The Identity of Paul: St. John on Galatians
Verse 1-3.-"Paul, an Apostle, (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead;) and all the brethren which are with me, unto the Churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
The exordium1 is full of a vehement and lofty spirit, and not the exordium only, but also, so to speak, the whole Epistle. For always to address one's disciples with mildness, even when they need severity is not the part of a teacher but it would be the part of a corrupter and enemy. Wherefore our Lord too, though He generally spoke gently to His disciples, here and there uses sterner language, and at one time pronounces a blessing, at another a rebuke. Thus, having said to Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona," (Matt. xvi: 17.) and having promised to lay the foundation of the Church upon his confession, shortly afterwards He says, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art a stumbling block unto Me." (Matt. xvi: 23.) Again, on another occasion, "Are ye also even yet without understanding?" (Matt. xv: 16.) And what awe He inspired them with appears from John's saying, that, when they beheld Him conversing. with the Samaritan woman, though they reminded Him to take food, no one ventured to say, "What seekest Thou, or why speakest thou with her?" (John iv: 27.) Thus taught, and walking in the steps of his Master, Paul hath varied his discourse according to the need of his disciples, at one time using knife and cautery, at another, applying mild remedies. To the Corinthians he says, "What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in a spirit of meekness?" (I Cor. vi: 21.) but to the Galatians, "O foolish Galatians." (Gal. iii: 1.) And not once only, but a second time, also he has employed this reproof, and towards the conclusion he says with a reproachful allusion to them, "Let no man trouble me;"(Gal. vi: 17.) but he soothes them again with the words, "My little children, of whom "I am again in travail:" (Gal. iv: 19) and so in many other instances.
Now that this Epistle breathes an indignant spirit, is obvious to every one even on the first perusal; but I must explain the cause of his anger against the disciples. Slight and unimportant it could not be, or he would not have used such vehemence. For to be exasperated by common matters is the part of the little-minded, morose, and peevish; just as it is that of the more redolent and sluggish to lose heart in weighty ones. Such a one was not Paul, What then was the offence which roused him? it was grave and momentous, one which was estranging them all from Christ, as he himself says further on, "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing;" (Gal. v: 2.) and again, "Ye who would be justified by the Law, ye are fallen away from Grace." (Gal. v: 4.) What then is this? For it must be explained more clearly. Some of the Jews who believed, being held down by the preposessions of Judaism, and at the same time intoxicated by vain-glory, and desirous of obtaining for themselves the dignity of teachers, came to the Galatians, and taught them that the observance of circumcision, sabbaths, and new-moons, was necessary, and that Paul in abolishing these things was not to be borne. For, said they, Peter and James and John, the chiefs of the Apostles and the companions of Christ, forbade them not. Now in fact they did not forbid these things, but this was not by way of delivering positive doctrine, but in condescension to the weakness of the Jewish believers, which condescension paul had no need of when preaching to the Gentiles; but when he was in Judaea, he employed it himself2 also. But these deceivers, by withholding the causes both of Paul's condescension and that of his brethren, misled the simpler ones, saying that he was not to be tolerated, for he appeared but yesterday, while Peter and his colleagues were from the first,-that he was a disciple of the Apostles, but they of Christ,-that he was single, but they were many, and pillars of the Church. They accused him too of acting a part; saying, that this very man who forbids circumcision observes the rite elsewhere, and preaches one way to you and another way to others.
