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Let Freedom Ring: Thoughts on Galatians – Part 3

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Gal. 1:6-8

What could possibly surprise the veteran apostle who traveled across the Roman empire preaching to Jews and Gentiles from all walks of life and belief systems? Surely interacting with people from so many diverse cultures and having many varied experiences would prepare Paul for anything. Yet Galatians 1:6 registers his astonishment on account of the commencement of their sudden defection from the Lord. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon…” reveals both the apostle’s perplexity and the illogical behavior of his Galatian converts. With very little struggle – “so soon” – they were beginning to embrace an aberrant counterfeit of the genuine glad tidings of the Lord Jesus. This was not merely an alternate strain of Christian thought; rather, the Galatians risked losing the truth of Christ entirely by dabbling in a false Gospel.

If It Isn’t Broken, Don’t Fix It

New teachers arrived in Galatia propounding a “new and improved” gospel, which differed significantly from the original version that they heard from Paul. True, they had not deleted anything from the message: they apparently still professed to believe in the deity of Christ and the inspiration of the Bible. The error lay in what they had added to the glad tidings. They suggested that the Mosaic Law was necessary for justification and sanctification. In other words, salvation depended on faith in Christ plus adherence to the law (especially circumcision and kosher food laws.) Tampering with the Gospel is extremely dangerous. John 17:3 explains the momentous issues involved: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Since its truths bring one into a living relationship with the Lord Himself, altering its tenets destroys the possibility of such a connection. In other words, adding to the gospel transforms it into spiritual cyanide.

The false doctrine being foisted upon the Galatians was particularly dangerous, because it had a veneer of morality and religion about it. Those preaching it professed to be Christians, and – judging by certain allusions in Galatians 1 and 2 – claimed to represent the latest doctrinal teaching in the Jerusalem church. The fact that Paul says “Though we or an angel from heaven preach…” (v. 8) indicates that they were charismatic preachers, who seemed to carry equal weight with the apostles. Like a glorious angel, they looked and sounded good. One commentator describes the pervasive threat from this kind of false teaching:

The most destructive dangers to the church have never been atheism, pagan religions, or cults that openly deny Scripture, but rather supposedly Christian movements that accept so much biblical truth that their unscriptural doctrines seem relatively insignificant and harmless. But a single drop of poison in a large container can make all the water lethal. And a single false idea that in any way undercuts God’s grace poisons the whole system of belief. Paul would not tolerate a single drop of legalism being intermixed with God’s pure grace. To turn away from any part of the grace of Christ is to turn away from the power of God to that of human effort.[i]

It was obvious to the Galatians that pagan beliefs like Mithraism and Stoic philosophy were false; but the Judaizing doctrine was especially attractive because it came from supposedly familiar sources. Paul later warned the Ephesian elders of “savage wolves” coming from outside their assemblies. More troubling, however, was the caution that he gave regarding imposters from within their meetings who would speak perverse things in order to build up their own following (Acts 20:28-31.) Even today the worst enemies of the truth often arise from evangelical circles (e.g. the Emergent Church movement.) Regardless of how appealing the spokesman looks or sounds, if they add to or subtract from the biblical gospel, they must be rejected.

In Danger Of Becoming Doctrinal Quislings

Paul says that the Galatians are beginning to act in a spiritually disloyal manner. “Turning away” in verse 6 translates a word that was notorious for philosophical and political treachery. As Stott points out: “It signifies ‘to transfer one’s allegiance’. It is used of soldiers in the army who revolt or desert, and of men who change sides in politics or philosophy. Thus, a certain Dionysius of Heracleia, who left the Stoics to become a member of the rival philosophical school, an Epicurean, was called ho metathemenos, a ‘turncoat’.”[ii] The Septuagint, which is the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, used the word to depict the effect that Jezebel had on King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:25.[iii] Her insidious influence turned him from nominal Jehovah-worship to the adoration of idols like Baal and Ashtoreth. In Galatians the Greek verb is in the middle voice affirming that the Galatians are actively removing themselves from the Lord by their embrace of error.[iv]

