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The Galatians were in south-central Asia Minor, the turning around point of Paul's first missionary journey, including the cities of Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Actually, Derbe was only 125 miles from Paul's original home of Tarsus, on the main east-west Roman road, but there was a mountain range in between, and not much general intercourse.
The date of the epistle, and its time-position in relation to Paul's travels, is not certain, but it appears to be early, and some consider it his first epistle. It was certainly after his first visit to them (Acts 14), and seems to be before the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), though this is not certain. If it was, it would be during the "long time" at Antioch of Acts 14:28. *
1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
Unlike his other epistles, when he has a warm personal greeting, and words of commendation, even when he has a message of censure, Paul here starts right out with the burden of his reproof.
He was in no sense a messenger from the other apostles, nor even had he obtained any of his instruction and understanding through them. Both his "call" and his "doctrine" were direct from Christ himself and God. It is vital that he establish this, for clearly the Judaizers who pretended to represent the Jerusalem apostles, were endeavoring to undermine it. *
4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
Paul, by the word of inspiration, here declares the present world to be evil. Most men proceed upon the hypothesis that it is not evil, but -the best of all possible worlds" to use a phrase greatly current among the -wise" of these modern times.
We are all liable to share this impression more or less, because we are all such poor judges of what a good world is, and are all so naturally in sympathy with what is in vogue with flesh and blood-like Peter, -savoring not the things that be of God but those that be of men. But even with all our natural bias in its favour, we are bound to discover that the present world is an evil world that cannot be cured by man - Let our experience be long enough, and we shall infallibly come to the days when we shall say, -I have no pleasure in them."
That is, we shall find out that the flower of life that looks and smells so beautifully in youth is a withering flower, and even in its unwithered state is not the beautiful thing it seems. There is an amount of weakness and pain and ineffectiveness of all kinds and failures and disappointments that are incompatible with a good state. We find that in ourselves we are not so good as we wish to be, nor have we the wisdom and understanding and clearsightedness and memory which are essential to a state of true wellbeing.
Our day is clouded; our plant is blighted; our light is dim; our strength is small; our faculties most limited, while all around us we see the ocean of immeasurable power and wisdom. Neither in ourselves nor our neighbors can we find the satisfaction for which we yearn. Our life is well called the days of our vain life. Only give us long enough, the brightest and strongest at last endorse the verdict of the wisest of men -all vanity and vexation of spirit."
If such is our experience of individual life - if we find our state an evil state individually, what shall we say of the human race collectively? What shall we say of the world as organized socially and politically? Here it is essentially, radically, manifestly and oppressively an evil world and nothing else. The great mass of mankind are lacking the most elementary conditions of wellbeing. Even the supply of the common necessities of life is pared down to the most demoralizing minimum.
What marvel that they lack those higher conditions of mental culture and goodness which are only attainable with needful leisure and guidance. The population is not happy. It is not good. It is not intelligent. It is degraded and unkind to an extent little dreamed of by merely natural philanthropists. It is an ungodly, wicked, brutal, evil world, which can be seen only in its true character when compared with the angels to whom the human world originally belongs, and to whom Christ says the world to come will be assimilated.
The work of Christ is to - deliver us from this present evil world. It is well to accept the fact, once for all, that the world in which we dwell is an evil world, and that we cannot alter it, either individually or collectively. It will save us much futile work and disappointment. It will interpret our own experiences correctly to us, and put us into the right relation to the drift of things. It will keep us from the attitude of bootlessly looking for good that can never come now. It will lead us to accept cordially and heartily the position to which the gospel invites us as -strangers and pilgrims, passing the time of our sojourning here in fear" - fear of being implicated in the universal corruption - fear of coming short of the divine favour.
It will lead us to set that light store on the things which are seen and temporal, which Paul recommends, and which Christ commands. -Take no thought (i.e. anxious care), saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek), for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
Bro Roberts - This Present Evil World
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
The whole teaching of this epistle was to show the superiority of the Law of Christ over the ritual of the Mosaic Code, and the condemnation of the apostle to those who would frustrate this, was very plain. - GEM
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
The Galatians had turned from God, from the grace of Christ, and from the Gospel of salvation. They would not, of course, "recognize" or "admit" this, but Paul leaves no middle ground. He cuts the issue sharp and clear from the very beginning: it's this or that: they are opposite extremes: it can't be both.
This is what we must do in our presentation of the Truth. There are those who want to emphasize all points of agreement first, and then work up to the differences. This is confusing. The scriptural way is to point out the great, broad dividing line between Truth and error -- the "major," "basic" differences that one must choose between at the outset -- then fill in the details.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
The satan in the wilderness trial of the Lord Yahoshua - after the type of Job's satan - preached another gospel.
Yahoshua - He believed not this angel of light and power, and would have none of his favours. He preferred the grace of God with suffering, to the gratification of His flesh with all the pomp and pageantry of this vain and transitory world.
Elpis Israel 1.3.
Paul tells us not to believe an angel from heaven if he preach any other gospel than the gospel of the Kingdom he preached. If I saw an angel descending from heaven, and on conversing with him he told me that it mattered not what I believed, so that I was sincere in my errors, and were immersed into the name of Jesus; and to prove that this was a message direct from Jesus Christ, should convert stones into bread, raise the dead, or hurl Staten Island into the Atlantic, I would not receive it. Wonders have been performed to establish lies of old time; and they are permitted now to put our faith in God's word to the proof.
Misapplication of Scripture is as fatal as ignorance of it, or unbelief. The Pope's throne was established and is sustained by misapplied Scripture; and from the same source arose the Mormon imposture of the West.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come
What vehemence! Where is the "gentle," "diplomatic," "conciliatory," "brotherly" Paul? He shows up later in the epistle, in the proper place, after he has lifted up the fallen banner of Truth among them, "high" and "bright" and "uncompromising"; but this is the time for "very," "very" plain speaking. *
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
At one time, the position of the Christadelphian, and all things connected with it, seemed precarious. This has now passed away: and the prospect is one of increased enlargement and vigour beyond anything previously attained in the various departments of labour to which it stands related. That this should be the case is cause for pure gratitude to God, who has all things in His hands, and who can work them this way or that, as His wisdom sees fit.
We have not catered for popularity in the conduct of the Christadelphian-not that we should object to popularity if it could be had on honourable terms, but it cannot be had on honourable terms, if we take harmony with the revealed will of God as the standard of honour.
This standard of honour requires that a man be first of all faithful to what is written in the Scriptures of truth, both in his attitude to God and his attitude to man. This faithfulness will necessarily make him unacceptable to the million, against whom and their ways the Bible has much to say.
To prosper, a man must be in favour with the million. It is easy to be so, with moderate ability, if a man has a loose hold on divine obligations. A paper, to get currency with the million, must do and say what will be pleasing to them, and to please them he must needs turn his back upon what is pleasing to God. To serve both is impossible. This was long ago declared by Christ, and by Paul also, who says,
"If I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ"
Papers of all sorts run with the popular current. The Christadelphian never has done so-never will. Popular current is the world-current. It will suspend at once if it cannot live without pandering to this. It will not connive at this popular fallacy, or hide that divine fact for the sake of mitigating the inconvenience arising out of a full submission to apostolic teaching, in faith and practice. It leaves this line of policy to those hundred and-one periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic that are contented to measure their success by the size of their subscription list.
We have "gone in" for the truth in its purity and in its entirety. From this we shall not swerve for weak-kneed friend or formidable foe. We have no present aims to fight for and can afford to die in the battle. The multitude is all on the wrong side. It has always been so. It will be on the right side after a few years of the "vigorous government" of the Kingdom, but not till then.
