Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Source of Paul’s Gospel (Galatians 1:11-12)

In Galatians 1:1-10 Paul rebuked the Galatians for turning from the one who had called them to another gospel, that of the Judaizers (the Judaizers were Jewish Christians who told Gentile believers that they had to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic law, in addition to believing in Jesus Christ, to be saved). Now, in a lengthy autobiographical section (1:11-2:14), he tells them the story of his conversion and call and of his subsequent relationship with the Jerusalem apostles. His purpose is to validate the gospel that he had preached to the Galatians and to answer criticisms made of it (and of him) by the Judaizers.

I’m going to consider the whole section in just two articles because it’s mainly autobiographical and I plan to focus on doctrine in this series of articles on Galatians. I’ll begin my consideration of the section by commenting in this article on its thesis statement, 1:11-12, and then explain in my next article how the rest of the section supports what Paul asserts in those two verses.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

Despite their having turned from his gospel to another gospel, Paul addresses the Galatians as “brothers.” He views all Christians as brothers because of their common relationship to Christ (Romans 8:29) and often in his letters refers to the readers as “brothers” to stress the fraternal attitude that they should have towards each other.

It’s unlikely that Paul founded the churches of Galatia without telling them how he’d received the gospel. Thus “I would have you know” probably doesn’t mean that he’s sharing new information with the Galatians but rather that he’s reminding them of something that they seem to have forgotten–that he’d received the gospel that he’d preached to them from God and not from any human being.

What was “the gospel that was preached by me”? In Galatians 3:1, Paul sums it up as “Jesus Christ … crucified.” For him the phrase “Jesus Christ … crucified” stands for what he says about the gospel in other places and excludes adding, as the Judaizers did, observance of the law to what Christ had already done. The distinguishing feature of the gospel as preached by Paul is justification by faith.

What follows is a triple negative, suggesting that Paul is responding to some sort of accusation about the character of his message:

– “[The Gospel] is not man’s message.” This is a general denial and is explained by the next two negatives, which refer to both the source of Paul’s gospel and the manner of its communication to him.

– “I did not receive it from any man.” Paul had just referred to the Galatians’ receiving the gospel from him (1:8-9). Now he distinguishes himself from them (and the Judaizers?) by denying that he himself had received the gospel from other human beings. His claim seems to be contradicted by his telling the Corinthians, “I delivered you as of first importance what I also received” (1 Corinthians 15:3). However, in that passage Paul is just referring to the basic facts of Christ’s life–his death, burial, resurrection, and appearances–which he received from others. Here he is referring to the gospel, which for him includes the conviction that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the principle of justification by faith, neither of which was communicated to him by other humans.

– “[N]or was I taught it.” To his denial of man as the source from which he received the gospel, Paul adds a denial of instruction as the method by which he obtained it. Instruction is the way that most Christians, including the Galatians and us, received the gospel, but it was not the way that Paul received it.

The point is further clarified by the contrasting phrase, “I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ,” which may mean either that Jesus Christ was the content of the revelation (and thus the Father was its source) or that he was the source of the revelation. According to the former interpretation, Paul affirms that Jesus Christ had been revealed to him in such a way that the revelation carried the substance of the gospel. According to the latter interpretation, Paul affirms that Jesus Christ had revealed the gospel to him. By “revelation,” Paul is probably referring primarily to his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, in which he was converted and called to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 26:13-18). However he may have in mind other revelations by which Jesus Christ was made known to him (2 Corinthians 12:1).

Thus Paul asserts to the Galatians that God was the source of the gospel which he preached, implying that they could rely on it (and on him) and thus should disregard the Judaizers’ criticism of it (and of him) and their claim that the Galatians needed to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic law, in addition to believing in Jesus Christ, to be saved. In my next article I’ll consider the support that Paul gives for that assertion in the rest of the section.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey – 2. Philippi

In my last article in this series of articles on the life of Paul I described how Paul and Barnabas decided to revisit the cities which they had visited on their first missionary journey but, disagreeing over taking Mark with them, then separated from each other. Barnabas, accompanied by Mark, revisited Cyprus and Paul, accompanied by Silas, went through Syria and Cilicia and then was guided by the Holy Spirit to Troas, where he had a vision of a man of Macedonia inviting him to go there. Paul and Silas were joined at Lystra by Timothy and at Troas by Luke.

The Conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15)

Paul and his companions sailed from Troas to Samothrace, an island halfway between Troas and Macedonia, and the next day to Neopolis, the seaport for Philippi, the leading city (but not the capital) of the district of Macedonia. From there they went by road to Philippi, where they stayed “some days” (ESV, all Biblical quotations are from the ESV), which I’ll describe the main events of in this article.


On the Sabbath they went outside the gate to the riverside, where some women had come together for prayer. Since Paul normally visited a synagogue on his first Sabbath in a city, his attending the meeting beside the river suggests that Philippi didn’t have enough Jews for a synagogue (ten men were required). Meeting beside a river would facilitate ceremonial washing rituals. He and his companions sat down and spoke to the women.

One of the women who heard them was Lydia (or “the Lydian”), who was from Thyatira, a city in the district of Lydia in the province of Asia, and a seller of purple goods, perhaps imported from Thyratira, which was famous for its purple dyes. She was a worshipper of God and “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” The phrase indicates that it is ultimately God who draws people to Him. However it doesn’t negate the need for witnesses to share the message (Paul) and for hearers to repent and believe in Jesus Christ (Lydia).

Lydia and her household (probably relatives and servants living in her house) were baptized as a visible expression of the salvation which they had received. After her baptism, Lydia urged Paul and his companions, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” Paul and Silas’s visiting Lydia and speaking with the brothers (Acts 16:40) after their release from prison (see below) suggests that her house became the place for Christians to gather in Philippi.

The Imprisonment of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:16-24)

For many days as Paul and his companions were on their way to the place of prayer, a slave girl possessed by an evil spirit which enabled her to tell people’s fortunes followed them calling out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” This so annoyed Paul, probably because he didn’t want it to appear that she was his partner, that finally he turned and told the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” (This was consistent with the power that Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 10:8 and Luke 10:17.) Immediately it came out of the girl.

Losing their means of profit, the slave girl’s owners seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the magistrates in the marketplace, which was regularly used for judicial hearings. They charged, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” Notice that the charge was that Paul and Silas were Jews illegally preaching their religion (Judaism) to Roman citizens, rather than that they were advocating specifically Christian teaching. Timothy and Silas’s not being arrested indicates that Paul and Silas were recognized as the leaders of the missionary group. Also Paul and Silas probably looked like Jews whereas Timothy and Luke probably didn’t (Timothy was half and Luke fully Gentile).

The crowd joined in attacking Paul and Silas; shortly before this the Jews had been expelled from Rome by Claudius (the emperor) and likely they were suffering from hostility throughout the Roman Empire. The magistrates had their clothes torn off and ordered that they be beaten with wooden rods. After Paul and Silas had been severely beaten, the magistrates had them thrown into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them safely. He had them put into the inner prison, possibly a dungeon, and their feet put into stocks.

The Conversion of the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:25-40)

About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God and the other prisoners were listening to them, there was an earthquake which shook the foundations of the prison. Immediately all the prison doors were opened and everyone’s bonds were unfastened, an example of God’s using a natural force supernaturally. Wakened by the earthquake, the jailer saw the open doors and supposed that the prisoners had escaped. Fearing that he would be held responsible for their escape and disciplined (in Roman law a guard who allowed a prisoner to escape was liable to the same penalty which the prisoner would have faced), he drew his sword in order to kill himself. Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”

The jailer called for torches and, rushing in, fell trembling with fear before Paul and Silas, apparently viewing them as messengers of God. Then he brought them out of the prison and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Although he may have just wanted to know how he could escape the consequences of what had happened, more likely he wanted to know how he could be saved from the judgment of God. They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” and explained the gospel to him and his household. Believing, he washed their wounds and he and his family were baptized (Bible scholars disagree as to whether his family included infants), perhaps in a pool or well in the courtyard. Then he brought them into his house and fed them. He and his entire household rejoiced because they had come to believe in God.

