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Lowell Brueckner

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Are You Christ’s Servant?


En expository Bible study in Galatians

Paul stoned and left for dead in Listra, Galatia
We begin an expositional Bible study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It is simply the Apostle Paul’s powerful argument in defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It goes to the very heart and core of the Christian message, advocating saving faith and the liberty that comes through believing the truth. It declares war against legal bondage and its Judaizing proponents, who were false apostles that came from Jerusalem. They attempted to claim support from the Jerusalem Church and its apostolic leadership.

John Bunyan called Luther’s commentary on this book the greatest work outside the Bible. With the exception of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Galatians was certainly the book that best defines the Reformation. It was immensely useful in attacking Roman Catholic tyranny of that time.

We will make an attempt, most importantly, to capture the original meaning of the document, recognizing its Author, as in the case of all Scripture, to be the Holy Spirit. Whenever this is the case, we are confronted with eternal truth and spiritual principle, useful to Christians in every period of church history. Therefore, we should be able to make an application to our situation in the 21st Century. It should help us to see, whether there are parallels today with the Galatian situation and if we line up with Paul’s message.

We need to take a serious look into this inspired teaching and then make an equally serious examination of where we stand in relation to it. Finally, we will need to obtain correction and powerful help from the living Word of God, which is able to raise us above any downfall that we have experienced and remove any obstruction to the will of God that stands in our way.

CHAPTER 1:1-10
V. 1, 2. “Paul, an apostle… not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead… and all the brothers who are with me: To the churches of Galatia.”

Paul has often, but not always in his epistles, presented himself as an apostle, called by God. He does so here, but what is unique in this introduction, is that he clearly identifies a source, which has nothing to do with his calling. What follows and continues to the end of chapter two is an exposure of this bogey source, examining it in the light of the true calling that Paul has received. The difference between these two sources distinguishes true Christianity from an imitation.

I am referring to the phrase, “not from men nor through man”. Because of the situation in Galatia that Paul is confronting, he makes it clear that no man, including himself, or any leadership from any party or movement, was involved in the launching of his ministry. The proof is to follow. 

Paul had his apostleship by Jesus Christ, who thought it of extreme importance that people must recognize that God the Father authorized His coming and His work. Jesus often claimed that His Father sent Him. In like manner, Paul is a sent one, a delegate, an ambassador, who has been brought into this great, divine purpose, initiated through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, although not mentioned, is to be identified with Paul, residing in him and empowering him for this heavenly mission, which carries eternal consequences. To bring a greater impact upon his readers, Paul reminds the Galatians that the Father God, who had called him, was the same One who raised Christ from the dead, never to die again.

Paul calls those, who accompany him, his brothers. Of course, we will not question his leadership, but simply bring attention to the way, in which he handled it. It was based totally on the teaching of Jesus, who put limitations on Christian leaders. Obviously, we can only touch on the subject. 

In Mark 10:42-43: “Those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.” In Luke 22:26: “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” In Matthew 23:8: “You are all brothers.We will simply notice one instance, in which this New Testament principle was practically carried out by Paul’s team. In Acts 16:9-10: “A vision appeared to Paul… immediately we (not Paul alone) sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us (not only Paul) to preach the gospel to them.” Even this one paragraph, I think, is enough to catch the spirit of equality and brotherhood that existed among the early believers.

Paul wrote the epistle to various churches in the south of a region called Galatia. Paul was from Tarsus, located near this Roman province and the cities in which the churches were located were Antioch (Pisidean), Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. They were churches that Paul and Barnabas founded.

V. 3-5. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Grace and peace is Paul’s greeting in all his letters, but the apostle, under the anointing of the Spirit, is not wasting words by exchanging pleasantries. He is proclaiming spiritual blessing upon the readers coming directly from heaven’s throne room, where Christ sits on the right hand of the Father. Peace… shalom… is the Jewish traditional greeting to this day, but in the New Testament religion of the heart, it is the peace of God that reigns. It means that reconciliation has been achieved and all is well between God and the creature.

Grace is the central virtue of the gospel, bringing God’s favor upon unworthy man. It was accomplished through the sacrifice of the Lamb, who removed the enmity between God and man, by destroying sin. A deliverance also took place. Paul will have much to say about this “present evil age”, including its religion, in his letter, and will point to Christian liberty, resulting from the cross. The church is made up of called out ones and the necessary separation from the world was also the work of Christ’s cross. Christianity is to be something totally apart from the present system in essence, in thought and in practice.

This age is evil and the purposes of God will have nothing to do with it. Those who have been called apart have come into the eternal will of God. There is nothing in it, for which man can take credit or own, and to do so is to rob God of His glory. In the true church of Jesus Christ, all the glory belongs to God. Wherever man has been or is exalted, you have a perversion.

