St. Paul, personally

“I make known to you”. These words are taken from the first chapter of St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians


As it happens, this epistle is one of the most personal that St. Paul wrote. “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand” (Gal. 6:11) he says at the end of the epistle. He was so inspired that he did not wait for an official scribe to write the epistle for him, as was the custom in those days. The allusion to “large letters” is because of an eye disease that he had at the time, some sort of infection.


For when the holy Apostle rebukes the Galatians for their un steadfastness, he reminds them that in the past, they would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him, if it were possible (Gal. 4:15). Now, however, they were turning away from the Gospel he had brought to them


The epistle to the Galatians is unique in that it is not addressed to the Christians of a certain city, such as Corinth, Thessalonica or Rome, but to the Christians of an entire district called Galatia


In the Acts of the Apostles we find references to the Christians and non-Christians of Galatia and we read about the truly exciting events that happened to St. Paul and his disciples there. It is worth mentioning that in Lystra St. Paul was first adored, only to be stoned by the same people and left for dead outside the gates of the city (Acts 14)


Who are the Galatians? They are the ancestors of those nations that we know today as the British, the Irish and the French. St. Paul characterizes them as “foolish” (Gal. 3:1) and unstable. Their instability is the reason he is addressing them in the epistle, where his anger can be clearly felt. After his many trials and tribulations he had managed to bring them to Christ. He had barely left them to go on preaching the gospel, when they accepted false teachers who came to divert them from the Gospel of Christ and from his teachings


If you read the other epistles you will see that it was much the same everywhere. As soon as the holy Apostle preached the gospel in a certain place with good results, when he left to go on his way, false teachers would immediately show up like weeds to suffocate the wheat he had sown. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different Gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7)


The first thing these destroyers of the Holy Gospel of Christ attacked was St. Paul’s apostolic ministry. “Who is this Paul? He is neither a real apostle nor is his gospel the true gospel,” they said. They reminded the Christians in Galatia of Paul’s past, how he persecuted Christians and that his conversion was doubtful. “He has never seen Christ, let alone been with Him,” they would have said. This could have been a strong argument for the Galatians, for when the apostles gathered to fill in the place of the renegade Judas, this is what they said: “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:21 -22).


It is true that the holy Apostle Paul did not walk with Christ while he was in the body. But the Lord did call St. Paul into the apostolic ministry, He laid His hands on him. On his way to Damascus, when Saul, “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” (Acts 9:1) went looking to see if he can find “any who were of the Way, whether men or women” in order to bring them bound to Jerusalem (Acts 9:2), he had a vision from which he was blinded. After this his eyes opened and he saw everything in a clear and undeceiving light. Paul’s preparation for the apostolic ministry lasted three years (Gal. 1:18). Again, the Lord guided him during this time. “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered unto you,” (1 Cor. 11:23) he says to the Christians of Corinth


However this time, he goes right to the point, without his usual introduction and salutations. Already in his first sentence his intention is clear: “Paul, an apostle, not from men, nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Gal. 1:1). It is as though he were saying, “I am an apostle and it is a fact, whether you like it or not. I do not need any proof from men, for God Himself proved me. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood” (Gal. 1:15-16), he says


Further on he insists on his apostolic independence. After three years spent in preparation for his apostolic mission, he did not ask for anyone’s blessing, opinion or permission, but only spent about two weeks with St. Peter without seeing any of the other apostles except for James, the brother of the Lord (Gal. 1:16-19). “But from those who seemed to be something – whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to none – for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me” (Gal. 2:6). And even when he disagreed with Peter over Old Testament customs, St. Paul “withstood him to his face because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11). And Peter withdrew. Do we need better proof of Paul’s equality with the other apostles? If that was not sufficient for the Galatians, he reminds them in the end that to him was given the “right hand of fellowship” (Gal. 2:9) by those who were considered the pillars of Christianity – James, Peter and John


Therefore, if Apostle Paul is authentic, then the gospel that he preaches is also authentic. And again, without further ado, he says to the Galatians: “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel that was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). Truly, the apostles who had known Christ must have been full of awe at St. Paul’s deep immersion in the life of the early Church. He knew the finest details that were hidden from the eyes of the world, details known only to someone who had lived them personally. This means that only the Lord could have revealed to him the deepest secrets of the human mind. “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which he was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (1 Cr. 11:23-25)


Why does the Apostle reproach the Galatians and what does their conflict consist of? “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel.” (Gal. 1:6). And he continues: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). He repeats his curse again in the very next verse: “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9)


What is this “other” gospel? The Apostle spent many days with the Galatians, teaching them and making them strong in the faith, in order that they may be saved by grace. He taught them that the time of the Old Testament laws and customs had passed and that they, as Christians, were free from the bonds of Moses’ law. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13). “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). He gave them courage, teaching them that they were called to freedom (Gal. 5:13)


However, false brethren secretly came among them to spy out their liberty (Gal. 2:4) and to enslave them again in the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1). It was an attempt by false brethren to drive out Christ and replace Him with Moses. This is why St. Paul calls their gospel a perverse one. What he is trying to say to them is this: “I am not against Moses and the law that God gave to him, but I do aspire for you to know who is the realization and the incarnation of the Law of Moses and all the expectations of the prophets. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. For you, brethren, have been called to liberty, (Gal. 5:13) and please, stand fast in the liberty by which Christ freed you, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1)


This could inspire you to read all epistles of St. Paul  so that you may get familiar with this great saint and love him as much as I do.

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