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Galatians 1:1 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 19 secs

Intro., Doc of Apostleship; Gal. 1:1


Galatians 1:1 NASB "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)."


Galatians is one of the most important and vital books in the New Testament. It deals with several vital things that are crucial to understand today such as what is the true nature of the gospel? What does a person do or believe in order to be saved? Today we live in a time where there is much confusion about the gospel, much of which comes under the general title of Lordship salvation. basically what this means is that if you are truly going to be saved then you have to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life. If He is not Lord of everything in your life He is not Lord at all. Lordship salvation takes faith to mean commitment; it says that the assurance of our salvation is grounded in the evidence of our salvation. So if we look at a person's life to examine, making every believer a fruit inspector, then if there is no evidence of salvation there is no salvation. They also make a distinction between the kind of faith that saves and every day faith. They take faith to mean commitment. So we are going to be addressing these issues: what is salvation, what is justification?


Paul, emphasising his apostolic authority, addresses a letter to the Galatian churches reminding them of Christ's death on the cross for them. That is what is taking place in the first paragraph. We know from the salutation that it comes from Paul. What do we know about the apostle Paul? First of all, he was not born Paul, he was Saul, born in the city of Tarsus. Paul obviously had a rich academic training as a young man. We know from analysing his writings, his ability to present an argument, the logical structures of his arguments, the words that he uses, the metaphors that he uses, the idioms that he uses, that this is a man of incredible intellect. But it is not his natural intellect that gives him such insight into spiritual things. As we know, in the spiritual life our human IQ is not the issue in learning and assimilating the Word of God and spiritual truth. God in His grace provides for and makes that possible for every single believer. So it doesn't matter what our academic background is, what our native intelligence is, what our IQ is; the issue is whether or not we are a member of the royal family of God because at the instant of salvation God the Holy Spirit indwells us and we are given a human spirit, and it is by means of that human spirit that the Holy Spirit enables us to understand any doctrine in the Word of God. All that we need to do is turn up at Bible class and concentrate a little and God the Holy Spirit will do the rest. That doesn't mean that we will understand exhaustively because none of us can comprehend eternity exhaustively, or the Trinity exhaustively, and many things like that which are beyond our finite minds, but we can understand it truly to a certain degree.


The apostle Paul explained things and deep doctrines in such a way that even the apostle Peter said that there are many deep things from Paul that are difficult for us to understand. Paul was born a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin. He was sent to Jerusalem when he was about 13 or 14 to train under one of the most remarkable rabbis of all history, Gamaliel. Paul said that personal merit had nothing to do with his salvation and he learned that one day when he was on the road to Damascus while he was persecuting believers in the early church. On the way the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. At that point he recognised that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be, he was faced with the reality of the resurrected Lord, and it was then that the Lord gave him the gift of apostleship, commissioning him to be the apostle to the Gentiles. That is the basis underlying this first verse that we come to.


The word "apostle" is a predicate adjective that describes Paul. He is an apostle. What is an apostle?





