The Good News of God’s Authority
Galatians 1:1; 11–24
There was an authority problem among the Galatians churches. Their people were listening to Judaizers instead of listening to the apostle’s teaching. They once received this teaching, but now have begun listening to the wrong authority. Jesus has authority in heaven and on earth. It is important that we understand that God has the authority over all matters of life. But why should we subject ourselves to Paul’s version of authority and not some other alternative?
I. The Authority of God’s Son was the origin of Paul’s Ministry (Galatians 1:1)
Paul begins his letter, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” We will save the latter part of this sentence for Easter Sunday, but leading up to the statement on the resurrection is the authority of the Son of God. Paul says that his ministry was “not from men” meaning the ultimate source from which his ministry was derived was Jesus Christ. He says that is not “through man” meaning the channel by which his ministry was conveyed was through Jesus Christ. His ministry is called apostleship. An “apostle” here is an official messenger or spokesperson commissioned directly by Jesus Christ. The apostles were together with the prophets the foundation of the church. It is laid once and there were a certain amount of them. Paul was not of the original twelve but became an apostle later when on the road to Damascus and was given a special calling to go to the Gentiles.
Paul’s call to ministry was just like the other apostles though. For example, Jesus called some apostles when they were with their father in the fishing trade and they left their nets and their father and followed Jesus. Jesus had authority to do this. Jesus did the same with one named Matthew and called him away from his business of being a tax collector for the government. Jesus had the authority to call these and designate them as his apostles.
The teaching of Jesus had authority. He did not teach them like the scribes or pharisees, but he taught them with authority! When he taught the sermon on the mount he said things like “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you!” He had divine authority. This is why Paul says in v.1 here “through Jesus Christ and God the Father.” If the channel from which Paul’s authority came was Jesus, then the ultimate source was the Father. The point is that the Son is put in conjunction with the Father.
In other letters you see a distinction between apostles and those following them in ministry. For example in Colossians 1:1 we read, “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.” Notice Timothy was not an apostle. He was a pastor in Ephesus, a young man being trained by the apostle. He is among the ones who are given by God to the church as evangelists and pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry so that the church is not tossed by every wind of doctrine; together with the apostles and prophets, yes, but there was a distinction. There was a special authority that was given to Paul to be an apostle. And of course there was an authority that was given to Timothy. Their roles were different, but the source of their authority was the same. But authority for ministry comes from Jesus who gives these for the purpose for which they are sent.
It is also important to note that this Jesus is Lord of all (Acts 10:36). Before Abraham was, He existed. And now he has been given the name above every name. He is seated at God’s right hand and is ruling until he puts all enemies under his feet. He is using the sword of his mouth to slay the nations and will do so to the end. He has all authority in heaven and earth. Because Paul’s ministry had the authority of Jesus it was able to overturn the legalism of the Galatian churches. It is done by God’s authority. We need authoritative ministry today. We must understand a definition of ministry that comes from God. God still gives pastors and teachers though he does not give apostles any longer. And we must set the standard for ministry as one that requires that God call the man and that man meets qualifications as set forth by God. Until then there is no hope to overturn false teaching of any sort, but when that is the standard, then false teaching will tumble because such ministry has its origin in the authority of God’s Son!
Furthermore, this authority is not just for apostles, prophets, and evangelists, pastors and teachers to consider. All Christians are to have a measure of authority over their lives as the origin of all authority is found in Jesus Christ. Stephen was a man who was full of grace and power (Acts 6:8). He was not a pastor or teacher, but a servant in the church. It is not learning, apologetics, advertising that makes the life of the Christian church powerful, but the authority of God’s Son. We have made ministry and church and the Christian life such a professional thing that we leave no room for God’s authority to take over. When the authority of god is the driving fource of ministry in every Christian’s life (and by ministry I mean every Christian serving the Lord in what they do in life) then it has the power to overturn legalism. Authority precedes power.
This is why preceding the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the authority he displayed over demons, over disease, over death, over the sea, over everything. He was displaying that he was God. It is this God the Son who sent Paul. God’s Son is the origin of Paul’s ministry. Just as God said of Jesus this is my Son, listen to him, God says to the churches, this is my apostle, receive his ministry.