Abandoning The Savior

Tragically, they were deserting a person not a dogma. The New King James Version rightly capitalizes “Him” in verse 6, acknowledging that God is the One in view. It is no use claiming that it does not matter what one believes, so long as they have Jesus. Such drivel sounds appealing to Postmodern ears, but the Bible makes it clear that a relationship with the Living God through Christ is the result of believing in the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, and receiving by faith the benefits of His saving work through His sacrificial death, vindicating resurrection, and victorious ascension (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:16; 5:24; 20:30-31; Acts 4:12; Rom. 3:23-26; 5:1; 8:1; 10:9; etc.) As Boice powerfully describes it: “Embracing legalism means rejecting God, according to Paul’s reasoning, because it means substituting man for God in one’s life. It is significant that once again even in the space of a few words (‘who called you by the grace of Christ’) Paul reiterates the true nature of the gospel: (1) it is of God, for God does the calling, and (2) it is of grace rather than of merit.”[v] To depart from the apostolic gospel as it was first preached in Galatia is to put oneself under a false system which results in eternal damnation (1 Jn. 5:11-12.) Moreover, preachers of a fraudulent gospel place themselves squarely under God’s curse (Gal. 1:8-9.)

The Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Thankfully, the phrase “turning from” is in the present tense, meaning that the Galatians had not yet fully embraced the fake gospel. There was still time to adhere to the truth, and repudiate the Judaizers and their wicked perversion of the gospel. Paul asserts that some were “troubling” them. Indeed, to obscure Christ’s good news of grace and peace always troubles the church. Those who are really saved can never impassively accept a caricature of the glad tidings. Conversely, the genuine gospel unifies the people of God. “They were all together in one accord” is the great refrain of the early chapters of Acts as the Christians carried the Lord’s message forth to Jews and Gentiles. The famous hymn puts it well: “I love to tell the story for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.”[vi] If believers genuinely love the Lord, they will love the New Testament gospel, and tenaciously hold to it against onslaughts from the religious and secular worlds.


[i] John MacArthur, Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996; electronic ed. (Logos), p. 14.

[ii] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians : Only One Way. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 1986, pp. 21-22; electronic ed. (Logos.)

Christian Maurer defines metatithemi thus: “‘…‎‘to turn from,’ ‘to fall away,’ ‘to become apostate,’…” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 8, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964, p. 161.

[iii] W.E. Vine, Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Galatians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, electronic edition (Logos.)

A modern translation of the LXX of 1 Kgs. 21:25 reads: “Yet Achaab did act foolishly when he sold himself to do what was evil before the Lord , as his wife Jezebel led him astray.” (boldface mine, indicating the use of metatithemi; A New English Translation of the Septuagint, Oxford: The University Press, 2007, p. 316.) Available for free usage here: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/

[iv] W.E. Vine, Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Galatians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, electronic edition (Logos.)

[v] James Montgomery Boice, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Galatians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977; electronic ed.

[vi] A. Katherine Hankey, “I love to tell the story”, accessed at: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/i/l/ilttts.htm on 8/26/10.

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK ON THIS LINK: Let Freedom Ring- pt-3

The Joy and Suffering of the Furtherance of the Gospel (1)

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Originally published in Precious Seed, Vol. 65 Issue 1 (2010.)

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ holds the answer to the momentous problems facing mankind today. In spite of this, the good news encounters opposition wherever it is proclaimed. The Adversary, Satan blinds men’s minds against it, 2 Cor. 4. 4, the world system allures people away from it, 1 John 2. 15-17, and the flesh rebels against its claims, Gal. 4. 29; 5. 17. The Lord Jesus foretold this sobering situation, saying:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me, John 15. 18-21.

Paul taught the same principle to his converts, affirming that ‘…all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’, 2 Tim. 3. 12; see also Acts 14. 22. Elsewhere he told his ‘child in the faith’, Timothy, to ‘…endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’, 2 Tim. 2. 3. John puts it succinctly: ‘Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you’, 1 John 3. 13. Of course, the apostles were not ‘armchair theologians’ who lacked the knowledge of the vicissitudes of real life. They themselves suffered for their identification with Christ and His gospel. For example, Paul’s experience of persecution and hardship for the progress of the glad tidings is clearly set forth in his epistle to the Philippians. What is more, this encouraging letter demonstrates the unassailable joy that the believer possesses in Christ in spite of the difficulties that serving Him brings about in this life.

Gold, Politics, And Geographic Advantage

Philippi was an important city in the Roman province of Macedonia. Founded by Greeks in the sixth century B.C. as Krenides (‘Springs’), it eventually was wrested from the Thracians and renamed Philippi in 356 B.C. by Philip II of Macedon – famous for being Alexander the Great’s father. Thanks to gold mines in the vicinity, in those days it was a ‘boomtown’. It was also strategically located about ten miles away from the Aegean Sea. Macedonian control eventually gave way to the Romans, who incorporated Macedonia and its holdings into their advancing empire in 148 B.C. It was located along the prominent highway the Via Egnatia. By that time, gold was no longer prevalent and the population dwindled. Nevertheless, world events again revitalized Philippi after Julius Caesar’s assassins Brutus and Cassius were defeated outside the city by Octavian (later known as Augustus) and Antony. By 27 B.C. it was declared a Roman colony, meaning that its residents enjoyed the rights and privileges of Roman citizens.[i] One writer describes the city’s affinity for the imperial capital in these words:

In every way the colony was a reproduction of Rome. The city of Philippi was laid out in the same patterns of Rome, and style and architecture were copied extensively. The coins produced in the city bore Roman inscriptions. The local magistrates liked to term themselves praetores (strategoi), in the Roman manner. The Latin language was used and its citizens adorned themselves in Rome dress. In every way Philippi was a “little Rome” when Paul first traversed its streets. Although it was not the general capital of the province (Thessalonica was), Philippi was a leading city and the first station of the famous road the Via Egnatia, which Rome built to link its eastern territories with the Empire. This road ran directly through the middle of the city and divided it into a lower and upper city. The lower city contained the agora and library while the upper city situated on the side of the mountain was the location of many of the temples.[ii]

In short, it was a cosmopolitan place, which was an ideal base for establishing a gospel beachhead in Europe.

An Inauspicious Beginning

At the commencement of his second missionary journey, Paul was overtly forbidden by the Spirit to preach in Asia Minor; instead, he was called to evangelize Macedonia, Acts 16. 6-10. When the missionary party arrived in Philippi, it did not appear to be a fortuitous place to begin a new work for God. After all, the apostle’s normal approach consisted of going to the local synagogue, making contacts among fellow Jews, Gentile proselytes, and “God-fearers” (one step below a proselyte). Philippi seems not to have met the rabbinic requirement for a Jewish house of worship, however, for it does not appear that there were ten Jewish men residing in the city. Accordingly, upon arriving they made their way to a place where Jews were known to gather for prayer. There they encountered some devout women. Despite the initial lack of a formal congregation Paul and Silas preached to these dear souls, resulting in the conversion of a Thyatiran businesswoman named Lydia and her household, Acts 16. 14-15.

The next victory in the gospel was drawn from the world of the occult. A certain enslaved fortune-teller, who derived her ‘second sight’ through demon possession, daily accosted the missionaries with her misleading cries. In response, Paul cast the unclean spirit out of her, thereby depriving some local businessmen of their lucrative ‘property’. Consequently, they did what any opportunistic, aggrieved entrepreneur would do: they took the heralds of the gospel to court. Like the high priests and Sanhedrin before them, they denounced the Christians as dangerous threats to peace and Roman law. Since the famed Pax Romana (Roman peace) was built upon the Lex Romana (Roman Law), these charges were taken quite seriously and resulted in the preachers’ imprisonment, Acts 16. 16-24.