The doctrine of apostleship

  1. The Greek word is apostolos [a)postoloj] which has a rich heritage in the Greek. We need to note that in this particular passage it is used without the article. In Greek if it does not have the definite article it can be for emphasis of quality, it can still be definite, or it can be indefinite. The definite article in Greek functions quite differently from the definite article in English. Here we have the use of the indefinite article because Paul is one apostle among many. He sais he is an apostle. But the in anarthrous emphasis of this Paul would also emphasise the highest quality of the noun, the high quality of apostleship. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ. Apostleship was the highest rank in the membership of the royal family of God in the church age.
  2. The word apostolos is a Greek word that was used originally in classical Greek for a high ranking admiral or general officer who was chosen to command either a naval fleet or an army. The root meaning of the word apostolos is the one who is sent, and then it takes on a technical meaning for the one who is commissioned with a task. The individual was commissioned to perform a task and given the authority and responsibility to carry out that task. That means that the word inherently connotes command and leadership responsibilities. It was also used to refer to a group of Greek colonies and then it developed over time to just refer to the leader of that group. It came to mean someone with authority, someone with leadership; it had both a military background and a colonial background. When we come to the New Testament we discover that this word is used to refer to a temporary spiritual gift.
  3. The gift of apostleship by way of definition in the New Testament had two categories. The first is the technical sense—a spiritual gift. As a spiritual gift we know that it was given by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. It is determined by the sovereign plan of God the Father. As we see here in the first verse of Galatians every member of the Trinity is involved in the process of determining the spiritual gift[s] of each believer. Spiritual gifts are give a) at salvation; b) they are determined by the sovereignty of God and distributed by the Holy Spirit; c) they are irrevocable; d) spiritual gifts are in some cases developed (e.g. pastor-teacher)—there needs to be time for training, there needs to be growth to a certain level of spiritual maturity, there needs to have been time to study the Word of God.
  4. An apostle is one who was commissioned by Christ Himself to the task of establishing the church in the church age. That is the technical use. Then there is the general use of the word that describes men who are commissioned by either a local church or by one of the apostles themselves as a missionary. The Bible uses the word apostle to refer to men like Barnabas, James the brother of the Lord, and two or three others. They do not have the spiritual gift of apostle, they do not meet the other qualifications of an apostle, and therefore they are not an apostle in the technical sense. There were only twelve apostles in that technical sense, the eleven plus Paul.
  5. When we look at the spiritual gift of apostle: a) it was the first and highest of all spiritual gifts ever given. This gift is listed first in terms of its priority in both 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11; b) the apostles had plenary [full] powers; c) the spiritual gift of apostleship carried the highest authority God has ever delegated in the church age. The apostle had authority over all the local churches, and in contrast the pastor has authority over only the one local church; d) the purpose for the spiritual gift of apostleship was twofold. First of all, the communication of the Word of God and the formation of the New Testament canon. All of the New Testament books were either written by an apostle or they were written under the authority of an apostle. Luke was not an apostle but he was the travelling companion of the apostle Paul and wrote under his authority. James wrote under the authority of John and Peter in Jerusalem; e) the gift of apostleship was given in the pre-canon period of the church age. While there was no written New Testament there needed to be leadership by those men who understood the doctrines related to the church age; f) it was also the responsibility of the apostles to train pastors, establish local churches, and to establish local church policy; g) apostles were not appointed until after the resurrection of Christ—there was a group of apostles mentioned in Matthew 10 but this is a different category who were sent to Israel. This was a temporary commissioning by the Lord Jesus Christ to witness to Israel and not what we are talking about with reference to the New Testament, church age spiritual gift of apostleship; h) the spiritual gift of apostleship was temporary and discontinued after the completion of the canon of Scripture. We know this because of the qualifications to be an apostle. An apostle needed to be a witness to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and he had to be commissioned as an apostle by the resurrected Lord. (Paul was in Jerusalem and would have been about 16 or 17 years of age when Jesus began His public ministry. It stands to reason that Paul was probably among the Pharisees who were antagonistic to Jesus in the Gospels)
  6. Who were those who had the gift of apostleship? Remember that there is a distinction between the two different categories of apostle. Who are the eleven men plus the apostle Paul? We find the list in Matthew 10:2-4—Simon Peter, his brother Andrew; the two sons of Zebedee—James who was murdered very early under Herod Agrippa and the apostle John who wrote the Gospel; Philip who was an evangelist and very concerned with evangelism; he used that gift in two places in Acts. Bartholomew who was also called Nathanael, Thomas, Matthew (Levi), Simon the Canaanite, James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus who was also called Jude. Twelfth would be the apostle Paul.
  7. In Acts chapter one Peter gets the great idea that there needs to be twelve disciples. So they are having a meeting where they have been in prayer as they wait in Jerusalem as the Lord instructed them for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter makes the suggestion that they choose from among  them someone to take the place of Judas. They cast lots and chose Matthias to be the twelfth disciple. The problem with this is that man does not choose people to have a spiritual gift. Men do not determine who has any spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are determined under the sovereignty of God the Father and distributed by God the Holy Spirit. Man cannot elect what is sovereignly distributed by God. Paul makes this point in Galatians 1:1 because his authority had been questioned by the Judaisers. He uses the phrase "not from men." The phrase in the Greek is apo plus the genitive plural of anthropos [a)po a)nqrwpoj], the generic term for humanity, mankind. apo plus the genitive emphasises source or origin. So the first thing Paul is saying here is that he is an apostle but not from the source of men, mankind. Secondly he says, "nor through the agency of man," dia plus the genitive singular  anthropou [dia a)nqrwpou], which emphasises agency. The gift of apostleship is not passed on from man to man; it does not come from apostolic procession. Apostleship comes through the agency of Jesus Christ—dia [dia] plus the genitive singular—and God the Father. Paul then says, "who raised Him from the dead." This is an aorist participle, egeiro [e)geirw], meaning to raise up. God the Father is the one who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. This is a subtle reminder that Paul has seen the resurrection of Christ. When Paul went on his first missionary journey he went to the area of what is now south central Turkey, the area that is known as Galatia. The people were very familiar with his testimony and how he had seen the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus.