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Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
by Martin Luther
Translated by Theodore Graebner


Preface and Chapter 1

pp. iii-v


PREFACE

The preparation of this edition of Luther's Commentary on Galatians was
first suggested to me by Mr. P. J. Zondervan, of the firm of publishers, in
March, 1937. The consultation had the twofold merit of definiteness and
brevity.
"Luther is still the greatest name in Protestantism. We want you to help us
publish some leading work of Luther's for the general American market.
Will you do it?"

"I will, on one condition."

"And what is that?"

"The condition is that I will be permitted to make Luther talk American,
'streamline' him, so to speak--because you will never get people, whether
in or outside the Lutheran Church, actually to read Luther unless we make
him talk as he would talk today to Americans."

I illustrated the point by reading to Mr. Zondervan a few sentences from an
English translation lately reprinted by an American publisher, of one of
Luther's outstanding reformatory essays.

The demonstration seemed to prove convincing for it was agreed that one
may as well offer Luther in the original German or Latin as expect the
American church-member to read any translations that would adhere to
Luther's German or Latin constructions and employ the Mid-Victorian
type of English characteristic of the translations now on the market.

"And what book would be your choice?"

"There is one book that Luther himself likes better than any other. Let us
begin with that: his Commentary on Galatians. . ."

The undertaking, which seemed so attractive when viewed as a literary
task, proved a most difficult one, and at times became oppressive. The
Letter to the Galatians consists of six short chapters. Luther's commentary
fills seven hundred and thirty-three octavo pages in the Weidman Edition
of his works. It was written in Latin. We were resolved not to present this
entire mass of exegesis. It would have run to more than fifteen hundred
pages, ordinary octavo (like this), since it is impossible to use the
compressed structure of sentences which is characteristic of Latin, and
particularly of Luther's Latin. The work had to be condensed. German and
English translations are available, but the most acceptable English version,
besides laboring under the handicaps of an archaic style, had to be
condensed into half its volume in order to accomplish the "streamlining"
of the book. Whatever merit the translation now presented to the reader may
possess should be written to the credit of Rev. Gerhardt Mahler of Geneva,
N.Y., who came to my assistance in a very busy season by making a rough
draft of the translation and later preparing a revision of it, which
forms the basis of the final draft submitted to the printer. A word should
now be said about the origin of Luther's Commentary on Galatians.

The Reformer had lectured on this Epistle of St. Paul's in 1519 and again in
1523. It was his favorite among all the Biblical books. In his table talks the
saying is recorded: "The Epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as
it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine." Much later when a friend of his
was preparing an edition of all his Latin works, he remarked to his home
circle: "If I had my way about it they would republish only those of my
books which have doctrine. My Galatians, for instance. "The lectures which
are preserved in the works herewith submitted to the American public
were delivered in 1531. They were taken down by George Roerer, who
held something of a deanship at Wittenberg University and who was one of
Luther's aids in the translation of the Bible. Roerer took down Luther's
lectures and this manuscript has been preserved to the present day, in a
copy which contains also additions by Veit Dietrich and by Cruciger, friends
of Roerer's, who with him attended Luther's lectures. In other words, these
three men took down the lectures which Luther addressed to his students
in the course of Galatians, and Roerer prepared the manuscript for the
printer. A German translation by Justus Menius appeared in the
Wittenberg Edition of Luther's writings, published in 1539.

The importance of this Commentary on Galatians for the history of
Protestantism is very great. It presents like no other of Luther's writings
the central thought of Christianity, the justification of the sinner for the
sake of Christ's merits alone. We have permitted in the final revision of
the manuscript many a passage to stand which seemed weak and
ineffectual when compared with the trumpet tones of the Latin original.
But the essence of Luther's lectures is there. May the reader accept with
indulgence where in this translation we have gone too far in modernizing
Luther's expression--making him "talk American."

At the end of his lectures in 1531, Luther uttered a brief prayer and then
dictated two Scriptural texts, which we shall inscribe at the end of these
introductory remarks:

"The Lord who has given us power to teach and to hear, let Him also give
us the power to serve and to do."

                 LUKE 2

          Glory to God in the highest,
          And on earth peace,
          Good will to men.


                    ISAIAH 40

         The Word of our God shall stand forever.


THEODORE GRAEBNER
St. Louis, Missouri



                      FROM LUTHER'S INTRODUCTION, 1538


  In my heart reigns this one article, faith in my dear Lord Christ,
  the beginning, middle and end of whatever spiritual and divine
  thoughts I may have, whether by day or by night.

                                     
                                  CHAPTER 1


  VERSE 1. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus
  Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead).

St. Paul wrote this epistle because, after his departure from the Galatian
churches, Jewish-Christian fanatics moved in, who perverted Paul's Gospel of
man's free justification by faith in Christ Jesus.

The world bears the Gospel a grudge because the Gospel condemns the religious
wisdom of the world. Jealous for its own religious views, the world in turn
charges the Gospel with being a subversive and licentious doctrine, offensive
to God and man, a doctrine to be persecuted as the worst plague on earth.

As a result we have this paradoxical situation: The Gospel supplies the world
with the salvation of Jesus Christ, peace of conscience, and every blessing.
Just for that the world abhors the Gospel.

These Jewish-Christian fanatics who pushed themselves into the Galatian
churches after Paul's departure, boasted that they were the descendants of
Abraham, true ministers of Christ, having been trained by the apostles
themselves, that they were able to perform miracles.

In every way they sought to undermine the authority of St. Paul. They said to
the Galatians: "You have no right to think highly of Paul. He was the last to
turn to Christ. But we have seen Christ. We heard Him preach. Paul came later
and is beneath us. It is possible for us to be in error--we who have received
the Holy Ghost? Paul stands alone. He has not seen Christ, nor has he had much
contact with the other apostles. Indeed, he persecuted the Church of Christ for
a long time."

When men claiming such credentials come along, they deceive not only the
naive, but also those who seemingly are well-established in the faith. This
same argument is used by the papacy. "Do you suppose that God for the sake of
a few Lutheran heretics would disown His entire Church? Or do you suppose that
God would have left His Church floundering in error all these centuries?" The
Galatians were taken in by such arguments with the result that Paul's
authority and doctrine were drawn in question.

Against these boasting, false apostles, Paul boldly defends his apostolic
authority and ministry. Humble man that he was, he will not now take a back
seat. He reminds them of the time when he opposed Peter to his face and
reproved the chief of the apostles.

Paul devotes the first two chapters to a defense of his office and his Gospel,
affirming that he received it, not from men, but from the Lord Jesus Christ by
special revelation, and that if he or an angel from heaven preach any other
gospel than the one he had preached, he shall be accursed.

                        The Certainty of Our Calling

Every minister should make much of his calling and impress upon others the
fact that he has been delegated by God to preach the Gospel. As the
ambassador of a government is honored for his office and not for his private
person, so the minister of Christ should exalt his office in order to gain
authority among men. This is not vain glory, but needful glorying.

Paul takes pride in his ministry, not to his own praise but to the praise of
God. Writing to the Romans, he declares, "Inasmuch as I am the apostle of the
Gentiles, I magnify mine office," i.e., I want to be received not as Paul of
Tarsus, but as Paul the apostle and ambassador of Jesus Christ, in order that
people might be more eager to hear. Paul exalts his ministry out of the desire
to make known the name, the grace, and the mercy of God.

  VERSE 1. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, etc.)

Paul loses no time in defending himself against the charge that he had thrust
himself into the ministry. He says to the Galatians: "My call may seem
inferior to you. But those who have come to you are either called of men or by
man. My call is the highest possible, for it is by Jesus Christ, and God the
Father."

When Paul speaks of those called "by men," I take it he means those whom
neither God nor man sent, but who go wherever they like and speak for
themselves.

When Paul speaks of those called "by man" I take it he means those who have a
divine call extended to them through other persons. God calls in two ways.
Either He calls ministers through the agency of men, or He calls them directly
as He called the prophets and apostles. Paul declares that the false apostles
were called or sent neither by men, nor by man. The most they could claim is
that they were sent by others. "But as for me I was called neither of men, nor
by man, but directly by Jesus Christ. My call is in every respect like the
call of the apostles. In fact I am an apostle."

Elsewhere Paul draws a sharp distinction between an apostleship and lesser
functions, as in I Corinthians 12:28: "And God hath set some in the church;
first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers." He mentions the
apostles first because they were appointed directly by God.

Matthias was called in this manner. The apostles chose two candidates and then
cast lots, praying that God would indicate which one He would have. To be an
apostle he had to have his appointment from God. In the same manner Paul was
called as the apostle of the Gentiles.

The call is not to be taken lightly. For a person to possess knowledge is not
enough. He must be sure that he is properly called. Those who operate without
a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not bless their labors. They may
be good preachers, but they do no edify. Many of the fanatics of our day
pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose
is to turn men to their perverse opinions. On the other hand, those who have a
divine call must suffer a good deal of opposition in order that they may
become fortified against the running attacks of the devil and the world.

This is our comfort in the ministry, that ours is a divine office to which we
have been divinely called. Reversely, what an awful thing it must be for the
conscience if one is not properly called. It spoils one's best work. When I
was a young man I thought Paul was making too much of his call. I did not
understand his purpose. I did not then realize the importance of the ministry.
I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith because we were taught sophistry
instead of certainty, and nobody understood spiritual boasting. We exalt our
calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but
because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of
God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.

  VERSE 1. And God the Father, who raised him from the dead.

Paul is so eager to come to the subject matter of his epistle, the
righteousness of faith in opposition to the righteousness of works, that
already in the title he must speak his mind. He did not think it quite enough
to say that he was an apostle "by Jesus Christ"; he adds, "and God the Father,
who raised him from the dead."

The clause seems superfluous on first sight. Yet Paul had a good reason for
adding it. He had to deal with Satan and his agents who endeavored to deprive
him of the righteousness of Christ, who was raised by God the Father from the
dead. These perverters of the righteousness of Christ resist the Father and
the Son, and the works of them both.

In this whole epistle Paul treats of the resurrection of Christ. By His
resurrection Christ won the victory over law, sin, flesh, world, devil, death,
hell, and every evil. And this His victory He donated unto us. These many
tyrants and enemies of ours may accuse and frighten us, but they dare not
condemn us, for Christ, whom God the Father has raised from the dead is our
righteousness and our victory.

Do you notice how well suited to his purpose Paul writes? He does not say, "By
God who made heaven and earth, who is Lord of the angels," but Paul has in
mind the righteousness of Christ, and speaks to the point, saying, "I am an
apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father,
who raised him from the dead."


  VERSE 2. And all the brethren which are with me.

This should go far in shutting the mouths of the false apostles. Paul's
intention is to exalt his own ministry while discrediting theirs. He adds for
good measure the argument that he does not stand alone, but that all the
brethren with him attest to the fact that his doctrine is divinely true.
"Although the brethren with me are not apostles like myself, yet they are all
of one mind with me, think, write, and teach as I do."


  VERSE 2. Unto the churches of Galatia.

Paul had preached the Gospel throughout Galatia, founding many churches which
after his departure were invaded by the false apostles. The Anabaptists in our
time imitate the false apostles. They do not go where the enemies of the
Gospel predominate. They go where the Christians are. Why do they not invade
the Catholic provinces and preach their doctrine to godless princes, bishops,
and doctors, as we have done by the help of God? These soft martyrs take no
chances. They go where the Gospel has a hold, so that they may not endanger
their lives. The false apostles would not go to Jerusalem of Caiaphas, or to
the Rome of the Emperor, or to any other place where no man had preached
before as Paul and the other apostles did. But they came to the churches of
Galatia, knowing that where men profess the name of Christ they may feel
secure.

It is the lot of God's ministers not only to suffer opposition at the hand of
a wicked world, but also to see the patient indoctrination of many years
quickly undone by such religious fanatics. This hurts more than the
persecution of tyrants. We are treated shabbily on the outside by tyrants, on
the inside by those whom we have restored to the liberty of the Gospel, and
also by false brethren. But this is our comfort and our glory, that being
called of God we have the promise of everlasting life. We look for that reward
which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart
of man."

Jerome raises the question why Paul called them churches that were no
churches, inasmuch as the Galatians had forsaken the grace of Christ for the
law of Moses. The proper answer is: Although the Galatians had fallen away
from the doctrine of Paul, baptism, the Gospel, and the name of Christ
continued among them. Not all the Galatians had become perverted. There were
some who clung to the right view of the Word and the Sacraments. These means
cannot be contaminated. They remain divine regardless of men's opinion.
Wherever the means of grace are found, there is the Holy Church, even though
Antichrist reigns there. So much for the title of the epistle. Now follows the
greeting of the apostle.


  VERSE 3. Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our
  Lord Jesus Christ.

The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now pretty
well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you will not mind
if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere. The article of
justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of
our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it
with all our heart.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets
the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these
fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge
given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity.
Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is
not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law.
The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to
despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is,
the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he
goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual
living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in
opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and
peace with God.

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free will, the
rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the
forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by the
methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders
have been launched for the purpose of securing peace of conscience through
religious exercises, but they proved failures because such devices only
increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for our weary bones unless we
cling to the word of grace.

The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or
from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He wishes them
heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said, "Peace I leave
unto you: my peace I give unto you." Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of
life and possessions. But in affliction, particularly in the hour of death,
the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and
peace of God will. They make a person strong and courageous to bear and to
overcome all difficulties, even death itself, because we have the victory of
Christ's death and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins.

              Men Should Not Speculate About the Nature of God

The Apostle adds to the salutation the words, "and from our Lord Jesus
Christ." Was it not enough to say, "from God the Father"?

