From Ordained Servant June 2020 Ministerial Care" />  From Ordained Servant June 2020 Ministerial Care" />
David C. Noe and Joseph A. Tipton
Ordained Servant: June 2020
Also in this issue
by Gregory E. Reynolds
by Matthew R. Miner
by Alan D. Strange
by Richard M. Gamble
by T. David Gordon
by Charles M. Wingard
This introduction teems with much passion and great fervor. In fact not only the introduction, but indeed the whole letter, so to speak, is like this as well. For those who always speak calmly to their students, when the students require sternness, this is characteristic not of a teacher but of a corrupter and an enemy. Consequently, even our Lord, though he often spoke gently with his disciples, sometimes used a more rough style, at one time blessing, at another rebuking. So, when he announced that he will lay the foundations of the church on Peter’s confession, he said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah.” But not long after these words he said: “Get behind me, Satan. You are my stumbling block.” And in another passage, again, he said, “Are you also so completely foolish?” Moreover, he inspired them with such fear that even John said that when they saw him conversing with the Samaritan woman and reminded him about eating, yet: “No one dared to say to him, ‘What are you looking for?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’” Paul understood this, and following in the steps of his teacher he varied his speech with an eye to the need of his students, at one time cauterizing and cutting and at another applying a gentle salve. Thus, to the Corinthians he said: “What do you want? Should I come to you with a rod, or in love and the spirit of gentleness?” Yet with the Galatians he took a different tack, “O you foolish Galatians.” And not just once but even a second time he employed this sort of threatening. He upbraided them at the end of the work, saying, “Let no one cause me troubles.” And again he seeks to minister gently as when he says, “My little children, whom I again bring forth with labor pains.” There are in fact many such expressions as these.
But it is evident to all, even on a first reading, that this letter is full of passion. So, we must explain what it was that had aroused Paul’s anger against his students. For it was no minor issue, nor something trivial, since Paul would not have employed such a marked thrust. Becoming angry in the face of misfortunes is typical of cowardly, cruel, and miserable men, just as losing nerve at major obstacles is the habit of those more sluggish and dull. But Paul is not such a person. So then, what was the particular sin that had stirred him up? It was something great and excessive, and something alienating them all from Christ, as he himself said a little further on: “Look! I Paul tell you plainly that if you submit to circumcision, Christ will do you no good at all.” And again, “Whoever of you seek to be justified by the law, you have disqualified yourselves for grace.” So, what in the world was this sin? We must identify it rather precisely: those of the Jews who had come to faith were at the same time both holding to their former commitment to Judaism and inebriated by empty doctrine. And wanting to arrogate to themselves the prerogatives of teachers, going to the people of Galatia they began to teach that it was necessary to be circumcised, and to keep sabbaths and new-moons, and not to tolerate Paul who was removing such practices. “For Peter, James, and John (the first of the apostles who were with Christ),” they say, “do not forbid such practices.” And truly they did not forbid them. Yet in doing this they were not presenting it as authoritative teaching, but rather accommodating the weakness of the believers who came from the Jews. But Paul, because he was preaching to the Gentiles, had no need of such accommodation. Therefore, when he was in Judea, he himself also employed this sort of accommodation. But his opponents, in their deception, were not stating the reasons why both Paul and the other apostles were making an accommodation. Instead, they deceived the weaker brothers in claiming that they should not tolerate Paul. For he had shown up “yesterday and a moment ago,” while they had been with Peter. He had become a disciple of the apostles, while they were disciples of Christ. And he was by himself, while they were many and the pillars of the church. So, they were casting at him the charge of hypocrisy, alleging that he was himself abrogating circumcision, “though he has clearly made use of such things elsewhere and preaches one thing to us, but differently to others.”
Therefore when Paul saw that the whole gentile world was aflame, that a troubling fire had been lit against the church of the Galatians, and that the whole structure was tottering and ran the risk of falling, he was gripped on the one side with righteous anger and on the other with despair. He made this very clear indeed when he said, “I wanted to be present with you then, and to change my tone.” He is writing the letter to respond to all this. And from these opening comments he refers to that which they were saying while undermining his reputation, saying that the others were disciples of Christ, though Paul himself was a disciple of the apostles. Thus, he began like this: “Paul, an apostle, not from men nor through men.” For those cheats were saying (as I mentioned before) that he was the last of all the apostles and had been taught by them. For Peter and James and John were called first, and were the main leaders of the disciples. They received their teaching from Christ, and thus more obedience was owed them than him. They, moreover, did not forbid circumcision nor keeping the law. Thus, making these claims and others like them, Paul’s opponents were seeking to diminish him and were at the same time exalting the glory of the other apostles. This they did not in order to extol them, but that they might deceive the Galatians by inappropriately persuading them to pay attention to the law. So, naturally he began in this fashion. For because they were treating his teaching with contempt, saying that it was from men, while Peter’s was from Christ, he immediately, from the introduction, set himself against this notion, stating that he was an apostle “not from men, nor through men.” For Ananias baptized Paul, but he had not freed him from error and did not lead him to faith. Instead, Christ himself after ascending sent that astounding voice to him, through which the Lord caught him like a fish. For while Christ was walking along the sea, he called Peter and his brother and John and his brother. But Paul he called after ascending to heaven. And just as the other men did not need a second voice but immediately, dropping their nets and all their other affairs, followed him, so Paul also from that first call ascended to the most important position, was baptized, and undertook an implacable war against the Jews. And it was in this respect most of all that he surpassed the other apostles. “For I labored more than they,” he said. But for the time being he does not argue this. Rather, Paul is content in claiming equality with the other apostles. For he was eager not to show that he surpassed them, but to refute the premise of the error. Thus, his first statement, “not from men,” was common to all men. For the gospel has its origin and root from above. But the second statement, “not through men,” is particular to the apostles. For Christ did not call them “through men,” but of his own accord “through himself.”
Why did he not mention his call and say, “Paul, called not from men,” but instead mentioned his apostleship? It is because his whole argument concerned this point. For his opponents said that the apostles had been entrusted with this teaching by men, and thus it was necessary for him to follow them. But Luke made clear that it was not delivered to him “from men” when he wrote: “And while they were worshiping and fasting before the Lord, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now set apart for me Paul and Barnabas.’” From this it is clear that the authority of the Son and the Spirit is one. For Paul says that in being sent by the Spirit he was sent by Christ. And it is clear from elsewhere that Paul attributes the things of God to the Spirit. Thus, when he is speaking to the elders of Miletus he says, “Keep watch for yourselves and for the flock over which the Holy Spirit has set you as pastors and overseers.” And yet he says in another letter, “Those whom God has established in the church, first apostles, second prophets, then pastors and teachers.” So, he uses this expression indiscriminately, saying that the things of the Spirit are of God, and those of God are of the Spirit. And in another way he also stops up the mouths of heretics, saying, “through Jesus Christ and God his Father.” For because heretics say that this word was attributed to the Son as though he were lesser, see what Paul does: he uses the word in the case of the Father thereby teaching us not to apply any principle whatsoever to an inexpressible nature, not to establish measures or degrees of divinity between the Son and the Father. For after he said, “through Jesus Christ,” he added “God the Father.” If in mentioning the Father by himself he had said, “through whom,” then they would have devised some sophism, saying that this expression “through whom” is applied to the Father, since the works of the Son reflect on him. And yet Paul mentions the Son and the Father at the same time; and in applying this expression to them jointly he no longer allows their argument any place. For he does not do this as though attributing now the deeds of the Son to the Father. No, he shows that this expression admits no difference in substance whatsoever. And what then would those say who, with respect to baptism, consider it somehow lesser because one is baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit? For if the Son were lesser than the Father, then what would they say now that the apostle here begins with Christ then moves on to the Father? But we shall speak no such blasphemy. We must not in contending with them depart from the truth. No, even if they should rage ten thousand times, we must keep our eyes on the standards of piety. Therefore, just as we would not say that the Son is greater than the Father simply because he mentioned Christ first—for that would be the very height of absurd foolishness and consummate impiety—so neither would we say that because the Son is placed after the Father we must suppose that the Son is lesser than the Father.
