Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians - Chapter 1
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Verse 1. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by
man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead).
St. Paul wrote this epistle because, after his departure from the Galatian
churches, Jewish-Christian fanatics moved in, who perverted Paul's Gospel of
man's free justification by faith in Christ Jesus.
The world bears the Gospel a grudge because the Gospel
condemns the religious wisdom of the world. Jealous for its own religious
views, the world in turn charges the Gospel with being a subversive and
licentious doctrine, offensive to God and man, a doctrine to be persecuted
as the worst plague on earth.
As a result we have this paradoxical situation: The Gospel
supplies the world with the salvation of Jesus Christ, peace of conscience,
and every blessing. Just for that the world abhors the Gospel.
These Jewish-Christian fanatics who pushed themselves into
the Galatian churches after Paul's departure, boasted that they were the
descendants of Abraham, true ministers of Christ, having been trained by the
apostles themselves, that they were able to perform miracles.
In every way they sought to undermine the authority of St.
Paul. They said to the Galatians: "You have no right to think highly of
Paul. He was the last to turn to Christ. But we have seen Christ. We heard
Him preach. Paul came later and is beneath us. It is possible for us to be
in error--we who have received the Holy Ghost? Paul stands alone. He has not
seen Christ, nor has he had much contact with the other apostles. Indeed, he
persecuted the Church of Christ for a long time."
When men claiming such credentials come along, they
deceive not only the naive, but also those who seemingly are
well-established in the faith. This same argument is used by the papacy. "Do
you suppose that God for the sake of a few Lutheran heretics would disown
His entire Church? Or do you suppose that God would have left His Church
floundering in error all these centuries?" The Galatians were taken in by
such arguments with the result that Paul's authority and doctrine were drawn
Against these boasting, false apostles, Paul boldly
defends his apostolic authority and ministry. Humble man that he was, he
will not now take a back seat. He reminds them of the time when he opposed
Peter to his face and reproved the chief of the apostles.
Paul devotes the first two chapters to a defense of his
office and his Gospel, affirming that he received it, not from men, but from
the Lord Jesus Christ by special revelation, and that if he or an angel from
heaven preach any other gospel than the one he had preached, he shall be
The Certainty of Our Calling
Every minister should make much of his calling and impress
upon others the fact that he has been delegated by God to preach the Gospel.
As the ambassador of a government is honored for his office and not for his
private person, so the minister of Christ should exalt his office in order
to gain authority among men. This is not vain glory, but needful glorying.
Paul takes pride in his ministry, not to his own praise
but to the praise of God. Writing to the Romans, he declares, "Inasmuch as I
am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office," i.e., I want to be
received not as Paul of Tarsus, but as Paul the apostle and ambassador of
Jesus Christ, in order that people might be more eager to hear. Paul exalts
his ministry out of the desire to make known the name, the grace, and the
mercy of God.
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, etc.)
Paul loses no time in defending himself against the charge that he had
thrust himself into the ministry. He says to the Galatians: "My call may
seem inferior to you. But those who have come to you are either called of
men or by man. My call is the highest possible, for it is by Jesus Christ,
and God the Father."
When Paul speaks of those called "by men," I take it he
means those whom neither God nor man sent, but who go wherever they like and
speak for themselves.
When Paul speaks of those called "by man" I take it he
means those who have a divine call extended to them through other persons.
God calls in two ways. Either He calls ministers through the agency of men,
or He calls them directly as He called the prophets and apostles. Paul
declares that the false apostles were called or sent neither by men, nor by
man. The most they could claim is that they were sent by others. "But as for
me I was called neither of men, nor by man, but directly by Jesus Christ. My
call is in every respect like the call of the apostles. In fact I am an
Elsewhere Paul draws a sharp distinction between an
apostleship and lesser functions, as in I Corinthians 12:28: "And God hath
set some in the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly,
teachers." He mentions the apostles first because they were appointed
directly by God.
Matthias was called in this manner. The apostles chose two
candidates and then cast lots, praying that God would indicate which one He
would have. To be an apostle he had to have his appointment from God. In the
same manner Paul was called as the apostle of the Gentiles.
The call is not to be taken lightly. For a person to
possess knowledge is not enough. He must be sure that he is properly called.
Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not
bless their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do no edify. Many
of the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good
fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions. On
the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a good deal of
opposition in order that they may become fortified against the running
attacks of the devil and the world.
This is our comfort in the ministry, that ours is a divine
office to which we have been divinely called. Reversely, what an awful thing
it must be for the conscience if one is not properly called. It spoils one's
best work. When I was a young man I thought Paul was making too much of his
call. I did not understand his purpose. I did not then realize the
importance of the ministry. I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith because
we were taught sophistry instead of certainty, and nobody understood
spiritual boasting. We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or
money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that
the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy
And God the Father, who raised him from the dead.
Paul is so eager to come to the subject matter of his epistle, the
righteousness of faith in opposition to the righteousness of works, that
already in the title he must speak his mind. He did not think it quite
enough to say that he was an apostle "by Jesus Christ"; he adds, "and God
the Father, who raised him from the dead."
The clause seems superfluous on first sight. Yet Paul had
a good reason for adding it. He had to deal with Satan and his agents who
endeavored to deprive him of the righteousness of Christ, who was raised by
God the Father from the dead. These perverters of the righteousness of
Christ resist the Father and the Son, and the works of them both.
In this whole epistle Paul treats of the resurrection of
Christ. By His resurrection Christ won the victory over law, sin, flesh,
world, devil, death, hell, and every evil. And this His victory He donated
unto us. These many tyrants and enemies of ours may accuse and frighten us,
but they dare not condemn us, for Christ, whom God the Father has raised
from the dead is our righteousness and our victory.
Do you notice how well suited to his purpose Paul writes?
He does not say, "By God who made heaven and earth, who is Lord of the
angels," but Paul has in mind the righteousness of Christ, and speaks to the
point, saying, "I am an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus
Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."
Verse 2. And all the brethren which are with me.
This should go far in shutting the mouths of the false apostles. Paul's
intention is to exalt his own ministry while discrediting theirs. He adds
for good measure the argument that he does not stand alone, but that all the
brethren with him attest to the fact that his doctrine is divinely true.
