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Studies in Galatians

Standing Fast In The Liberty By Which Christ Has Made Us Free (See 5:1)

Galatians 1:11-24

Credibility Gaps

When parents just don’t understand their children, or when children just don’t trust their parents, it has sometimes been attributed to a “generation gap.” When this type of distrust or misunderstanding occurs between men and women, husbands and wives, it is sometimes referred to as a “gender gap.” When the public has a hard time trusting a public servant, or some other public speaker, it might be called a “credibility gap.” No one wants such gaps to occur in the bond of trust, and when they do, attempts are usually made to “bridge the gap.”

On the other hand, of course, there are some who deliberately try to create gaps of trust. Some advertisers might hope to make potential customers distrustful of the product they are presently using so that they will purchase the competitor’s product. Some may try to stir people to dissatisfaction with working conditions, wages, employers, public officials, or some other condition of life, in order to influence their choice of telephone companies, or employers, or elected officials. Some might even try to stir up distrust between partners and spouses, if they think it might bring some benefit to the “stirrer.”

Religious “Gappers”

There were some in the churches of Galatia who wanted to create such a gap between the members there and the apostle Paul, who had first brought them the gospel. Of course, it wasn’t really Paul who was the main target of their attack. It was his message: that a good child/Father relationship with God is freely given to us through the life and death of Jesus Christ in our place. Often such “gappers” may come with faint praise, something like: “Now this Paul fellow really made a good start, and he was absolutely right as far as he went, but now the good news is that you can rise higher! In fact, to be a true Christian you must rise higher.”

Paul declared that this new “good news” was not really good news at all, even if it was brought by an angel from heaven. It was only a polluting of the gospel with law, giving with taking, salvation with condemnation. What’s more, the credibility gap which the false brothers in Galatia were trying to create was not a matter of choosing a cleanser, a spaghetti sauce, a congressman, or a governor. The detractors in Galatia wanted the people to distrust a message from God.

Paul emphasizes this in the opening of his letter to them, when he points out that his apostleship was from Jesus Christ; and again in verse eleven, when he wants them to know that the gospel he preached is not something man-made or taught him by man. What he had learned from men was Judaism, and he had learned it so well that he had persecuted the church of God, had tried to destroy it. If Paul did not make keeping Judah’s God-given law a condition for receiving the blessings of the gospel, it certainly wasn’t because he was unfamiliar with that law. He had learned it well at the feet of Gamaliel.

No Gap Here

But the gospel, and Paul’s apostleship to proclaim it, was not something he had gotten from men. It was entirely God’s doing. God had set him apart for this work from his mother’s womb and then in time had revealed His Son to him that he might preach Christ among the Gentiles.

This was not some hobby of Paul’s, and the teaching was not “Pauline” in the sense that he had produced it. Nor was it “apostolic” in the sense that Paul had learned his message from the other apostles, as though he was an apostle “once-removed.” No, he had not even consulted with the other apostles until some years after he had been preaching Christ. He had been called by Christ to declare that in Him God had reconciled the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and the apostles were as amazed as everyone else when he who once had tried to destroy the faith was now proclaiming it!

This message was and is truly from God, and worthy of our total trust also!

— Prof. Paul Schaller