“From Me and My Bros” (Galatians, Part 3)
This week we continue exploring the book of Galatians using a question-and-answer format.
1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me,
Why does Paul mention “all the brothers who are with me” in this greeting?
Normally, Paul waits until the end of his letters to send greetings from his companions (see Rom. 16:21-23; 1 Cor. 16:19-20; 2 Cor. 13:13; Php. 4:21; Col. 4:10-14; 2 Tim. 4:21; Tit. 3:15; Phm. 1:23-24). If he does include greetings from his companions in the beginning of the letter, he mentions only one or two specific names that are well-known to the letter’s recipients. So why mention “all of the brothers who are with me” here in the beginning of this letter? There are at least two reasons.
First, consider that Paul is getting ready to say some very difficult things for the Galatians to hear. He is going to be rather harsh in his language with them (see 1:6; 3:1; 4:19-20; 5:2-4), and extremely blunt about the major mistake they are on the verge of making. He really needs to get their attention, and he needs them to carefully consider his warnings. So, he wants them to know that he isn’t just some lone ranger who is getting all excited about a small issue. No, “all the brothers” who are with Paul share his great concern for the Galatians. It’s as if Paul is subtly letting the Galatians know, “Hey, it’s not just me, we’re all worried about you guys.” Ever been a part of an intervention or seen one on TV? You know, where someone with a drug problem comes into the room and sees a bunch of his closest friends and family members sitting down waiting to plead with him to wake up and get his life straight before he ruins everything? Perhaps Paul mentions “all the brothers” in an attempt to soften the Galatians’ hearts to listen to his plea to remain faithful to the gospel.
Second, the rest of the letter makes clear that Paul’s authority as an apostle was being questioned by the opponents who were trying to convince the Galatians that they had to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses to be saved. Paul is about to spend nearly two whole chapters defending his authority as an apostle, and therefore the legitimacy of the gospel he preached (which the opponents were calling into question). It makes sense, then, that Paul would tell the Galatians that “all the brothers” stood with him and backed him (and his gospel) up. The opponents were telling the Galatians that when Paul taught them that they did not have to be circumcised to become Christians, he did not represent the wider Christian community. So to counteract this claim, Paul says that his words are endorsed by “all the brothers”—that is, by the wider Christian community!