Since Paul then saw the whole Galatian people in a state of excitement, a flame kindled against their Church, and the edifice shaken and tottering to its fall, filled with the mixed feelings of just anger and despondency, (which he has expressed in the words, "I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my voice,"-Gal. iv: 20.) he writes the Epistle as an answer to these charges. This is his aim from the very commencement, for the underminers of his reputation had said, The others were disciples of Christ but this man of the "Apostles." Wherefore he begins thus, "Paul, an Apostle not from men, neither through man." For, these deceivers, as I was saying before, had said that this man was the last of all the Apostles and was taught by them, for Peter, James, and John, were both first called, and held a primacy among the disciples, and had also received their doctrines from Christ Himself; and that it was therefore fitting to obey them rather than this man; and that they forbad not circumcision nor the observance of the Law. By this and similar language and by depreciating Paul, and exalting the honor of the other Apostles, though not spoken for the sake of praising them, but of deceiving the Galatians, they induced them to adhere unseasonably to the Law. Hence the propriety of his commencement. As they disparaged his doctrine, saying it came from men, while that of Peter came from Christ, he immediately addresses himself to this point, declaring himself an apostle "not from men, neither through man." It was Ananias who baptized him, but it was not he who delivered him from the way of error and initiated him into the faith; but Christ Himself sent from on high that wondrous voice, whereby He inclosed him in his net. For Peter and his brother, and John and his brother, He called when walking by the seaside, (Matt. iv: 18.) but Paul after His ascension into heaven. (Acts. ix: 3, Acts ix: 4.) And just as these did not require a second call, but straightway left their nets and all that they had, and followed Him, so this man at his first vocation pressed vigorously forward, waging, as soon as he was baptized, an implacable war with the jews. In this respect he chiefly excelled the other Apostles, as he says, "I labored more abundantly than they all;" (I Cor. xv: 10.) at present, however, he makes no such claim, but is content to be placed on a level with them. Indeed his eat object was, not to establish any superiority for himself, but, to overthrow the foundation of their error. The not being "from men" has reference to all alike for the Gospel's root and origin is divine, but the not being "through man" is peculiar to the Apostles; for He called them not by men's agency, but by His own.3
But why does be not speak of his vocation rather than his apostolate, and say, "Paul" called "not by man?" Because here lay the whole question; for they said that the office of a teacher had been committed to him by men, namely by the Apostles, whom therefore it behooved him to obey. But that it was not entrusted to him by men, Luke declares in the words, "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul." (Acts xiii: 2.)
From this passage it is manifest4 that the power of the Son and Spirit is one, for being commissioned by the Spirit, he says that he was commissioned by Christ. This appears in another place, from his ascription of the things of God to the Spirit, in the words which he addresses to the elders at Miletus: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in the which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops." (Acts xx: 28.) Yet in another Epistle he says, "And God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers." (I Cor. xii: 28.) Thus he ascribes indifferently the things of the Spirit to God, and the things of God to the Spirit. Here too he stops the mouths of heretics, by the words "through Jesus Christ and God the Father;" for, inasmuch as they said this term "through" was applied to the Son as importing inferiority, see what he does. He ascribes it to the Father, thus teaching us not to prescribe laws to the ineffable Nature, nor define the degrees of Godhead which belong to the Father and Son. For to the words "through Jesus Christ" he has added, "and God the Father;" for if at the mention of the Father alone he had introduced the phrase "through whom," they might have argued sophistically that it was peculiarly applicable to the Father, in that the acts of the Son were to be referred to Him. But he leaves no opening for this cavil, by mentioning at once both the Son and the Father, and making his language apply to both. This he does, not as referring the acts of the Son to the Father, but to show that the expression implies no distinction of Essence.5 Further, what can now be said by those, who have gathered a notion of inferiority from the Baptismal formula,-from our being baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?6 For if the Son be inferior because He is named after the Father, what will they say seeing that, in the passage before us, the Apostle beginning from Christ proceeds to mention the Father?-but let us not even utter such a blasphemy, let us not swerve from the truth in our contention with them; rather let us preserve, even if they rave ten thousand times, the due measures of reverence. Since then it would be the height of madness and impiety to argue that the Son was greater than the Father because Christ was first named, so we dare not hold that the Son is inferior to the Father, because He is placed after Him in the Baptismal formula.
"Who raised Him from the dead."