It is a principle of the Bible that we are not to inquire curiously into the
nature of God. "There shall no man see me, and live," Exodus 33:20. All who
trust in their own merits to save them disregard this principle and lose sight
of the Mediator, Jesus Christ.

True Christian theology does not inquire into the nature of God, but into
God's purpose and will in Christ, whom God incorporated in our flesh to live
and to die for our sins. There is nothing more dangerous than to speculate
about the incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty of God when the
conscience is in turmoil over sin. To do so is to lose God altogether because
God becomes intolerable when we seek to measure and to comprehend His infinite
majesty.

We are to seek God as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1:23, 24: "We preach
Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks
foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the
power of God, and the wisdom of God." Begin with Christ. He came down to
earth, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and then He died, standing
clearly before us, so that our hearts and eyes may fasten upon Him. Thus we
shall be kept from climbing into heaven in a curious and futile search after
the nature of God.

If you ask how God may be found, who justifies sinners, know that there is no
other God besides this man Christ Jesus. Embrace Him, and forget about the
nature of God. But these fanatics who exclude our Mediator in their dealings
with God, do not believe me. Did not Christ Himself say: "I am the way, and
the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me"? Without
Christ there is no access to the Father, but futile rambling; no truth, but
hypocrisy; no life, but eternal death.

When you argue about the nature of God apart from the question of
justification, you may be as profound as you like. But when you deal with
conscience and with righteousness over against the law, sin, death, and the
devil, you must close your mind to all inquiries into the nature of God, and
concentrate upon Jesus Christ, who says, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Doing this, you will recognize the
power, and majesty condescending to your condition according to Paul's
statement to the Colossians, "In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom
and knowledge," and, "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."
Paul in wishing grace and peace not alone from God the Father, but also from
Jesus Christ, wants to warn us against the curious incursions into the nature
of God. We are to hear Christ, who has been appointed by the Father as our
divine Teacher.

                           Christ is God by Nature

At the same time, Paul confirms our creed, "that Christ is very God." We need
such frequent confirmation of our faith, for Satan will not fail to attack it.
He hates our faith. He knows that it is the victory which overcometh him and
the world. That Christ is very God is apparent in that Paul ascribes to Him
divine powers equally with the Father, as for instance, the power to dispense
grace and peace. This Jesus could not do unless He were God.

To bestow peace and grace lies in the province of God, who alone can create
these blessings. The angels cannot. The apostles could only distribute these
blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. In attributing to Christ the divine
power of creating and giving grace, peace, everlasting life, righteousness,
and forgiveness of sins, the conclusion is inevitable that Christ is truly
God. Similarly, St. John concludes from the works attributed to the Father and
the Son that they are divinely One. Hence, the gifts which we receive from the
Father and from the Son are one and the same. Otherwise Paul should have
written: "Grace from God the Father, and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ." In
combining them he ascribes them equally to the Father and the Son. I stress
this on account of the many errors emanating from the sects.

The Arians were sharp fellows. Admitting that Christ had two natures, and that
He is called "very God of very God," they were yet able to deny His divinity.
The Arians took Christ for a noble and perfect creature, superior even to the
angels, because by Him God created heaven and earth. Mohammed also speaks
highly of Christ. But all their praise is mere palaver to deceive men. Paul's
language is different. To paraphrase him: "You are established in this belief
that Christ is very God because He gives grace and peace, gifts which only God
can create and bestow."


  VERSE 4. Who gave himself for our sins.

Paul sticks to his theme. He never loses sight of the purpose of his epistle.
He does not say, "Who received our works," but "who gave." Gave what? Not
gold, or silver, or paschal lambs, or an angel, but Himself. What for? Not for
a crown, or a kingdom, or our goodness, but for our sins. These words are like
so many thunderclaps of protest from heaven against every kind and type of
self-merit. Underscore these words, for they are full of comfort for sore
consciences.

How may we obtain remission of our sins? Paul answers: "The man who is
named Jesus Christ and the Son of God gave himself for our sins." The heavy
artillery of these words explodes papacy, works, merits, superstitions. For if
our sins could be removed by our own efforts, what need was there for the Son
of God to be given for them? Since Christ was given for our sins it stands to
reason that they cannot be put away by our own efforts.

This sentence also defines our sins as great, so great, in fact, that the
whole world could not make amends for a single sin. The greatness of the
ransom, Christ, the Son of God, indicates this. The vicious character of sin
is brought out by the words "who gave himself for our sins." So vicious is sin
that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone for sin. When we reflect that
the one little word "sin" embraces the whole kingdom of Satan, and that it
includes everything that is horrible, we have reason to tremble. But we are
careless. We make light of sin. We think that by some little work or merit we
can dismiss sin.

This passage, then, bears out the fact that all men are sold under sin. Sin is
an exacting despot who can be vanquished by no created power, but by the
sovereign power of Jesus Christ alone.

All this is of wonderful comfort to a conscience troubled by the enormity of
sin. Sin cannot harm those who believe in Christ, because He has overcome sin
by His death. Armed with this conviction, we are enlightened and may pass
judgment upon the papists, monks, nuns, priests, Mohammedans, Anabaptists, and
all who trust in their own merits, as wicked and destructive sects that rob
God and Christ of the honor that belongs to them alone.

Note especially the pronoun "our" and its significance. You will readily grant
that Christ gave Himself for the sins of Peter, Paul, and others who were
worthy of such grace. But feeling low, you find it hard to believe that Christ
gave Himself for your sins. Our feelings shy at a personal application of the
pronoun "our," and we refuse to have anything to do with God until we have
made ourselves worthy by good deeds.

This attitude springs from a false conception of sin, the conception that sin
is a small matter, easily taken care of by good works; that we must present
ourselves unto God with a good conscience; that we must feel no sin before we
may feel that Christ was given for our sins.

This attitude is universal and particularly developed in those who consider
themselves better than others. Such readily confess that they are frequent
sinners, but they regard their sins as of no such importance that they cannot
easily be dissolved by some good action, or that they may not appear before
the tribunal of Christ and demand the reward of eternal life for their
righteousness. Meantime they pretend great humility and acknowledge a certain
degree of sinfulness for which they soulfully join in the publican's prayer,
"God be merciful to me a sinner." But the real significance and comfort of the
words "for our sins" is lost upon them.

The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul "who gave himself for our
sins" as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon our sins as
insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard them as so
terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for
picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for mountainous sins; not for one
or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are
stubbornly ingrained.

Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in
the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with
confidence: "Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for
sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot
delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, I am all sin. My sins are not
imaginary transgressions, but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt,
despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse
of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against the second table,
dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting of another's
possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery, theft,
and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and
therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.

"Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at
self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the
Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins." To believe this is to have
eternal life.

Let us equip ourselves against the accusations of Satan with this and similar
passages of Holy Scripture. If he says, "Thou shalt be damned," you tell him:
"No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being
a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding
me of God's fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He
gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort
me above measure." With such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil's craft
and put from us the memory of sin.

St. Paul also presents a true picture of Christ as the virgin-born Son of God,
delivered into death for our sins. To entertain a true conception of Christ is
important, for the devil describes Christ as an exacting and cruel judge who
condemns and punishes men. Tell him that his definition of Christ is wrong,
that Christ has given Himself for our sins, that by His sacrifice He has taken
away the sins of the whole world.

Make ample use of this pronoun "our." Be assured that Christ has canceled the
sins, not of certain persons only, but your sins. Do not permit yourself to be
robbed of this lovely conception of Christ. Christ is no Moses, no law-giver,
no tyrant, but the Mediator for sins, the Giver of grace and life.

We know this. Yet in the actual conflict with the devil, when he scares us
with the Law, when he frightens us with the very person of the Mediator, when
he misquotes the words of Christ, and distorts for us our Savior, we so easily
lose sight of our sweet High-Priest.

For this reason I am so anxious for you to gain a true picture of Christ out
of the words of Paul "who gave himself for our sins." Obviously, Christ is no
judge to condemn us, for He gave Himself for our sins. He does not trample the
fallen but raises them. He comforts the broken-hearted. Otherwise Paul should
lie when he writes "who gave himself for our sins."

I do not bother my head with speculations about the nature of God. I simply
attach myself to the human Christ, and I find joy and peace, and the wisdom of
God in Him. These are not new truths. I am repeating what the apostles and all
teachers of God have taught long ago. Would to God we could impregnate our
hearts with these truths.


  VERSE 4. That he might deliver us from this present evil world.

Paul calls this present world evil because everything in it is subject to the
malice of the devil, who reigns over the whole world as his domain and fills
the air with ignorance, contempt, hatred, and disobedience of God. In this
devils's kingdom we live.

As long as a person is in the world he cannot by his own efforts rid himself
of sin, because the world is bent upon evil. The people of the world are the
slaves of the devil. If we are not in the Kingdom of Christ, it is certain we
belong to the kingdom of Satan and we are pressed into his service with every
talent we possess.

Take the talents of wisdom and integrity. Without Christ, wisdom is double
foolishness and integrity double sin, because they not only fail to perceive
the wisdom and righteousness of Christ, but hinder and blaspheme the salvation
of Christ. Paul justly calls it the evil or wicked world, for when the world
is at its best the world is at its worst. The grossest vices are small faults
in comparison with the wisdom and righteousness of the world. These prevent
men from accepting the Gospel of the righteousness of Christ. The white devil
of spiritual sin is far more dangerous than the black devil of carnal sin
because the wiser, the better men are without Christ, the more they are likely
to ignore and oppose the Gospel.

With the words, "that he might deliver us," Paul argues that we stand in need
of Christ. No other being can possibly deliver us from this present evil
world. Do not let the fact disturb you that a great many people enjoy
excellent reputations without Christ. Remember what Paul says, that the world
with all its wisdom, might, and righteousness is the devil's own. God alone is
able to deliver us from the world.

Let us praise and thank God for His mercy in delivering us from the captivity
of Satan, when we were unable to do so by our own strength. Let us confess
with Paul that all our work-righteousness is loss and dung. Let us condemn as
filthy rags all talk about free will, all religious orders, masses,
ceremonies, vows, fastings, and the like.

In branding the world the devil's kingdom of iniquity, ignorance, error, sin,
death, and everlasting despair, Paul at the same time declares the Kingdom of
Christ to be a kingdom of equity, light, grace, remission of sin, peace,
saving health, and everlasting life into which we are translated by our Lord
Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.

In this passage Paul contends against the false apostles for the article of
Justification. Christ, says Paul, has delivered us from this wicked kingdom of
the devil and the world according to the good will, the pleasure and
commandment of the Father. Hence we are not delivered by our own will, or
shrewdness, or wisdom, but by the mercy and love of God, as it is written,
I John 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and
sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

Another reason why Paul, like John, emphasizes the Father's will is Christ's
habit of directing attention to the Father. For Christ came into the world to
reconcile God with us and to draw us to the Father.

Not by curious inquiries into the nature of God shall we know God and His
purpose for our salvation, but by taking hold of Christ, who according to the
will of the Father has given Himself into death for our sins. When we
understand this to be the will of the Father in Christ, then shall we know God
to be merciful, and not angry. We shall realize that He loved us wretched
sinners so much indeed that He gave us His only-begotten Son into death for
us.

The pronoun "our" refers to both God and Father. He is our God and our Father.
Christ's Father and our Father are one and the same. Hence Christ said to Mary
Magdalene: "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and
your Father; and to my God, and your God." God is our Father and our God, but
only in Christ Jesus.


  VERSE 5. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrew writing is interspersed with expressions of praise and gratitude. This
peculiarity can be traced in the apostolic writings, particularly in those of
Paul. The name of the Lord is to be mentioned with great reverence and
thanksgiving.


  VERSE 6. I marvel.

How patiently Paul deals with his seduced Galatians! He does not pounce on
them but, like a father, he fairly excuses their error. With motherly
affection he talks to them yet he does it in a way that at the same time he
also reproves them. On the other hand, he is highly indignant at the seducers
whom he blames for the apostasy of the Galatians. His anger bursts forth in
elemental fury at the beginning of his epistle. "If any may," he cries,
"preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be
accursed." Later on, in the fifth chapter, he threatens the false apostles
with damnation. "He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he
be." He pronounces a curse upon them. "I would they were even cut off which
trouble you."

He might have addressed the Galatians after this fashion: "I am ashamed of
you. Your ingratitude grieves me. I am angry with you." But his purpose was to
call them back to the Gospel. With this purpose in his mind he speaks very
gently to them. He could not have chosen a milder expression than this, "I
marvel." It indicates his sorrow and his displeasure.

Paul minds the rule which he himself lays down in a later chapter where he
says: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual,
restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou
also be tempted." Toward those who have been misled we are to show ourselves
parentally affectionate, so that they may perceive that we seek not their
destruction but their salvation. Over against the devil and his missionaries,
the authors of false doctrines and sects, we ought to be like the Apostle,
impatient, and rigorously condemnatory, as parents are with the dog that bites
their little one, but the weeping child itself they soothe.

The right spirit in Paul supplies him with an extraordinary facility in
handling the afflicted consciences of the fallen. The Pope and his bishops,
inspired by the desire to lord it over men's souls, crack out thunders and
curses upon miserable consciences. They have no care for the saving of men's
souls. They are interested only in maintaining their position.


  VERSE 6. That ye are so soon.

Paul deplores the fact that it is difficult for the mind to retain a sound and
steadfast faith. A man labors for a decade before he succeeds in training his
little church into orderly religion, and then some ignorant and vicious
poltroon comes along to overthrow in a minute the patient labor of years. By
the grace of God we have effected here in Wittenberg the form of a Christian
church. The Word of God is taught as it should be, the Sacraments are
administered, and everything is prosperous. This happy condition, secured by
many years of arduous labors, some lunatic might spoil in a moment. This
happened in the churches of Galatia which Paul had brought into life in
spiritual travail. Soon after his departure, however, these Galatian churches
were thrown into confusion by the false apostles.

The church is a tender plant. It must be watched. People hear a couple of
sermons, scan a few pages of Holy Writ, and think they know it all. They are
bold because they have never gone through any trials of faith. Void of the
Holy Spirit, they teach what they please as long as it sounds good to the
common people who are ever ready to join something new.

We have to watch out for the devil lest he sow tares among the wheat while we
sleep. No sooner had Paul turned his back on the churches of Galatia, than the
false apostles went to work. Therefore, let us watch over ourselves and over
the whole church.


  VERSE 6. I marvel that ye are so soon removed.

Again the Apostle puts in a gentle word. He does not berate the Galatians, "I
marvel that ye are so unsteady, unfaithful." He says, "I marvel that ye are so
soon removed." He does not address them as evildoers. He speaks to them as
people who have suffered great loss. He condemns those who removed them
rather than the Galatians. At the same time he gently reproves them for rather
themselves to be removed. The criticism is implied that they should have been
permitting a little more settled in their beliefs. If they had taken better hold
of the Word they could not have been removed so easily.

Jerome thinks that Paul is playing upon the name Galatians, deriving it from
the Hebrew word Galath, which means fallen or carried away, as though Paul
wanted to say, "You are true Galatians, i.e., fallen away in name and in
fact." Some believe that the Germans are descended from the Galatians. There
may be something to that. For the Germans are not unlike the Galatians in
their lack of constancy. At first we Germans are very enthusiastic, but
presently our emotions cool and we become slack. When the light of the Gospel
first came to us many were zealous, heard sermons greedily, and held the
ministry of God's Word in high esteem. But now that religion has been
reformed, many who formerly were such earnest disciples have discarded the
Word of God, have become sow-bellies like the foolish and inconsistent
Galatians.


  VERSE 6. From him that called you into the grace of Christ.

The reading is a little doubtful. The sentence may be construed to read: "From
that Christ that called you into grace"; or it may be construed to read: "From
God that called you into the grace of Christ." I prefer the former for it
seems to me that Paul's purpose is to impress upon us the benefits of Christ.
This reading also preserves the implied criticism that the Galatians withdrew
themselves from that Christ who had called them not unto the law, but unto
grace. With Paul we decry the blindness and perverseness of men in that they
will not receive the message of grace and salvation, or having received it
they quickly let go of it, in spite of the fact that the Gospel bestows all
good things spiritual: forgiveness of sins, true righteousness, peace of
conscience, everlasting life; and all good things temporal: good judgment,
good government and peace.

Why does the world abhor the glad tidings of the Gospel and the blessings that
go with it? Because the world is the devil's. Under his direction the world
persecutes the Gospel and would if it could nail again Christ, the Son of God,
to the Cross although He gave Himself into death for the sins of the world.
The world dwells in darkness. The world is darkness.

Paul accentuates the point that the Galatians had been called by Christ unto
grace. "I taught you the doctrine of grace and of liberty from the Law, from
sin and wrath, that you should be free in Christ, and not slaves to the hard
laws of Moses. Will you allow yourselves to be carried away so easily from
the living fountain of grace and life?"


  VERSE 6. Unto another gospel.

Note the resourcefulness of the devil. Heretics do not advertise their errors.
Murderers, adulterers, thieves disguise themselves. So the devil masquerades
all his devices and activities. He puts on white to make himself look like an
angel of light. He is astoundingly clever to sell his patent poison for the
Gospel of Christ. Knowing Satan's guile, Paul sardonically calls the doctrine
of the false apostles "another gospel," as if he would say, "You Galatians
have now another gospel, while my Gospel is no longer esteemed by you."

We infer from this that the false apostles had depreciated the Gospel of Paul
among the Galatians on the plea that it was incomplete. Their objection to
Paul's Gospel is identical to that recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the
Book of Acts to the effect that it was not enough for the Galatians to believe
in Christ, or to be baptized, but that it was needful to circumcise them, and
to command them to keep the law of Moses, for "except ye be circumcised after
the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." As though Christ were a workman
who had begun a building and left it for Moses to finish.

Today the Anabaptists and others, finding it difficult to condemn us, accuse
us Lutherans of timidity in professing the whole truth. They grant that we
have laid the foundation in Christ, but claim that we have failed to go
through with the building. In this way these perverse fanatics parade their
cursed doctrine as the Word of God, and, flying the flag of God's name, they
deceive many. The devil knows better than to appear ugly and black. He prefers
to carry on his nefarious activities in the name of God. Hence the German
proverb: "All mischief begins in the name of God."

When the devil sees that he cannot hurt the cause of the Gospel by destructive
methods, he does it under the guise of correcting and advancing the cause of
the Gospel. He would like best of all to persecute us with fire and sword, but
this method has availed him little because through the blood of martyrs the
church has been watered. Unable to prevail by force, he engages wicked and
ungodly teachers who at first make common cause with us, then claim that
they are particularly called to teach the hidden mysteries of the Scriptures
to superimpose upon the first principles of Christian doctrine that we teach.
This sort of thing brings the Gospel into trouble. May we all cling to the
Word of Christ against the wiles of the devil, "for we wrestle not against
flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
places."


  VERSE 7. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you.

Here again the apostle excuses the Galatians, while he blames the false
apostles for disturbing their consciences and for stealing them out of his
hand. How angry he gets at these deceivers! He calls them troublemakers,
seducers of poor consciences.

This passage adduces further evidence that the false apostles defamed
Paul as an imperfect apostle and a weak and erroneous preacher. They
condemn Paul, Paul condemns them. Such warfare of condemnation is
always going on in the church. The papists and the fanatics hate us,
condemn our doctrine, and want to kill us. We in turn hate and condemn
their cursed doctrine. In the meanwhile the people are uncertain whom to
follow and which way to turn, for it is not given to everybody to judge
these matters. But the truth will win out. So much is certain, we
persecute no man, neither does our doctrine trouble men. On the contrary,
we have the testimony of many good men who thank God on their knees for
the consolation that our doctrine has brought them. Like Paul, we are not
to blame that the churches have trouble. The fault lies with the
Anabaptists and other fanatics.

Every teacher of work-righteousness is a trouble-maker. Has it never
occurred to you that the pope, cardinals, bishops, monks, and that the
whole synagogue of Satan are trouble-makers? The truth is, they are
worse than false apostles. The files apostles taught that in addition to
faith in Christ the works of the Law of God were necessary unto salvation.
But the papists omit faith altogether and teach self-devised traditions
and works that are not commanded of God, indeed are contrary to the Word
of God, and for these traditions they demand preferred attention and
obedience.

