Galatians


Study 1.

Introduction and Theme


Contents page
Paul a pattern      Theme      Not of men   But by God   summary


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

1. Paul a pattern.



And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;  Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.  And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
I Tim 1: 12-16

It seems strange that Paul should claim to be set forth as a pattern to those who should believe afterwards. For, as we know, the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly our example  eg. I Pet. 2:24.  But looking at the context of this passage it is quite clear what Paul is meaning. Jesus had no sin, Paul did; Jesus never needed converting, Paul did. The pattern, or mould, that Paul speaks of is how God takes a sinner and changes him into a wonderful trophy of grace. 

In the context of the opening chapters of Galatians we see this pattern of how God takes a man, and by His Spirit manifests His dear Son in him. It is  all of grace, there is nothing of any earthly or fleshly work at all. Indeed Paul’s confession is that he regarded himself the ‘chief of sinners’. No doubt that this was because he was, before his conversion, one of the main persecutors of the church, and’ wasted it’ (Gal.1:13)   The NT record clearly shows what he was like  (Acts 8:1-3). Yet he obtained mercy. In doing so, Paul argues, that if the chief of sinners obtained mercy then anyone can. Therefore, he is set forth as a pattern of what God can do in anyone’s life, no matter how far they seem to have gone.  

 In the opening two  chapters of Galatians we have an unusually long passage of seeing God working in Paul’s life, both in conversion and ministry - we see a pattern set forth. It is all of grace and not of any fleshly works or effort.   In his dealings with the false brethren  we see Paul walking in the Spirit and not after  the flesh.   All in all the first two chapters are  significant in our understanding of this epistle.   

2. Theme

The opening verse sets the scene for us:

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


If we compare this opening with the way Paul opens his other letters we see something noteworthy and interesting relevant to our thoughts.


Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle…….
Rom.1:1
 Paul called to be an apostle …………….

I Cor.1:1
Paul an apostle………

II Cor. 1:1


Paul, an apostle by the will of God……….

Eph.1:1


Paul and Timotheous the servants of Jesus Christ…….

Phil. 1:1


Paul an apostle by the will of God………..

Col.1:1


Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus unto…..

I Thess.1:1 & II Thess.1:1


Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God...

I Tim. 1:1

Paul an apostle  of Jesus Christ by the will of God………..

II Tim. 1:1
Paul a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…..

Titus 1:1


Paul a prisoner of Jesus Christ…..

Philem. 1:1

All the epistles  have Paul stating the fact that he was an apostle,  a servant  or whatever, but here in Galatians we are given some extra information a negative as well as a positive statement. He was an apostle by Jesus Christ and God the Father; he did not received his apostleship from men or by  any man made authority, it was from God Himself. It was of God - not men; it was of the Spirit - not of the flesh. And this thought  sets the tone for the whole of this epistle.

2.1  Not of men
We note that Paul did not make himself an apostle, nor was he made one by men’s authority but by Jesus and God the Father. Many people make themselves something, or thinking they can appoint others by some ritual to an ‘office’, this is all of the flesh and not of  the Spirit. Such systems and claims inevitably lead to a control system; either from an organisation called a ‘church’, or whatever,  or by individuals claiming to be something special, either by outward proclamation or by their actions, or by sheer force of character. (This is how cults begin).  No true ministry of the Spirit is ordained or appointed by men, it is all of God's grace.

What needs to be understood is that labels, such as apostle, pastor etc in scripture,  are not titles of jobs,  but descriptions of what a person does in the body of Christ. In the true church these men are not appointed by some ritual, they become recognised by the body that they have a particular gifting from God. No need to pass exams, complete a course or have a vote, or by any other man made method. God’s ways are not men’s ( Isa. 55:8-13)

2.3  But by  God
The final part of the verse declares that God raised Jesus from the dead, it  was a work of the Spirit and not the flesh. All works of the Spirit bring life, those of the flesh bring death. Paul's appointment by God to His Apostleship brought life indeed; one only needs to read  the NT to see this.

This opening verse is a clear statement as to the message of the letter: the life of the Spirit as opposed to the works of the flesh. The one produces life and the other death. As we go through this letter we will examine this theme, comparing and contrasting life in the Spirit as opposed to  life in the flesh.

3. Summary


The message of Galatians is that  our salvation is all of God's grace, and has nothing to do with any works of the flesh. The Christian life is one of continuing in that  grace, of  walking in the Spirit. We are to remain  in the freedom Christ has given to us and not allow anyone, or anything to draw us back into those  works of the flesh. For example,  modern Judaisers, religion of any sort, external do's and don'ts  and  anything else that gives an occasion for the flesh.

As we read on, we will find that the Galatian Christians, having begun well, had  fallen back into the flesh. And this is always the danger for the Christian. We may have started well, but ‘how are we continuing?’  Look at Church history, past or recent, and see how many men of God or moves of God,  having begun in the Spirit  have fallen into fleshly ways by trying to live the life by their own efforts, trying to ‘keep’ what God gave in the first place by methods of the flesh, or of  the  world. This is the danger and sadly many fall into this way. Let us learn from this letter and having begun in the Spirit let us  continue therein and not go back to live in the flesh again.