Monday, October 16, 2017

God's Trinitarian Will

by Abram Germano

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

— Matt 7: 21-23

Equal Authority and Unity in the Godhead

In this famous and fearful passage from Matthew’s Gospel, the Son of God points to the will of his Father. Often these verses are rightly given as warning to professing believers that they ought examine themselves, to make their calling and election sure. The emphasis most always is on bewaring of a works based righteousness, which performing and tallying such supposed signs done in God’s name can surely take, but how often is this warning viewed in light of the Trinitarian weight contained in the immediate context of this and surrounding passages?
First, note the Divinity of the Son. Jesus does not refuse the title these professing believers cry to him. When they say “Lord, Lord,” Jesus readily receives the Divine title and name as one who has the authority to receive it. Contextually, this demonstrates a divinity ascribed to the Son who has every right to execute Divine judgement. Jesus also points to himself as the rightful mediator between his Father and all mankind by showing that not all who come to him saying his name will enter into his Father’s kingdom.
Second, note the Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son revealed in how Christ, the Son, places doing the will of his Father as the highest priority. Directly connected to this argument of doing the Father’s will, the Son quickly equates his Word and teaching with that of his Father’s will in the text immediately following:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”[1]
The fact that the Christ is equating himself with the Father here is contextually unavoidable. Note the deliberate parallel —

“…but the one who does
the will of my Father” (v. 21)
“Everyone then who hears
these words of mine and does them…”(v.25)[2]
It was teaching like this that inspired the Jewish leaders to kill him on account of blasphemy.[3]
Yet while the Son establishes his equal authority with the Father, he also demonstrates unity within the Godhead. This isn’t a power-grab on display,[4] nor an overthrow of previous authority, but a new revelation to man, via the Son, of what God’s authority actually looks like —  It’s Trinitarian. And as the verses following Matt 7:24-27 make clear, authority was certainly the issue:
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.[5]
The Divine Will Identified
Since it is “the one who does the will of [Christ’s] Father” who enters heaven, we must ask:
What light does Scripture shine on this divine will?
John chapter 6 has much to say concerning the eternal, Trinitarian will of God:
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[6]
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”[7] 
To do the work of God is to have a God-given faith that treasures the Son. Faith, exclusively in the Son, is the message Christ is proclaiming as the only access to the Father, and this is the eternal Divine Will. The Son has come down to earth from where he was before. The Son is eternal. His will is in union with his Father’s will, for they are in perfect fellowship and co-equal in Deity. The Son’s work, or will, is not opposed to the Father’s, but is purposed in and with the Father from all eternity.

The work of God then, is to wholly trust and feed solely upon the Bread that has come down from heaven.[8] It is to believe in the One the Father has sent, to confess the Son’s equal standing with the Father and obey his work and teaching. And this is all brought about by the personal work of the Holy Spirit.
Implications for God’s People
Thus, our gospel proclamation ought to be Trinitarian. When we proclaim Jesus, let us announce the richness of the eternal purpose within the Godhead for an elect people, of which not even one will be lost — the eternal Sonship of Christ, the immense demonstration of love in God’s condescending to his creation, the whole scope of biblical revelation in light of these truths — all while trusting the Holy Spirit to make it effectual for the elect! To miss the sovereign decree of a specific people given to the Son in Eternity past is to miss a beautiful dynamic into the Triune will of God. Speaking in knowingly broad brush strokes, Pentecostals in particular, but also many other denominations highly prioritize and seek after their own concepts of the mighty works referenced in Matt 7:22. These same groups typically are not strong on the doctrine of the Trinity and are in danger of Jesus’s warning that they don’t know him at all. We must know the Son revealed to us through the scriptures, not one created in men’s minds.
The Eternal Son of Scripture is mighty and awesome, and it is he, in Scripture, that has revealed the Trinitarian will of God. That will has always been about redeeming men from their sins through the sinless substitute once promised and now arrived. May our hope be rightly founded upon his Word, and our joy made complete in knowing him who took our place on that tree.

[1] Matt 7:24-27.
[2] Emphasis added for vv. 21 & 25.
[3] cf. Matt 26:63-66; Mark 2:7 & 14:60-64; Luke 5:21; John 5:1-19 & 10:30-33.
[4] cf. Phil 2:5-11.
[5] Matt 7:28-29. (emphasis added)
[6] John 6:28-29.
[7] John 6: 38-40.[8] John 6:41-59.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views [Review]

by Hiram R. Diaz III
Stanley J. Porter & Beth M. Stovell eds. 
(Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012), 224 pp.

