COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
LESSON NUMBER 10
Gal 1:18 “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Galatians 1:18-20
THE CONTACT PAUL HAD WITH PETER AND JAMES
Paul is, in a sense, reintroducing himself to the Galatians. When a person or persons embrace an erroneous gospel, they no longer hold respect for the one who delivered the true Gospel to them. There is no depth to which unbelief will not cause people to sink. Israel, for example, came to despise Moses, who led them out of Egypt. They “chided” with him (Ex 17:2), and spoke against him (Num 21:5). Even though Joshua and Caleb reported that the land of Canaan was everything God had said, yet the people called for them to be stoned (Num 14:10). The primary example of this changing of mind relates to the Lord Jesus, who went about “doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38). Yet, “His own received Him not,” and eventually cried out for Him to be crucified (Lk 23:21). The church at Corinth allowed themselves to be led astray by false teachers, so that they embraced another Gospel, and even questioned the apostleship of the one who had converted them (1 Cor 9:1-2). This is the nature of the flesh, and particularly when it is religious flesh. Those who are diverted to a spurious message soon despise those who deliver the truth, raising false reports about them, and seeking to rid themselves of their influence. The casual teacher or preacher would simply have abandoned the Galatians, taking their rejection of himself and the embrace of another gospel as reason enough to stand back from them. But this is not the manner of Paul. He will take his spiritual weaponry and cast down the imaginations that have come to dominate the thinking of the Galatians. He will engage in battle for their souls, and will not flee the wolves as a hireling would do. He had invested much in these people, and he will not let the work go. He will do battle with the adversary, freeing the people from the grip of religious opportunists like David freed some of his flock “out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear” (1 Sam 17:37). As a “wise masterbuilder” (1 Cor 3:10), Paul had laid down a good foundation – one upon which a proper structure could be built to the glory of God. He is now removing the rubble that had been heaped upon it, that was weakening the habitation intended to be placed upon it.
PAUL’S INITIAL MEETING WITH PETER
Gal 1:18 “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.”
Paul is recounting how he arrived at the understanding of the Gospel that he preached. His perception of Jesus and the New Covenant were not shaped by the teaching of others.
AFTER THREE YEARS. This is three years after Paul’s departure from Jerusalem, when certain men sought to kill him, and the brethren sent him to Tarsus (Acts 9:29-30). It was at that time that the churches experienced some rest from the persecution that arose over Stephen, being edified, walking in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31). It was three years later that Paul returned to Jerusalem. The period of rest for the church was one of tutelage for Paul, who would prove to be the man who was the most prolific instructor of the church in all of history. The extensiveness of his ministry is a commentary on the remarkable scope of the understanding he received from the Lord Jesus. His ministry was not the result of human strategies and analyses. It also ought to be noted that Paul received teaching from the Lord equal in time to that received by the twelve apostles – “three years.”
Right here it is necessary to draw attention to the nature of Paul’s ministry. It is a standard for us all. The Divine template for ministry is found in Jesus Himself, and it is reflected in Paul: “to bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18). Any professed ministry that does not have that as its foundation is questionable, to say the least. I do not see how it is possible for there to be any valid ministerial thrust that is not designed to do what Jesus Himself is doing.
I WENT UP TO JERUSALEM. Following the foundational teaching he received from Jesus, Paul “went up to Jerusalem.” This confirms that Paul did not see himself as involved in a totally unique ministry. He knew that the body of Christ, both Jew and Gentile, is “fitly framed together” (Ex 2:21). Just as no segment of Christ’s body is at variance with another, so no body of teaching is divorced from the totality of the “sound doctrine.” Every segment of the truth is fully harmonious and complementary to the whole of the truth. Therefore, Paul can go to Jerusalem without fear of confronting some contradicting teaching from the twelve apostles.
Paul’s presence in Jerusalem on differing occasions is noted in the book of Acts. After he escaped from Damascus over a wall in a basket, he was in Jerusalem with the apostles, being brought to the them by Barnabas (Acts 9:25-28). It is generally understood that this is the occasion to which Paul refers in this text – around 40 AD.
About ten years later, Barnabas and Paul were sent to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles and elders concerning the matter of circumcision (Acts 15:2-4). About four years after that, Paul; announced his intentions to go again to Jerusalem from Ephesus (Acts 18:21). It is that trip to which he also referred to 19:21; 20:16, 22; and 21:15,17. Paul refers to the occasion of our text when later speaking to the Jews (22:17-18), and before Felix in 24:11.
TO SEE PETER. As indicated in the previous verses, this meeting with Peter was not intended to be an instructive one concerning the Gospel. It was rather to testify of his ministry among the Gentiles, and to confirm that he was not preaching another gospel. No person who is delivering the truth has anything to fear by meeting with those who have been longer at that work, or occupy a position that ranks high in heaven.
