A Divinely Appointed Apostle
Read Galatians 1:1-3 (ESV)
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
How did Paul establish his authority to write this letter? Why do you think he did that in the very first sentence?
It is difficult to know who to believe these days. Anyone can take to social media and pretend to be an expert on any matter. Anyone can present what they claim to be facts in an attempt to refute or distort the truth. On social media, I see post after post mangling and manipulating the truths of Christianity, usually in an attempt to justify sinful behavior or cast doubt about God’s existence and Jesus’ deity. But distortions of the Gospel are not new. As we see when we read Paul’s letter to the Galatians, false teachers have been spreading falsehoods about Christianity since the very beginning.
Galatia is a region in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). When Paul addressed the “churches of Galatia,” he didn't specify which individual churches. But in Acts 13:14-14:23, we read that Paul and Barnabas founded four churches in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe in the region of Galatia. So it makes sense that at least these four churches were intended recipients of this epistle.
Today, we are reading Paul’s salutation. He always began his letters with a greeting but most scholars agree that this one is somewhat terse as if Paul wanted to get straight to the point. That point was this—He had the authority to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel message was under attack by a group of Jews who seemed to accept Christ at first but clung to Jewish laws and traditions as well rather than embracing the freedom found in Christ’s free gift of salvation. They taught a mixture of grace and works-based righteousness. They said that Gentiles had to become Jews and get circumcised before they could come to Christ. This false teaching created confusion and sowed division in the early church. Just what Satan was hoping for.
Paul recognized the serious threat this posed both to the salvation of individuals and for the future of the Christian church so he fought back with sound doctrine. The Judaizers then tried to discredit Paul by denying his authority to preach. They accused Paul of appointing himself as an apostle rather than being called and confirmed as an apostle. That’s why Paul made it clear right off the bat that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. He wasn’t commissioned by any man but by Christ Himself.
In addition, Paul’s teaching was in complete agreement with the other apostles, especially Peter and John. They were also commissioned by Jesus Himself and Paul’s message corroborated with theirs.
But it didn’t corroborate with the teaching of the Judaizers. We’ll look at this more closely in the coming days but suffice it to say, there is a reason that Paul greeted them with grace and peace. His greeting was intentional. He wanted to remind them that they are saved by grace alone and that it is only by His grace that they can experience peace with God. What about you? Are you held captive to good works, trying to earn your salvation with laws, rites, and rituals? Or have you embraced the freedom found in accepting God’s gracious gift of salvation?
Lord, my trust is in You. I am resting in the assurance of your gracious gift of salvation. I can’t earn it or accomplish it myself. But in Your grace, I know my relationship with You is restored and I can experience Your peace. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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