Galatians (Part 1)
This month we are kicking off a new blog series in which we examine the book of Galatians in the New Testament. Why Galatians? The simple answer is that I spent the entire month of December studying this book, and through the process learned many things I think would be worthwhile to share with you.
I’m not sure how long this series will last, or how much of the book we will cover, or anything like that. Basically, I have a journal with a month’s full of notes on Galatians, and I’m going to try and follow the Spirit’s leading as to which of those notes I share with you here.
First, a word about format. When I read the Bible, I usually ask myself a lot of questions about what I’m reading, so this blog series will be largely in the question-and-answer format. I hope this approach is helpful to you. Here we go!
1:1 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,
Paul identifies himself as an “apostle” at the beginning of the letter. What is an apostle?
Fundamentally, an apostle is simply a “messenger.” When we hear the word apostle, we usually think of Jesus’ 12 disciples who after his ascension became his especially authoritative (i.e., authorized to speak on God’s behalf, so much so that many of their writings became Scripture) and powerful (i.e., performing healings and various miracles in Jesus’ name) messengers. But this is actually only a specialized usage of the word apostle. There are many places in Greek literature and in the New Testament where the word apostle simply means a messenger or delegate of some type.
What are some places in the New Testament where the word apostle is used to refer to people other than the 12 disciples?
In John 13:16, Jesus says, “A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger [apostle] greater than the one who sent him.” In the context of John 13, Jesus seems to be referring not only to the disciples in the room with him, but really anyone who will follow him and call him Lord and Teacher. So, it would not be wrong to say that all Christians are apostles in this sense, since those who follow Jesus are sent out to the world to be his messenger and representatives.
In Hebrews 3:1, Jesus himself is referred to as “the apostle and high priest of our confession.” It is very appropriate for the Scriptures to refer to Jesus as an apostle, since he is Son sent by the Father to reveal to mankind the fullness of God’s beauty, truth, and grace. Jesus Christ is the Father’s messenger, sent to reveal more about God than humans had ever understood before (Heb. 1:1-3).
Which way is Paul using the word apostle here?
Definitely in the sense of “especially authoritative messenger and representative of Christ.” Paul is writing to correct some serious errors in the Galatian churches, and frequently highlights his special authority as an authoritative spokesman for Jesus when he corrects them on their errors. For the good of those he is writing to, Paul underscores the authority he has as one of Jesus’ special messengers (i.e., apostles). He says that his apostleship is “not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father,” as if to say, “You people need to listen to me. I am not just some random teacher, but I have been appointed as the Lord’s spokesman by Jesus himself!”