"Although the brethren with me are not apostles like myself, yet they are
all of one mind with me, think, write, and teach as I do."
Unto the churches of Galatia.
Paul had preached the Gospel throughout Galatia, founding many churches
which after his departure were invaded by the false apostles. The
Anabaptists in our time imitate the false apostles. They do not go where the
enemies of the Gospel predominate. They go where the Christians are. Why do
they not invade the Catholic provinces and preach their doctrine to godless
princes, bishops, and doctors, as we have done by the help of God? These
soft martyrs take no chances. They go where the Gospel has a hold, so that
they may not endanger their lives. The false apostles would not go to
Jerusalem of Caiaphas, or to the Rome of the Emperor, or to any other place
where no man had preached before as Paul and the other apostles did. But
they came to the churches of Galatia, knowing that where men profess the
name of Christ they may feel secure.
It is the lot of God's ministers not only to suffer
opposition at the hand of a wicked world, but also to see the patient
indoctrination of many years quickly undone by such religious fanatics. This
hurts more than the persecution of tyrants. We are treated shabbily on the
outside by tyrants, on the inside by those whom we have restored to the
liberty of the Gospel, and also by false brethren. But this is our comfort
and our glory, that being called of God we have the promise of everlasting
life. We look for that reward which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither hath entered into the heart of man."
Jerome raises the question why Paul called them churches
that were no churches, inasmuch as the Galatians had forsaken the grace of
Christ for the law of Moses. The proper answer is: Although the Galatians
had fallen away from the doctrine of Paul, baptism, the Gospel, and the name
of Christ continued among them. Not all the Galatians had become perverted.
There were some who clung to the right view of the Word and the Sacraments.
These means cannot be contaminated. They remain divine regardless of men's
opinion. Wherever the means of grace are found, there is the Holy Church,
even though Antichrist reigns there. So much for the title of the epistle.
Now follows the greeting of the apostle.
Verse 3. Grace be to you, and peace, from God the
Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now pretty
well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you will not mind
if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere. The article of
justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of
our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it
with all our heart.
The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits
sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but
Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess
this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and
peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace,
and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person
is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience
with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by
man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for
himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take
away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so
easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other
means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.
The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world
advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the
means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain
peace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves
this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing
peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures
because such devices only increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for
our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.
The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace
from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father.
He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said,
"Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you." Worldly peace provides
quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction, particularly in
the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us.
However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strong and
courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself,
because we have the victory of Christ's death and the assurance of the
forgiveness of our sins.
Men Should Not Speculate About the Nature of God
The Apostle adds to the salutation the words, "and from
our Lord Jesus Christ." Was it not enough to say, "from God the Father"?
It is a principle of the Bible that we are not to inquire
curiously into the nature of God. "There shall no man see me, and live,"
Exodus 33:20. All who trust in their own merits to save them disregard this
principle and lose sight of the Mediator, Jesus Christ.
True Christian theology does not inquire into the nature
of God, but into God's purpose and will in Christ, whom God incorporated in
our flesh to live and to die for our sins. There is nothing more dangerous
than to speculate about the incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty of
God when the conscience is in turmoil over sin. To do so is to lose God
altogether because God becomes intolerable when we seek to measure and to
comprehend His infinite majesty.
We are to seek God as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1:23,
24: We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto
the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and
Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." Begin with Christ.
He came down to earth, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and then He
died, standing clearly before us, so that our hearts and eyes may fasten
upon Him. Thus we shall be kept from climbing into heaven in a curious and
futile search after the nature of God.
If you ask how God may be found, who justifies sinners,
know that there is no other God besides this man Christ Jesus. Embrace Him,
and forget about the nature of God. But these fanatics who exclude our
Mediator in their dealings with God, do not believe me. Did not Christ
Himself say: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto
the Father, but by me"? Without Christ there is no access to the Father, but
futile rambling; no truth, but hypocrisy; no life, but eternal death.
When you argue about the nature of God apart from the
question of justification, you may be as profound as you like. But when you
deal with conscience and with righteousness over against the law, sin,
death, and the devil, you must close your mind to all inquiries into the
nature of God, and concentrate upon Jesus Christ, who says, "Come unto me,
all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Doing
this, you will recognize the power, and majesty condescending to your
condition according to Paul's statement to the Colossians, "In Christ are
hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and, "In him dwelleth all
the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Paul in wishing grace and peace not
alone from God the Father, but also from Jesus Christ, wants to warn us
against the curious incursions into the nature of God. We are to hear
Christ, who has been appointed by the Father as our divine Teacher.
Christ is God by Nature
At the same time, Paul confirms our creed, "that Christ is
very God." We need such frequent confirmation of our faith, for Satan will
not fail to attack it. He hates our faith. He knows that it is the victory
which overcometh him and the world. That Christ is very God is apparent in
that Paul ascribes to Him divine powers equally with the Father, as for
instance, the power to dispense grace and peace. This Jesus could not do
unless He were God.
To bestow peace and grace lies in the province of God, who
alone can create these blessings. The angels cannot. The apostles could only
distribute these blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. In attributing to
Christ the divine power of creating and giving grace, peace, everlasting
life, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, the conclusion is inevitable
that Christ is truly God. Similarly, St. John concludes from the works
attributed to the Father and the Son that they are divinely One. Hence, the
gifts which we receive from the Father and from the Son are one and the
same. Otherwise Paul should have written: "Grace from God the Father, and
peace from our Lord Jesus Christ." In combining them he ascribes them
equally to the Father and the Son. I stress this on account of the many
errors emanating from the sects.
The Arians were sharp fellows. Admitting that Christ had
two natures, and that He is called "very God of very God," they were yet
able to deny His divinity. The Arians took Christ for a noble and perfect
creature, superior even to the angels, because by Him God created heaven and
earth. Mohammed also speaks highly of Christ. But all their praise is mere
palaver to deceive men. Paul's language is different. To paraphrase him:
"You are established in this belief that Christ is very God because He gives
grace and peace, gifts which only God can create and bestow."
Verse 4. Who gave himself for our sins.