When it was day the magistrates sent the police saying to let Paul and Silas go. Luke doesn’t say why the magistrates decided to release Paul and Silas–maybe they connected the earthquake with Paul and Silas or maybe they thought that the beating and overnight imprisonment was enough. When the jailer reported this to Paul, Paul replied, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come down themselves and take us out.” Luke doesn’t say why Paul replied as he did–probably Paul was concerned about his and the church’s reputation and didn’t want it to present barriers to the gospel in Philippi–or indicate why Paul hadn’t protested his Roman citizenship earlier and so escaped being beaten–perhaps he did but wasn’t paid attention to in the uproar of the crowd.

The magistrates were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens because violating the protection given to citizens could result in severe penalties. Thus they came and apologized to them, took them out of prison, and probably in order to prevent any more trouble asked them to leave the city. Paul and Silas visited Lydia, saw and encouraged the believers, and left Philippi. Apparently Luke remained at Philippi until Paul’s visit there on his third missionary journey because he doesn’t use “we” again until then (in Acts 20:5). Timothy is next referred to in Acts 17:40, in connection with Berea, indicating that if he remained in Philippi when Paul and Silas left it he rejoined them in Berea.

Matthew Henry comments:

Though the beginnings here were small…they laid the foundation of a church at Philippi, which became very eminent, had its bishops and deacons, and people that were more generous to Paul than any other church, as appears by his epistle to the Philippians, ch. i. 1; iv. 25. Let not ministers be discouraged, though they see not the fruit of their labours (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Fleming H. Revell, volume 6, page 217).

Only One Gospel (Galatians 1:6-10)

Normally Paul thanked God for some quality of the addressees immediately after the salutation. However, instead of doing so in the letter to the Galatians, he rebuked them.

No Other Gospel

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

If the letter was Paul’s first one, as I claimed in Galatians — the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty, possibly he didn’t develop his practice of expressing thanks after the salutation until later. However, since expressing thanks after the salutation was a common form in Greek letter writing, more likely the substitution reflects Paul’s concern over the Galatians’ listening to visitors who had told them that they to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic law, in addition to believing in Jesus Christ, to be saved. As I observed in my two earlier articles on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we call people who taught this Judaizers.

Paul was genuinely surprised and upset by the Galatians’ turning from the gospel that he had preached to them to the teaching of the Judaizers so soon after they had accepted the gospel that he had preached to them. In Paul’s opinion, the teaching of the Judaizers was too different from the gospel which he had preached to them to be called “gospel.” Indeed, according to him, nobody would call it a “gospel” except troublemakers wanting to pervert the true gospel. Thus he viewed the Galatians as being on the verge of abandoning “him who called [them] in the grace of Christ,” God. (It is possible that “one” refers to Paul himself or Christ, but elsewhere in Galatians and Paul’s other letters he refers to God as the one who calls and so it is more likely that “one” refers to God.)

Let Him Be Accursed

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

In these verses, Paul invokes God’s eternal condemnation upon anybody, even an angel or Paul himself, who preaches a message conflicting with the gospel that Barnabas and he had preached to the Galatians and that they had accepted.

What was the gospel that Paul preached and that the Galatians accepted? Elsewhere he describes it as the good news

3 concerning [God’s] Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:3-4)

3 that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

However, in light of what follows, Paul primarily has the principle of justification by faith in mind.

Man or God?

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Apparently, the visitors had told the Galatians that Paul’s not requiring them to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic law showed that he was more interested in pleasing men than in pleasing God. If Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians later than I think he did, the visitors may have cited in support of their claim Paul’s having Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3) although refusing to have Titus circumcised (Galatians 2:3). (I think that he wrote it between his first and second missionary journeys to the churches which Barnabas and he had founded in the Roman province of Galatia on Paul’s first missionary journey, but many scholars think that he wrote it during his third missionary journey to ethnic Galatia. See [Galatians — the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty].)

Paul argues that if this were true he wouldn’t be serving as a slave of Christ. Instead he would, in the words of John Chrysostom, “still consort with the Jews, still persecute the church.” Chrysostom continues:

I [Paul] who have cast off my country altogether, my companions, my friends, my kindred, and all my reputation, and taken in exchange for these, persecution, enmity, strife, and daily-impending death, have given a signal proof that I speak not from human applause. This he says, being about to narrate his former life, and sudden conversion, and to demonstrate clearly that it was sincere. (Homilies on Galatians … Philemon, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969 reprint], 9)

We live in an age that emphasizes toleration so much that it has become unacceptable for any group to profess that it is the only way to Heaven. In light of Galatians 1:6-10, how do you think that Paul would respond to this aspect of our age?

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement

This article was written by my daughter, Allison Hunter-Frederick, and originally appeared in Pauline Studies at

“Think about the people who really matter in your life. Odds are that many of them are encouragers…. Among the first Christians, a man named Joseph was such an encourager that other believers nicknamed him ‘Son of Encouragement’ or Barnabas….” This is how the description of Barnabas begins in The Life Application Bible for Students and is what attracted me to his story. I reasoned that everyone can use encouragement and so surely this was a way in which I could minister for God! Hence, when thinking about what topic to write about for Pauline Studies, a study of Barnabas immediately came to mind.

The first mention of him in scripture is by Luke in Acts 4:36: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” From this verse alone, we learn several things about Barnabas. First, we learn he is a Levite, meaning he is from a priestly family. Second, he is from Cyprus. Third, Barnabas is his nickname, was given to him by the apostles, and means “Son of Encouragement”. Last, we learn that he sold a piece of land of his and gave the proceeds to the church.

From my research into Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, I also learned other details about Barnabas. For example, he belonged to the first company of converts in Jerusalem who were won by the apostolic preaching if not by Jesus himself. He had also earned the confidence of the apostles, one reason being that he didn’t flee Jerusalem as many converts did after the stoning of Stephen. No doubt there were other reasons, such as his helping many people, encouraging believers in their faith, and bringing others into the faith! In Acts 11:24, Luke wrote of him: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” Oh, one other detail I should mention is that he was a close friend of Paul–which is how he is relevant to the topic of Pauline Studies!

Indeed, did you know that Barnabas became Paul’s first advocate among the church leaders in Jerusalem? Paul had returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, shared his story with the apostles, and been met with skepticism by all but Barnabas. Sometime after Barnabas had convinced the apostles of the integrity of Paul’s conversion, the apostles sent Barnabas to pastor in Antioch. Under his guidance, the church expanded and soon needed more workers. Barnabas sought out Paul, who was an ideal candidate due to his knowing the regions of Syria and Cilicia. The two of them co-pastored the church in Antioch for an entire year. Hey, who knows? If not for Barnabas, Paul might never have been accepted into the church and its ministry—-and there might have never been any Pauline letters!

After the leadership in Antioch grew, Barnabas and Paul were commissioned to travel west. Their journey ideally began in Barnabas’ homeland of Cyprus. John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas, accompanied them as their assistant. (This journey is known as Paul’s First Missionary Journey and is described in greater detail in these four articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 4.) Having evangelized part of Cyprus, the three sailed onward to the south coast of Asia Minor. There, Mark decided to return to Jerusalem. Barnabas and Paul continued on, journeying through a chain of predominantly Gentile churches deep into Asia Minor.

Two years later (on Paul’s Second Missionary Journey), Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance to accompany them. Paul didn’t. Barnabas and Paul argued over the decision, with the result that the two went on different missionary journeys. Despite the split, the friendship between Barnabas and Paul remained intact. Moreover, Barnabas’ encouragement of Mark was later confirmed, for Mark went on to have an effective ministry and even eventually worked with Paul.