Central to the Christian faith is the task of reading, understanding, and responding to the Word of God. Therefore, it is of utmost importance whether or not we have the proper hermeneutic when we approach the Word of God. Yet since the advent and departure of post-structuralism in philosophy and Christian theology, aspersions have been cast on the notion that there is any one correct way of interpreting any texts, let alone the most important text of all, viz. Scripture. Philosophical Modernism, with its emphasis on the autonomous “S”elf and the ability of unaided “R”eason (i.e. reason not aided by divine revelation) to eventually ascertain socio-cultural-historically transcendent truths. Prior to postmodernism, there was at least the general assumption that the meaning of a text could be known, and that this meaning would be universally comprehensible. After postmodernism, however, such an interpretive methodology was thought to be non-existent, a figment of the modernist’s imagination.

Postmodernism has had the positive effect of reminding scholars to not uncritically accept contemporary academic dogmas regarding interpretation. Ironically, however, it has also had the negative effect of opening the door for scholars to uncritically accept interpretive methods that are openly hostile to the Christian faith. Consequently, there have been many scholars who have sought to refine interpretive methods that rest upon certain presuppositions of the Christian faith that are shared by, at least in some respects, the modernist era. In Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views, we are presented with four interpretive methods whose proponents evaluate and engage with their co-authors’ views.

The book is roughly divisible into three parts — 
1. Five Views of Biblical Hermeneutics 
2. Responses 
3. Interpreting Together: Synthesizing Five Views of Biblical Hermeneutics
In Part One, the authors lay out their position, making some mention of the other views presented one another, highlighting basic agreements and disagreements between them. The authors not only articulate their view, drawing attention to their view’s strengths, but they also put their method to work in their interpretation of Matthew 2:7-15.

The five views are —
The Historical-Critical/Grammatical View - Craig L. Blomberg 
The Literary/Postmodern View - F. Scott Spencer 
The Philosophical/Theological View - Merold Westphal 
The Redemptive-Historical View - Richard B. Gaffin Jr. 
The Canonical View - Robert W. Wall
Of all of these views, the Redemptive-Historical method alone, in this author’s estimation, has the ability to provide an historical-critical/grammatical anchor for the interpretation of Scripture (represented by Blomberg), while simultaneously accounting for narratival literary devices critical to getting a better understanding of the text (as represented by F. Scott Spencer’s literary analysis of Matt 2:7-15), and a better understanding of how the canon itself contributes to the church’s understanding of the Scriptures (represented by Robert W. Wall). 

Gaffin’s criticisms of the other views presented in Biblical Hermeneutics are helpful in unearthing the problematic presuppositions of those positions. For instance, Gaffin notes that the historical-critical/grammatical view depends on modernist presuppositions that make it difficult to view the text as anything more than a human creation. Rather than the Scriptures having the final word, extrabiblical considerations (e.g. history) ultimately determine what the text is saying, a reality that can influence one’s belief in inerrancy. So while the historical-critical/grammatical view is necessary, it is subordinate to the flow of Scripture at the center of which is the redemptive work of God culminating in the incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God. 

Gaffin’s emphasis on the Christian metanarrative stands in contradiction to the postmodernist denial that any such overarching narrative exists. Texts may be richer in meaning than a merely historical-critical/grammatical interpretation lets on; however, that meaning can be ascertained by a careful study of God’s self-disclosure in Scripture, through many means of revelation, the apex of which is his self-disclosure in Christ (cf. Heb 1:1-3). What is more, while the postmodern view given in Biblical Hermeneutics attempts to delimit the extent of valid interpretive possibilities, Blomberg rightly notes that the constraints placed upon Spencer’s reading of Matt 2:7-15 do not “destabilize” the text (a la Derridean deconstruction), but achieve results that can be reproduced by the historical-critical/grammatical method of interpretation. This weakens the case for a postmodern method of interpretation.

The Canonical View places a needed emphasis on the sacrality of Scripture, a point which the historical-critical/grammatical and postmodern/literary views seem to undermine, it would seem, inadvertently by assuming the priority of, on the one hand, human authorial intention & historical placement (historical-critical/grammatical view) and, on the other hand, human interpretive predilection & historical placement (postmodern/literary view). However, Gaffin’s suggestion that the use of an extrabiblical “Rule of Faith” in effect amounts to using a “canon above the canon” is hard to deny. Scripture is the Christian’s rule, and to it all other norms are to be subordinated. The Canonical perhaps inadvertently inverts this relationship.

The closing section of this book attempts a synthesis of the five views, demonstrating, as the authors also recognize, that these reading interpretive methods are not necessarily all at odds with one another at the functional level. This is a helpful task, but it suffers from the same defect that the other views (excluding the historical-redemptive view) suffer from. The synthesis places the human reader at the center of interpretation, utilizing each method as an artist uses a variety of colors in creating a single painting. God, however, is not merely the author of the Scriptures, he is their active interpreter. Pivotal to the Christian doctrine of sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the Word of God, and the people of God growing closer to God, hearing his voice, and knowing his propositionally/verbally revealed will.

The historical-redemptive view succeeds in this area, neither downplaying nor centering the human role in interpreting the Scriptures, as well as in not decentering or downplaying the role of God the Holy Spirit in supernaturally causing men to see Christ in all of Scripture, the unity of the Scriptures, and how the individual Christian is a part of God’s unfolding drama of redemption.


Friday, September 15, 2017

A Commentary on Galatians 1:11-24

by Michael R. Burgos Jr., PhD
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. 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, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 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. 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. 
— Galatians 1:11-24, ESV
The apostle Paul has, in the letter to the Galatians, sought to prove the legitimacy of his gospel. Jewish false teachers have spread the seeds of their false gospel throughout the congregation. Apparently, part of their tactic was to undermine Paul’s apostolic authority. The legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship and the legitimacy of his gospel are inseparably intertwined. If Paul is a false apostle, his gospel is false. If his gospel is false, he is a false apostle. However, if either his apostleship is legitimate, his gospel is necessarily true. The same goes for his gospel. Galatians 1:11-2:14 consists of a defense of his apostleship which is by implication a defense of the gospel. Beginning in Gal 2:15, Paul engages in his explicit argumentation for the gospel, especially justification by faith in Christ alone.

Commentary on Galatians 1:11-24

For I would have you know brothers… 
This statement is reminiscent of the solemn utterances given to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:3; 15:1; 2 Cor 8:1; cf. Rom 1:13; Eph 1:9; 1 Thess 4:13). In all of these statements the verb gnorizo occurs so as to convey emphasis on what follows. It is as if to say, ‘Listen brothers, you need to know this.’ The point of v. 11-2:14 is to justify both the gospel Paul preached and his position as a Christ ordained apostle (v. 1). The validity of both the gospel and Paul’s apostolic authority are inseparable. Hence, should Paul justify his ministry and acquit himself of any question of his office, his gospel would be upheld. Following, Paul calls the Galatians adelphoi, indicating that he still considers them believers despite the fact that they were speedily deserting both himself and the gospel of Christ. Evidently, Paul feels that the Galatians may be persuaded to disavow the false gospel just as quickly as they took it up. Although the occasion for this letter is troublesome to Paul and dangerous to the Galatians, Paul doesn’t hide his compassion.

That the gospel that was preached…
The phrase translated by the ESV “the gospel that was preached” uses both the nounal form of gospel (euangelion) and a verbal form (euangelisthen). Robertson translated the phrase, “the gospel which was gospelized by me.”[1] Or more loosely, ‘the good news that I evangelized you with.’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:1; 2 Cor 11:7).

is not man’s gospel… 
The gospel Paul preached was not man’s but Christ’s—it was ouk kata anthropon—"not according to man.” This statement is not a denial of Jesus’ authentic humanity, but rather, Paul is here emphasizing the fact that the gospel he preached was from God the Son. Paul is pleased to clearly articulate both the deity and pre-existence of Jesus (Rom 8:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Titus 2:13) and the humanity of Christ (Rom 1:3; 1 Tim 2:5). In Romans 9:5 Paul has no quibble with characterizing Jesus as the one who is an Israelite “according to the flesh,” and at the same time “God over all.”[2] Thus the gospel that the Galatians were rejecting was not merely the good news offered by Paul, but also the one that originated from the Creator God himself. 

For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it… 
Unlike the judaizers, and those who would call themselves “super apostles” (2 Cor 11:5), Paul didn’t get his gospel from a third party. Like Peter, John, and James, Paul received his gospel from the Master Teacher himself (cf. 1 Cor 11:23; 15:3). George has noted,

Paul clearly was contrasting the way he received the gospel from the normal pattern of catechetical instruction commonly practiced in rabbinic Judaism. In that system the citation of venerable sources and the piling up of numerous “footnotes” were integral to the learning process: Rabbi so-and-so says this, but Rabbi so-and-so says that, and so forth. Paul here claimed an unmediated divine authority for the gospel he proclaimed, an assertion that would be utterly preposterous were it not true. Just as Jesus confronted the scribal traditions of his day with his univocal “but-I-say-unto-you” pronouncements, so Paul confounded his opponents by stressing the unilateral and vertical character of the revelation he received from the risen Lord Jesus Christ.[3]

but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ… 
Paul was unlike the other apostles in that he was untimely born (1 Cor 15:8), having met the resurrected Lord on his way to persecute Christians (Acts 9:3-8; 22:6-15; 26:12-18). Apparently, Paul received his theology and doctrine directly from Jesus in an instantaneous revelation (apokalypsis). The phrase “through a revelation of Jesus” implies that the gospel Paul received was given to him during the moments he spent Jesus on the road to Damascus. Perhaps this overload of information is what Paul was considering during three days he spent without sight (Acts 9:8-9). That is not to say however, that Paul did not have other visions and receive other revelations from the Lord (2 Cor 12:1).

