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?

Overview of Chapter 6:1-18

This next section  tells us what the underlying motive of our righteous behavior should be.  It is not to sound a trumpet when we do something good, to blow our own horns to draw attention to ourselves for our righteous acts.

I don’t remember where I heard it, and a quick Google search didn’t turn it up for me, but the saying has stayed in my memory:  He who blows his own horn generally plays a solo.

No, we are not to be our own advertising agencies.

Now, in Chapter 6, Jesus discusses something even higher than He did in Chapter 5. He talks about the motive of this true righteousness which the heir of the kingdom is not only to possess, but also to practice. The motive is in all things to act in the presence of the Father!

The first 18 verses of Chapter 6 show this behavior in three relationships.  The first is in relation to others (6: 1-4); then in relation to God (6:5-15); and last in relation to self (6: 16-18).  The word Father shows up ten times in the first 18 verses of this chapter.  He sees, knows, all that we do and say–and even what we think. Therefore, all is to be done as before Him.  The how of this close, intimate relationship with God is not taught in Matthew.  You can go to the Gospel of John for that, and read about eternal life, the reception of this life, being born again, born into the family of God, and so on. All the wonderful things about being children of the Father are anticipated in Matthew, where He is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Messiah and Redeemer.

How can we live in the presence of the Father if we do not know Him?  So much of Christianity today has no real Abba, Father relationship with God, yet they look at the sermon on the mount as a rule for conduct.  Such conduct cannot be achieved in unregenerate man.  It is only by the presence of the Holy Spirit, of God Himself in us, that we are able to live in such a way; and we are preparing for the kingdom to come by honoring God with our righteousness before Him.

Many years ago, I was teaching early American colonial literature to my students.  Ben Franklin, always an interesting man, came up with the idea of self-improvement.  He decided to make a chart of all the positive character traits he could think of.  These traits included love, kindness, mercy, grace, goodness of speech, industry, and many others.  Every week he would choose a new trait to work on.  Any day that he felt he had achieved, for instance, love–he would put a mark in that box on the chart.   At the end of each week, he would survey his results and decide whether or not to move to a new one.

Much to his chagrin, he found that when he moved from love and focused on industry, he did just fine in industry, but began to fall behind on love.  After a few weeks, he realized he could not keep a perfect score in every trait, and he threw the chart away. 

The moral of the story for us, of course, is to realize that it is God in us that refines our character and smooths out the rough edges of our pride, selfishness, and boastfulness.