Obviously, Barnabas’ actions as an encourager were crucial to the early church! Indeed, some commentators think that 2 Corinthians 8:18-19 (“And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.”) refers to Barnabas. Of course, not all of us can reach people through missionary or pastoral work. Still, who among us can’t offer trust to someone like Paul or give a second chance to someone like Mark? Surely, we’ve met individuals who are searching for answers, going through a rough time in their lives, or for some reason or another could use encouragement. Let’s follow the example of Barnabas and encourage those around us!

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey – 1. Separation from Barnabas and the Macedonian Call

In the last installment in this series of articles on the life of Paul I described the reason for, proceedings of, and result of what is known as the Council of Jerusalem. The council decided that Gentile believers did not have to be circumcised in addition to believing in Jesus to be saved but should abstain from a few things especially disturbing to the Jews. It sent two men from the church in Jerusalem, Judas Barabbas and Silas, to Antioch in Syria with Paul and Barnabas to deliver a letter stating its decision. I concluded my account with: “The men delivered the letter to the church at Antioch, with the result that joy replaced the discord of a few days earlier. After spending some time there encouraging the Christians, Judas and Silas returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching (along with others) the word of the Lord.”

Separation of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41)

After Paul and Barnabas had ministered in Antioch following their return from the Council of Jerusalem, Paul proposed to Barnabas that they “return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). He may also have intended to follow up on his letter to the Galatians and to share the decision of the Council of Jerusalem.

Barnabas agreed and suggested that they take his nephew, John Mark, with them again. However Paul objected to their taking with them someone who had left them partway through their first missionary journey. Mark had returned from Pamphylia to his home in Jerusalem (Acts 13:13) but apparently was now in Antioch, perhaps on an invitation from Barnabas when Paul and he were in Jerusalem for the Council of Jerusalem.

Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” and separated, Although Luke attributes their separation solely to their disagreement concerning Mark, it may have been exacerbated by the incident at Antioch. Paul’s telling the Galatians that “even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:13) indicates how bitterly he felt over Barnabas’ defection on that occasion. There is no evidence that Paul and Barnabas ever met again, but Paul did mention Barnabas twice later (1 Corinthians 9:6; Colossians 4:10) and came to regard Mark highly (1 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24).

Although it is unfortunate that Paul and Barnabas were separated by a disagreement, good resulted from it, more people’s becoming involved in the ministry of the gospel to the Gentiles. Barnabas took Mark with him to revisit Cyprus (Barnabas’ home, Acts 4:36); and Paul took Silas with him to go through Syria and Cilicia and added Timothy and Luke during their journey (Acts 16:3, 10). Luke observes that Paul strengthened the believers as he went through Syria and Cilicia. Probably the same could be said about Barnabas as he revisited Cyprus.

Paul’s selection of Silas to accompany him was a good choice. Silas was a leader in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22) and was authorized by it to speak on its behalf regarding the decision of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:17), He was also a prophet (Acts 15:32) and a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), both of which would prove helpful. Judas and he had returned to Jerusalem after delivering the Council’s letter to the church in Antioch (Acts 15:33), and apparently Paul summoned him from there.

Although Luke’s saying just with regard to Paul and Silas that on departing on their journey they were “commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord” might be taken to indicate that the church in Antioch sided with Paul and not with Barnabas in their disagreement over Mark, it doesn’t necessarily show that. Luke was likely speaking of a special public service in which the church in Antioch recognized the new mission, and apparently Barnabas and Mark had already left for Cyprus.


Timothy’s Joining Paul and Silas and Being Circumcised (Acts 16:1-5)

Luke begins a detailed account of Paul’s second missionary journey with his arrival at Derbe and Lystra, the last cities in the province of Galatia which he had visited on his first missionary journey. At Lystra he met a young man, Timothy, who was highly spoken of by believers there and in the neighbouring city of Iconium. Thinking that Timothy would be a good companion and assistant, Paul invited him to accompany Silas and him just as Mark had accompanied Barnabas and him.

