This is the first in a series of several studies that I will be posting over the next several weeks. It will be a systematic and verse by verse study of this wonderful and forceful epistle to do away with law keeping as a believer’s rule of life. Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, delivered this letter as the called Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our lives in Christ should be forcefully impacted by this wonderful message regarding grace, law, and our liberty in Christ.
Before expanding on the first chapter of this epistle to the Galatians, let us take a look at three key words to describe it. They are three simple words: “not”, “neither”, and “but”. The first time that we see this, it is in verse one:
Paul, an apostle, (NOT of men, NEITHER by man, BUT by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead;) [Gal 1:1]
In this verse, the apostle does not waste any time getting to the point of who appointed him as an apostle, and who did not. He is not an apostle, or “sent one” of men. He did not receive his apostleship, or sending from men. He was sent by the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. This is a key to understanding the Scriptures. Paul was not called as a sent one of the other apostles (i.e. the twelve), and he was not called by them. They did not send him as Apostle of the Gentiles. The calling and sending was directly from the Lord Jesus and God the Father.
The next time that these words are used is when Paul is talking about the gospel that he is preaching:
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. [Gal 1:11-12]
If anyone were to raise the question, as to where Paul received his message from, it is right here. If they were to check with Peter, James, or John to find out if he received his message from them, the answer would be “no”. One might even state that the Lord called Paul to go to the gentiles with the same gospel message that He had given to the twelve because they were not able to do it. Maybe it was because he was better suited to reach the gentiles. Scripture, however, never makes either of these claims. The twelve were also commissioned by the Lord Himself and sent to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever [the Lord Jesus] commanded [them]. (Mat 28:19-20) They received power, after that the Holy Ghost [came] upon [them]: and [became] witnesses unto [the Lord Jesus] both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria… (Act 1:8) That there witness did not go beyond Jerusalem in the early chapters of Acts is not because of bigotry or failure on their part. It is because as the Lord Himself came unto His own, and His own received Him not (Jhn 1:11), His own also rejected the messengers that he sent after Him. As Stephen, filled with the Holy Ghost summed it up perfectly:
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept [it.] [Act 7:51-53]
As it was said about Israel in the days of the Babylonian captivity, so it could be said now:
But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till [there was] no remedy. [2Ch 36:16]
So there was nothing left but wrath. Or GRACE.
God would now display His grace. He would conclude them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (Rom 11:32) And His messenger would be “the chief of sinners”. (1Tim 1:15)
The next time that the words “not”, “neither”, and “but” would come up would be regarding Paul’s “basic training” and “first mission field”:
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. [Gal 1:15-17]
As we embark on our journey through this epistle, let us keep these things in mind. Paul was not just one of the apostles. He was not just better suited to reach the gentiles, for he was a Pharisee, and by man’s standards, he would be better suited to reach the Jews. But the Lord had other plans. Paul was the distinct apostle of the gentiles, the evangelist of the gospel of the grace of God, and the steward of the mysteries of God. And this calling: By GRACE.