At the beginning of the letter to the Galatians, Paul must clarify his relationship with the Jerusalem church. Polhill wonders why Paul thought he had to spend so much effort at the beginning of this letter to prove his independence of his Apostolic office (Paul and his Letters, 146). The usual answer, he comments, is that his opponents, the Judaizers, are attacking him as an illegitimate apostle, forcing him to defend his calling.
There is another possibility for this autobiographical section, according to Polhill. He may be offering his life as a model for the Galatians. Paul was converted to a gospel of freedom on the road to Damascus, just as the Galatians were when Paul preached that gospel to them. Just as Paul did not go back to Jerusalem and place himself under the authority of the old order, now the Galatians ought to resist “returning to Jerusalem” by keeping the Law.
The bottom line is that if Paul is under the authority of Jerusalem, then it is at least possible that the “men from James” could claim that Paul has not been authorized to preach a gospel to the Gentiles which frees them from the Law. These Judaizers may have styled themselves as the real followers of Jesus and Paul as the aberration. Paul therefore stresses that his calling is from the resurrected Jesus himself and that his gospel came directly from the Lord.
At issue here is not the Gospel that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-5). Paul clearly states that this gospel was passed along to him as the primary core of the gospel. It is also clear that the preaching of Christ Crucified can be found in the apostolic preaching form the beginning. What Paul is going to argue in the next two chapters is that his Gospel is Christ Crucified, but when the death and resurrection of Christ is applied to the gentiles, they are not under the Law. They are not converts to Judaism by rather adopted children of God and therefore free from the law.
Was Paul really as “independent” as he claims in these verses?
14 thoughts on “Galatians 1:10-2:19 – Paul’s Freedom”
I think Paul spends so much time clarifying his independence in order to show the Galatians that his message could only have been inspired by God (Gal. 1:11-12) and to show that he wasn’t under anybody’s authority but God’s (even though he does stress the theme of unity and does his best to be one with his other fellow believers). Paul’s life was turned totally upside down after his conversion. Reeves’ book showed this in detail on page 26. Everything he believed and fought so zealously for as a pharisee got flipped over after he saw Christ on the road to Damascus. He began preaching “his Gospel” message soon after and somehow had all of the information that the other churches had been teaching, along with his mystery and mission to the Gentiles that Christ revealed to him. He was not taught this information by the others, and so it had to have been from God meaning that what Paul said held a lot of weight. Essentially he said, “If you are looking away from the message I brought to you, you are straying from the very message of God” and that is nothing to be taken lightly! Paul wanted the gentiles to hold strong to the message of Jesus, the message that only God’s Grace can save us, and so he had to make sure they understood that his words and message were inspired by God and nobody else.
Paul was extremely independent, yet not in the sense that we may use the word today. His independence was not based upon his not wanting others to join in his efforts, but rather a separation from the law. He wanted to be separate from the Judaizers and the other religious leaders. They weren’t preaching a different Gospel, so to speak, but were adding to it and that is what made Paul so upset. In other words, that is why he felt the need to fully convince the Galatians that he was not part of the Jerusalem church, but rather was set aside for this mission by Jesus Christ himself. It occurred to me, while reading “Spirituality According to Paul,” that doing this mission would have been exceedingly harder than that of the Judaizers. Paul was, in essence, preaching a message that was contrary to everything that the Jews and Gentiles had been taught. It was revolutionary. I’m convinced that Paul would have had to be independent, because his life after his conversion changed so much. Rodney Reeves states that, “Paul used to boast about his pedigree, his religion, his passion for “the cause,” how he was always right. After Damascus the only thing he could boast about was the cross of Christ” (Reeves, 25). Paul chose to take up Christ’s mission and thus chose to be independent apart from the Jerusalem church. He was as independent as he makes himself seem, in my opinion, however his dependency was upon Christ and what He had done in his life.
I believe that Paul may have been independent, but not the way that we think it to be today. When I think of independence, I think of being alone, and supporting myself all by myself, but when we talk about Paul being independent, it is that he was not dependent on the other apostles. However, I believe that Paul is fully dependent on Christ. He says in Galatians 1:11-12 “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 i from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Also, Paul has the support of the Antioch church, so through that I would not see him as being as independent as it makes it seem.
In these verses, Paul makes a clear point that he is independent from Jerusalem. He wants to send a clear message to the Galatians that he is not under Jerusalem’s direct sending, that he is preaching the word because of his Damascus road experience. His calling comes from God (Gal 1:12). However, he is not as independent as he may seem, because he is fully dependent on God and he also depends on the other apostles at times, and the church in Antioch. Polhill says, “Paul’s mission continued to be formally supported by the church of Antioch (Polhill, 135). So although he may have been independent of the Jerusalem church and Judaism he still depended on other Christ followers.
Under the law many laws had been made in order to keep the law, these of human understanding. Paul’s freedom coming from Christ in his death and resurrection comes not from a human understanding but from a understanding of Christ’s work on the cross for us. Its this many have problems during the time to grasp “to take in the smell of death, Christ’s death and ours is to declare that we are very much alive.” (reeves 40) Its this death and living again that set him free fulfilling the law and giving Paul his new found freedom. Since people have existed they have resisted change and have tried to keep doing the old way up until the bitter and as they fear change. These “followers of James” seem to be people who wish to keep things the way they are or at least until they know this is from God. I believe there is a good intention of trying to hold the gentiles to the old standard but not of God.