Paul sticks to his theme. He never loses sight of the purpose of his
epistle. He does not say, "Who received our works," but "who gave." Gave
what? Not gold, or silver, or paschal lambs, or an angel, but Himself. What
for? Not for a crown, or a kingdom, or our goodness, but for our sins. These
words are like so many thunderclaps of protest from heaven against every
kind and type of self-merit. Underscore these words, for they are full of
comfort for sore consciences.
How may we obtain remission of our sins? Paul answers:
"The man who is named Jesus Christ and the Son of God gave himself for our
sins." The heavy artillery of these words explodes papacy, works, merits,
superstitions. For if our sins could be removed by our own efforts, what
need was there for the Son of God to be given for them? Since Christ was
given for our sins it stands to reason that they cannot be put away by our
This sentence also defines our sins as great, so great, in
fact, that the whole world could not make amends for a single sin. The
greatness of the ransom, Christ, the Son of God, indicates this. The vicious
character of sin is brought out by the words "who gave himself for our
sins." So vicious is sin that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone for
sin. When we reflect that the one little word "sin" embraces the whole
kingdom of Satan, and that it includes everything that is horrible, we have
reason to tremble. But we are careless. We make light of sin. We think that
by some little work or merit we can dismiss sin.
This passage, then, bears out the fact that all men are
sold under sin. Sin is an exacting despot who can be vanquished by no
created power, but by the sovereign power of Jesus Christ alone.
All this is of wonderful comfort to a conscience troubled
by the enormity of sin. Sin cannot harm those who believe in Christ, because
He has overcome sin by His death. Armed with this conviction, we are
enlightened and may pass judgment upon the papists, monks, nuns, priests,
Mohammedans, Anabaptists, and all who trust in their own merits, as wicked
and destructive sects that rob God and Christ of the honor that belongs to
Note especially the pronoun "our" and its significance.
You will readily grant that Christ gave Himself for the sins of Peter, Paul,
and others who were worthy of such grace. But feeling low, you find it hard
to believe that Christ gave Himself for your sins. Our feelings shy at a
personal application of the pronoun "our," and we refuse to have anything to
do with God until we have made ourselves worthy by good deeds.
This attitude springs from a false conception of sin, the
conception that sin is a small matter, easily taken care of by good works;
that we must present ourselves unto God with a good conscience; that we must
feel no sin before we may feel that Christ was given for our sins.
This attitude is universal and particularly developed in
those who consider themselves better than others. Such readily confess that
they are frequent sinners, but they regard their sins as of no such
importance that they cannot easily be dissolved by some good action, or that
they may not appear before the tribunal of Christ and demand the reward of
eternal life for their righteousness. Meantime they pretend great humility
and acknowledge a certain degree of sinfulness for which they soulfully join
in the publican's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner." But the real
significance and comfort of the words "for our sins" is lost upon them.
The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul "who
gave himself for our sins" as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon
our sins as insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard
them as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ was
given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for mountainous
sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded,
but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained.
Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against
despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails
the conscience. Say with confidence: "Christ, the Son of God, was given not
for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need
Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth
is, I am all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against
the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of
God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.;
and sins against the second table, dishonor of parents, disobedience of
government, coveting of another's possessions, etc. Granted that I have not
committed murder, adultery, theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I
have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all
the commandments of God.
"Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own
efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance,
therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins." To
believe this is to have eternal life.
Let us equip ourselves against the accusations of Satan
with this and similar passages of Holy Scripture. If he says, "Thou shalt be
damned," you tell him: "No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my
sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own
throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God's fatherly goodness toward me,
that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever
believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me
a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure." With such heavenly
cunning we are to meet the devil's craft and put from us the memory of sin.
St. Paul also presents a true picture of Christ as the
virgin-born Son of God, delivered into death for our sins. To entertain a
true conception of Christ is important, for the devil describes Christ as an
exacting and cruel judge who condemns and punishes men. Tell him that his
definition of Christ is wrong, that Christ has given Himself for our sins,
that by His sacrifice He has taken away the sins of the whole world.
Make ample use of this pronoun "our." Be assured that
Christ has canceled the sins, not of certain persons only, but your sins. Do
not permit yourself to be robbed of this lovely conception of Christ. Christ
is no Moses, no law-giver, no tyrant, but the Mediator for sins, the Giver
of grace and life.
We know this. Yet in the actual conflict with the devil,
when he scares us with the Law, when he frightens us with the very person of
the Mediator, when he misquotes the words of Christ, and distorts for us our
Savior, we so easily lose sight of our sweet High-Priest.
For this reason I am so anxious for you to gain a true
picture of Christ out of the words of Paul "who gave himself for our sins."
Obviously, Christ is no judge to condemn us, for He gave Himself for our
sins. He does not trample the fallen but raises them. He comforts the
broken-hearted. Otherwise Paul should lie when he writes "who gave himself
for our sins."
I do not bother my head with speculations about the nature
of God. I simply attach myself to the human Christ, and I find joy and
peace, and the wisdom of God in Him. These are not new truths. I am
repeating what the apostles and all teachers of God have taught long ago.
Would to God we could impregnate our hearts with these truths.
That he might deliver us from this present evil
Paul calls this present world evil because everything in it is subject to
the malice of the devil, who reigns over the whole world as his domain and
fills the air with ignorance, contempt, hatred, and disobedience of God. In
this devils's kingdom we live.
As long as a person is in the world he cannot by his own
efforts rid himself of sin, because the world is bent upon evil. The people
of the world are the slaves of the devil. If we are not in the Kingdom of
Christ, it is certain we belong to the kingdom of Satan and we are pressed
into his service with every talent we possess.
Take the talents of wisdom and integrity. Without Christ,
wisdom is double foolishness and integrity double sin, because they not only
fail to perceive the wisdom and righteousness of Christ, but hinder and
blaspheme the salvation of Christ. Paul justly calls it the evil or wicked
world, for when the world is at its best the world is at its worst. The
grossest vices are small faults in comparison with the wisdom and
righteousness of the world. These prevent men from accepting the Gospel of
the righteousness of Christ. The white devil of spiritual sin is far more
dangerous than the black devil of carnal sin because the wiser, the better
men are without Christ, the more they are likely to ignore and oppose the
With the words, "that he might deliver us," Paul argues
that we stand in need of Christ. No other being can possibly deliver us from
this present evil world. Do not let the fact disturb you that a great many
people enjoy excellent reputations without Christ. Remember what Paul says,
that the world with all its wisdom, might, and righteousness is the devil's
own. God alone is able to deliver us from the world.