Wherefore is it, O Paul, that, wishing to bring these Judaizers to the faith, you introduce none of those great and illustrious topics which occur in your Epistle to the Philippians, as, "Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God," (Phil. ii: 6.) or which you afterwards declared in that to the Hebrews, "the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of His substance;" (Heb. i: 3.) or again, what in the opening of his Gospel the son of thunder sounded forth, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;" (John i: 1). or what Jesus Himself oftentimes declared to the Jews, "that His power and authority was equal to the Father's?" (John v: 19, John v: 27, &c) Do you omit all these, and make mention of the economy of His Incarnation only, bringing forward His cross and dying? "Yes," would Paul answer. For had this discourse been addressed to those who had unworthy conceptions of Christ, it would have been well to mention those things; but, inasmuch as the disturbance comes from persons who fear to incur punishment should they abandon the Law, he therefore mentions that whereby all need of the Law is excluded, I mean the benefit conferred on all through the Cross and the Resurrection. To have said that "in the beginning was the Word," and that "He was in the form of God, and made Himself equal with God," and the like, would have declared the divinity of the Word, but would have contributed nothing to the matter in hand. Whereas it was highly pertinent thereto to add, "Who raised Him from the dead," for our chiefest benefit was thus brought to remembrance, and men in general are less interested by discourses concerning the majesty of God, than by those which set forth the benefits which come to mankind. Wherefore, omitting the former topic, he discourses of the benefits which bad been conferred on us.
But here the heretics insultingly exclaim, "Lo, the Father raises the Son!" For when once infected, they are wilfully deaf to all sublimer doctrines; and taking by itself and insisting on what is of a less exalted nature, and expressed in less exalted terms, either on account of the Son's humanity, or in honor of the Father, or for some other temporary purpose, they outrage, I will not say the Scripture, but themselves. I would fain ask such persons, why they say this? do they hope to prove the Son weak and powerless to raise one body? Nay, verily, faith in Him enabled the very shadows of those who believed in Him. to effect the resurrection of the dead. (Acts. v: 15.) Then believers in Him, though mortal, yet by the very shadows of their earthly bodies, and by the garments which had touched these bodies, could raise the dead, but He could not raise Himself? Is not this manifest madness, a great stretch of folly? Hast thou not heard His saying, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up?" (John ii: 19.) and again, "I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again?" (John x: 18.) Wherefore then is the Father said to have raised Him up, as also to have done other things which the Son Himself did? It is in honor of the Father, and in compassion to the weakness of the hearers.
"And all the brethren which are with me."
Why is it that he has on no other occasion in sending an epistle added this phrase? For either he puts his own name only or that of two or three others, but here has mentioned the whole number and so has mentioned no one by name.
On what account then does he this?
They made the slanderous charge that he was singular in his preaching, and desired to introduce novelty in Christian teaching. Wishing therefore to remove their suspicion, and to show he had many to support him in his doctrine, he has associated with himself "the brethren," to show that what he wrote he wrote with their accord.7
"Unto the Churches of Galatia."
Thus it appears, that the flame of error had spread over not one or two cities merely, but the whole Galatian people. Consider too the grave indignation contained in the phrase, "unto the Churches of Galatia:" he does not say, "to the beloved" or "to the sanctified," and this omission of all names of affection or respect, and this speaking of them as a society merely, without the addition "Churches of God," for it is simply "Churches of Galatia," is strongly expressive of deep concern and sorrow. Here at the outset, as well as elsewhere, he attacks their irregularities, and therefore gives them the name of "Churches," in order to shame them, and reduce them to unity. For persons split into many parties cannot properly claim this appellation, for the name of "Church" is a name of harmony and concord.
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
This he always mentions as indispensible, and in this Epistle to the Galatians especially; for since they were in danger of falling from grace he prays that they may recover it again, and since they had come to be at war with God, he beseeches God to restore them to the same peace.
"God the Father."
