Paul, an Apostle

Galatians 1:1. ” Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead).”

When we write letters today, we always greet the recipient by name in the first line of the letter.  In Paul’s day, it was appropriate letter-writing etiquette for the writer to identify himself in the first few words.  What we need to pay attention to here is that Paul calls himself by name, and then uses the appositive “an apostle.”

Paul used this identification only when his apostleship had been called into question by the recipients of the letter he was writing; or, when he is about to expose some great, important doctrine that would probably not be accepted unless  the people understood his commission by God to make it known. Otherwise, Paul introduced himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ,” a bondsman, one who was bought and paid for.

The word apostle means messenger, minister. In this case, however, Paul needed to identify himself as legitimately  connected to the twelve who  were the apostles specifically to the Jews, and later the Gentiles.

Paul was not made an apostle by the appointment of men. He said his apostleship was given to him by Jesus Christ and God the Father. We can read of Paul’s conversion and appointment by God in Acts 26 when he is allowed by Agrippa to speak in his own defence. He describes his experience, starting specifically in 26:13, when he is visited by God upon the Damascus Road. It was quite a dramatic event, and it changed the course of his life. In verse 16, God says, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.”

I encourage you to read the whole account.  It is indisputable that Paul saw Jesus; that Jesus spoke to him directly, appointing him to the ministry of apostleship.

Why, in Gal. 1:1, did Paul mention God, Who had raised Jesus from  the dead? One of the requirements of apostleship was that the person must have seen Jesus Christ in person, alive. Those who doubted Paul claimed that he had not seen Jesus when He was ministering here on earth, and so could not truly be an apostle.  The claim is put to rest by Paul’s reminder to them that he had indeed seen the risen Christ there on the Damascus Road.

Isn’t is amazing how much is packed into one short verse?

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