1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)…
So begins Paul’s defense of the doctrine of justification, the centerpiece of his theology. The Galatian churches were being tempted to draw away from the living grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and return to a legalistic religion with compliance with the Law of Moses. The issue is so foundational to Christian faith, so crucial to all the Lord had revealed to Paul through direct revelation that he begins with no uncertain terms about his authority to address the issue.
As in all his letters, Paul identifies himself up front. But, unlike some of his other letters, he has no collaborators in writing to the Galatians. In light of the seriousness of his subject, he asserts his prerogative as an apostle for speaking authoritatively. As such, he carries great authority. He did not assume such a position for himself, but he affirms that this commissioning had come, not by human ecclesiastical ordination, but directly from God through the agency of none other than Jesus Christ. This is the One whom God raised from the dead and who is therefore still alive.
Paul’s authority was frequently challenged, especially through his early ministry when this letter was written. The bulk of his ministry was comprised of three missionary journeys throughout the eastern Mediterranean areas. Jewish pseudo believers dogged his steps, often entering into areas after Paul evangelized and attempted to bring the new believers in Christ back under the law. It was mixing law and grace, which as Paul demonstrates in this letter, completely undermines grace. This letter is a polemic, or a defense against such efforts. At its core, such false teaching negates the very gospel message that God had sent Paul to propagate. In other words, this is no small issue.
His ministry was all about the Lord Jesus Christ, it was authorized by God the Father and it carried out the implications of the resurrection. The centrality of justification by grace is the keynote message of the book, and of his ministry. It is the proverbial hill on which Paul took his stand and planted his flag. This is his ultimate “go to the wall” issue. Take this away and you gut the message of the gospel. So, he begins the letter with no ambiguity concerning his authority as an apostle of the Lord and his independence from any human ecclesiastical sources. He speaks as a mouth piece of God.
Lord, help me to understand the foundational truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ—justification by grace. If it was so important for You to give the letter defending this truth, help me to see its importance for my life and ministry.