25, that those false apostles had talked in the high style of the synagogues. ‘This Paul has deceived you; he has taken a false measure of the prophets, and totally perverted the sense of the seers. He has transferred all the promised glory to our city and temple to some imaginary mount Zion above. Whereas the sense of the prophets is plain; their words are simple and clear. “Then shall the throne of the Lord be great in Jerusalem,” as stated in the latter parts of the prophets. All the converted gentiles shall bring their gifts and offerings to the Lord, to the place that he hath chosen. Zion is the mountain of his holiness. God is in the midst of her, she shall never be moved. His law is an everlasting law. Therefore, you must all be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses.’ — On the contrary, Paul regarded Jerusalem as a putrid carcase, about which the Roman eagles should in a few years be gathered. He, the first of prophets, foresaw that the jews who had execrated the Saviour, should themselves be accursed, and be scattered from one end of the earth to the other. Deuteronomy 28:64.

Galatians 1:8. Though we, or an angel from heaven, which Luther designates by the name of “white devil,” preach any other gospel — let him be accursed. The gospel of the grace of God, the new covenant in all its glory, the gospel declarative of the love of God, who spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all, and with him confers all the riches of grace and glory; if this gospel be impugned, it merits the severest strokes of the two-edged sword of God’s avenging arm. What, corrupt, degrade, or despise this gospel, which the first witnesses have published, and sealed with their blood; for which the noble army of martyrs have fought; the faith in which our well-instructed fathers have died? The dire apostasy cannot be tolerated for a moment. If the cross be degraded, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.

Galatians 1:10-12. Do I seek to please men, by liberation from the ceremonial yoke, as the false apostles say I do. If so, I cease to be the servant of Christ. But I certify to you again, as when I was with you, that the gospel which I preached was neither of men, nor by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. If my gospel were of men, they would give me rewards; now they cast me into prison, and load me with affliction.

Galatians 1:13-14. Ye have heard of my conversation in time past. See the notes on Acts 9:22.

Galatians 1:15-16. When it pleased God — to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood. I went not back to Jerusalem to look after my private affairs. I let the dead bury their dead. The conversion of Paul demonstrated that his gospel was not of men. During the three days he lay in Damascus, the Son of God, who had appeared to him in the way, opened to him the scriptures, and all the doctrines of the glorious gospel, not omitting the ordinance of the last supper. 1 Corinthians 11:23. — What clearer proof could the Galatians have, that the gospel preached by Paul was not of men, nor after the example of men. He was called of Him who separated him from his mother’s womb, and he attributes his call wholly to the grace of God. He ascribes his knowledge to a special revelation. His future, life was a living sacrifice of obedience to the heavenly vision, and all his sufferings demonstrate the sublimity of his glory in the cross of Christ.

Galatians 1:17. I went into Arabia. Ancient geography does not exactly define the limits of this country. Whether it comprized the once powerful kingdom of Hazor, mentioned in Judges 4. and Jeremiah 49:28; or whether it extended to the kingdom of queen Zenobia, alluded to in the note on Job 1:1; or whether the labours of Paul were in the eastern parts of Lebanon and its adjacent cities; or whether he crossed the Euphrates, cannot now be decided. The loss of this part of the apostle’s journal is irreparable. Chrysostom’s note here is, that St. Paul carefully records the grace which God had conferred on him; but in the excess of modesty, he is silent of his own works. His journies finally took a northern direction, towards Cilicia, his native province, as stated in Galatians 1:21.

Galatians 1:19. James the Lord’s brother. St. Ambrose says this James was the son of Joseph. Of course he was older than Jesus, his own mother being dead before Joseph espoused the holy virgin.

REFLECTIONS.

The first work of an ambassador is to open his credentials as the plenipotentiary of his sovereign. St. Paul was an apostle, not of men, as the false apostles were. 2 Corinthians 11:13. Nor was he first appointed by men in the christian church. Christ therefore who sent him was not a mere man, but the God-man; and as to his humanity, he is the prophet, priest, and king, raised from the dead by the Father, and declared to be the Son of God with power.

The weakness and inconstancy of man is a subject of astonishment, even to St. Paul. The holy apostles and apostolic men had planted the churches in Galatia; they had sealed their mission with the gifts of the Spirit, and left them in full possession of the sacred truth. But behold, when the false apostles came enforcing the Mosaic law, they suffered the superior glory and liberty of the gospel to be drawn back to carnal ordinances. Lord, what is man! We seem to retain infancy to old age, and to be in the hands of others for opinions during the whole of life. When something new appears in a beguiling dress, we are ready to leave the ancient rock.

The curse denounced against those troublers of the churches, is truly awful. The hypocrite, or the angel who could disturb those tender minds in their happy simplicity, and communion with God, was worthy of excommunication from the family of heaven: and the anathema is repeated to give it the greater emphasis.

A clear statement of the evidences of christianity is the best way of confirming men in the truths of revealed religion. St. Paul states his mission, as he did also twice before the court of Cæsarea. He was made an apostle purely by a divine call. He certified that his gospel was not of men. He was a persecutor of the first class, and therefore had neither interest nor inclination to preach Christ. God separated him from his mother’s womb, and called him by his grace for the ministry. Christ was revealed in his heart, in truth and grace, that he might preach him among the heathen. It was three years before he saw any of the apostles. He was not known by face to the saints in Judea: so many clear proofs that his gospel was from heaven, and not of men. And we may ask, who among the simple followers of Christ could have forced the christian faith on a genius so sublime, without allowing him some time to weigh it, and to conquer his bigotry and prejudice. And what but divine conviction could have induced him to sacrifice his preferment, to account his worldly hopes but as dung, and to suffer all kinds of torture to win the crown of righteousness. Thus the conversion of St. Paul is one of the most striking demonstrations of the truth of christianity; and the Galatians were the more inexcusable in leaving the doctrines of a genuine father, for spurious apostles of judaism.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Galatians 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/galatians-1.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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