"Havoc" must needs come of faithfulness to the truth at present. Not peace but a sword accompanies its belligerence in a world of darkness like this. If the work established by Christ in the first century came to nothing through easy-going, world-pleasing corrupters we ought not to look for a different result to the revived truth of the nineteenth.
If we do, we only expose ourselves to needless surprise and pain. Hold on to the Word with the tenacity of drowning men. This the Christadelphian means to do. For the support of all who are resolved to do the same, it will be thankful. The company of any other kind would only be an embarrassment.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1887
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
The pulpit orators of this age are either greatly deceived, or, if their eyes be open, most egregiously impose upon the credulity of the public, in pretending to be Christ's ambassadors to the world.
Why, they are the world's allies ; the friends and supporters of the institutions of Satan's kingdom; whose subjects pay them their wages on condition of preaching such doctrine as suits them!
Talk of being ministers and ambassadors of Jesus Christ, how perverted must their own minds be to imagine it; and how spoiled by "philosophy and vain deceit" the people, who can acquiesce in so unfounded a pretension.
"Have they seen Jesus?" Or what special message have they to the world from God, that men cannot read for themselves in the scriptures of truth? If they have any new light from Him, He will attest it as He has always done by a display of power. Men will then be justified in receiving them as plenipotentiaries of the Divine Majesty, provided always that what they speak be in strict accordance with what Paul preached; otherwise not. (Gal 1:8)
"God hath given to us", say the apostles, "the ministry of reconciliation." Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us; we pray in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God." These are the men whom He appointed, who sought not to please the public, but to enlighten them; " for", saith one of them, "if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ ".
Elpis Israel 1.5.
13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the ecclesia of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
He had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures from his youth. He was exceeding zealous, and "profited" or "advanced" (Revised Version) beyond his contemporaries (v. 14). He must have pondered many things.
Then Christ struck him down with a personal appearance on the way to Damascus, and the announcement that he whom Paul was persecuting was the one who fulfilled the whole Old Testament revelation.
Paul had three days of darkness and fasting for intense self-searching and meditation, rearranging his entire mental picture.
There is an indication that Ananias gave him only pre-baptismal instruction.
It was simply a reception of his sight, and a filling with the Holy Spirit, and immediately he arose and was baptized (Acts 9:18).
"And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues" (Acts 9:20). *
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
The "immediately" would indicate that this directly followed his public announcing in the synagogues of Damascus his new found belief in Christ.
Where he went in "Arabia"; or how long he stayed, or under what conditions he lived, we are not told. The whole impression we get is that it was for a "direct," "detailed," "personal revelation from Christ, and his mental adjustment to this tremendous revolution in his life. It could have been in the desert near Damascus, or it could well have been at Sinai where other wonderful revelations had been received.
Then he returned to Damascus (v. 17) and preached so energetically that the disciples had to suddenly and secretly send him away to save his life from the aroused antagonism of the orthodox Jews (Acts 9:23-25). *
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
This was three years after his conversion, and it was not until now that he had any contact with the apostles, and then only for fifteen days.
His purpose in going to Jerusalem was to make the personal acquaintance of Peter. That's what the word translated "see," historeo (history) means information. This would be very fitting, both from a personal point of view of interest and friendship, and also for the unity of the Truth. Paul was obviously becoming more prominent, and he was prophetically and announcedly destined to become much more prominent still, as the specific "apostle to the Gentiles."
Jerusalem was the headquarters of the work of the Truth, and the headquarters of the apostles whom Christ had previously appointed to preside over the dissemination of that Truth. It was virtually essential that he and they meet in fellowship to symbolize and cement this unity.
Again, Paul on this visit preached at Jerusalem so energetically that he aroused bitter and violent opposition, and had, as at Damascus, to be sent away to save his life (Acts 9:26-30).
For eleven more years he preached independently, first in the region around his home of Tarsus, and later -- after Barnabas had fetched him from there (Acts 11:21-26) -- at Antioch, which was growing into the major center of the Truth after Jerusalem. *Bro Growcott - By Love Serve One Another