Next we read “who raised him from the dead.” What are you doing, Paul? Though you desire to lead the Judaizing men to faith, you do not bring before them any of those great and brilliant expressions such as you wrote to the Philippians. You said, for example, “Though being in the form of God he did not consider equality with God something to be laid hold of.” You also later said to the Hebrews that “He is the radiance of God’s glory, and the express image of his nature.” And then the son of thunder in his introductory words shouted forth that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Many times Jesus himself, when discussing with the Jews, used to say that he is as powerful as the Father, and that he possesses the same authority. But do you, Paul, not say here any of those things? Instead, omitting them all, do you mention Christ’s dispensation according to the flesh, making his cross and death the main point? “Yes,” he says. For if Paul were addressing people who had no grand conception about Christ, then saying those things would be called for. But since those who believe that they will be punished if they depart from the law are opposing us, Paul thus mentions the acts through which Christ abolishes the need of the law. I mean, to be precise, the benefit that arose for all from his cross and resurrection. For the statement “in the beginning was the Word,” and “He was in the form of God” and “making himself equal to God” and all such—these would suit someone demonstrating the divinity of the Word, not someone adding anything to the present topic. But the statement “who raised Him from the dead” is characteristic of someone calling to mind the chief point of the kindness on our behalf, the very thing that serves Paul’s purpose for the question under discussion. For many people are in the habit of not attending to words that represent God’s majesty as much as they are to those that manifest his kindness toward men. Therefore, declining to say those kinds of things he spoke about the kindness that was done for us.
But then heretics counterattack, saying, “Look, the Father raises the Son.” But now that they have become diseased, they are willingly deaf to lofty doctrines and select the lowly doctrines as well. And these statements were expressed this way: 1) for the sake of the flesh, 2) for the Father’s honor, or 3) for some other purpose. The heretics, by selecting from among these and scrutinizing them one by one, disparage themselves (for I would not say that they succeed in harming the Scriptures). Such persons I would gladly ask, “Why do you make such claims? Do you want to prove that the Son is weak and not strong enough for the resurrection of a single body?” And truly, faith in him made even the shadows of those who believed in him raise the dead. Then those men who were believing on Him, though remaining still mortal, by the mere shadow of their earthen bodies and from the shadow of the clothes that were attached to those bodies raised the dead. And yet Christ was not strong enough to raise himself? So then how is this lunacy not obvious and the intensity of this madness? Did you hear him saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up?” And again, “I have the authority to lay down my life, and I have the authority to take it back again”? Why then is the Father said to have raised him up? To show that the Father does all the same things as the Son. And yet this is especially said for the sake of the honor that is due the Father and for the weakness of the listeners.
Paul says, “And all the brothers that are with me.” Why has he never once done this elsewhere in the course of his letter writing? In other places he provides only his own name, or that of two or three others by name. Here he speaks in terms of a whole group and consequently does not mention anyone by name. So why does he do this? His opponents were slandering him as the only one who was preaching as he did, and that he was introducing something new into his doctrines. Thus, because he wanted to remove suspicion and show that he counted many who shared his opinion, he wrote the “brothers.” By this he makes clear that the very things he is writing he also writes in accordance with their judgment.
Next he adds “to the churches of Galatia.” For this fire of false teaching was spreading not just to one city, nor two or three, but to the whole nation of the Galatians. Look with me here how Paul felt so much indignation. For he did not say, “to the beloved,” nor “to the saints,” but “to the churches of Galatia.” This expression was indicative of someone irritated in spirit and exhibiting his distress, that is, not addressing them by their names with love nor with honor, but by their assembly only. And he does not address them as the churches of God either, but simply “the churches of Galatia.” In addition he hurries to engage the rebellious element. Therefore, he also used the name “church,” shaming them and drawing them into unity. For since they were divided into many factions, they could not be addressed by this title. For the designation “church” is a designation of harmony and concord.
“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul everywhere uses this tag by necessity, but he especially does so now when writing to the Galatians. Since they were in danger of falling from grace, he prays that it might be restored to them yet again. Since they made themselves God’s enemies, he beseeches God to lead them back again to that same peace. He says, “God our Father.” And here the heretics again are easily caught. For they claim that when John in the introduction to his Gospel says, “And the Word was God,” he says this clause without an article for this reason: so as to diminish the divinity of the Son. And again that when Paul says the Son is “in the likeness of God,” he did not say that concerning the Father because of the fact that this too is used without the article, what answer would they make here when Paul says, not, “from God” but, “from God the Father”?
Then he calls God “Father,” not with a view to flattering them, but vigorously upbraiding and reminding them of the reason why they have become sons. For it was not through the Law but through the washing of regeneration that they were counted worthy of that honor. Therefore, he sows the traces of God’s kindness everywhere, even in his introduction, as though he were saying, “How is that you, who were slaves and enemies and estranged from God, suddenly call him Father? Surely it is not the Law that gave you this kinship? Why then indeed, abandoning the one who has led you so close to him, are you running back to your tutor?” It is not only in the case of Father, but also in that of the Son that these titles suffice for demonstrating their benefaction. For the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when carefully examined, clearly shows all his kindness. Indeed, he shall be called Jesus for this reason, it says, “Because he will save his people from their sins.” And the appellation “Christ” calls to mind the anointing of the Spirit.
We come next to the phrase “who gave himself for our sins.” Do you see that he did not merely submit to the service of a slave nor a compulsory service, nor was he handed over by someone else, but rather “gave himself”? Consequently, whenever you hear John saying that the Father gave his only-begotten Son for our sakes, do not for this reason disparage the value of the Only-begotten, nor suspect anything merely human is meant. Even if the Father is said to have given him up, this is not said in order that you should consider his service that of a slave, but in order that you might understand that this was also acceptable to the Father. The very thing Paul here makes clear when he says, “According to the will of our God and Father.” It is not “according to a command” but “according to the will.” For since the will of the Father and the Son is one, whatsoever the Son desired, these things also the Father willed. Next we read, “For our sins.” We pierced ourselves, he says, with a thousand evils and were liable to the harshest punishment. And the law did not free us but condemned us in rendering our sin more manifest and not being able to free us or turn God away from his anger. But the Son of God both made possible that which was impossible – doing away with our sins and turning us from enemies to his friends – and gracing us with myriad other good things.
So, Paul next says, “That he may free us from this present evil age.” Other heretics again snatch at this phrase, casting aspersions on this present life and using Paul’s testimony to do so. “For look,” the heretic says, “Paul has dubbed the present age evil.” And tell me, then, what is an age? Time, measured in days and hours. So what? Is the mere passing of the days evil, and the course of the sun too? No one would ever say that, even if he veers to the extremes of stupidity. “But he did not say, ‘time’,” the heretic says, “no, he called the present life evil.” And to be sure the actual words do not say this. But you do not stop at those words which you twisted into an accusation: instead, you are hacking out a path for your own interpretation. You will therefore permit us also to interpret what has been said, all the more so since what we say is pious and reasonable. So, then what should we say? That none of those evils would ever be responsible for good things, and yet this present life is responsible for thousands of crowns and such great rewards. The blessed Paul himself, at any rate, unmistakably praises this life when he says as follows: “If my living is in the flesh, this is for me fruitful labor; and as to what I shall chose, I do not know.” And as he sets before himself the choice between living here and casting off this life to be with Christ, he prefers to pass through the present life. But if it were evil, then he would not have said such things in his own case, nor would anyone else be able to make use of it for the end of virtue, no matter how zealously intent on doing so. For no one could ever use wickedness and turn it to a good end. Such a person could not use prostitution as a stimulant to self-control nor envy as a goad to friendliness.