The church was dedicated to four things: the apostle’s teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). These things preceded the power of the early church. If we are not vested in the Son of God’s authority; if we as a church do not find the origin of all authority in God’s Son we have none and we can experience no power. But if we take Jesus as the channel and the Father as the source of all authority then we may experience the power of God in our lives and ministries because such authority does not originate in man, but in God. God give us authority to conduct our lives according to your will!
The Christian does not pray to change God’s will, but wrestles with the will of God, and surrenders so that he prays, your will be done!
II. The Authority of God’s Scriptures was the origin of Paul’s Message (Galatians 1:11–22)
This comes in layers, three to be exact. Paul is not only building his case against a false gospel by his ministry, but also by his message. He sets forth several sets of positive affirmations and denials.
His message was not from Men but from God’s revelation:
He says in v.11
“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
This is vastly different from Timothy and others who were taught the gospel. Paul was not taught it, but received it by revelation. This is the first positive affirmation made. He denies it is from man and affirms it came by revelation of God. He says in v.16 that he did not consult with anyone (a denial) and then he also says affirmatively that he received this message by God revealing his Son to him in the verse (v.16).
His message was not due to his judaic upbringing but from God’s effectual call:
In v.13–15 we read:
“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace.”
His message was not from any church, place, or any of the other apostles but originated from God:
In vv. 17–22 we read:
“nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.”
That’s the denial, it lacks an affirmation at least explicitly, but the idea is that he did not get it from any other but God. The next point brings a positive affirmation of sorts, but before this, consider that first, as great as men are they are not God. They do not have a saving message in themselves. The truth we need stands outside this world except that God bring it to us; and not merely bring that truth to us, but give us the grace to believe it. Second, consider that as great as family is, a good upbringing stands no chance to save; the grace of God alone saves! Third, consider that there is not a church or place that can be credited with giving authority to the saving message of the gospel, but only that such is the very Word of God! The Word of God rules; it ruled Paul’s ministry and thus had the authority to overturn the tables of legalism.
In Galatians 2, Peter and other are rebuked by Paul’s authority of the Scriptures. Did Peter resent this? Did Peter reject this? No. In 2 Peter 3:15–16 he affirms Paul’s authority saying,
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
There was obviously no doubt about Paul’s written authority being Scripture and the very practical sword to combat legalism. It did so in the apostle Peter’s life. Even the apostles and prophets are subject to the authority of the Scriptures.
III. The Authority of God’s Spirit was the origin of Paul’s Metanoia (Repentance; Galatians 1:23–24)
Paul went from persecuting to preaching. There is perhaps no greater indication of repentance than his. He was set forth as an example to all the nations. He experienced metanoia repentance. Metanoia is a greek word made up of two Greek words. The first Meta which means with, besides or after. We get our word metaphysics from this word which means to go beyond the physical realm. Metaverse means go beyond this verse, universe, reality or world. The second word is noia which means mind. So, metanoia repentance means to go beyond the mind. Have you ever felt bad about something you have done and wanted to change it? You need to go beyond the mind. You need to actually change.
Paul was going in the complete opposite direction of God with his life. Instead of loving the church he was persecuting the church. And this is what he said happened; really what others testified had happened. The news on the street was this:
“They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.” (vv. 23–24)
The origin of Paul’s metanoia was the authority of the Holy Spirit. Only God could have changed someone like this. He went from persecuting to preaching. Listen, someone can say they have repented, but do others say they have repented? Rushdoony quoting Ridderbos says,
“that these churches did not doubt the genuineness and integrity of Paul’s calling and preaching even though some of these churches had previously suffered because of Paul.”
When there is that change, it is a repentance wrought by God the Holy Spirit. Paul was blind to his way of life, he was persecuting God’s people, and now he was preaching to them. Only the authority of God could wield such power!
Legalism was the problem in Galatia. Judaizers were claiming authority on the message of the gospel. They were demanding a temporary sign be placed on Gentiles to be truly children of God, the sign of circumcision. Paul confronted this with authority. It was an authority of God’s Son; authority of God’s Scriptures, and authority of God’s Spirit. Listen if you don’t have God’s authority, you have man’s authority trying to take its place—and that is the problem! But no legalism can stand up against the authority of God. Paul brought the authority of God to bear upon the legalists among the churches of Galatia. May the sword of Christ’s mouth slay legalism today and free God’s people to submit to His authority through the ministry, message, and testified metanoia of Paul. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ!