– Part 1 –
The Absence of People
Vs 1. Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) …
Starting first with the fact that it is a man who writes this letter with pen and ink, it must be assumed that the apostle starts with his name to indicate the fact that he acknowledges himself in this effort, and wishes for his readers to acknowledge this as well. A simple a point that it may be, it is vital that we understand this within its context. The apostle does not start the letter by saying “God, your creator and redeemer, says to you…” On the contrary, he starts with his name. Paul. I could spend a long time writing about the life of the apostle, how many works have been ascribed to his name and the greatness of God’s use of Saul of Tarsus, but to do so would be to contradict the whole reason why the apostle starts this letter with his name. Unlike those who would compete with him for the attention of the churches, he does not make himself known as a man of intrinsic brilliance and spectacular appearance. Instead, he begins the letter with his name (Paul) and his title (an apostle), and then immediately launches into one of the most important motivations behind the writing of this epistle to the Galatians. Although he will deal with the importance, function and place of the Law in regards to men and their salvation, he does not begin with this at all. Rather, Paul begins this letter with a point that utterly dismantles the process of false believe and the idolization of people, and reveals it for what it is.
To understand this, we must look at his title, “apostle.” An apostle was, at the most basic level, a messenger or ambassador for another. In this case, Paul spoke on behalf of Another, and it is in this position that he writes. He does not write a personal letter, or one of business, but writes as an apostle and ambassador for the One who has appointed him to do so. Thus, the whole intention behind the usage of his title is not to point to himself (“Look! It is I, the APOSTLE Paul writing to you!”), but rather the opposite is true. He writes to direct the attention to the One who sent him. This is evidenced by the next point.
“Not from men nor through men.” This is something that would disqualify an individual in most situations today. If I walked into a place of business and said “I would like to work here,” they might ask for my resume and references (if they give me the time of day with such a basic approach). “I do not come at the recommendation of any person at all” would most likely cost me the job. And while this makes sense in the workplace, this is also very true in the church. Official qualifications are not a bad thing, but it must be said that they are not always a good thing either. Often, people put so much stock into their official qualifications, that they forget to actually use the skills they claim to have. Paul does not write this letter with a list of qualifications, but as we will see later in this chapter, he provides a list of his disqualifications (see vs. 13-14).
He does not come from “men” (anthropon, anqrwpwn), which literally means “Not sent by humans.” This is an all-inclusive statement, meaning “nobody sent me, not even myself.” He does not provide a list of references, but instead provides his list of references, which says “Nobody.” He does not recommend himself, nor does anyone else as far as people are concerned. And he further disqualifies himself with the next part, “nor through man” or “through any agency of men,” which is simply to say that he was not sent by any means of people. This means that no official church sent him, nor did any board of directors, church organizations or any other ministry, which includes the other 11 apostles themselves. He says it both ways to confirm what he is saying, almost as though the idea of a human sending him is a disqualifier. And thus is the point of this introduction. He is clearing the way for the true qualification: God Himself.
“But through Jesus Christ and God the Father…” Here we find the reasoning for his removal of humanity from his credentials. The apostle makes an effort to remove humanity from his resume for the purpose of clearing the way for the One who really matters. Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah of the Old Testament and the Savior in the New Testament, He is the One who personally appointed those who were apostles before Paul. Instead of Paul asking for approval from the apostle Peter, or being trained by the apostle John, he instead receives his authority from their Master, the One who taught the Gospel of repentance and justification before any of them. This is to go back to the meaning behind the title “apostle,” which only carries as much wait as the one who sent them. In this case, being an apostle of Peter or John paled in comparison to being an apostle of Jesus Himself, by whose authority the Gospel has any weight.
God the Father is brought in with the following words, “who raised [Christ] from the dead.” The resurrection of Christ was not merely a miraculous event, put up for display simply to show how loving Christ is. On the contrary, the cross was a requirement to fulfill the demands of the Law, that only blood could pay the price for the sinner’s debt. The resurrection of the Lord thus bears with it two basic results: Firstly, that a Mediator could appear for those who would believe in Christ. Had He simply died, the price would have been paid, but that left a void for those who now live and would go into Heaven. They needed One who could have both died to pay their price, and One who can live to go before the Father to testify that they are His. Without the life of Christ, we would all fall right back into sin and incur another debt. As a result, the Mediator will appear with us on the Day in which we are judged for the race we ran, and He will testify as to our righteousness as being His own. We do not appear to give an account of the goodness we made ourselves, but rather we give an account for the righteousness He has provided us, taking advantage of the grace to produce good fruit in keeping with our salvation. Secondly, the resurrection of the Lord proves His authority over death. While we all die, none of us can raise ourselves from the dead, because once we succumb to death, it is now over us and we cannot escape it. “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” (Rev. 1:17b-18) This death provides Him the keys to both death and its judgement (Hades), and thus gives Him the right over them, and when they are emptied (Rev. 20:13) they are brought to Him to be judged. The world should fear Him because of His authority of the very things they cannot control, but the saint finds comfort in this authority He bears, because when He tells you “do not be afraid,” this means that we truly have nothing to be afraid of. And because God the Father was well-pleased with the Son, and raised Him from the dead, it is on this authority that Paul finds his ability to write such a stern letter to those in Galatia. The One who validates the works of Christ as being sufficient for salvation from His judgment, and to clothe us in His righteousness, is the same who grants Paul the authority as an apostle, and thus the apostle has no interest in human qualifications or references, but instead discards them as useless (see Phil. 3:8) to make room for what truly matters- the words of the Truth Himself (John 14:6).