Here again is a plain confutation of the heretics, who say that John in the opening of his Gospel, where he says "the Word was God," used the word Qeoj without the article, to imply an inferiority in the Son's Godhead; and that Paul, where he says that the Son was "in the form of God," did not mean the Father, because the word Qeoj without the article. For what can they say here, where Paul says, apo Qeou Patroj, and not apo tou Qeou>\/ And it is in no indulgent mood towards them that he calls God, "Father," but by way of severe rebuke, and suggestion of the source whence they became sons, for the honor was vouch-safed to them not through the Law, but through the washing of regeneration. Thus everywhere, even in his exordium, he scatters traces of the goodness of God, and we may conceive him speaking thus: "O ye who were lately slaves, enemies and aliens, what right have ye suddenly acquired to call God your Father? it was not the Law which conferred upon you this relationship; why do ye therefore desert Him who brought you so near to God, and return to your tutor?8
But the Name of the Son, as well as that of the Father, had been sufficient to declare to them these blessings. This will appear, if we consider the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ with attention; for it is said, "thou shalt call His Name Jesus; for it is He that shall save His people from their sins;" (Matt. i: 21.) and the appellation of "Christ" calls to mind the unction of the Spirit.
Ver 4.4. "Who gave himself for our sins."9 Thus it appears, that the ministry which He undertook was free and uncompelled; that He was delivered up by Himself, not by another. Let not therefore the words of John, "that the Father gave His only-begotten Son" (Jo. iii: 16.) for us, lead you to derogate from the dignity of the Only-begotten, or to infer therefrom that He is only human. For the Father is said to have given Him, not as implying that the Son's ministry was a servile one, but to teach us that it seemed good to the Father, as Paul too has shown in the immediate context: "according to the will of our God, and Father." He says not "by the command," but "according to the will," for inasmuch as there is an unity of will in the Father and the Son, that which the Son wills, the Father wills also.
"For our sins,"10 says the Apostle; we had pierced ourselves with ten thousand evils, and had deserved the gravest punishment; and the Law not only did not deliver us, but it even condemned us, making sin more manifest, without the power to release us from it, or to stay the anger of God. But the Son of God made this impossibility possible for he remitted our sins, He restored us from enmity to the condition of friends, He freely bestowed on us numberless other blessings.
Ver. 4. "That He might deliver us out of this present evil world."
Another class of heretics11 seize upon these words of Paul, and pervert his testimony to an accusation of the present life. Lo, say they, he has called this present world evil, and pray tell me what does "world" [age] aiwn mean but time measured by days and seasons? Is then the distinction of days and the course of the sun evil? no one would assert this even if he be carried away to the extreme of unreasonableness. "But" they say, "it is not the `time,' but the present `life,' which he hath called evil.'" Now the words themselves do not in fact say this; but the heretics do not rest in the words, and frame their charge from them, but propose to themselves a new mode of interpretation. At least therefore they must allow us to produce our interpretation, and the rather in that it is both pious and rational. We assert then that evil cannot be the cause of good, yet that the present life is productive of a thousand prizes and rewards. And so the blessed Paul himself extols it abundantly in the words, "But if to live in the flesh, if this is the fruit of my work, then what I shall choose I wont not;" (Phil. i: 22.) and then placing before himself the alternative of living upon earth, and departing and being with Christ, he decides for the former. But were this life evil, he would not have thus spoken of it, nor could any one, however strenuous his endeavor, draw it aside into the service of virtue. For no one would ever use evil for good, fornication for chastity, envy for benevolence. And so, when he says, that "the mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be, (Rom. viii: 7.) he means that vice, as such, cannot become virtue; and the expression, "evil world," must be understood to mean evil actions, and a depraved moral principle. Again, Christ came not to put us to death and deliver us from the present life in that sense, but to leave us in the world, and prepare us for a worthy participation of our heavenly abode. Wherefore He saith to the Father, "And these are in the world, and I come to Thee; I pray not that Thou shouldest take them from the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil," (Jo. xvii: 