The details of this meeting are not reported in Scripture. We do know that Peter was not instructing Paul at that time, for Paul did not preach what he had received from man (Acts 1:11). Neither did apostles send Paul out, as they once did Peter and John to Samaria (Acts 8:14). As Paul wrote to the Galatians of his apostleship, “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)” (Gal 1:1).
AND ABODE WITH HIM FIFTEEN DAYS. Acts makes no mention as to the length of this stay. It rather reports that (1) He attempted to join himself to the disciples, but they were afraid of him (9:26). (2) Barnabas took him to the apostles and reported how he had seen the Lord who had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly in Damascus in the name of Jesus (9:27). (3) He was with the apostles going in and out of Jerusalem, and spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus (9:28). (4) During this occasion the Jews sought to kill him, and he had to escape for his life (9:29-30). (5) Later, when testifying to the Jews, Paul referred to this occasion, saying that while he was in the Temple, the Lord appeared to him, saying “Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me” (Acts 22:17-18).
Throughout these reports, you will note that the emphasis is not placed on the time, but what took place during the time. In our text, it is placed upon what did NOT take place during the time. Kingdom work has to do with what is accomplished regarding the purpose of God. The stress is not placed upon the person or experience of the messenger. This is not the way of the flesh, which insists on placing the spotlight upon the person, as compared with the actual message that he brings. This is involved in knowing no man after the flesh (2 Cor 5:16).
PAUL’S MEETING WITH JAMES
1:19 “ But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.” Other versions read, “none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother,” NASB “only James, the Lord’s brother,” NIV “I saw only James, the Lord’s brother.” BBE
OTHER OF THE APOSTLES I SAW NONE. When Paul says he did not see any of the other apostles, he does not mean he did not see them visibly, or that his eyes never fell upon them. Rather, he means he did not “see” them in the sense in which he saw Peter: i.e. he did not consult with them, or share his testimony with them.
This is by no means to be considered derogatory of the twelve apostles of Christ – particular the eleven others besides Peter. Paul held no disdain or lack of appreciation of the other apostles. In fact, he refers to “apostles” no less than seventeen times in his letters. He states they were “in Christ before me” (Rom 16:7; Gal 1:17). He classes himself with them, as special messengers sent forth by Christ (1 Cor 4:9; 9:5; 12:28,29; 15:9; 2 Cor 11:5; 12:11; Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11). He refers to Christ’s post-resurrection appearances to them (15:7). He tells of Satanic messengers who transform themselves into apostles (1 Cor11:13). Without any hesitation, he refers to them as “apostles” (Gal 1:19; 1 Thess 2:6).
This, then, is not competitive language. Paul is not comparing himself with the apostles, thereby contradicting his own teaching: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise”(2 Cor 10:12). Rather, he is simply affirming the truth. In this case it was that the other apostles had not received insights that he was lacking. However great they were – and they were great – they were not so great that they could enlarge his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do understand that this is a sensitive area, yet it seems to me that something must be said concerning it. Whether men wish to acknowledge it or not, there is such a thing as a student who knows as much, and even more, than ordinary teachers. David alluded to this circumstance when he wrote, “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation” (Psa 119:99). Other versions read, “more insight than all my teachers,” NASB “I have understood more than all my teachers,” DOUAY and “I have better understanding and deeper insight than all my teachers.” AMPLIFIED This is not the assessment of the carnal mind. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself – a time when you sensed, by both the manner and content of a teacher, that you had seen more of that particular matter than they. To the spiritual mind, this is not a matter of pride. It does not provide justification for despising such a person. It is rather a cause for thanksgiving to God, that He is not a respecter of persons, but opens the truth to every humble and contrite spirit. Having said these things, I am keenly aware that a person walking in the flesh is incapable of perceiving what I have said. Notwithstanding, there are souls who will recognize this truth. They know very well that this runs counter to institutional thinking, that requires men to respect and honor those men for their position and fleshly attainment rather than their degree of spiritual understanding.
SAVE JAMES THE LORD’S BROTHER. Other versions read, “except James, the Lord’s brother,” NKJV and “only James, the Lord’s brother.” NIV As one might expect, this verse has caused Bible scholars a lot of trouble. At the time to which Paul refers, James the brother of John was still alive, not yet having been martyred. Some conclude, therefore that this was that James, and that “brother” means relative, so that James and John were cousins of Jesus. This, they say, is the meaning. Others say that this is James the Less, one of the original twelve who is referred to as “James the son of Alphaeus,” and “James the Less” (Matt 10:3; Mk 15:40). These explanations are given because, it is thought, “other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” meant that James was an apostle. That can be the meaning, but not necessarily so. It could be a comparative statement, in distinction to an exclusionary one. That is, “of all the people I saw, Peter was seen, and none of the other apostles – and I saw James as well,” accenting that Peter was not the only man he saw, but was the only apostle with whom he conferred.
The fact that Paul makes a point of saying, “James the Lord’s brother,” should end all controversy on the matter. The Greek word used here is avdelfo.n (“adelphon”), which, as used here, means “a brother, whether born of the same two parents, or only of the same father or mother.” THAYER Children referred to by this word include the brothers of Joseph (Matt 1:2), Andrew, Peter’s brother (Matt 4:18), John, the brother of James (Matt 4:21), and Jesus’ half brothers (Matt 12:46). While there are other uses, such as spiritual brothers (1 Thess 4:6; James 4:11; 1 John 2:10), there is no reason to assign that meaning here.
Although not one of the twelve, the fact that Jesus made a special appearance to James, as distinguished from the other apostles (1 Cor 15:7), would qualify him to be called an apostle, though not in the same sense as the twelve, and later of Paul. I take the text as it stands.
BEFORE GOD, I LIE NOT
1:20 “Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.”
Now Paul draws attention to what he is writing. He will not allow who he is to upstage what he says and writes. In the Kingdom of God, the value of a person is not determined by the office that he holds, or the position that he occupies. It lies in what he says and writes. Although Jesus Himself is the only Person who deserves respect because of WHO He is, He constantly drew attention to what He said. He refers to “My words” ten times. He states they will “never pass away” (Matt 24:35; Mk 13:31; Lk 21:33), speaks of Him being ashamed of those who are ashamed of them (Mk 8:38; Mk 13:31; Lk 9:26), and believing His words (John 5:47). He stated that those who heard His words, yet did not believe them, would be judged by the words he rejected (John 12:47-48). He affirmed the Father would love the person, and He and the Son would come and make their abode in the one who kept His words (John 14:23). He also said that those in whom His words abode would have done in them what they asked (John 15:7).
THE THINGS WHICH I WRITE UNTO YOU. Now the apostle draws attention to what he has written, for the worth of both an apostle and prophet is determined by what they say – not what they quote from other men, but what they themselves have perceived. These days there is not much stress placed on what men professing to represent God say. There is too much carnal hype to make for good listening. In the case of Paul, what he said produced the effects that he associated with his word: believing, obeying, growing, contentment, and overcoming the world. What value is there to a message that does not produce such results?
I have long been convinced that the reason many professing preachers do not write is because they do not have that much to say. They are too easily suppressed, and appear too comfortable in accommodating to the requests of people who are not spiritually minded. But this was not the case with Paul. When he referred to “the things which I wrote unto you,” he was speaking of substantive writing, not to spiritual froth and human opinion. Those who are of the persuasion that Paul often gave optional private opinions on matters reproach the apostle, for that was not at all the manner in which he spoke. He was one whom Jesus considered faithful – not only to declare what he had been given to see, but to handle it correctly (2 Tim 2:15).
BEHOLD BEFORE GOD. Other versions read, “Indeed, before God,” NKJV “I assure you before God,” NASB “I declare before God,” CJB “God is my witness,” CSB and “I write this as if I were standing before the bar of God.” AMPLIFIED
This is not a mere carnal oath, as though Paul was saying this to convince his hearers that what he said was true. This is a statement made to men, but before God. Admittedly, those with no understanding cannot see much in such a statement. However, in truth, Paul is calling upon God to judge him if he has misrepresented the case. He has placed himself in the hands of God, asking Him to honor His name by repudiating publically what Paul has written if he has misrepresented the case, exaggerated the facts, or slanted his words in such a way as to give himself the advantage rather than giving God the glory.
For people who are not unaccustomed to living within the framework of an acute consciousness of God, this a strange and meaningless way to talk or write. However, to someone who is God-conscious, it is a most sober way of speaking. Many things would never be said in the name of the Lord if people thought in this manner. Elsewhere Paul said, “we speak before God in Christ” (2 Cor 12:19), “I charge thee before God,” (1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1), “I say the truth in Christ . . . my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost” (Rom 9:1). He could say to discerning people, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37).
All of this substantiates that Paul spoke and wrote while he was walking in the light, living by faith, and walking in the Spirit. He did not take it upon himself to speak in the name of the Lord about things concerning which he was unsure. He did not call upon the people to accept what he said because of who he was, but because his words never contradicted the Lord, were never in conflict with the purpose of God, and were never spoken without being acutely conscious of both God and Jesus Christ. Whatever cannot be said in this posture should never be spoken or written as though it represented the will of God, or could bring true advantage to the people.
I LIE NOT. Other versions read, “I do not lie,” NKJV “I am not lying,” NASB and “is no lie.”NIV A lie is a falsehood, an untruth, something that contradicts reality. To lie is to deliberately misstate the case, exaggerate the matter, understate it, or in some way distort or twist it. Such speaking is always to bring some kind of fleshly advantage, and has in mind to obtain a favorable view of the speaker from someone. Paul used this exact expression two other times (Rom 9:1; 2 Cor 11:31). By writing in such a manner, he was challenging those who doubted his word to engage in a thorough examination of what he said. Just as John said, “Try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). Paul himself said, “Prove all things” (1 Thess 5:21). It is a blessed circumstance when, out of a pure heart, men can speak and write in such a manner.