Let us praise and thank God for His mercy in delivering us
from the captivity of Satan, when we were unable to do so by our own
strength. Let us confess with Paul that all our work-righteousness is loss
and dung. Let us condemn as filthy rags all talk about free will, all
religious orders, masses, ceremonies, vows, fastings, and the like.
In branding the world the devil's kingdom of iniquity,
ignorance, error, sin, death, and everlasting despair, Paul at the same time
declares the Kingdom of Christ to be a kingdom of equity, light, grace,
remission of sin, peace, saving health, and everlasting life into which we
are translated by our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.
In this passage Paul contends against the false apostles
for the article of Justification. Christ, says Paul, has delivered us from
this wicked kingdom of the devil and the world according to the good will,
the pleasure and commandment of the Father. Hence we are not delivered by
our own will, or shrewdness, or wisdom, but by the mercy and love of God, as
it is written, I John 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that
he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Another reason why Paul, like John, emphasizes the
Father's will is Christ's habit of directing attention to the Father. For
Christ came into the world to reconcile God with us and to draw us to the
Not by curious inquiries into the nature of God shall we
know God and His purpose for our salvation, but by taking hold of Christ,
who according to the will of the Father has given Himself into death for our
sins. When we understand this to be the will of the Father in Christ, then
shall we know God to be merciful, and not angry. We shall realize that He
loved us wretched sinners so much indeed that He gave us His only-begotten
Son into death for us.
The pronoun "our" refers to both God and Father. He is our
God and our Father. Christ's Father and our Father are one and the same.
Hence Christ said to Mary Magdalene: "Go to my brethren, and say unto them,
I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." God
is our Father and our God, but only in Christ Jesus.
Verse 5. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrew writing is interspersed with expressions of praise and gratitude.
This peculiarity can be traced in the apostolic writings, particularly in
those of Paul. The name of the Lord is to be mentioned with great reverence
Verse 6. I marvel.
How patiently Paul deals with his seduced Galatians! He does not pounce on
them but, like a father, he fairly excuses their error. With motherly
affection he talks to them yet he does it in a way that at the same time he
also reproves them. On the other hand, he is highly indignant at the
seducers whom he blames for the apostasy of the Galatians. His anger bursts
forth in elemental fury at the beginning of his epistle. "If any may," he
cries, "preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him
be accursed." Later on, in the fifth chapter, he threatens the false
apostles with damnation. "He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment,
whosoever he be." He pronounces a curse upon them. "I would they were even
cut off which trouble you."
He might have addressed the Galatians after this fashion:
"I am ashamed of you. Your ingratitude grieves me. I am angry with you." But
his purpose was to call them back to the Gospel. With this purpose in his
mind he speaks very gently to them. He could not have chosen a milder
expression than this, "I marvel." It indicates his sorrow and his
Paul minds the rule which he himself lays down in a later
chapter where he says: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which
are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering
thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Toward those who have been misled we
are to show ourselves parentally affectionate, so that they may perceive
that we seek not their destruction but their salvation. Over against the
devil and his missionaries, the authors of false doctrines and sects, we
ought to be like the Apostle, impatient, and rigorously condemnatory, as
parents are with the dog that bites their little one, but the weeping child
itself they soothe.
The right spirit in Paul supplies him with an
extraordinary facility in handling the afflicted consciences of the fallen.
The Pope and his bishops, inspired by the desire to lord it over men's
souls, crack out thunders and curses upon miserable consciences. They have
no care for the saving of men's souls. They are interested only in
maintaining their position.
That ye are so soon.
Paul deplores the fact that it is difficult for the mind to retain a sound
and steadfast faith. A man labors for a decade before he succeeds in
training his little church into orderly religion, and then some ignorant and
vicious poltroon comes along to overthrow in a minute the patient labor of
years. By the grace of God we have effected here in Wittenberg the form of a
Christian church. The Word of God is taught as it should be, the Sacraments
are administered, and everything is prosperous. This happy condition,
secured by many years of arduous labors, some lunatic might spoil in a
moment. This happened in the churches of Galatia which Paul had brought into
life in spiritual travail. Soon after his departure, however, these Galatian
churches were thrown into confusion by the false apostles.
The church is a tender plant. It must be watched. People
hear a couple of sermons, scan a few pages of Holy Writ, and think they know
it all. They are bold because they have never gone through any trials of
faith. Void of the Holy Spirit, they teach what they please as long as it
sounds good to the common people who are ever ready to join something new.
We have to watch out for the devil lest he sow tares among
the wheat while we sleep. No sooner had Paul turned his back on the churches
of Galatia, than the false apostles went to work. Therefore, let us watch
over ourselves and over the whole church.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed.
Again the Apostle puts in a gentle word. He does not berate the Galatians,
"I marvel that ye are so unsteady, unfaithful." He says, "I marvel that ye
are so soon removed." He does not address them as evildoers. He speaks to
them as people who have suffered great loss. He condemns those who removed
them rather than the Galatians. At the same time he gently reproves them for
rather themselves to be removed. The criticism is implied that they should
have been permitting a little more settled in their beliefs. If they had
taken better hold of the Word they could not have been removed so easily.
Jerome thinks that Paul is playing upon the name
Galatians, deriving it from the Hebrew word Galath, which means fallen or
carried away, as though Paul wanted to say, "You are true Galatians, i.e.,
fallen away in name and in fact." Some believe that the Germans are
descended from the Galatians. There may be something to that. For the
Germans are not unlike the Galatians in their lack of constancy. At first we
Germans are very enthusiastic, but presently our emotions cool and we become
slack. When the light of the Gospel first came to us many were zealous,
heard sermons greedily, and held the ministry of God's Word in high esteem.
But now that religion has been reformed, many who formerly were such earnest
disciples have discarded the Word of God, have become sow-bellies like the
foolish and inconsistent Galatians.
From him that called you into the grace of Christ.