11, Jo xvii: 15.) i.e., from sin. Further, those who will not allow this, but insist that the present life is evil, should not blame those who destroy themselves; for as he who withdraws himself from evil is not blamed, but deemed worthy of a crown, so he who by a violent death, by hanging or otherwise, puts an end to his life, ought not to be condemned. Whereas God punishes such men more than murderers, and we all regard them with horror, and justly; for if it is base to destroy others, much more is it to destroy one's self. Moreover, if this life be evil, murderers would deserve a crown, as rescuing us from evil. Besides this, they are caught by their own words, for in that they place the sun in the first, and the moon in the second rank of their deities, and worship them as the givers of many goods, their statements are contradictory. For the use of these and the other heavenly bodies, is none other than to contribute to our present life, which they say is evil, by nourishing and giving light to the bodies of men and animals and bringing plants to maturity. How is it then that the constitution of this "evil life is so ministered to by those, who according to you are gods? Gods indeed they are not, far from it, but works of God created for our use; nor is this world evil. And if you tell me of murderers, of adulterers, of tomb-robbers, these things have nothing to do with the present life, for these offences proceed not from that life which we live in the flesh, but from a depraved will. For, if they were necessarily connected with this life, as embraced in one lot with it, no man would be free or pure from them, for no man can escape the characteristic accidents of humanity, such as, to eat and drink, to sleep and grow, to hunger and thirst, to be born and die, and the like; no man can ever become superior to these, neither sinner nor just man, king nor peasant, We all are subject to the necessity of nature. And so if vice were an essential element of this life, no one could avoid it, any more than the things just mentioned. And let me not be told that good men are rare, for natural necessity is insuperable by all, so that as long as one virtuous man shall be found, my argument will in no wise be invalidated. Miserable, wretched man! what is it thou sayest? Is this life evil, wherein we have learnt to know God, and meditate on things to come, and have become angels instead of men, and take part in the choirs of the heavenly powers? What other proof do we need of an evil and depraved mind?
"Why then," they say, "does Paul call the, present life evil?" In calling the present world [age] evil, he has accommodated himself to our usage, who are wont to say, "I have had a bad day," thereby complaining not of the time itself, out of actions or circumstances And so Paul in complaining of evil principles of action has used these customary forms of speech; and he shows that Christ hath both delivered us from our offences, and secured us for the future. The first he has declared in the words, "Who gave Himself for our sins;" and by adding, "that He might deliver us out of this present evil world," he has pronounced our future safety. For neither of these did the Law avail, but grace was sufficient for both.
Ver. 4. "According to the will of our God and Father."12
Since they were terrified by their notion that by deserting that old Law and adhering to the new, they should disobey God, who gave the Law, he corrects their error, and says, that this seemed good to the Father also: and not simply "the Father," but "our Father," which he does in order to affect them by showing that Christ has made His Father our Father.
Ver. 5. "To whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen."
This too is new and unusual, for we never find the word, "Amen" placed at the beginning of an Epistle, but a good way on; here, however he has it in his beginning,. to show that what he had already said contained a sufficient charge against the Galatians, and that his argument was complete, for a manifest offence does not require an elaborate crimination. Having spoken of the Cross, and Resurrection, of redemption from sin and security for the future, of the purpose of the Father, and the will of the Son, of grace and peace and His whole gift, he concludes with an ascription of praise.
Another reason for it is the exceeding astonishment into which he was thrown by the magnitude of the gift, the superabundance of the grace, the consideration who we were, and what God had wrought, and that at once and in a single moment of time. Unable to express this in words, he breaks out into a doxology, sending up for the whole world an eulogium, not indeed worthy of the subject, but such as was possible to him. Hence too he proceeds to use more vehement language; as if greatly kindled by a sense of the Divine benefits, for having said, "To whom be the glory for ever and ever, Amen," he commences with a more severe reproof.