Rather than hindering the gospel, this turn of events actually led to one of the most dramatic conversions in the New Testament. Under these difficult circumstances, Paul and Silas displayed a remarkably resilient attitude, praying and singing within their cell. The stocks held their feet, but their ebullient spirits could not be restrained. With hearts full of His love, their voices were profitably employed in communion with their Lord. Astonishment must have seized their fellow inmates, for when an earthquake opened the prison’s doors and loosed the prisoners’ bonds no one fled, vv. 26-28. Clearly God was at work within this place of confinement. This uncommon turn of events terrified and transfixed the jailer. He and his family believed in the Lord Jesus Christ that very night. Between Lydia’s household and the unnamed warden, a fledgling assembly was established. Amidst the harsh treatment of the business and legal communities, the gospel produced fruit for God’s glory (Paul refers to this ‘shameful’ treatment in 1 Thess. 2. 2). It was a harbinger of what was to come in his later written ministry to the Philippians.

A Postal Bible School For Serving The Lord

At the time of the writing of Philippians, Paul was once more in prison. Scholarly opinion is divided over the location of his incarceration – Rome, Ephesus, and Caesarea being the suggested possibilities. Regardless of the location, like before, his imprisonment failed to stop the gospel. On the contrary, Philippians makes it clear that Paul possessed a jail-proof joy that transcended trials due to the knowledge of God’s incontrovertible purposes, e.g. Phil. 1. 6; 4. 4.

Paul could not go to Philippi to preach, so he took up his pen in order to exhort them. Chiefly on his heart was their unity in Christ leading to participation in the furtherance of the gospel. He notes their fellowship in the gospel and refers to his great affection for them, 1. 3-11. Nonetheless, their assistance in the ministry was imperiled by a lack of unity within the assembly, which seemed to stem from self-centred behaviour among the believers. Therefore, the apostle devotes a large portion of the book to exhorting them to be more unified, selfless, and Christ-like, 1. 27; 2. 1-11; 4. 1-3.

Outlining Philippians

General Outline

Chapter 1: The Gospel’s Progress Against Opposition & Suffering

Chapter 2: The Gospel’s Selfless Proponents

Chapter 3: The Gospel’s Selfish Enemies & Their Defeat

Chapter 4: The Gospel’s Uniting & Providing Power

Detailed Outline

Phil. 1. 1-11: Introduction

1. 12-26: Paul’s imprisonment & its effect on the gospel

1. 27-2. 5: Exhortation to live worthy of the gospel amidst suffering & embrace the mind of Christ

2. 6-11: Christ’s selfless example

2. 12-16: Exhortation to work out their salvation and live consistent with it

2. 17-18: Paul’s selfless example

2. 19-24: Timothy’s selfless example

2. 25-30: Epaphroditus’ selfless example

3. 1-2: Answering Self seeking false teachers

3. 3-14: Paul’s past, present & future regarding righteousness

3. 15-21: Exhortation to a godly walk in view of Christ’s second coming and the resurrection of their bodies

4. 1-9: Exhortation to unity among the saints

4. 10-19: Thanksgiving for their financial gift

4. 20-23: Closing salutations

Other Prominent Themes Of The Book

Philippians repeatedly mentions joy, but it is far removed from erroneous human conceptions of pleasure. This epistle’s joy emanates from God’s goodness, love and power. As one writer says: ‘It is the joy that comes from complete dedication to the will of Christ which brings about a willingness to even go to the point of death for the sake of the gospel’.[iii] The book also has much to say about ‘the mind’, 1. 27; 2. 2, 3, 5; 3. 15, 16, 19; 4. 2, 7. Thankfulness is also an important topic, 1. 3; 4. 6, 10. The third chapter focuses on the important subject of true and false righteousness, but the positive aspects of that subject also appear elsewhere, 1. 11. Likewise, discernment and fellowship run through the epistle like underlying threads, 1. 5, 9-10; 2. 1. In order to effectively serve the Lord for the advancement of His gospel, the saints need to grasp these important concepts, which are also essential for the Christian life.

Almost two millennia after it was written, Philippians continues to challenge, encourage and comfort believers in various circumstances of life. The apostle’s temporary hardship produced a letter which is being used by the Holy Spirit to edify the saints and advance the glad tidings of Christ. It contains beautiful promises of God’s material and spiritual provision for His people, as well as reminders of the Lord’s incomparable condescension and sacrifice. It refuses to succumb to melancholy sentiment or discouragement; instead advocating joy in the midst of trials. Most importantly, it views the events of life through the spiritually enlightening lens of being in Christ.


[i] For a good overview of Philippi’s history see Herbert W. Bateman IV, “Were The Opponents at Philippi Necessarily Jewish?”. (1998). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 155 (155:40-43).

[ii] James L. Blevins, “Introduction to Philippians’, Review and Expositor Volume 77 (1980; vnp.77.3.312).

[iii] Ibid., p. 320).

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Let Freedom Ring: Thoughts on Galatians – Part 2

Friday, August 13th, 2010

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Galatians 1:3-5.

After establishing the divine origin of his apostleship, Paul greets the Galatian churches with this beautiful doxology, which sums up the gospel that he defends in this epistle. First, it is one characterized by “grace and peace.” While it is true that these terms were used as salutations in the ancient Jewish world, he is employing them for their theological content, not merely out of literary courtesy. “Grace” is frequently defined as “God’s unmerited favor.” It emphasizes the free gift of God, irrespective of any human merit or contribution. It focuses on the giver, not on the recipient of the gift.

Peace In Our Time

“Peace” is often discussed in this world, but seldom experienced in any form. It is the fleeting object of man’s deepest yearnings, yet it slips through his fingers like grains of sand. This is because the most important aspect of peace is a right relationship with one’s Creator; if one does not have peace with God, then peace of mind, peace among men, and all of other types of peace will prove to be maddeningly elusive. Through the work of the Prince of Peace, however, one may be given a righteous standing and thereby be reconciled to God. As Romans 5:1 succinctly puts it: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As beautiful as grace and peace are in themselves, they are impossible to experience apart from the work of God the Father and God the Son (verse 3.) Together these words describe the glory of God’s personal character and the beneficence of His gifts towards men. One writer describes them thus: “The first is the source of salvation and the second is the result. Grace is positional, peace is practical, and together they flow from God our Father through His Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”[i] Furthermore, the deity and divine equality of the Lord Jesus is demonstrated by this joint mention of the activity of the Father and the Son.

His grace brings rebels nigh, changes them into new creatures, and extends peace that passes understanding to them (2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 4:7.) His peace to them is never rescinded, and springs from the knowledge that they are right with God, who “…works all things according to the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11.) He seats them in the heavenlies, giving them free acceptance in God’s presence and provides them with unassailable heavenly inheritance (Eph. 1:11; 2:1-10; 1 Pet. 1:4.) In short, God gives His redeemed ones unparalleled blessings of grace and peace.

The Gift Of Gifts

The Creator’s grace is chiefly seen in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, who though sinless, paid the penalty that sinners deserved. Elucidating the specific way that this grace was extended to undeserving mankind Paul writes “…[He] gave Himself,” thus demonstrating the voluntary nature of Christ’s sacrificial death (verse 4.) The Son of God went to the horror of the cross with perfect foreknowledge of all that awaited Him there. Gruesome as they were, the torture and indignities that He suffered at the hands of His creatures paled in comparison with the agony of an utterly holy Being becoming a sin offering on behalf of humankind. His death was “for our sins” – the things that alienated man from his holy Maker and forged the chains of vice that enslaved humans of every type and description. He saved believers from the wrath to come by suffering that righteous anger in their place. In spite of this, He did not shrink from His responsibility, but went forth to the death of the cross in complete obedience to His Father’s will.

The verse next details the object of His self-sacrifice: “…that He might deliver us from this present evil age.” “Deliver” strikes the note of salvation from extreme danger. As a well-known commentator writes:

Christianity is, in fact, a rescue religion. The Greek verb in this verse is a strong one (exaireō, in the middle voice). It is used in the Acts of the rescue of the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery (7:34), of the rescue of Peter both from prison and from the hand of Herod the King (12:11), and of the rescue of Paul from an infuriated mob about to lynch him (23:27). This verse in Galatians is the only place where it is used metaphorically of salvation. Christ died to rescue us.[ii]

Another remarks: “The verb ξέληται, as in Luke’s reporting of its use in the early church (Acts 7:10, 34; 12:11; 23:27; 26:17, where the emphasis is on the idea of rescue), denotes not removal but rescue from the power of. So the deliverance spoken of here is not a removal from the world but a rescue from the evil that dominates it.”[iii] The Lord delivers His people from this evil age, so that they live the life that characterizes the age to come. Eternal life is more than life of unending duration; it is a quality of life – that which pertains to a relationship with the King of kings and sharing in His kingdom. The world as it currently is, dominated by lust and wickedness is passing away. The triumphant death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus make it inevitable that this age will be superseded by the age to come, where “God will be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:22-28.)

Where There Is A Will, There Is A Way

The dramatic deliverance carried out by the work of Christ is totally in keeping with the Father’s desires. The Son gave Himself to rescue the lost, but as Paul notes, it was “…according to the will of our God and Father” (v. 4.) In the divine counsels of eternity past, the triune God determined to ransom and save His people from sin, death, and hell (1 Pet. 1:20.) Like Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, “…the two of them went together” to Golgotha (Gen. 22:6; along with the Holy Spirit, Heb. 9:14.) Designating Him as “our God and Father” reminds one of the gracious relationship that the Almighty now gives to believers: they are His children and may call Him “Abba, Father” (Jn. 1:12-13; Rom. 8:15.)

Praise The Savior Ye Who Know Him

With the ancient apostle Christians say: “To whom be glory forever and ever” (v. 5.) Such great salvation naturally elicits worship, praise, and thanksgiving from the saints’ hearts and lips. This doxology is astounding coming from a converted Jew. As one commentator recounts:

To any Jew, it was natural to slip into reverential bĕrākâ, or ‘blessing’, after any mention of the divine name. For instance, ‘The Holy One—blessed be he’ is one of the commonest of such blessings used by later Jewish commentators. So here, after the mention of the name of God, it is natural to add to whom be the glory forever and ever (literally, ‘for ages of ages’, where the same word aiōn is used). Just as in old days the name of Yahweh, with its association of salvation from Egyptian bondage, stirred a Jew to praise, so now the name of Jesus Christ stirs Paul to similar response. If the Jew of old was a ‘Yahwist’, to use modern theological jargon, then Paul and those to whom he wrote were ‘Christians’, whose whole understanding of God was dominated by the revelation in Christ.[iv]

The great God and Savior will ever be lauded for the greatness of His person and work. Those who are redeemed through faith in the Lord Jesus will always remember what He has done and be enraptured with His lovely person.


[i] John MacArthur, Galatians, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), p. 5; electronic edition (Logos.)

[ii]John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians : Only One Way, Downer’s Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1986, p. 18; electronic edition (Logos.)

[iii] Richard N. Longenecker, Word Biblical Commentary : Galatians. Vol. 41. Dallas: Word, Inc., 2002, p. 8; electronic ed. (Logos.) I generally agree with his assessment that the emphasis is on “rescue from the power of” something, but would note that verses like Acts 7:34 and 12:11 include deliverance from physical places (i.e. Egypt & Herod’s jail respectively.) Of course, Christ’s rescue of believers includes the eventual deliverance from the world as it now is (fallen & sinful) through His coming. –KRK.

[iv] R. Alan Cole, Galatians: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Vol. 9, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989. p. 73; electronic ed. (Logos.)

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Let Freedom Ring: Thoughts on Galatians – Part 1

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Man intuitively yearns for freedom. Through the ages, numerous thinkers have suggested schemes for human liberty. Examples are readily found in the founding documents of my homeland, the United States; they are choked full of references to liberation from tyranny and oppression. Ironically of all the enslaving powers on earth, man is unable to achieve freedom from his vices and personal passions – things that are symptomatic of sin within the core of his being.

The Magna Carta Of Christian Liberty

Some people think that freedom from indwelling evil is to be attained through religious observance or esoteric disciplines. Due to their human origin, however, the world’s religions are powerless to liberate people from the thraldom of darkness that stems from their sin. In fact, religious people have no assurance of the forgiveness of sins which is a prerequisite for a relationship with the Creator God. Nor do human rites and ceremonies free one from sin’s power. There are many counterfeit paths to freedom, but only a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith can free one from sin’s penalty and power – even from sin’s presence, eventually, when He returns.

The Epistle to the Galatians begins by affirming the divine origin of Paul’s apostleship and the gospel that he preached. In context, this was important to establish, for there were competing false-apostles propounding erroneous messages and methods of salvation to the Galatian churches (e.g. Gal. 6:12.) Likewise, in the modern world the biblical gospel is one among many competing truth claims. One must understand, however, that Christianity is based upon divine revelation, not on human thinking or ingenuity.

God’s Messenger Of Liberty

The messenger introduces himself in a manner that displays his credentials: “Paul, an apostle (not from men or through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…” (Gal. 1:1.) He is an apostle, which is defined by one dictionary in these words: “One who fulfills the role of being a special messenger (generally restricted to the immediate followers of Jesus Christ, but also extended, as in the case of Paul, to other early Christians active in proclaiming the message of the gospel)—‘apostle, special messenger.’”[i] Another adds: “It always denotes a man who is sent, and sent with full authority.”[ii]

Paul’s apostleship was not of human origin – “not from men,” as he puts it. He was not sent out by a group of missionary minded men, nor a human organization. Neither was he put into this work “through man.” He was ordained by the Lord without the use of human intermediaries. His particular office and function derived from God, who chose him as His emissary to the nations (Acts 9:15.) As such, his authority stemmed from the will and character of the Almighty. As he articulates the source of it: “…through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1.) The Son and the Father selected and commissioned Paul to his service as an apostle. The Lord Jesus Himself was vindicated and authenticated by the Father raising Him from the dead. Thus, this apostle and this message were authorized and originated in the Risen Christ.

Conversely, his adversaries were mere men with human agendas and ineffectual pseudo-gospels that were impotent to change their adherents. By contrast, Paul declared God’s Word, which is able to save and transform those who receive it (e.g. Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12.) Yet he was no lone wolf in this work, for he then goes on to mention “and all the brethren who are with me” (verse 2.) Therefore, the brothers who were with him were also in fellowship with his work and message. So one sees that Paul’s gospel is the one that comes from God – the One who revealed Himself in history through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of Galatians may be paraphrased thus: “Don’t be fooled by imposters or swayed by ‘new and improved’ gospels. Look back to the original glad tidings that come from the true and living God.” Freedom can only be found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, so consider the good news that He gave through His apostle Paul.


[i] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains. electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible societies, 1996. Electronic edition (Logos.)

[ii] Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “apostolos,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-. Electronic edition (Logos.)

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