Timothy’s mother was Jewish and a believer and his father, who evidentally was dead, was Greek. Probably Timothy and his mother had become believers on Paul’s first visit to Lystra. In letters which Paul later wrote to Timothy, he referred to Timothy’s youth (1 Timothy 4:12), his faith and the faith of his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5), his acquaintance with the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15), and his becoming like a son to Paul (1 Timothy 1:2; see also 1 Corinthians 4:17).

Although by Jewish law Timothy was a Jew because his mother was Jewish, he had not been circumcised. Paul generally began his ministry in a city in its synagogue(s) and having an uncircumcised Jew with him would make such difficult. Thus Paul had Timothy circumcised. This may seem inconsistent with Paul’s resistance to the Judaizers’ insistence that his Gentile converts be circumcised (and obey the law of Moses). However it is consistent with his own observance of the Jewish law and with his later telling the Corinthians “neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision” and “[t]o the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews” (1 Corinthians 7:19; 9:20). What Paul opposed was not circumcision in itself but its being required, in addition to believing in Jesus, for salvation. This was not the case here.

Although the letter sent out by the Council of Jerusalem was addressed specifically to the churches in Antioch, Syria, and Cilica, its content was relevant to all Gentile converts. Thus Paul and his companions shared the decisions of the Council in all the cities which they visited. Luke concludes his account of this part of Paul’s second missionary journey by observing “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”

The Macedonian Call (Acts 16:6-10)

After revisiting Iconium and Pisidian Antioch, Paul (and his companions) followed the road west, planning to minister in the province of Asia. Although Paul would later spend about three years in its most important city, Ephesus, at this time he and his companions were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. We aren’t told how the Holy Spirit revealed his will, but it may have been through Silas, his being described as a prophet in Acts 15:32.

They went north to the region of Mysia and attempted to enter the province of Bithynia, a Roman colony lying along the North Sea, but the “Spirit of Jesus” prevented them from doing so. “The Spirit of Jesus” is another name for the Holy Spirit (this is the only place in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit is so described) and may refer to Jesus’ working through the Holy Spirit. Again we aren’t told how the Holy Spirit revealed his will, but again it may have been through Silas.

“So passing by Mysia, they came to Troas.” Since they would have to go through Mysia to get to Troas, a major port on the Aegean Sea, their passing by it would be in the sense that they didn’t attempt to preach the word in it.

At Troas Paul had a vision in the night of a man of Macedonia standing there and urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Immediately he and his companions concluded that God wanted them to preach the gospel in Macedonia and sought to go there.

Paul’s companions seem to now include the writer of Acts, Luke, because he uses “we” instead of “they” in verse 10 in describing the group’s actions. He continues using “we” instead of “they” to verse 17 and does the same in Acts 20:5-21:18 and 27:1-28:16. Nowhere does he indicate under what circumstances he joined the group.

What I’ve described above illustrates well what Paul later told the Christians in Rome, “[F]or those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Certainly the sharp disagreement between and separation of Paul and Barnabas wasn’t something foreordained (or even foreknown and allowed) by God, and surely it disappointed and saddened Him. Yet He brought good out of it, as I observed above in “Separation of Paul and Barnabas,” and He continued to provide guidance to them, as I described above in “The Macedonian Call.” Let us trust Him to do the same for us when we fail Him.

Paul unto the Churches of Galatia (Galatians 1:1-5)

In Galatians — the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty, I described Paul’s letter to the Galatians as “an emotionally charged letter to the churches [intended] to refute the teaching of the Judaizers and to reaffirm the gospel that he had preached to them.” The Judaizers were Jewish Christians who told Gentile believers that they had to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic law, in addition to believing in Jesus Christ, to be saved. The ones who did this in Galatia also denied that Paul was an apostle. They were so much on Paul’s mind when he wrote Galatians that he even argues against their claims in the letter’s salutation.