The reading is a little doubtful. The sentence may be construed to read:
"From that Christ that called you into grace"; or it may be construed to
read: "From God that called you into the grace of Christ." I prefer the
former for it seems to me that Paul's purpose is to impress upon us the
benefits of Christ. This reading also preserves the implied criticism that
the Galatians withdrew themselves from that Christ who had called them not
unto the law, but unto grace. With Paul we decry the blindness and
perverseness of men in that they will not receive the message of grace and
salvation, or having received it they quickly let go of it, in spite of the
fact that the Gospel bestows all good things spiritual: forgiveness of sins,
true righteousness, peace of conscience, everlasting life; and all good
things temporal: good judgment, good government and peace.
Why does the world abhor the glad tidings of the Gospel
and the blessings that go with it? Because the world is the devil's. Under
his direction the world persecutes the Gospel and would if it could nail
again Christ, the Son of God, to the Cross although He gave Himself into
death for the sins of the world. The world dwells in darkness. The world is
Paul accentuates the point that the Galatians had been
called by Christ unto grace. "I taught you the doctrine of grace and of
liberty from the Law, from sin and wrath, that you should be free in Christ,
and not slaves to the hard laws of Moses. Will you allow yourselves to be
carried away so easily from the living fountain of grace and life?"
Unto another gospel.
Note the resourcefulness of the devil. Heretics do not advertise their
errors. Murderers, adulterers, thieves disguise themselves. So the devil
masquerades all his devices and activities. He puts on white to make himself
look like an angel of light. He is astoundingly clever to sell his patent
poison for the Gospel of Christ. Knowing Satan's guile, Paul sardonically
calls the doctrine of the false apostles "another gospel," as if he would
say, "You Galatians have now another gospel, while my Gospel is no longer
esteemed by you."
We infer from this that the false apostles had depreciated
the Gospel of Paul among the Galatians on the plea that it was incomplete.
Their objection to Paul's Gospel is identical to that recorded in the
fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts to the effect that it was not enough
for the Galatians to believe in Christ, or to be baptized, but that it was
needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses,
for "except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be
saved." As though Christ were a workman who had begun a building and left it
for Moses to finish.
Today the Anabaptists and others, finding it difficult to
condemn us, accuse us Lutherans of timidity in professing the whole truth.
They grant that we have laid the foundation in Christ, but claim that we
have failed to go through with the building. In this way these perverse
fanatics parade their cursed doctrine as the Word of God, and, flying the
flag of God's name, they deceive many. The devil knows better than to appear
ugly and black. He prefers to carry on his nefarious activities in the name
of God. Hence the German proverb: "All mischief begins in the name of God."
When the devil sees that he cannot hurt the cause of the
Gospel by destructive methods, he does it under the guise of correcting and
advancing the cause of the Gospel. He would like best of all to persecute us
with fire and sword, but this method has availed him little because through
the blood of martyrs the church has been watered. Unable to prevail by
force, he engages wicked and ungodly teachers who at first make common cause
with us, then claim that they are particularly called to teach the hidden
mysteries of the Scriptures to superimpose upon the first principles of
Christian doctrine that we teach. This sort of thing brings the Gospel into
trouble. May we all cling to the Word of Christ against the wiles of the
devil, "for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this
world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Verse 7. Which is not another; but there be some
that trouble you.
Here again the apostle excuses the Galatians, while he blames the false
apostles for disturbing their consciences and for stealing them out of his
hand. How angry he gets at these deceivers! He calls them troublemakers,
seducers of poor consciences.
This passage adduces further evidence that the false
apostles defamed Paul as an imperfect apostle and a weak and erroneous
preacher. They condemn Paul, Paul condemns them. Such warfare of
condemnation is always going on in the church. The papists and the fanatics
hate us, condemn our doctrine, and want to kill us. We in turn hate and
condemn their cursed doctrine. In the meanwhile the people are uncertain
whom to follow and which way to turn, for it is not given to everybody to
judge these matters. But the truth will win out. So much is certain, we
persecute no man, neither does our doctrine trouble men. On the contrary, we
have the testimony of many good men who thank God on their knees for the
consolation that our doctrine has brought them. Like Paul, we are not to
blame that the churches have trouble. The fault lies with the Anabaptists
and other fanatics.
Every teacher of work-righteousness is a trouble-maker.
Has it never occurred to you that the pope, cardinals, bishops, monks, and
that the whole synagogue of Satan are trouble-makers? The truth is, they are
worse than false apostles. The files apostles taught that in addition to
faith in Christ the works of the Law of God were necessary unto salvation.
But the papists omit faith altogether and teach self-devised traditions and
works that are not commanded of God, indeed are contrary to the Word of God,
and for these traditions they demand preferred attention and obedience.
Paul calls the false apostles troublers of the church
because they taught circumcision and the keeping of the Law as needful unto
salvation. They insisted that the Law must be observed in every detail. They
were supporters in this contention by the Jews, with the result that those
who were not firmly established in faith were easily persuaded that Paul was
not a sincere teacher of God because he ignored the Law. The Jews were
offended at the idea that the Law of God should be entirely ignored by Paul
and that the Gentiles, former idol-worshippers, should gratuitously attain
to the station of God's people without circumcision, without the
penitentiary performance of the law, by grace alone through faith in Christ
These criticisms were amplified by the false apostles.
They accused Paul of designs to abolish the law of God and the Jewish
dispensation, contrary to the law of God, contrary to their Jewish heritage,
contrary to apostolic example, contrary to Paul's own example. They demanded
that Paul be shunned as a blasphemer and a rebel, while they were to be
heard as true teachers of the Gospel and authentic disciples of the
apostles. Thus Paul stood defamed among the Galatians. He was forced to
attack the false apostles. He did so without hesitation.
And would pervert the gospel of Christ.
To paraphrase this sentence: "These false apostles do not merely trouble
you, they abolish Christ's Gospel. They act as if they were the only true
Gospel-preachers. For all that they muddle Law and Gospel. As a result they
pervert the Gospel. Either Christ must live and the Law perish, or the Law
remains and Christ must perish; Christ and the Law cannot dwell side by side
in the conscience. It is either grace or law. To muddle the two is to
eliminate the Gospel of Christ entirely."
It seems a small matter to mingle the Law and Gospel,
faith and works, but it creates more mischief than man's brain can conceive.
To mix Law and Gospel not only clouds the knowledge of grace, it cuts out
The words of Paul, "and would pervert the gospel of
Christ," also indicate how arrogant these false apostles were. They were
shameless boasters. Paul simply had to exalt his own ministry and Gospel.
Verse 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.
Paul's zeal for the Gospel becomes so fervent that it almost leads him to
curse angels. "I would rather that I, my brethren, yes, the angels of heaven
be anathematized than that my gospel be overthrown."
The Greek word anathema, Hebrew herem, means to accurse,
execrate, to damn. Paul first (hypothetically) curses himself. Knowing
persons first find fault with themselves in order that they may all the more
earnestly reprove others.
Paul maintains that there is no other gospel besides the
one he had preached to the Galatians. He preached, not a gospel of his own
invention, but the very same Gospel God had long ago prescribed in the
Sacred Scriptures. No wonder Paul pronounces curses upon himself and upon
others, upon the angels of heaven, if anyone should dare to preach any other
gospel than Christ's own.
Verse 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
Paul repeats the curse, directing it now upon other persons. Before, he
cursed himself, his brethren, and an angel from heaven. "Now," he says, "if
there are any others who preach a gospel different from that you have
received from us, let them also be accursed." Paul herewith curses and
excommunicates all false teachers including his opponents. He is so worked
up that he dares to curse all who pervert his Gospel. Would to God that this
terrible pronouncement of the Apostle might strike fear into the hearts of
all who pervert the Gospel of Paul.
The Galatians might say: "Paul, we do not pervert the
Gospel you have brought unto us. We did not quite understand it. That is
all. Now these teachers who came after you have explained everything so
This explanation the Apostle refuses to accept. They must
add nothing; they must correct nothing. "What you received from me is the
genuine Gospel of God. Let it stand. If any man brings any other gospel than
the one I brought you, or promises to deliver better things than you have
received from me, let him be accursed."
In spite of this emphatic denunciation so many accept the
pope as the supreme judge of the Scriptures. "The Church," they say, "chose
only four gospels. The Church might have chosen more. Ergo the Church is
above the Gospel." With equal force one might argue: "I approve the
Scriptures. Ergo I am above the Scriptures. John the Baptist confessed
Christ. Hence he is above Christ." Paul subordinates himself, all preachers,
all the angels of heaven, everybody to the Sacred Scriptures. We are not the
masters, judges, or arbiters, but witnesses, disciples, and confessors of
the Scriptures, whether we be pope, Luther, Augustine, Paul, or an angel
Verse 10. For do I now persuade men, or God?
With the same vehemence Paul continues: "You Galatians ought to be able to
tell from my preaching and from the many afflictions which I have endured,
whether I serve men or God. Everybody can see that my preaching has stirred
up persecution against me everywhere, and has earned for me the cruel hatred
of my own people, in fact the hatred of all men. This should convince you
that by my preaching I do not seek the favor and praise of men, but the
glory of God."
No man can say that we are seeking the favor and praise of
men with our doctrine. We teach that all men are naturally depraved. We
condemn man's free will, his strength, wisdom, and righteousness. We say
that we obtain grace by the free mercy of God alone for Christ's sake. This
is no preaching to please men. This sort of preaching procures for us the
hatred and disfavor of the world, persecutions, excommunications, murders,
"Can't you see that I seek no man's favor by my doctrine?"
asks Paul. "If I were anxious for the favor of men I would flatter them. But
what do I do? I condemn their works. I teach things only that I have been
commanded to teach from above. For that I bring down upon my head the wrath
of Jews and Gentiles. My doctrine must be right. It must be divine. Any
other doctrine cannot be better than mine. Any other doctrine must be false
With Paul we boldly pronounce a curse upon every doctrine
that does not agree with ours. We do not preach for the praise of men, or
the favor of princes. We preach for the favor of God alone whose grace and
mercy we proclaim. Whosoever teaches a gospel contrary to ours, or different
from ours, let us be bold to say that he is sent of the devil.
Or do I seek to please men?
"Do I serve men or God?" Paul keeps an eye on the false apostles, those
flatterers of men. They taught circumcision to avoid the hatred and
persecution of men.
To this day you will find many who seek to please men in
order that they may live in peace and security. They teach whatever is
agreeable to men, no matter whether it is contrary to God's Word or their
own conscience. But we who endeavor to please God and not men, stir up hell
itself. We must suffer reproach, slanders, death.
For those who go about to please men we have a word from
Christ recorded in the fifth chapter of St. John: "How can ye believe, which
receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God
For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the
servant of Christ.
Observe the consummate cleverness with which the false apostles went about
to bring Paul into disrepute. They combed Paul's writings for contradictions
(our opponents do the same) to accuse him of teaching contradictory things.
They found that Paul had circumcised Timothy according to the Law, that Paul
had purified himself with four other men in the Temple at Jerusalem, that
Paul had shaven his head at Cenchrea. The false apostles slyly suggested
that Paul had been constrained by the other apostles to observe these
ceremonial laws. We know that Paul observed these decora out of charitable
regard for the weak brethren. He did not want to offend them. But the false
apostles turned Paul's charitable regard to his disadvantage. If Paul had
preached the Law and circumcision, if he had commended the strength and free
will of man, he would not have been so obnoxious to the Jews. On the
contrary they would have praised his every action.
Verses 11, 12. But I certify you, brethren, that the
gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it
of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
This passage constitutes Paul's chief defense against the accusations of his
opponents. He maintains under oath that he received his Gospel not from men,
but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In declaring that his Gospel is not after man, Paul does
not merely wish to state that his Gospel is not mundane. The false apostles
made the same claim for their gospel. Paul means to say that he learned his
Gospel not in the usual and accepted manner through the agency of men by
hearing, reading, or writing. He received the Gospel by special revelation
directly from Jesus Christ.
Paul received his Gospel on the way to Damascus when
Christ appeared to him. St. Luke furnishes an account of the incident in the
ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. "Arise," said Christ to Paul, "and go
into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Christ did not
send Paul into the city to learn the Gospel from Ananias. Ananias was only
to baptize Paul, to lay his hands on Paul, to commit the ministry of the
Word unto Paul, and to recommend him to the Church. Ananias recognized his
limited assignment when he said to Paul: "Brother Saul, the Lord, even
Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that
thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." Paul
did not receive instruction from Ananias. Paul had already been called,
enlightened, and taught by Christ in the road. His contact with Ananias was
merely a testimonial to the fact that Paul had been called by Christ to
preach the Gospel.
Paul was forced to speak of his conversion to combat the
slanderous contention of the false apostles to the effect that this
apostleship was inferior to that of the other apostles.
If it were not for the example of the Galatian churches I
would never have thought it possible that anybody who had received the Word
of God with such eagerness as they had, could so quickly let go of it. Good
Lord, what terrible mischief one single false statement can create.
The article of justification is fragile. Not in itself, of
course, but in us. I know how quickly a person can forfeit the joy of the
Gospel. I know in what slippery places even those stand who seem to have a
good footing in the matters of faith. In the midst of the conflict when we
should be consoling ourselves with the Gospel, the Law rears up and begins
to rage all over our conscience. I say the Gospel is frail because we are
What makes matters worse is that one-half of ourselves,
our own reason, stands against us. The flesh resists the spirit, or as Paul
puts it, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit." Therefore we teach that to
know Christ and to believe in Him is no achievement of man, but the gift of
God. God alone can create and preserve faith in us. God creates faith in us
through the Word. He increases, strengthens and confirms faith in us through
His word. Hence the best service that anybody can render God is diligently
to hear and read God's Word. On the other hand, nothing is more perilous
than to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking he knows enough, a person
begins little by little to despise the Word until he has lost Christ and the
Let every believer carefully learn the Gospel. Let him
continue in humble prayer. We are molested not by puny foes, but by mighty
ones, foes who never grow tired of warring against us. These, our enemies,
are many: Our own flesh, the world, the Law, sin, death, the wrath and
judgment of God, and the devil himself.
The arguments which the false apostles advanced impress
people to this day. "Who are you to dissent from the fathers and the entire
Church, and to bring a contradictory doctrine? Are you wiser than so many
holy men, wiser than the whole Church?" When Satan, abetted by our own
reason, advances these arguments against us, we lose heart, unless we keep
on saying to ourselves: "I don't care if Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Peter,
Paul, John, or an angel from heaven, teaches so and so. I know that I teach
the truth of God in Christ Jesus."
When I first took over the defense of the Gospel, I
remembered what Doctor Staupitz said to me. "I like it well," he said, "that
the doctrine which you proclaim gives glory to God alone and none to man.
For never can too much glory, goodness, and mercy be ascribed unto God."
These words of the worthy Doctor comforted and confirmed me. The Gospel is
true because it deprives men of all glory, wisdom, and righteousness and
turns over all honor to the Creator alone. It is safer to attribute too much
glory unto God than unto man.
You may argue that the Church and the fathers are holy.
Yet the Church is compelled to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses," I am not
to be believed, nor is the Church to be believed, or the fathers, or the
apostles, or an angel from heaven, if they teach anything contrary to the
Word of God. Let the Word of God abide forever.
Peter erred in life and in doctrine. Paul might have
dismissed Peter's error as a matter of no consequence. But Paul saw that
Peter's error would lead to the damage of the whole Church unless it were
corrected. Therefore he withstood Peter to his face. The Church, Peter, the
apostles, angels from heaven, are not to be heard unless they teach the
genuine Word of God.
This argument is not always to our advantage. People ask:
"Whom then shall we believe?" Our opponents maintain that they teach the
pure Word of God. We do not believe them. They in turn hate and persecute us
for vile heretics. What can we do about it? With Paul we glory in the Gospel
of Jesus Christ. What do we gain? We are told that our glorying is idle
vanity and unadulterated blasphemy. The moment we abase ourselves and give
in to the rage of our opponents, Papists and Anabaptists grow arrogant. The
Anabaptists hatch out some new monstrosity. The Papists revive their old
abominations. What to do? Let everybody become sure of his calling and
doctrine, that he may boldly say with Paul: "But though we, or an angel from
heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than ye have received, let him be
Verses 13, 14. 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: And profited in the Jews' religion above many
my equals in mine own nation.
This passage does not contain doctrine. Paul adduces his own case for an
example. "I have," he says, "at one time defended the traditions of the
Pharisees more fiercely than any of your false apostles. Now, if the
righteousness of the Law had been worth anything I would never have forsaken
it. So carefully did I live up to the Law that I excelled many of my
companions. So zealous was I in defense of the Law that I wasted the church
Verse 14. Being more exceedingly zealous of the
traditions of my fathers.
Speaking now of the Mosaic Law, Paul declares that he was wrapped up in it.
To the Philippians he wrote: "As touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning
zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the
law, blameless." He means to say, "I can compare myself with the best and
holiest of all those who are of the circumcision. Let them show me if they
can, a more earnest defender of the Mosaic Law than I was at one time. This
fact, O Galatians, should have put you on your guard against these deceivers
who make so much of the Law. If anybody ever had reason to glory in the
righteousness of the Law, it was I."
I too may say that before I was enlightened by the Gospel,
I was as zealous for the papistical laws and traditions of the fathers as
ever a man was. I tried hard to live up to every law as best I could. I
punished myself with fasting, watching, praying, and other exercises more
than all those who today hate and persecute me. I was so much in earnest
that I imposed upon my body more than it could stand. I honored the pope as
a matter of conscience. Whatever I did, I did with a single heart to the
glory of God. But our opponents, well-fed idlers that they are, will not
believe what I and many others have endured.
Verses 15, 16, 17. But when it pleased God, who
separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace.
To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;
immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles
before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Here Paul relates that immediately upon being called by
God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, he went into Arabia without
consulting a single person. "When it had pleased God," he writes, "I did not
deserve it. I had been an enemy of Christ. I had blasphemed His Gospel. I
had shed innocent blood. In the midst of my frenzy I was called. Why? On
account of my outrageous cruelty? Indeed not. My gracious God who shows
mercy unto whom He will, pardoned all mine iniquities. He bestowed His grace
upon me, and called me for an apostle."
We also have come to the knowledge of the truth by the
same kindness of God. I crucified Christ daily in my cloistered life, and
blasphemed God by my wrong faith. Outwardly I kept myself chaste, poor, and
obedient. I was much given to fasting, watching, praying, saying of masses,
and the like. Yet under the cloak of my outward respectability I continually
mistrusted, doubted, feared, hated, and blasphemed God. My righteousness was
a filthy puddle. Satan loves such saints. They are his darlings, for they
quickly destroy their body and soul by depriving them of the blessings of
God's generous gifts.
I tell you I stood in awe of the pope's authority. To
dissent from him I considered a crime worthy of eternal death. I thought of
John Huss as a cursed heretic. I counted it a sin even to think of him. I
would gladly have furnished the wood to burn him. I would have felt I had
done God a real service.
In comparison with these sanctimonious hypocrites of the
papacy, publicans and harlots are not bad. They at least feel remorse. They
at least do not try to justify their wicked deeds. But these pretended
saints, so far from acknowledging their errors, justify them and regard them
as acceptable sacrifices unto God.
Verse 15a. When it pleased God.
"By the favor of God I, a wicked and cursed wretch, a blasphemer,
persecutor, and rebel, was spared. Not content to spare me, God granted unto
me the knowledge of His salvation, His Spirit, His Son, the office of an
apostle, everlasting life." Paul speaking.
God not only pardoned our iniquities, but in addition
overwhelmed us with blessings and spiritual gifts. Many, however, are
ungrateful. Worse, by opening again a window to the devil many begin to
loathe God's Word, and end by perverting the Gospel.
Verse 15. Who separated me from my mother's womb.
This is a Hebrew expression, meaning to sanctify, ordain, prepare. Paul is
saying, "When I was not yet born God ordained me to be an apostle, and in
due time confirmed my apostleship before the world. Every gift, be it small
or great, spiritual or temporal, and every good thing I should ever do, God
has ordained while I was yet in my mother's womb where I could neither think
nor perform any good thing. After I was born God supported me. Heaping mercy
upon mercy, He freely forgave my sins, replenishing me with His grace to
enable me to learn what great things are ours in Christ. To crown it all, He
called me to preach the Gospel to others."
And called me by his grace.
"Did God call me on account of my holy life? Or on account of my pharisaical
religion? Or on account of my prayers, fastings, and works? Never. Well,
then, it is certain God did not call me on account of my blasphemies,
persecutions, oppressions. What prompted Him to call me? His grace alone."
Verse 16. To reveal his Son to me.
We now hear what kind of doctrine was committed to Paul: The doctrine of the
Gospel, the doctrine of the revelation of the Son of God. This doctrine
differs greatly from the Law. The Law terrorizes the conscience. The Law
reveals the wrath and judgment of God. The Gospel does not threaten. The
Gospel announces that Christ is come to forgive the sins of the world. The
Gospel conveys to us the inestimable treasures of God.
That I might preach him among the heathen.
"It pleased God," says the Apostle, "to reveal himself in me. Why? For a
twofold purpose. That I personally should believe in the Son of God, and
that I should reveal Him to the Gentiles."
Paul does not mention the Jews, for the simple reason that
he was the called and acknowledged apostle of the Gentiles, although he
preached Christ also to the Jews.
We can hear the Apostle saying to himself: "I will not
burden the Gentiles with the Law, because I am their apostle and not their
lawgiver. Not once did you Galatians hear me speak of the righteousness of
the Law or of works. My job was to bring you the Gospel. Therefore you ought
to listen to no teachers of the Law, but the Gospel: not Moses, but the Son
of God; not the righteousness of works, but the righteousness of faith must
be proclaimed to the Gentiles. That is the right kind of preaching for
Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.
Once Paul had received the Gospel from Christ, he conferred with nobody in
Damascus. He asked no man to teach him. He did not go up to Jerusalem to sit
at the feet of Peter and the other apostles. At once he preached Jesus
Christ in Damascus.
Verse 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them
which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again
"I went to Arabia before I saw any of the apostles. I took it upon myself to
preach the Gospel to the Gentiles without delay, because Christ had called
me for that purpose." This statement refutes the assertion of the false
apostles that Paul had been a pupil of the apostles, from which the false
apostles inferred that Paul had been instructed in the obedience of the Law,
that therefore the Gentiles also ought to keep the Law and submit to
Verses 18, 19. Then after three years I went up to
Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the
apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
Paul minutely recounts his personal history to stop the cavil of the false
apostles. Paul does not deny that he had been with some of the apostles. He
went to Jerusalem uninvited, not to be instructed, but to visit with Peter.
Luke reports the occasion in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. Barnabas
introduced Paul to the apostles and related to them how Paul had met the
Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus, also how Paul had preached boldly at
Damascus in the name of Jesus. Paul says that he saw Peter and James, but he
denies that he learned anything from them.
Why does Paul harp on this seemingly unimportant fact? To
convince the churches of Galatia that his Gospel was the true Word of Christ
which he learned from Christ Himself and from no man. Paul was forced to
affirm and re-affirm this fact. His usefulness to all the churches that had
used him as their pastor and teacher was at stake.
Verse 20. Now the things which I write unto you,
behold, before God, I lie not.
Was it necessary for Paul to go under oath? Yes. Paul is reporting personal
history. How else would the churches believe him? The false apostles might
say, "Who knows whether Paul is telling the truth?" Paul, the elect vessel
of God, was held in so little esteem by his own Galatians to whom he had
preached Christ that it was necessary for him to swear an oath that he spoke
the truth. If this happened to Paul, what business have we to complain when
people doubt our words, or hold us in little regard, we who cannot begin to
compare ourselves with the Apostle?
Verse 21. Afterwards I came into the regions of
Syria and Cilicia.
Syria and Cilicia are adjacent countries. Paul traces his movements
carefully in order to convince the Galatians that he had never been the
disciple of any apostle.
Verses 22, 23, 24. And was unknown by face unto the
churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 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.
In Syria and Cilicia Paul won the indorsement of all the churches of Judea,
by his preaching. All the churches everywhere, even those of Judea, could
testify that he had preached the same faith everywhere. "And," Paul adds,
"these churches glorified God in me, not because I taught that circumcision
and the law of Moses should be observed, but because I urged upon all faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ."
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