“Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) and all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:1, 2).
The first two chapters of the book of Galatians are an explanation and defense of Paul’s apostleship and of the gospel that be preached. This first verse is a defense of his apostleship. This is the cause of the words in parenthesis, saying that be was an apostle, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead.’”
Another translation is, “Paul, an apostle, not from men, nor by the instrumentality of any man, but by Jesus Christ and God our Father who raised him from the dead.”
Another is, “Paul, an apostle, not by man, nor through a man, but appointed by Jesus Christ and his Raiser from the dead, God the Father.”
The Revised Version is, “Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead).”
This defense shows that his true apostleship was denied, and that he was opposed and denounced as being only an apostle of men, appointed and sent only by a man or by men.
Nor was this opposition sown only among the churches of Galatia. It was sown everywhere, especially in the churches that Paul had raised up. There were “false, skulking brethren,” who made it their business and their message, even to follow up Paul, and sow these seeds of distrust and of evil as the council at Jerusalem described it, “digging up from the foundations” the souls of those who believed his preaching.
These evil seeds were sown at Corinth. After Paul’s departure from there, these false brethren had told the brethren that he was not an apostle; and cited as proof that he had not seen Jesus; that he was only a tent-maker, who went about working for a living; and even that he was not an apostle because he had no wife!
In his letter to the Corinthians he makes answer thus (we use Conybeare and Howson’s translation, as this, with our common version, makes the matter plain): “Is it denied that I am an apostle? Is it denied that I am free from man’s authority? Is it denied that I have seen Jesus our Lord? Is it denied that you are the fruits of my labor in the Lord? If to others I am no apostle, yet at least I am such to you; for you are yourselves the seal that stamps the reality of my apostleship, in the Lord; this is my answer to those who question my authority. Do they deny my right to be maintained [by my converts]? Do they deny my right to carry a believing wife with me on my journeys, like the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or do they think that I and Barnabas alone have no right to be maintained, except by the labor of our own hands? . . .
If I have sown for you the seed of spiritual gifts, would it be much if I were to reap some harvest from your carnal gifts? If others share this right over you, how much more should I? Yet I have not used my right, but forgo every claim, lest I should by any means hinder the course of Christ’s Glad-tidings . . .. The Lord commanded those who publish the Glad-tidings, to be maintained thereby. But I have not exercised any of these rights, nor do I write this that it may be practiced in my own case. For I had rather die than suffer any man to make void my boasting” (1 Cor. 9:1-15).
They also circulated the slanderous report that Paul had held and taught the pernicious doctrine of, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Rom. 3:8).
These are only some of the “perils among false brethren,” which Paul cites with the many other perils among which he so constantly moved that his Christian life has been not inaptly termed a “long martyrdom.” And it was false brethren such as these who, as at other places, had crept in among the churches of Galatia, and were perverting the gospel, which they had received, dragging them from liberty to bondage, from the Spirit to the flesh, from justification by faith to justification by works, and on “digging up from the foundation” their very souls’ salvation.
Of Paul it has also been truly said: “It was throughout life, Paul’s unhappy fate to kindle the most virulent animosities; because, though conciliatory and courteous by temperament, he yet carried into his arguments that intensity and forthrightness which awaken dormant opposition. A languid controversialist will always meet with a languid tolerance. But any controversialist, whose honest belief in his doctrines makes him terribly in earnest, may count on a life embittered by the anger of those on whom he has forced the disagreeable task of reconsidering their own assumptions. No one likes to be suddenly awakened. The Jews were indignant with one who disturbed the deep slumber of decided opinions. Their accredited teachers did not like to be deposed from the papacy of infallible ignorance . . . If arguments are such as cannot be refuted, and yet if those who hear them will not yield to them, they inevitably excite a bitter rage.”
Thus it was, not only with the Jews who did not believe, but also with those “Pharisees, which believed,”—those Jews who, not knowing true faith, thought to bind Christianity in the hard bands of their ceremonialism. And thus it is ever with those who insist that all new wine must be put into old bottles. But Christianity demands always that the old bottles shall be made altogether new, that they may receive and hold the new wine.
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | August 22, 1899]