1 Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead–and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-5, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

Paul uses the same basic format in opening Galatians as in opening his other letters–writer to addressees, greeting–which is the way that Greek-Roman letters of the time typically began. However, its salutation is more substantial than usual, containing expansions on both the writer and the greeting and a doxology. Although I’ll comment on all parts of the salutation in this article, I’ll highlight the expansions because they foreshadow Paul’s arguments in the letter against the Judaizers’ claims.

Paul identifies the sender as “Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” The phrase following the dash foreshadows Paul’s argument in the body of the letter against the Judaizers’ claim that he had received his commission “from men [or] through men” rather than from Jesus Christ and so he was not an apostle. Although the Judaizers may have claimed that Paul had received his commission from the church at Syrian Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) or through Ananias (Acts 22:14-15) or Barnabas (Acts 11:25-26), more likely, in light of Galatians 1:17-2:10, they pointed to the church at Jerusalem and the apostles there, whose views they claimed to represent. Paul’s response was that he had received his commission from Jesus Christ (and God the Father) and thus was an apostle.

“[W]ho raised him from the dead” is one of only two references to the resurrection in the letters of Paul, the other being in Romans 1:4. Various reasons have been proposed why Paul includes it here. Albert Barnes suggests these: “(1) because his mind was full of it, and he wished on all occasions to make that fact prominent; (2) because this was the distinguishing feature of the Christian religion, that the Lord Jesus had been raised from the dead … and (3) because he wished to show that he had received his commission from that same God who had raised up Jesus” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1962], 918). Whatever Paul’s reason for including the phrase, it suggests the central role the resurrection of Jesus Christ occupies in the gospel preached by Paul. Later he was to write, “[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Paul identifies the recipients as “the churches of Galatia.” Scholars disagree on what area “Galatia” refers to. Some think that it refers to ethnic Galatia in north-central Asia Minor, which Paul didn’t visit (if he visited it) until at least his second missionary journey. Others think that it refers to the Roman province of Galatia, a much larger area that included within it Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, which Paul evangelized on his first missionary journey. I favour the latter view and thus am following it in my articles on both the life of Paul and Galatians.

Paul used the typical Greek and Hebrew greetings, “grace” and “peace,” as a greeting in his letters. “Grace” is God’s undeserved favour, His love showing itself in kindness even though we don’t deserve it. “Peace” is being whole or complete, not just being free from war or disorder. Paul’s identifying the source of these blessings as both “God our Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” suggests the close relationship that he saw between the Father and Jesus.

“Who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” foreshadows Paul’s argument in the body of the letter against the Judaizers’ claim that Gentile Christians had to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic law In addition to believing in Jesus Christ, to be saved. According to Paul, the divine way of salvation was Jesus’ offering of himself as a sacrifice for the expiation of our sins.

Being delivered “from the present evil age” involves being delivered from the evil way of life that dominates the present world. Although the age to come still lies in the future, believers in Jesus Christ already partake in it. Paul adds “according to the will of our God and Father” (“God” and “Father” name the same person, “God” denoting His greatness and “Father” His love) to emphasize that when Jesus sacrificed himself he was doing what God wanted him to do. The Father and the Son acted in harmony in the death of Jesus just as they did in the calling of Paul (verse 1) and in the bestowing of grace and peace (verse 3).

I opened this article by quoting the description of Galatians that I’d given in Galatians — the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty: “an emotionally charged letter to the churches [intended] to refute the teaching of the Judaizers and to reaffirm the gospel that he had preached to them.” I’ve shown above how the expansions in the salutation foreshadow Paul’s arguments against the Judaizers’ claims that he was not an apostle (verse 1) and that the Gentiles had to circumcised and obey the Mosaic law, in addition to believing in Jesus Christ, to be saved (verse 4).

James Montgomery Boice goes even further, claiming that the salutation states in germinal form the doctrines of “the source of authority in religion, the person and character of God, the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, grace and peace [and] the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ and its outcome in the deliverance of people from sin” (“Galatians” in vol. 10 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 426). Paul’s including so much doctrine, even in germinal form, in the salutation suggests that he thought that what a person believes really matters.