The word amen is universally spoken, regardless of the believers’ native language, in the church. It is a word, which can only be applied to godly things and there is no human substitute for it. This is the word that Jesus used, whenever we have it translated, “Truly, truly” in English. He is literally saying, “Amen, amen” and it denotes divine truth that cannot be altered or disputed. It is absolute!

V.6-10. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel… not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

In this 21st Century, if we are truly believers, we have to remember that our roots are here in the early church founded by Christ and the apostles, not the beginning of the particular movement, to which we belong. Our loyalty also must be firmly placed here. Too many times, members have a strong attachment to the place and people, where they have their spiritual beginnings and are in danger of becoming sectarian. (To be sectarian, does not necessarily denote that a person belongs to a sect or cult, but indicates an unreasonable loyalty to their particularly branch of Christianity. It creates an inflated image of it, and causes a heart separation from the Body of Christ.)

This can easily happen, if they surround themselves with people, who all see things as they do. It creates a certain blindness to the truth of Scripture, as well as to the errors of their system, and there is a danger of actually falling from grace (if, indeed, they have ever truly come into grace). Examine yourself and your environment! If it happened to a New Testament church founded by Paul, it certainly can happen today.

Notice that they are not deserting something, but Someone. God refuses to compete and they are taking voluntary action away from Him. In the beginning, Adam and Eve sinned and hid from the Creator. In Revelation, the church of Ephesus left (they did not lose) their first love.

The Galatians were called into grace, but more than tarnished, grace is annulled by confidence in another message. “You have fallen away from grace” (5:4). Paul declares it more than once, in different ways, in the letter. Some hear a distorted gospel from the beginning of their spiritual experience; the Galatians are being led away from the true gospel into that which is contrary.  He makes it clear that there is only one message of good news and anything that diverts from it is bad news, no matter how good it sounds.

In the true gospel, man is vulnerable and expendable and Paul includes himself, the one who originally brought the gospel to them. He goes further, adding angels to the potentially accursed… hell’s angels? Not at all! He says, “An angel from heaven!” Woe be to the person, who puts his confidence in men or angels. This is not a human or angelic endeavor; the gospel is God’s business. In the New Testament always, loyalty was tied to truth, not to a man or his system. Paul is not dealing lightly with this question, but pronounces and confirms a declaration of condemnation upon false teachers.

How can Paul be so sure that what he and Barnabas brought to the Galatians was the true gospel? First of all, we must go to the record in Acts, particularly as it pertained to their departure from Antioch, Syria, and their entrance into Galatia: “So being sent out by the Holy Spirit… they proclaimed the word of God… We bring you the good news that…God promised to the fathers… The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord… It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you… They began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord… The word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region…" (13:4, 5, 32, 44, 46, 48, 49 etc. etc.). Paul preached nothing … no personal revelations, no dreams, no visions. His authority and legitimacy was totally by the truth of the Scriptures.

Secondly, it is based upon the uniquely inspired teaching and illumination given to Paul, by the Holy Spirit, based on the Old Testament. He declares this in these first two chapters: “The gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel” (v.11). The apostles in Jerusalem gave testimony to it: “I… set before them… the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles… They gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me” (ch.2:2, 9). Peter made particular reference to the special inspiration upon Paul (see 2 Pe.3:15-16). His doctrine itself is particularly and clearly expounded in the book of Romans. No man, from apostolic days to present times, has ever been given again this kind of infallible inspiration. It is laughable that any leader should put himself in Paul’s shoes.

Could it be possible that such a person as Paul could return to Galatia with another message? Paul himself sets before us the possibility. However, none of the original apostles diverted from the true gospel, but I am concerned for the many leaders today who have. Deluded by hubris (irrational pride), flushed with success and a power-inflated ego, leaders fall, as surely as Lucifer from heaven, and they rarely humble themselves and repent.

Please consider seriously the plight of men-pleasers, who put their confidence in human flesh and blood. Paul sets the example for us; his aim was neither to gain approval nor to please men, seeking God’s approval exclusively. He then lays out divine principle, applicable not only to himself, but to every true disciple of Christ and lover of God. He declares that no one can be a servant of Christ, who tries to please man. This principle is taught throughout Scripture and cannot be side-stepped. It is time again for self-examination: Do you fear God and seek His honor alone or are you motivated by a desire of promotion and approval from men? Have you been taught that faithfulness to human leadership is the same as faithfulness to Christ? Then you are blindly deluded. The sincere and honest answer to questions like these determines whether or not you are a servant of Christ!


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