For indeed, Paul says about the presumption of the flesh that “it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it do so,” he means this, that wickedness which remains wickedness cannot be virtue. Consequently, whenever you hear “wicked age,” understand that it means that its deeds are wicked, that its will has been corrupted. For neither did Christ come in order that he might kill us and lead us away from the present life, but that, when he has freed us from this world, he might make us ready to become worthy of dwelling in heaven. For this reason he said while speaking with his Father: “They are also in the world, and I am coming to you…I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one,” that is, from wickedness. And if you are not content with these words, but still persist in holding that this present life is evil, you should not criticize those who commit suicide. For just as he who extricates himself from wickedness does not deserve reproaches but rather commendation, so also the man who ends his own life by a violent death as through hanging or other things like that would not, according to you, deserve to be blamed. But as it is God punishes such persons more than murderers, and all of us, quite appropriately, find such persons loathsome. For if it is not a good thing to destroy other persons, it is much more ignoble to kill oneself. Yet if the present life is evil, we ought to reward murderers because they free us from that evil!
Still, apart from these things, they also trip themselves up because of what they themselves say. For when they claim that the sun is god, and after that the moon, and they worship these as the causes of many good things, they make mutually contradictory statements. For the use of these and other heavenly bodies does nothing else but contribute to the present life for us, which they call evil, sustaining and illuminating various objects and bringing fruits to their ripeness. So how then do those who are gods in your view introduce into the composition of an evil life such a great public benefit? But neither are the stars gods—heaven forbid; they are the works of God made for our use—nor is the world evil. But if you object to me that there are murderers, and adulterers, and grave robbers, I answer that these do not at all pertain to the present life. For such are not sins that come from life in the flesh, but from a corrupted will. Because if these were the deeds of the present life, as part and parcel with it, nobody would be free nor pure. Yet see how it is impossible for anyone to escape the peculiar qualities of life in the flesh. What are these? I mean things like eating, drinking, sleeping, growing, being hungry, thirsty, being born, dying, and all things similar to these. Nobody would be exempt from these things—not the sinner, not the righteous man, not a king nor private citizen—but we all are subject to the necessity of nature. Consequently, no one would escape the performance of even sinful acts if such were apportioned to the nature of this life, as such actions are not.
Do not tell me that the those who succeed are scarce. For you will find that no one has ever overcome these natural necessities. So, until even one person succeeding in being virtuous is found, your argument will not be at all diminished. What do you mean, you wretched and miserable man? Is the present life evil, when in it we have come to know God, in it we philosophize about the things to come, in it we have gone from being men to angels, and join in the chorus of the heavenly powers? And what other proof will we look for that your understanding is evil and corrupted?
“Why then,” our opponent says, “did Paul say that the present age is evil?” He was using a common manner of speaking. For we are quite accustomed to say, “I had a bad day.” We mean by this not the time itself but lay the blame on what transpired or the circumstance. Thus, Paul used a common expression when he blamed acts of the wicked will. And he shows that Christ has both freed us from our former sins and secured our future. For by saying, “who gave himself for our sins,” he made clear the former. And by adding “that he might free us from the present evil age,” he indicated safety for the future. For the law was weak compared to the one, but grace has proven effective against them both.
Next we read, “according to the will of our God and Father.” For because they thought that they were disobeying God, as the one who had given the Law, and they were afraid of abandoning the old covenant and come to the new, he also corrects this assumption of theirs by saying that these things also seemed good to the Father. And he did not say simply, “the Father,” but “our Father.” So, he uses that word immediately, reprimanding them by saying that Christ has made his Father our Father.
There follows this: “To whom be glory forever. Amen.” This expression is also unfamiliar and strange. For we find the word “Amen” placed nowhere at the beginning or the introductory remarks of a letter, but rather after many other words. Then, showing that the things he used already are a sufficient charge against the Galatians, and that his argument is adequate, he added this preface. For incontrovertible charges do not need a long build-up. So, reminding them of the cross and resurrection, of the ransom for sins, of security for their future, the intent of the Father, the will of the Son, of grace, of peace, of all God’s gifts, he ended his argument with a doxology. Paul did this, not only for the reason I just mentioned, but also because he was contemplating what God did in a single blow and in the smallest amount of time to us, given who we were.
These ideas, which he was unable to set out plainly in argument, he summarized with a doxology—offering up praise on behalf of the whole world. It was not one worthy of the subject, but simply what he was able to express. Therefore, he afterward used an even more forceful expression, just like one greatly inflamed by consideration of God’s kindnesses. For after Paul says, “To whom be glory forever, Amen” he embarks on a quite pointed rebuke. So, he says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly moving away from him who called you in the grace of Christ for another gospel.” Because they supposed that they were pleasing the Father through keeping the Law, as the Jews thought when they were persecuting Christ, Paul first shows them that they are not provoking Christ alone in behaving this way but also the Father. For he says that in doing this they are defecting not just from Christ but also from the Father. In the same way that the old covenant is not only from the Father but also from the Son, so also grace is not from the Son alone, but also from the Father, and all things are held in common between them. “For all that belongs to the Father is mine.”
And yet when he said that they abandon even the Father, he posits two faults: that there was a change and that this change was very rapid. Yet surely the opposite is worthy of accusation as well, namely, to have abandoned the Father after a long time. But here his argument deals with a deception. For the one who abandons after a long time deserves accusation, and the one who falls at the first charge, and in the light skirmishes, furnishes a singular example of total weakness. He in fact charges them with this, saying:
What is this, that those who deceive you need no time at all, but a first assault was enough to subdue and capture all of you? So what sort of excuse do you have? For if this arose among your friends, I mean the accusation, and someone had abandoned his former friends and useful intimates, he would be worthy of reproach. But the man who runs away from the God who calls him, just think how great a punishment he would be liable to!
So, when Paul says, “I am amazed,” not only does he say this to upbraid them because—after such a great gift, after such a great forgiveness for their sins, and an extravagance of kindness—they deserted to the yoke of slavery. At the same time he is also showing what kind of opinion he holds about them, that it is a sort of serious and earnest one. For he would not have been surprised at what happened if he had supposed that they were the sort to be deceived easily. “But since you are of noble character,” he says, “and of the type that have suffered a good deal, this is why I am amazed.” This should have been adequate to regain them and bring them back to their former beliefs. Paul makes this clear in the middle of this letter when he says, “Did you suffer such serious trials in vain, if indeed it was in vain?”
Next Paul adds “You are changing your position.” He did not say, “Keep going,” but “you are changing your position.” In other words, “I do not yet believe, nor do I suppose that the deception is complete,” which itself also is, again, the statement of one who is recovering. Consequently, he makes this point more clearly later on: “I am confident in your case, that you will consider nothing else.”
Next Paul adds that they are departing “from the one who called you in the grace of Christ.” The calling is of the Father, and the reason for the calling is the Son. For the Son himself is the one who reconciled and gave that reconciliation freely. For we were not saved according to works in righteousness. But rather these belong to the Father, and those works belong to Christ. “For my things are yours,” he says, “and yours mine.” And note that Paul did not say, “You are turning back from the Gospel,” but “from the God who called you.” For the latter expression was more likely to inspire horror; and he has used this to strike them more deeply. For those who were wanting to deceive them did not do this all at once, but while gently drawing them away from the idea, they did not draw them away from the terms. For this is how the devil’s cunning works: it does not set obvious traps. For if the deceivers had said, “abandon Christ,” of course they would have been on guard against such tricksters and corrupters. But as it is, allowing them to stay in the faith yet attaching the title of “gospel” to their deception, they were undermining the whole structure with great impunity. The speech concealed the wall-breakers, through their phraseology, like a curtain.
Thus, since they were calling their own deception the “gospel,” Paul himself does well to fight back verbally and speaks quite boldly. He says, “You have gone over to another gospel, one which is not another gospel at all.” Well put! For there is not another one. But nevertheless, the very thing that those who are diseased suffer—that they are harmed by healthy foods—Marcion suffered. For he snatched at what was related here, saying, “Look, even Paul said that there is not another gospel.” For they do not accept all the evangelists, but only one, and they mangled and rendered them of no effect, however they pleased. So then, what about whenever Paul himself says, “According to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ”? Therefore, the things they have said are really ridiculous, except that even if they prove to be ridiculous, it is necessary to disprove them for the sake of those who are easily beguiled. What then shall we say? That even if tens of thousands write gospels, and write the same things, these many are one, and the fact of their being one will not be at all harmed by the multitude of the authors. Therefore, just as if someone writes one thing and then on the other hand says something opposite, the things written would not be one. For what is one and what is not one is judged not by the number of those writing, but by the identity and difference of what is said. Thus, it is clear that even the four gospels are actually one gospel. For whenever four say the same things, they are not different things because of the difference of the persons, but there is one because of the complete harmony of the things they say. For Paul is not here speaking about the number but about the discordance of the things said. So if, then, there is one gospel in Matthew and a different one in Luke as far as the meaning of the contents and the sense of their doctrines is concerned, they rightly criticize the Word. But if these accounts are really one and the same, they should stop acting so foolishly and pretending that they do not understand things that are really very clear to mere children.
Next Paul says, “Unless perhaps there are some people harassing you and wanting to distort the Gospel of Christ.” This means, so long as you remain of sound mind, you will not recognize another gospel; so long as you look at things that are right and not imagine those that are perverted, those that do not exist. For in the same way that the eye mistakenly sees one thing for another, so also the mind, roiled up by an admixture of wicked arguments, typically suffers this same kind of disruption. So, for this reason, those who are addled in their wits, mistakenly imagine one thing for another. But this kind of madness is more troubling than what I just described: it is not the kind that produces harm in our sense perceptions but in the things we think about; not that kind which occasions destruction in the pupil of the eyes of the body but in the eyes of the understanding.
“And wanting to distort the Gospel of Christ.” And surely they were introducing only one or two commands, instituting anew only the command of circumcision and of special days. But in showing that a whole, when slightly modified, is ruined, he says that the gospel has been rendered void. For just as in royal coins the one who cuts off a small part of the impress renders the whole coin counterfeit, so also the one who distorts even the least significant portion of a healthy faith thereby defiles the whole of it, moving away from the original toward things that are worse. Where then now are those who criticize us as lovers of strife on account of our disagreement with heretics? Where now are those who say that there is no gap between us and them but that the difference arises from a lust for power? They should heed what Paul says, that those who innovate even just a little bit have distorted the gospel. And these people are not changing just a little. For how could they be, since they claim that the Son of God is something created? Have you not heard that even in the Old Testament someone who gathered wood on the Sabbath, violating only one commandment, and not even the greatest one, paid the ultimate penalty for it? And when Uzzah steadied the ark as it was about to topple over, he immediately died because he touched a ministerial function that was not permitted to him. Thus, both the transgression of the Sabbath and touching the ark when it was about to fall rendered God so indignant that those who dared such acts received not even a little leniency. So, the one who defiles the awe-inspiring and ineffable articles of the faith, will such a person find any defense or leniency? No, not so. But this very thing then is the cause of a whole host of evils, namely, when we do not become irritated over the small matters. For this reason greater sins were introduced among them because the lesser ones did not receive the required correction. And just as those who ignore the wounds in their bodies provoke fevers, putrefaction, and death, so also when it comes to souls, those who overlook even the smallest problems compound it with greater ones.
A certain person, one might say, stumbles over fasting, and it is no great concern. Another man is strong in the faith that is correct, but acting like he is not for the moment loses his confidence. Nor is this anything very terrible. Still another man became irritated and threatened to abandon the correct faith. But neither is this worthy of punishment. For he sinned in anger, one might say, and by impulse. And someone could find ten thousand such examples of sins introduced into the churches each and every day throughout the churches. Therefore, we have become utterly ridiculous to both Greeks and Jews since the church is splintered into ten thousand pieces. For if those who were attempting at the beginning to turn away from the divine ordinances and cause some slight disturbance had met with a deserved rebuke, the plague that is present would not have arisen, and such a great storm would not have overtaken the churches.
Note that Paul at least says circumcision is an annulment of the Gospel. And yet now there are many among us that observe the same day of fasting that belongs to the Jews and similarly keep the Sabbaths. And we bear with these things generously, or rather like the wretches we are. And why should I talk about the practices of the Jews since some of our people also observe many customs of the Greeks, like watching of omens, the flight of birds, signet-rings, the observance of days, an interest in genealogy and booklets, which when their children are being born, they compose to their own detriment. In this they teach their children at the outset to give up efforts at virtue and lead them, for their part, under the yoke of the deluded tyranny of fatalism.
But if Christ is no benefit to those who are circumcised, how much will faith, in the end, work for the salvation of those who have carelessly involved themselves in such great wickedness? And though circumcision was given by God, nevertheless since it was defiling the gospel by not being performed at the proper time, Paul did everything so as to cut off circumcision. So, then since Paul showed such great zeal in the case of Jewish customs, when they were being observed in an untimely fashion, will we not cut off the Greek custom? And what sort of a defense might we have? Because of this our affairs are now in disarray and confusion, and those who are studying, filled with much presumption, upended the proper order. What was right side up has become upside down. If someone raises some small objection, they spit on their rulers, since we “trained them poorly.” And yet even if their superiors were quite wretched and filled with ten thousand evils, it would not be right for the student to disobey. For if Christ says about the Jewish teachers that since they sat in the seat of Moses it would be right for them to be listened to by the disciples—and yet they possessed works so evil that he ordered his students neither to emulate them nor to imitate those things they do—what leniency would they deserve, those that spit upon and tread underfoot the presiding officers of the church, they who by the grace of God live morally? For if it is not proper to judge one another, how much more improper it is to judge one’s teachers.
“But if even I, or an angel from heaven should preach to you something other than what you have received, let him be anathema.” Notice Paul’s apostolic wisdom. For, so that someone won’t say that for the sake of self-aggrandizement he was cobbling together dogmas peculiar to himself, he even anathematized himself. And since they were fleeing for excuse to titles of dignity, that is James and John, he also mentioned angels. “Don’t talk to me about James and John,” he says. “For even if it is one of the firstborn angels from heaven who corrupts this preaching, let him be anathema.” And he did not simply say, “from heaven,” but since the priests were called angels: “For the lips of a priest will guard knowledge, and they will seek out the law from his mouth, because he is an angel of the almighty Lord.” Now in order that you not think that priests are now called angels, he implicitly refers to the powers above with this addition “of heaven.” And he did not say if they proclaim things that are opposite or if they pervert the whole. But he said even if they preach something “just a little different” from that which we have preached, and if they disturb something minor, let them be anathema.
Paul continues, “As I have said before, I also say again now.” For lest you suppose that these are impulsive words or were said with exaggeration or a kind of haste, he uses the same things again a second time. Someone driven to say something in anger would likely soon have a change of heart. But the man who says the same things a second time shows that he spoke after weighing matters carefully, and after earlier becoming sure of it he stated it. Abraham, for example, when asked to send Lazarus, said, “They have Moses and the prophets. If they do not heed these, neither will they heed the risen dead.” Christ introduces Abraham as saying these things thereby showing that he wants the Scriptures judged more valuable than those raised from the dead.
And Paul (and when I say, “Paul,” I again mean Christ) places Scripture on a higher level than angels descending from heaven, and quite rightly. For the angels, though they are very important, are but in reality servants and ministers. But the Scriptures were all delivered not by slaves but by God, master of all, to be written down. That is why Paul says: “If anyone preaches to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you.” And with a great deal of understanding and inoffensively, he did not say, “a certain so and so.” For why would it, after all, be necessary to mention peoples’ names since in employing such comprehensive language he includes all entities, both those above and those below? For through his anathematizing of evangelists and angels, he encompassed every rank. And through himself he included everyone similar and like unto himself. “Don’t tell me that your co-Apostles and others are saying these things. For I do not even exempt myself if I preach such doctrines!” And he does not make such comments as though he were condemning the apostles, nor as though they were turning aside from proper preaching. Far from it! “Whether we, or they,” he says, “this is how we preach.” But he wants to show that he does not make allowance for persons whenever the message deals with the truth.
“For am I persuading men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? Yet if I were now seeking to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” “So even if I were deceiving you,” he says, “in saying these things, can I really mislead God who knows the secret things of the conscience, whom it is always my entire goal to please?”
Do you see the apostolic high-mindedness? Do you see the sublimity of the gospel? Writing to the Corinthians he said the same thing: “We do not defend ourselves to you, but we give you cause for boasting.” And again, “From my perspective it counts for very little that I am judged by you, or by a human tribunal.” For when a teacher is compelled to defend himself to his students, he both submits to this and chafes against it. He does this not because of rebellion—heavens no—but because of the fickleness of the knowledge of those who were being deceived and because they do not trust him much. Therefore, he said this and all but made the following point:
Is my message really before you? Is it men that are going to pass judgment on me? My message is actually before God, and for the sake of the scrutiny that rests with him we do all things. And we would not have come to such a great degree of wretchedness as to defend ourselves to the master of all things for what we preach, for corrupting his doctrines.
Consequently, at one time making a defense and at the same time struggling against such persons, he has said this. For it is appropriate not that students sit in judgment on their teachers, but that they trust them. “And when order is turned upside down, and you sit as my judges,” he says, “understand that I do not have a long argument against you as my defense, but everything we do is for the sake of God, and thus we defend ourselves to him concerning these doctrines.”
The one who wishes to persuade men causes many ills and perversions and uses deception and deceit, so that he can win over and capture the sentiment of his listeners. But the one who seeks to persuade God and is eager to please him has need of a simple and pure conscience. For the divine is not subject to deception. “From this it is clear that even we,” he says,
not for the sake of lording it over others, nor merely to gain students, nor desiring from praise do write and send these doctrines. For we are not eager to please men, but God. If we were wishing to please men, I would still be with the Jews; I would still be persecuting the church. But one who has disdained his whole nation, and his family, and his friends, and relatives and such a reputation, and has exchanged these things for persecutions and hostilities and wars and daily deaths – it is quite clear that even these statements that I now make, I say them and send them to you not desiring glory from men.
And he said this, since he intends to narrate the earlier part of his life and his sudden conversion and to show through clear proofs that he truly had changed, lest they suppose that he is defending himself to them in doing these things and become agitated. For that reason he said to them in advance, “So am I pleasing men?”
You see he knows how to say something lofty and great at the right time, to correct those who are learning from him. And yet he could have made use of other proofs that he was preaching truthfully, that is, with signs, wonders, dangers, imprisonments, daily threats of death, hunger and thirst, nakedness, and other such things. But since his argument at this point was not against false apostles, but against the true Apostles, and the latter had shared in these things—I mean Paul’s dangers—he aims his argument from another vantage point. For, when he went against the false apostles, he develops the comparison thusly: he introduces the notion of his patience in the midst of dangers, saying, “Are they servants of Christ? I speak like one who is delirious. I am a servant even more. I have been in hardships more abundantly, been beaten more, imprisoned more, at the very brink of death so often.” Now, however, he speaks of his former way of life, and says, “I make known to you, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not one that is according to man. In fact I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Note how confidently and thoroughly he affirms this point, that he became a disciple of Christ, with no man as his mediator, but with Christ deigning through himself to reveal to Paul all knowledge. And what sort of a demonstration could there be to those who disbelieve that God has revealed to you by himself, and not through someone else’s mediation, these inexpressible mysteries? “My former way of life,” Paul says. “For I would not have experienced such a sudden conversion unless God were the one who made the revelation.” For those that are taught by men, whenever they are impetuous and incendiary toward those who oppose them, need time and much skill in order to be persuaded.
But Paul was converted so suddenly and became absolutely sober while at the very pinnacle of his raving, that it is quite clear that he encountered a divine and instructive vision and immediately returned to complete health. Therefore, he is compelled to give an account of his earlier way of life, and he calls them as witnesses of the things that happened.
You do not know that the only-begotten Son of God condescended, from the heavens, to call me. How could you know, unless you were there? You know though that I was a violent persecutor. Indeed, my violence had spread even toward you. And yet there is such a great distance between Palestine and Galatia that my reputation would not have crossed so much distance, unless the things that were happening were truly excessive, and none could endure it.
So then, he says, “For you heard about my former way of life, that I was persecuting the church of God excessively, and seeking to destroy it.”
Do you see how he sets down each point emphatically and is not ashamed? He did not simply persecute the church, but he did so with all vehemence, and he did not only persecute the church but even sought to destroy it, that is, he tried to snuff it out, to overwhelm, ruin, and obliterate it. Such is the work of one “seeking to destroy.” “And I was excelling in Judaism beyond many of those of my own age in my own nation, abounding in zeal for the traditions of my fathers.” Now lest you think that this was a deed of passion, he shows that he was doing all of it with zeal. Even if his persecution was not according to full knowledge, it did not arise from vainglory, nor was he avenging some private injury, but “abounding in zeal for the traditions of my fathers.” And in saying this he means the following:
If I was doing these things against the church not because of man but because of a righteous zeal—misguided for sure, but zeal nonetheless—how could I now, as I strive on behalf of the church, since I know the full truth, be doing these things from vainglory? For if that kind of passion did not rule me when I was deceived, but zeal for God led me to that, how much more now that I know the truth would it be right for me to be exempt from this suspicion? At the same time I was converted to the teachings of the church and put off the whole Jewish system, then I took on at that point a far greater zeal. This is proof that my conversion was genuine and was brought about by divine zeal. If this were not the case, what else was it, tell me, that caused so great a change to happen, to forfeit honor for contempt, tranquility for dangers, and safety for hard work? There is nothing else at all, but only the love of the truth that would do this.
When God, who set me apart and called me through grace, was well pleased to reveal his Son in me that I may proclaim him among the gentiles, I did not immediately take counsel with flesh and blood.
See what he is eager to point out here, that for the time during which he was passed over he was disregarded for a certain inscrutable purpose. For if he had been foreordained from his mother’s womb to be an apostle and to be called to this ministry and was called at that time and when called obeyed, it is clear that God was postponing it for a certain reason. So, then what was this dispensation? Perhaps you expect while listening to the introduction to hear an exordium as to why in the world God did not call him with the twelve apostles. But in order that I may not get distracted from the matter at hand, prolonging my explanation too far, I appeal to your love, that you not learn everything from me, but seek them out from among yourselves and appeal to God to reveal them. We have, in fact, already received some explanation of these matters when we were discussing with you the change in his name and why God renamed the one called Saul, Paul. And if you have forgotten, when you read this very book, you will come to know all the details. But for the time being let us keep to what follows; let us also examine how he again shows that what happened to him was not at all of human origin, but rather that God managed all things for him with great foresight.
“And he called me through his grace.” God said that he had called Paul because of his excellence: “For he is my chosen vessel,” he said to Ananias, “to make my name known before the Gentiles and kings.” That is, he was sufficient both to serve and to display a great work. And God set this down as the cause of his calling. But Paul himself says everywhere that the entire business was of God’s grace and inexpressible benevolence. For he says, “But I was pitied,” not because I was sufficient, nor because I was suitable, but “in order that in me God might display all his long-suffering as an example for those who were going to believe in him unto everlasting life.” Do you see the extreme perfection of his humility? Because of this, he says, I was pitied, so that no one would despair, learning that the worst of all men enjoyed God’s benevolence. For he makes this clear when he says, “In order that in me God might display all his long-suffering as an example for those who were going to believe in him.”
Paul next says, “To reveal his Son in me.” In another passage Christ says, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and the one to whom the Son desires to reveal him.” Do you see that the Father reveals the Son, and the Son reveals the Father? It works the same way also when it comes to glory: the Son glorifies the Father, and the Father the Son. “Glorify me,” Jesus says, “that I may glorify You.” And, “Just as I have glorified you.” So then, why did Paul not say, “to reveal his Son to me,” but “in me”? He shows that he not only heard those things which concerned the faith through words, but also that he was greatly filled with the Spirit, that the revelation completely illumined his soul, and that he possessed Christ speaking within him.
So, he says, “That I may proclaim him among the nations.” For it is not only his believing that has come from God but also that God elected. “Thus, he has revealed himself to me, not only so that I may see him, but that I may carry him to others.” And Paul did not say simply to “others,” but, “That I may proclaim him among the nations.” He is hereby giving a sampling of a not insignificant point in his defense, the identity of his disciples. It was not necessary to preach similarly to the Jews and to the Gentiles.
Paul next says, “I did not immediately consult flesh and blood.” Here he mentions the apostles obscurely, referring to them by their nature. And if he also says this about all men, we do not at all deny it. “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me.” If then someone should examine these very words individually, it might seem like they are full of much boasting, and that they are far from an apostolic disposition. For self-endorsement and taking no one as a partner in your knowledge seems to be the mark of foolishness. The Scriptures say, “For I saw a man who seemed to himself to be wise, and yet the fool has more hope than he.” And, “Woe to those who are understanding in their own eyes and seem knowledgeable in their own sight.” Again, Paul himself says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” So, one who has heard so much of such admonitions from others, and who himself gives the same admonitions to others would not fall victim to this, not just Paul but really any man at all. But, as I was just saying, when this expression is scrutinized by itself, it can raise suspicion and give offense to some listeners. So, let us establish the reason why Paul was making these claims, and then all will applaud and be amazed at him for saying this.
We proceed as follows. We do not need to pour over the mere words, since many other absurdities will follow. Nor is it necessary to interrogate the expression itself but to pay close attention to the writer’s intention. In our lectures if we do not use the same procedure and examine the thinking of the speaker, we will incur much hostility, and everything will get thrown upside down. For in our own arguments we would not have used this kind of figure, and we would scrutinize the knowledge of the one who said such a thing. We will be subjected to much hatred, and all things will become confused. And why is it necessary to speak about particular words, when even in the case of deeds if someone does not keep to this standard all things become topsy-turvy? Even doctors cut and break a person’s bones, and thieves often do such things. Therefore, how wretched would it be if ever we are unable to tell the difference between a thief and a doctor? Another example is murderers and martyrs when they undergo the same tortures. But there is a very great difference between them. And if we do not hold closely to that standard, we will not be able to know these things, but we will say that even Elijah was a murderer, and Samuel and Phineas as well, and that Abraham was indeed a killer of children, if we intend to scrutinize just the bare actions.
So then, let us examine Paul’s intention, the reason why he wrote these things. We must look at his purpose and how he behaved, generally speaking, toward the apostles. Then we will understand his comments and his thinking in saying these things. For he was not disparaging others, nor was he exalting himself when he said these things, nor when he made the prior comments. How could he be, when he also anathematized himself? But everywhere he maintains the steadfastness of the gospel. For because those who were destroying the church were saying that they had to follow the apostles—who were not forbidding the practices at Galatia—and not follow Paul—who did forbid what they were doing—then little by little a Judaic deception was introduced.
So, Paul is compelled to stand nobly against these practices. He does this, not because he wants to speak ill of the apostles, but from a desire to repress the folly of those who were improperly elevating themselves. Therefore, he says, “I did not consult flesh and blood.” For it would have been extremely inappropriate for someone who had learned from God to subsequently refer to men. The one who learns from men naturally accepts men again as partners. But he who has been counted worthy of that divine and blessed voice and has been taught all things by the one who possesses the storehouse of wisdom, what reason does he have subsequently to refer to men? Such a man would be acting justly not in learning from men, but in teaching them. So then, he did not make these claims insolently but to show the value of his own message.
He next says, “I did not go up to those who were apostles before me.” For since they kept saying this over and over—that they were apostles before Paul, that they were called before he was—he says, “I did not go up to them.” And if it had been necessary to associate with them, the one who revealed his message to Paul would have ordered him to do this. So then, did he not go up there? Indeed, he surely did go up, and not only that, but he also did so in order to learn something from them. When was that? When in the city of Antioch, a city that had again shown much zeal, the public discussion became concerned with this very topic which now lies before us. And they were asking whether it was necessary to circumcise Gentile believers or whether it was not at all necessary to subject them to any such thing.
Then Paul himself and Silas went up. Therefore, why does he say, “I did not go up, nor did I consult anyone?” It is because, first, he did not go up on his own initiative, but was sent by others. Second, because he was not there in order to learn from others, but to persuade them. For he himself had this opinion from the beginning, the opinion which afterward the apostles confirmed, namely, that circumcision was unnecessary. So, since those in Antioch did not for the time deem him trustworthy, but relied upon those in Jerusalem, he went up, not so that he might gain some greater knowledge, but to persuade those who were speaking against him that even those in Jerusalem were voting with him. Thus, even from the beginning Paul could see what things were required and had need of no teacher. But the apostles, after much discussion, were intending to confirm the very doctrines that Paul himself possessed firmly within himself, from above, even before that discussion.
Luke clarifies these matters when he says that Paul had many long debates on these topics against those men even before coming to Jerusalem. And because it seemed good to the brothers to learn from them, he went up, but not for his own sake. So, if he says, “I did not go up,” this is what he means, that he did not go up in the beginning of his ministry, nor, when he went up to Jerusalem did he go up to learn. He makes both of these points clear when he says, “I did not immediately consult flesh and blood.” He did not simply say, “I did not consult,” but “immediately.” So, if he went up after those events, it was not in order to gain something.
Paul continues: “But I went away into Arabia.” Observe how fervent his soul is. He was striving to lay claim to places that had not yet been planted, but lay still mostly uncultivated. For if he had remained with the other apostles, not able to learn anything, his preaching would have been hindered. For they needed to distribute the Word everywhere. Therefore this blessed man, bubbling over with the Spirit, was completely devoted to teaching barbaric and rustic peoples, choosing a life of contention and one that contained much labor. And look with me at his humility. For after saying, “I went to Arabia,” he then followed it with “I returned to Damascus.” He does not talk about his accomplishments nor list what sort they were and how extensive, and yet at the same time as he was baptized, he showed such great zeal that it confounded the Jews and so exasperated them that both they and the Greeks wished to ambush and kill him. This would not have happened unless he had made a great addition to the believers’ number. For since Paul’s opponents were inferior in their teaching, they at length resorted to murder. This was an unmistakable indication of Paul’s victory.
But Christ, watching over him for his message, did not allow him to die. Nevertheless, Paul says nothing of these accomplishments. Thus, all the things that he says he does not mention for love of glory, nor so that he can be thought better than the other apostles, nor from a sense of irritation at being so greatly disparaged. No, he does so because he is afraid that some harm might befall his message. He calls himself one “late-born,” and the “chief of sinners,” and “least of the apostles,” and “unworthy of such a great title.” And he was saying these thing even though he labored more than all of them, so pronounced was his humility. The one who knows that there is nothing good within him and says such humble things about himself is actually just reasonable, not humble. The one who is conscious of no good in himself is reasonable, but the one who says such things after so many crowns knows how to be modest.
Paul continues with these words: “And again I returned to Damascus.” And yet how many successes is it likely he accomplished there? Concerning this city, he says that the governor under king Aretas was keeping guard over all of it, wanting to catch the blessed man as a fish in a net. This would be a clear sign of his gaining great and forcible victories over the Jews. But here he says nothing about these events, nor would he then have mentioned them there unless he saw that the particular occasion required a recounting of what happened. Otherwise he would have kept silent. Therefore just as also here, when he said that he came and then went away, he no longer gives an account of what happened there.
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to inquire of Peter.” What could be more humble than this soul? After such great and unusual accomplishments, having no need of Peter nor of conversation with him, but instead being equal to him in honor (I will not say for now anything more), nevertheless, Paul goes up as to a superior and an elder. And inquiring of Peter was the only reason for his journey. Do you see how he renders proper honor to the Apostles and not only does not consider himself better than they but does not even consider himself their equal? This is evident from his travel there. For just as now many of our brothers leave their homes to go visit holy men, so also Paul, being at that time so disposed towards Peter, went to him. But in his case it is rather far more humble. For those now leave home to gain some benefit. But this blessed man did so then not in order to learn something from Peter, nor to receive some kind of correction, but for this reason alone: that he might see Peter and honor him with a personal visit.
Paul says he went “to inquire of Peter.” And he did not say, to see Peter, but “to inquire of Peter,” as those say who go to examine big cities. Thus, Paul thought that it was worth much effort merely to see the man. And this point is also quite clear from the book of Acts. For when he went to Jerusalem, after converting many Gentiles and performing works of great note—more than any of the other apostles had done, like reconciling and leading to Christ Pamphylia, Lycaonia, the nation of the Cilicians, and all those throughout that region of the world—he first approaches James with tremendous humility, as to someone greater and more honorable.
Then Paul patiently endures while the other apostle gives counsel, advising things that were opposite of what we are now discussing. “For you see brother,” James says, “how many thousands of Jews there are that have believed? But shave yourself and be purified.” And Paul shaved and fulfilled all the Jewish requirements. So, where the gospel was not being harmed, Paul was humbler than everybody. But when, due to his position of humility, he saw certain men being treated unjustly, he no longer made use of this excessive virtue. For to do so, in the end, would not be acting humbly but horribly mistreating and corrupting those who were learning from him. “And I remained with him for fifteen days.” Therefore it was indicative of high honor that Paul left his home for Peter’s sake; and the fact that he remained with him for so many days shows how intense were Paul’s friendship and love toward him.
Paul continues in verse nineteen as follows: “But I did not see any of the other apostles, except James the Lord’s brother.” Note how he holds Peter in greater affection, since he journeyed there for his sake and stayed with him. I say these things repeatedly and think it worthwhile to keep them in mind so that whenever you hear the things which Paul seems to have said critically of Peter, you will not mistrust the apostle. Indeed, Paul himself makes these comments for this reason, to forestall this misunderstanding, so that whenever he says that he opposed Peter no one might think that these are words said in rivalry and enmity. No, Paul honors him and loves him more than all the rest. For he does not say that he went up because of any of the apostles, but rather for Peter alone. “But I did not see any of the other apostles,” he says, “except James.” “I saw,” he states; not “I was taught by.”
But note also how honorably Paul mentions James. He did not simply say, “James,” but also adds a mark of distinction. This shows he was free of all envy. Because if Paul were wanting to signify whom he meant, he could have made this clear using some other mark and said that James was the son of Clopas, which is how the evangelist identifies him. But this is not what Paul said; instead, because he believed that the dignifying titles of the apostles pertained to himself, he dignifies James as though elevating himself. Paul did not call James that, as I said. So, what did he call him? “The brother of the Lord.” Still he was not really a brother of the Lord according to the flesh, but was only considered to be so. Nevertheless, Paul does not in this way refuse to uphold the man’s dignity. He shows in one passage after another that he was disposed towards all the other apostles as he ought.
Next he says, “With God as my witness, I am not lying about the things I write to you.” Do you see how the humility of this holy soul shines in the same way through every circumstance? Just as though he were in a courtroom and about to undergo examination, he is eager to vindicate himself. “Then I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia” after seeing Peter. Paul now resumes his argument and the conflict that lies before him, not touching on Judea. This was both because of his commission to the gentiles and because he would not have chosen to build upon another’s foundation. Therefore Paul did not visit them as a mere chance occurrence, and this is evident from the comments that follow: “For I was,” he says, “personally unknown to the churches of Judea. And they had only heard that ‘he who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith, which before he sought to destroy.’”
What could be more moderate than this man’s soul? For when he was discussing those things brought against him as a charge—for example, that he was persecuting the church and seeking to destroy her—he set out those items with much detail, parading out his former life. But the things that are likely to show his excellence he bypasses. Yet though he could speak about all his fine accomplishments if he wanted to, he mentions none of them but passes over the vast sea of them with a single word and says, “I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia,” and “they heard that “he who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith, which before he sought to destroy.” He does not add a word more.
And what does he mean by the statement “I was unknown to the churches of Judea”? Paul says this so that you may learn that he was so far from preaching circumcision to them that they didn’t even know him at sight. He next adds, “And they were glorifying God in me.” Notice here as well the standard of his humility, how he keeps that standard very carefully. For he did not say, “they were astonished at me,” “they were praising me,” “they marveled.” Instead he showed that everything which happened was of grace: “For they were glorifying God, “he says, “in me.”
 This translation is based on the text provided in Sancti Patris Nostri Joannis Chrysostomi, In Divi Pauli Epistolam Ad Galatas Commentaria, Oxford 1852, Field.
 Matthew 16:17.
 Ibid., v. 23.
 Matthew 15:16.
 John 4:27.
 1 Corinthians 4:21.
 Galatians 3:1.
 Galatians 6:17.
 Galatians 4:19.
 The vivid metaphor Chrysostom employs here is military. καταφορά (kataphora), prevalent in the Roman historians Polybius, Josephus, and others, is typically used to describe the sudden downward stroke of a sword.
 Galatians 5:2.
 πρῶτοι (prōtoi) indicates both chronological priority and preeminence.
 Galatians 4:20.
 Ibid., 1:1a.
 Acts 9:18.
 1 Corinthians 15:10.
 Acts 13:2.
 Cf. Acts 20:28ff.
 Chrysostom has here conflated, whether deliberately or as a consequence of quoting from memory, two different passages: Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. From the latter he took the words οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας (hous men etheto ho theos en tē ekklēsia prōton apostolous, deuteron prophētas), while he finished the quote with a portion from Ephesians 4, namely ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους (poimenas kai didaskalous).
 Galatians 1:1b.
 Chrysostom uses here the verb σοφίζω (sophizō), “to act like a sophist.” In this he alludes to a long tradition stretching back to Gorgias, Prodicus, and other opponents of Socrates in the Platonic dialogues who made the weaker argument the stronger.
 Galatians 1:1c.
 Philippians 2:6.
 Hebrews 1:3.
 John 1:1.
 Chrysostom uses here the somewhat unusual participle φθεγγόμενος (phthengomenos). This is done apparently variationis causa, since he has in previous sentences made use of a range of synonyms including γράφω (graphō), λέγω (legō), ἀναφωνέω (anaphōneō), and ἀναβοάω (anaboaō).
 In his use of the terms δύναται (dunatai) and ἐξουσίαν (exousian), Chrysostom registers the long-held distinction between ability and authority and ascribes both to Christ. This distinction is perhaps more common to students of the Latin language, where it is represented by the terms potentia and potestas. Though the two do not mutually entail the other, in the persons of the Trinity the distinction is not consequential.
 Acts 5:15.
 Acts 19:12.
 John 2:19
 John 10:18.
 Galatians 1:2a.
 Ibid., 1:2b.
 The word Chrysostom uses here, ἐντρέπων (entrepōn), Paul employs in a similar context in I Cor. 4:14.
 Galatians 1:3.
 Ibid., 1:4.
 John 1:1.
 Heb. 1:3.
 Here the article τοῦ (tou) is used with θεοῦ (theou), while in the subsequent clause it is anarthrous.
 Chrysostom here references Galatians 3:24, in which Paul compares the Mosaic Law to a tutor, leading the underage Israel to himself.
 Matthew 1:21.
 Galatians 1:4a.
 Ibid., 1:4c.
 Chrysostom here varies the vocabulary in each clause, from ἐβούλετο (ebouleto) in the first to ἤθελεν (ēthelen) in the second. Presumably this is to demonstrate both the unity and distinction of the will of the Father and Son in their intra-Trinitarian relationship.
 Galatians 1:4a.
 Ibid., 1:4b.
 Chrysostom means here that by which the days are measured, i.e. the sun’s rising and setting.
 Philippians 1:22.
 Romans 8:7.
 John 17:11a, 15.
 Chrysostom may have in mind such passages as Ephesians 2, where Christians are said to be “seated with Christ in the heavenly places.”
 Sc. present and future.
 Galatians 1:4c.
 Verse 6.
 John 16:15.
 Cf. Galatians 5:10.
 This is the continuation of v. 6 of chapter 1.
 Cf. Titus 3:5.
 Chrysostom very artfully employs here a concatenation of pronouns with specific referents to Father and Son in an interlocking ABAB order, also known as synchysis or sometimes chiasmus: Μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ταῦτα ἐκείνου, καὶ ἐκεῖνα τούτου (Mallon de kai tauta ekeinou, kai ekeina toutou). Cf. H. W. Smyth, A Greek Grammar, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956), §3020.
 A paraphrase of John 16:5, quoted above.
 The metaphor which Chrysostom employs is that of siegers and sappers seeking to undermine a city’s defenses. Concealing screens were carried by some, behind which the engineers sought to dig beneath the walls’ foundations in order to topple them.
 Marcion of Sinope (c. 85–c. 160). Much of our knowledge of him and his thought comes from Epiphanius of Cyprus in the fourth century. Briefly, he held that the God of the Old Testament, whom he labeled a “demiurge,” was different than the God who sent Christ Jesus. This heretical view involved him in, among other things, a wholesale rejection of continuity with the church of the old covenant and a radically truncated canon of Scripture.
 Cf. Romans 16:25.
 Verse 7.
 Sc. heretics.
 Cf. Numbers 15:32, 36.
 Cf. 2 Samuel 6:6ff. The noun Chrysostom uses, διακονίας (diakonias), is surprising, as one might expect here a reference to the actual object which Uzzah touched, διακόνημα (diakonēma). He apparently has in mind, however, not Uzzah’s act of touching the ark but his usurpation of an office that did not belong to him.
 Chrysostom perhaps has in mind here, in addition to the conflict in Galatia, Paul’s mention in 1 Corinthians 11:30ff. of those who had died as a punishment for their abuse of the Lord’s table.
 Note Chrysostom’s typical change of mind, for rhetorical effect, in the midst of conveying an exegetical point.
 This is a reference most likely to the composition of horoscopes.
 Chrysostom here and in the next sentence introduces two puns for dispensing with circumcision, namely περικόψαι (perikopsai) and περικόψομεν (perikopsomen).
 Matthew 23:2ff.
 Verse 8.
 Cf. Luke 16:29–31.
 Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:11.
 Verse 10.
 Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:12.
 Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3.
 Chrysostom’s sources for these experiences of Paul are Romans 8:35 and 2 Corinthians 11:25ff.
 Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23.
 Vv. 11–12.
 Cf. v. 13.
 Cf. v. 14.
 Cf. vv. 15–16.
 The NPNF identifies this as the Hom. de Mut. Nom. iii, p. 98.
 Cf. Acts 9:15.
 Cf. I Timothy 1:16.
 Verse 16a.
 Cf. Luke 10:22.
 Cf. John 17:1, 4.
 Verse 16b.
 In other words, Chrysostom means that Paul received instruction neither from the Apostles nor from anyone else but only Christ.
 Verse 17.
 Cf. Proverbs 26:12.
 Cf. Isaiah 5:21.
 Cf. Romans 12:16.
 I.e., to Jerusalem.
 I.e., to Jerusalem. Cf. Acts 15.
 Cf. Acts 15:2.
 Sc. in Antioch.
 Cf. v. 17.
 Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8.
 Cf. 1 Timothy 1:15.
 Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9.
 Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:32.
 I.e., in 2 Corinthians.
 Chrysostom here continues with v. 18 of chapter 1.
 Chrysostom alludes here to Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:3–4.
 Cf. Acts 21:20 and 24. Chrysostom recasts the verb “to shave” here, namely ξυρήσονται (xurēsontai), as a second person singular imperative. He also concludes that James is the speaker who addresses Paul in vv. 20–26, though the verb in verse 20, namely εἶπον (eipon), is third person plural, not singular, and therefore likely refers to a plurality of leaders and not merely to James.
 Sc. Peter.
 V. 18b.
 Cf. John 19:25. By comparing this text with Mark 15:40, Mark 16:1, where a Mary is mentioned as the mother of James, Chrysostom and others have held that the James of Acts 20 was the half-brother of Christ and the son of Clopas, Clopas in turn being the brother of Joseph, husband to the virgin Mary.
 Cf. v. 20.
 Cf. v. 21.
 Cf. Romans 15:20.
 Cf. v. 23.
 Cf. v. 24.
David C. Noe is an elder at Reformation OPC, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a licentiate in the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario, and serves as an associate professor and chair of the Philosophy and Classics Department at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also serves on the OPC Committee for the Historian.
Joseph A. Tipton is a member of Coeur d'Alene Reformed Church OPC and a Fellow of Classical Languages at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. Ordained Servant Online, June 2020.
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