Paul was definitely more independent than he was dependent. When Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, it was not just a conversion to Christianity, but a conversion of his entire being. When God told Paul His mission for him, it essentially became Paul’s identity. “The same was true of his second visit to Jerusalem. He went of his own free will, by revelation” (Pohill, 146). Ministry was Paul’s life, not just because God told him that that’s what he demanded, but also because Paul willingly chose to.
In order for Paul to “prove” to the Judaizers that he was an apostle, he had to go to great depths to do so. Many things clouded the truth for Judaizers to believe that Paul was sent by God. First, who the heck even was Paul? what gives him the right to be teaching this new gospel? Why does he not have to live under the law? By providing his letter with logical reasonings as to who he was and if this gospel was true or not, it would have broken down resistance and disbelieving assumptions from the Galatians and Judaizers.
In reading these verses and studying how Paul is talking and what he is saying, it is very clear and evident that he is independent. Paul clearly showed that his independence was not from men but from the law. Paul is also showing his independence on who he is called to preach the gospel to and his independence in his message as opposed to others. He is independent in his calling and his mission, which is to reach the gentiles. Paul’s calling is different and his calling from God and Christ Jesus is that he is set apart for a different work than all the other apostles or disciples. They are called to the Jews, but Paul is called to be independent and separate from them and minister to the gentiles.
I think for the most part, Paul really was as independent as he claimed in the verses. I think the main reason he wouldn’t be as independent as we think he might be is that God already had all of his life and ministry planned out. Paul was doing what he was doing because that was what God had called him to do – he needed to rely on God. Polhill says, “Obviously Paul was concerned to establish the independence of his gospel. it came directly from God. He was called from his mothers’ womb” (Polhill 146). I think the main reason Paul provided the long autobiographical section was because I did want to be an example to the Galatians. They were surrounded by false teaching and ‘false people’ that Paul needed to be that breath of fresh air to them, something new and better – someone/something real.
I believe that Paul was more free and independent. Paul says that there is no binding by the Law. even though he was independent in his faith in Jesus Christ, he still lived by the Law. it is impotent to realize that because he was living by the Law, he did not believe that this was the only way to please God, He did this more just to show God his personal relationship between him and God. I like how Paul always says that we are not bound by the Law but also says do not just ignore it. I still believe that there is reasons for the Law in today world and that we should still try our hardest to hold them.
Paul was independent in a different way than what we think independent means today. Paul was dependent on God, but independent with the help of other apostles. Paul wanted to make sure that he established himself to be independent on his own gospel, and not be accused of being a false apostle. Polhill writes, “It came directly from God. He was called from his mother’s womb. It was neither his own doing nor that of any other person” (Polhill 146). As like you said before it wasn’t that Paul was teaching falsely of the gospel, but teaching that the Gentiles were not under the law, but adopted to God. But that is the way God planned things out for Paul. God wanted Paul to teach what Paul taught. So even though Paul was independent, he was dependent on God to know what to teach.
Paul makes it very clear that the “men from James” have no authority over his teaching. Paul certainly is independent from the Jerusalem leaders in that he cites Jesus Christ Himself as the source of both his Gospel and his calling. (Galatians 1:11-17). Although the “men from James” were trying to pull Christianity down to a physical plane, making it about works and human authority, Paul begins his letter by reminding the Galatian believers that it is by God’s authority that we operate and He alone is responsible for providing salvation.
It seems that Paul is independent and is anxious to show this perhaps to further prove his “Law-free” gospel. However, Paul was still connected to the other apostles in that he goes to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) or to the meeting with James (Gal 2), as he had the desire to have his apostleship and message to the gentiles known to all and his leadership accepted by those at the Council. In this way it helped preserve unity in the early church. Paul is independent from the other apostles though he maintains cordial relations but he is only focused on living a life that exemplifies his gospel to the Gentiles and he cannot do that while being closely tied to the Jerusalem Jews. Paul’s life was an example of what the gospel looks like. A life that was bound by the Law, but freed through Christ. Reeves argues that “Paul was saying to his converts…I am raised with Christ to walk in this new life. Old things have passed away in my life…” (94). It seems that Paul was so desperate to show his independence so that he could win more to Christ by showing that you did not need to live like a Jew to be saved.
I believe it is actually harder to try to distinguish Paul’s “non-independency” than his “independency.” It is clear, throughout his letters to the churches, especially in the letter written to the Galatians, that he has been transformed by the influence of the Gospel. Now, I don’t completely want to fault the church in Galatia for underestimating Paul’s inerrant transformation. If I were in the same shoes as them, I might have been equally hesitant about having someone preach who was a former oppressor. Yes, he did persecute the very church that he was trying to preach to (Gal. 1:13), but that was before God enlightened him with the new Gospel through revelation. Therefore, that would not justify my actions, as a member of the Galatian Church, to look wrongfully upon a man who upheld the gospel to the highest standard of authenticity. In sharp paradox and almost in complete irony, three years later we find the Judean churches accepting the gospel presented by Paul with arms wide open (Gal. 1:24).
Paul was independent, but as he continued to preach the gospel, he may have become more dependent in the process. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). For example, when we accept Jesus into our hearts, we don’t automatically let go of our selfish ways and it is a process to becoming more like Him. In chapter one, Paul acknowledged that it was God who set him apart, but he did not want to talk to anyone about it at first (Galatians 1:15-16). Scripture says, Paul waited three years before going to Jerusalem (vs 18) I think that is a representation of the process of God working in our hearts to prepare us for the next season of life.