Paul calls the false apostles troublers of the church because they taught
circumcision and the keeping of the Law as needful unto salvation. They
insisted that the Law must be observed in every detail. They were
supporters in this contention by the Jews, with the result that those who
were not firmly established in faith were easily persuaded that Paul was
not a sincere teacher of God because he ignored the Law. The Jews were
offended at the idea that the Law of God should be entirely ignored by Paul
and that the Gentiles, former idol-worshippers, should gratuitously attain
to the station of God's people without circumcision, without the
penitentiary performance of the law, by grace alone through faith in
Christ Jesus.

These criticisms were amplified by the false apostles. They accused Paul
of designs to abolish the law of God and the Jewish dispensation, contrary
to the law of God, contrary to their Jewish heritage, contrary to apostolic
example, contrary to Paul's own example. They demanded that Paul be
shunned as a blasphemer and a rebel, while they were to be heard as true
teachers of the Gospel and authentic disciples of the apostles. Thus Paul
stood defamed among the Galatians. He was forced to attack the false
apostles. He did so without hesitation.


  VERSE 7. And would pervert the gospel of Christ.
To paraphrase this sentence: "These false apostles do not merely trouble
you, they abolish Christ's Gospel. They act as if they were the only true
Gospel-preachers. For all that they muddle Law and Gospel. As a result
they pervert the Gospel. Either Christ must live and the Law perish, or the
Law remains and Christ must perish; Christ and the Law cannot dwell side
by side in the conscience. It is either grace or law. To muddle the two is
to eliminate the Gospel of Christ entirely."

It seems a small matter to mingle the Law and Gospel, faith and works,
but it creates more mischief than man's brain can conceive. To mix Law
and Gospel not only clouds the knowledge of grace, it cuts out Christ
altogether.

The words of Paul, "and would pervert the gospel of Christ," also indicate
how arrogant these false apostles were. They were shameless boasters.
Paul simply had to exalt his own ministry and Gospel.


  VERSE 8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other
  gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him
  be accursed.

Paul's zeal for the Gospel becomes so fervent that it almost leads him to
curse angels. "I would rather that I, my brethren, yes, the angels of heaven
be anathematized than that my gospel be overthrown."

The Greek word _anathema_, Hebrew _herem_, means to accurse,
execrate, to damn. Paul first (hypothetically) curses himself. Knowing
persons first find fault with themselves in order that they may all the
more earnestly reprove others.

Paul maintains that there is no other gospel besides the one he had
preached to the Galatians. He preached, not a gospel of his own invention,
but the very same Gospel God had long ago prescribed in the Sacred
Scriptures. No wonder Paul pronounces curses upon himself and upon
others, upon the angels of heaven, if anyone should dare to preach any
other gospel than Christ's own.


  VERSE 9. As we said before, so say I now again. If any man preach
  any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be
  accursed.

Paul repeats the curse, directing it now upon other persons. Before, he
cursed himself, his brethren, and an angel from heaven. "Now," he says, "if
there are any others who preach a gospel different from that you have
received from us, let them also be accursed." Paul herewith curses and
excommunicates all false teachers including his opponents. He is so
worked up that he dares to curse all who pervert his Gospel. Would to God
that this terrible pronouncement of the Apostle might strike fear into the
hearts of all who pervert the Gospel of Paul.

The Galatians might say: "Paul, we do not pervert the Gospel you have
brought unto us. We did not quite understand it. That is all. Now these
teachers who came after you have explained everything so beautifully."
This explanation the Apostle refuses to accept. They must add nothing;
they must correct nothing. "What you received from me is the genuine
Gospel of God. Let it stand. If any man brings any other gospel than the one
I brought you, or promises to deliver better things than you have received
from me, let him be accursed."

In spite of this emphatic denunciation so many accept the pope as the
supreme judge of the Scriptures. "The Church," they say, "chose only four
gospels. The Church might have chosen more. Ergo the Church is above the
Gospel." With equal force one might argue: "I approve the Scriptures. Ergo I
am above the Scriptures. John the Baptist confessed Christ. Hence he is
above Christ." Paul subordinates himself, all preachers, all the angels of
heaven, everybody to the Sacred Scriptures. We are not the masters,
judges, or arbiters, but witnesses, disciples, and confessors of the
Scriptures, whether we be pope, Luther, Augustine, Paul, or an angel from
heaven.


  VERSE 10. For do I now persuade men, or God?

With the same vehemence Paul continues: "You Galatians ought to be able
to tell from my preaching and from the many afflictions which I have
endured, whether I serve men or God. Everybody can see that my preaching
has stirred up persecution against me everywhere, and has earned for me
the cruel hatred of my own people, in fact the hatred of all men. This
should convince you that by my preaching I do not seek the favor and
praise of men, but the glory of God."

No man can say that we are seeking the favor and praise of men with our
doctrine. We teach that all men are naturally depraved. We condemn man's
free will, his strength, wisdom, and righteousness. We say that we obtain
grace by the free mercy of God alone for Christ's sake. This is no preaching
to please men. This sort of preaching procures for us the hatred and
disfavor of the world, persecutions, excommunications, murders, and
curses.

"Can't you see that I seek no man's favor by my doctrine?" asks Paul. "If I
were anxious for the favor of men I would flatter them. But what do I do?
I condemn their works. I teach things only that I have been commanded to
teach from above. For that I bring down upon my head the wrath of Jews
and Gentiles. My doctrine must be right. It must be divine. Any other
doctrine cannot be better than mine. Any other doctrine must be false and
wicked."

With Paul we boldly pronounce a curse upon every doctrine that does not
agree with ours. We do not preach for the praise of men, or the favor of
princes. We preach for the favor of God alone whose grace and mercy we
proclaim. Whosoever teaches a gospel contrary to ours, or different from
ours, let us be bold to say that he is sent of the devil.


  VERSE 10. Or do I seek to please men?

"Do I serve men or God?" Paul keeps an eye on the false apostles, those
flatterers of men. They taught circumcision to avoid the hatred and
persecution of men.

To this day you will find many who seek to please men in order that they
may live in peace and security. They teach whatever is agreeable to men,
no matter whether it is contrary to God's Word or their own conscience.
But we who endeavor to please God and not men, stir up hell itself. We
must suffer reproach, slanders, death.

For those who go about to please men we have a word from Christ
recorded in the fifth chapter of St. John: "How can ye believe, which
receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God
alone?"


  VERSE 10. For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of
  Christ.

Observe the consummate cleverness with which the false apostles went
about to bring Paul into disrepute. They combed Paul's writings for
contradictions (our opponents do the same) to accuse him of teaching
contradictory things. They found that Paul had circumcised Timothy
according to the Law, that Paul had purified himself with four other men
in the Temple at Jerusalem, that Paul had shaven his head at Cenchrea. The
false apostles slyly suggested that Paul had been constrained by the other
apostles to observe these ceremonial laws. We know that Paul observed
these _decora_ out of charitable regard for the weak brethren. He did not
want to offend them. But the false apostles turned Paul's charitable
regard to his disadvantage. If Paul had preached the Law and circumcision,
if he had commended the strength and free will of man, he would not have
been so obnoxious to the Jews. On the contrary they would have praised his
every action.


  VERSES 11, 12. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which
  was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of
  man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This passage constitutes Paul's chief defense against the accusations of
his opponents. He maintains under oath that he received his Gospel not
from men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In declaring that his Gospel is not after man, Paul does not merely wish
to state that his Gospel is not mundane. The false apostles made the same
claim for their gospel. Paul means to say that he learned his Gospel not in
the usual and accepted manner through the agency of men by hearing,
reading, or writing. He received the Gospel by special revelation directly
from Jesus Christ.

Paul received his Gospel on the way to Damascus when Christ appeared to
him. St. Luke furnishes an account of the incident in the ninth chapter of
the Book of Acts. "Arise," said Christ to Paul, "and go into the city, and it
shall be told thee what thou must do." Christ did not send Paul into the
city to learn the Gospel from Ananias. Ananias was only to baptize Paul, to
lay his hands on Paul, to commit the ministry of the Word unto Paul, and to
recommend him to the Church. Ananias recognized his limited assignment
when he said to Paul: "Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared
unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest
receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." Paul did not receive
instruction from Ananias. Paul had already been called, enlightened, and
taught by Christ in the road. His contact with Ananias was merely a
testimonal to the fact that Paul had been called by Christ to preach the
Gospel.

Paul was forced to speak of his conversion to combat the slanderous
contention of the false apostles to the effect that this apostleship was
inferior to that of the other apostles.

If it were not for the example of the Galatian churches I would never have
thought it possible that anybody who had received the Word of God with
such eagerness as they had, could so quickly let go of it. Good Lord, what
terrible mischief one single false statement can create.

The article of justification is fragile. Not in itself, of course, but in us. I
know how quickly a person can forfeit the joy of the Gospel. I know in
what slippery places even those stand who seem to have a good footing in
the matters of faith. In the midst of the conflict when we should be
consoling ourselves with the Gospel, the Law rears up and begins to rage
all over our conscience. I say the Gospel is frail because we are frail.

What makes matters worse is that one-half of ourselves, our own reason,
stands against us. The flesh resists the spirit, or as Paul puts it, "The
flesh lusteth against the Spirit." Therefore we teach that to know Christ
and to believe in Him is no achievement of man, but the gift of God. God
alone can create and preserve faith in us. God creates faith in us through
the Word. He increases, strengthens and confirms faith in us through His
word. Hence the best service that anybody can render God is diligently to
hear and read God's Word. On the other hand, nothing is more perilous than
to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking he knows enough, a person begins
little by little to despise the Word until he has lost Christ and the Gospel
altogether.

Let every believer carefully learn the Gospel. Let him continue in humble
prayer. We are molested not by puny foes, but by mighty ones, foes who
never grow tired of warring against us. These, our enemies, are many: Our
own flesh, the world, the Law, sin, death, the wrath and judgment of God,
and the devil himself.

The arguments which the false apostles advanced impress people to this
day. "Who are you to dissent from the fathers and the entire Church, and to
bring a contradictory doctrine? Are you wiser than so many holy men,
wiser than the whole Church?" When Satan, abetted by our own reason,
advances these arguments against us, we lose heart, unless we keep on
saying to ourselves: "I don't care if Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Peter,
Paul, John, or an angel from heaven, teaches so and so. I know that I teach
the truth of God in Christ Jesus."

When I first took over the defense of the Gospel, I remembered what
Doctor Staupitz said to me. "I like it well," he said, "that the doctrine
which you proclaim gives glory to God alone and none to man. For never can
too much glory, goodness, and mercy be ascribed unto God." These words of
the worthy Doctor comforted and confirmed me. The Gospel is true because
it deprives men of all glory, wisdom, and righteousness and turns over all
honor to the Creator alone. It is safer to attribute too much glory unto God
than unto man.

You may argue that the Church and the fathers are holy. Yet the Church is
compelled to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses," I am not to be believed, nor
is the Church to be believed, or the fathers, or the apostles, or an angel
from heaven, if they teach anything contrary to the Word of God. Let the
Word of God abide forever.

Peter erred in life and in doctrine. Paul might have dismissed Peter's
error as a matter of no consequence. But Paul saw that Peter's error would
lead to the damage of the whole Church unless it were corrected.
Therefore he withstood Peter to his face. The Church, Peter, the apostles,
angels from heaven, are not to be heard unless they teach the genuine Word
of God.

This argument is not always to our advantage. People ask: "Whom then
shall we believe?" Our opponents maintain that they teach the pure Word
of God. We do not believe them. They in turn hate and persecute us for vile
heretics. What can we do about it? With Paul we glory in the Gospel of
Jesus Christ. What do we gain? We are told that our glorying is idle vanity
and unadulterated blasphemy. The moment we abase ourselves and give in
to the rage of our opponents, Papists and Anabaptists grow arrogant. The
Anabaptists hatch out some new monstrosity. The Papists revive their old
abominations. What to do? Let everybody become sure of his calling and
doctrine, that he may boldly say with Paul: "But though we, or an angel
from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than ye have received, let
him be accursed."


  VERSES 13, 14. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in
  the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church
  of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many
  my equals in mine own nation.

This passage does not contain doctrine. Paul adduces his own case for an
example. "I have," he says, "at one time defended the traditions of the
Pharisees more fiercely than any of your false apostles. Now, if the
righteousness of the Law had been worth anything I would never have
forsaken it. So carefully did I live up to the Law that I excelled many of
my companions. So zealous was I in defense of the Law that I wasted the
church of God."


  VERSE 14. Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my
  fathers.

Speaking now of the Mosaic Law, Paul declares that he was wrapped up in
it. To the Philippians he wrote: "As touching the law, a Pharisee;
concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which
is in the law, blameless." He means to say, "I can compare myself with the
best and holiest of all those who are of the circumcision. Let them show
me if they can, a more earnest defender of the Mosaic Law than I was at
one time. This fact, O Galatians, should have put you on your guard against
these deceivers who make so much of the Law. If anybody ever had reason
to glory in the righteousness of the Law, it was I."
I too may say that before I was enlightened by the Gospel, I was as
zealous for the papistical laws and traditions of the fathers as ever a man
was. I tried hard to live up to every law as best I could. I punished myself
with fasting, watching, praying, and other exercises more than all those
who today hate and persecute me. I was so much in earnest that I imposed
upon my body more than it could stand. I honored the pope as a matter of
conscience. Whatever I did, I did with a single heart to the glory of God.
But our opponents, well-fed idlers that they are, will not believe what I
and many others have endured.


  VERSES 15, 16, 17. But when it pleased God, who separated me from
  my mother's womb, and called me by his grace. To reveal his Son in
  me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I
  conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to
  them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and
  returned again unto Damascus.

Here Paul relates that immediately upon being called by God to preach the
Gospel to the Gentiles, he went into Arabia without consulting a single
person. "When it had pleased God," he writes, "I did not deserve it. I had
been an enemy of Christ. I had blasphemed His Gospel. I had shed innocent
blood. In the midst of my frenzy I was called. Why? On account of my
outrageous cruelty? Indeed not. My gracious God who shows mercy unto
whom He will, pardoned all mine iniquities. He bestowed His grace upon
me, and called me for an apostle."

We also have come to the knowledge of the truth by the same kindness of
God. I crucified Christ daily in my cloistered life, and blasphemed God by
my wrong faith. Outwardly I kept myself chaste, poor, and obedient. I was
much given to fasting, watching, praying, saying of masses, and the like.
Yet under the cloak of my outward respectability I continually mistrusted,
doubted, feared, hated, and blasphemed God. My righteousness was a filthy
puddle. Satan loves such saints. They are his darlings, for they quickly
destroy their body and soul by depriving them of the blessings of God's
generous gifts.

I tell you I stood in awe of the pope's authority. To dissent from him I
considered a crime worthy of eternal death. I thought of John Huss as a
cursed heretic. I counted it a sin even to think of him. I would gladly have
furnished the wood to burn him. I would have felt I had done God a real
service.

In comparison with these sanctimonious hypocrites of the papacy,
publicans and harlots are not bad. They at least feel remorse. They at least
do not try to justify their wicked deeds. But these pretended saints, so far
from acknowledging their errors, justify them and regard them as
acceptable sacrifices unto God.


  VERSE 15. When it pleased God.

"By the favor of God I, a wicked and cursed wretch, a blasphemer,
persecutor, and rebel, was spared. Not content to spare me, God granted
unto me the knowledge of His salvation, His Spirit, His Son, the office of
an apostle, everlasting life." Paul speaking.

God not only pardoned our iniquities, but in addition overwhelmed us with
blessings and spiritual gifts. Many, however, are ungrateful. Worse, by
opening again a window to the devil many begin to loathe God's Word, and
end by perverting the Gospel.


  VERSE 15. Who separated me from my mother's womb.

This is a Hebrew expression, meaning to sanctify, ordain, prepare. Paul is
saying, "When I was not yet born God ordained me to be an apostle, and in
due time confirmed my apostleship before the world. Every gift, be it
small or great, spiritual or temporal, and every good thing I should ever
do, God has ordained while I was yet in my mother's womb where I could
neither think nor perform any good thing. After I was born God supported
me. Heaping mercy upon mercy, He freely forgave my sins, replenishing me
with His grace to enable me to learn what great things are ours in Christ.
To crown it all, He called me to preach the Gospel to others."


  VERSE 15. And called me by his grace.

"Did God call me on account of my holy life? Or on account of my
pharisaical religion? Or on account of my prayers, fastings, and works?
Never. Well, then, it is certain God did not call me on account of my
blasphemies, persecutions, oppressions. What prompted Him to call me?
His grace alone."


  VERSE 16. To reveal his Son to me.

We now hear what kind of doctrine was committed to Paul: The doctrine
of the Gospel, the doctrine of the revelation of the Son of God. This
doctrine differs greatly from the Law. The Law terrorizes the conscience.
The Law reveals the wrath and judgment of God. The Gospel does not
threaten. The Gospel announces that Christ is come to forgive the sins of
the world. The Gospel conveys to us the inestimable treasures of God.


  VERSE 16. That I might preach him among the heathen.

"It pleased God," says the Apostle, "to reveal himself in me. Why? For a
twofold purpose. That I personally should believe in the Son of God, and
that I should reveal Him to the Gentiles."

Paul doe not mention the Jews, for the simple reason that he was the
called and acknowledged apostle of the Gentiles, although he preached
Christ also to the Jews.

We can hear the Apostle saying to himself: "I will not burden the Gentiles
with the Law, because I am their apostle and not their lawgiver. Not once
did you Galatians hear me speak of the righteousness of the Law or of
works. My job was to bring you the Gospel. Therefore you ought to listen to
no teachers of the Law, but the Gospel: not Moses, but the Son of God; not
the righteousness of works, but the righteousness of faith must be
proclaimed to the Gentiles. That is the right kind of preaching for
Gentiles."


  VERSE 16. Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.

Once Paul had received the Gospel from Christ, he conferred with nobody
in Damascus. He asked no man to teach him. He did not go up to Jerusalem
to sit at the feet of Peter and the other apostles. At once he preached
Jesus Christ in Damascus.


  VERSE 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were
  apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto
  Damascus.

"I went to Arabia before I saw any of the apostles. I took it upon myself
to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles without delay, because Christ had
called me for that purpose." This statement refutes the assertion of the
false apostles that Paul had been a pupil of the apostles, from which the
false apostles inferred that Paul had been instructed in the obedience of
the Law, that therefore the Gentiles also ought to keep the Law and submit
to circumcision.


  VERSES 18, 19. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see
  Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles
  saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

Paul minutely recounts his personal history to stop the cavil of the false
apostles. Paul does not deny that he had been with some of the apostles.
He went to Jerusalem uninvited, not to be instructed, but to visit with
Peter. Luke reports the occasion in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts.
Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles and related to them how Paul had
met the Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus, also how Paul had preached
boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Paul says that he saw Peter and
James, but he denies that he learned anything from them.

Why does Paul harp on this seemingly unimportant fact? To convince the
churches of Galatia that his Gospel was the true Word of Christ which he
learned from Christ Himself and from no man. Paul was forced to affirm
and re-affirm this fact. His usefulness to all the churches that had used
him as their pastor and teacher was at stake.


  VERSE 20. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God,
  I lie not.

Was it necessary for Paul to go under oath? Yes. Paul is reporting
personal history. How else would the churches believe him? The false
apostles might say, "Who knows whether Paul is telling the truth?" Paul,
the elect vessel of God, was held in so little esteem by his own Galatians
to whom he had preached Christ that it was necessary for him to swear an
oath that he spoke the truth. If this happened to Paul, what business have
we to complain when people doubt our words, or hold us in little regard,
we who cannot begin to compare ourselves with the Apostle?


  VERSE 21. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

Syria and Cilicia are adjacent countries. Paul traces his movements
carefully in order to convince the Galatians that he had never been the
disciple of any apostle.


  VERSES 22, 23, 24. And was unknown by face unto the churches of
  Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, that he which
  persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he
  destroyed. And they glorified God in me.

In Syria and Cilicia Paul won the indorsement of all the churches of
Judea, by his preaching. All the churches everywhere, even those of Judea,
could testify that he had preached the same faith everywhere. "And," Paul
adds, "these churches glorified God in me, not because I taught that
circumcision and the law of Moses should be observed, but because I urged
upon all faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."








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