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism…
Paul had an extraordinary upbringing. He was from Tarsus, the wealthy capital of the province of Cilicia, which resides in modern day Turkey. Paul had citizenship both in Tarsus (Acts 21:39) and Rome (Acts 22:25-28), and it is likely that Paul came from a family of tentmakers, as tentmaking was the trade which he used to occasionally support himself (Acts 18:3). Drane noted that “all students of the Torah were expected to have a practical trade as well as doing their studies.”[4] Paul, a Jew of the diaspora, came from a family that could afford to send him away to Jerusalem to be trained by the leader of the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3; cf. Acts 5:34). Gamaliel was the grandson of Hillel, one of the most notable rabbis of all time. Paul was undoubtedly given a rigorous education in Judaism, and he gained prominence among the chief priests. Paul, then Saul, had been commissioned by the chief priests in order that he might persecute the church, arresting and even voting for the death penalty for Christians (Acts 26:10). 

Paul was a Pharisee, and he eagerly embraced that identity (Acts 22:6; 23:6; 26:5). Historically, Pharisees were the magisterial reformers of their day. They engaged in a careful study of the law, and eventually “built up a body of interpretation and application which in due course acquired a validity equal to that of the written law.”[5] Saul viewed himself as being in the line of those great defenders of biblical religion, and he likely viewed his violence against the fledgling church as justified within that context (cf. Num 26:6-15; 2 Macc 6:13). Machen wrote:
The Pharisees represented orthodox Judaism, with its devotion to the law. Their popularity, and their general, though not universal, control of education, made them the real leaders of the people. Certainly the future history of the nation was in their hands; for when the Temple was destroyed the law alone remained, and the Pharisees were the chief interpreters of the law. It was this party which claimed the allegiance of Paul. So he testifies himself. His testimony is often forgotten, or at least the implications of it ignored. But it was unequivocal. Saul of Tarsus was not a liberal Jew, but a Pharisee.[6]

how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it… 
Saul endorsed the martyring of Stephen, and watched over the coats of those who did the dirty work (Acts 7:58; 8:1). Luke characterized Saul as “ravaging” the church (Acts 8:3). The term used (lymaino) is a hapax meaning “to destroy.”[7] Paul was effectively destroying the Christian church single handedly. He was “entering house after house” dragging away and imprisoning Christians. Even Ananias had heard “from many” about Saul’s violent activities against the church (Acts 9:13). So too, the Galatians “have heard” of Saul’s exploits.

The phrase “church of God” (ecclesia tou theou) occurs only here in Galatians. The phrase does not refer to a particular church (e.g., that in Corinth or Rome) but the church in general. Fee rightly argues, “The popular myth that this term [ecclesia] means ‘the called out ones’ needs to be laid to rest.”[8] By the time of the New Testament ecclesia had, partly due to the usage of the term in the Septuagint,[9] come to refer to a congregation, assembly. For instance, the term is applied to the mob in Acts 19:32. 

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… 
The church of God is altogether different than the Judaism Saul so virulently followed. Saul believed Judaism and its rabbinic traditions to be completely true, and he acted out upon that belief in his violent pursuit of what he perceived to be dangerous heretical schismatics. Paul was likely regarded as a young phenom by his overseers in the Sanhedrin. He was “advancing” beyond his peers, and was recognized as having a grasp upon Judaism akin to a rabbi older than he. He was not merely zealous, but “excessively zealous” (perissoteros zelotes) for the traditional Pharisaic faith (cf. Acts 22:3). Paul was not a zealot, as with Simon (Luke 6:15), or those who were Israeli ultranationalists.[10] However, Paul had as much zeal for orthodox Pharisaism, as did the party of the Zealots for freedom from Rome’s tyranny. He was willing to shed the blood of those who dared replace the traditions with Christ, just in the same way that the Zealots were willing to shed the blood of the Imperial soldiers who dared trample the freedom of God’s people. Subsequently, Paul’s pedigree and performance in Judaism was beyond question.

The rather temperate demeanor of Gamaliel (Acts 5:38) was quite unlike that of his former student. Given Paul’s excellent grasp of the Hebrew Bible and Septuagint, he clearly learned much from his teacher. Bruce notes that “In most matters indeed, including, for example, the resurrection hope and the techniques of biblical exegesis, Paul was probably an apt pupil and faithful follower of his teacher.”[11] Bruce further points to a section of the Talmud which mentions a student of Gamaliel who displayed “impudence in matters of learning.”[12] Could this be a mention of Paul? It is unlikely since the student described questions certain of Gamaliel’s eschatological interpretations of certain texts. 

But when he who had set me apart before I was born…[13] 
God the Father had set Paul apart before his birth, or literally “from my mother’s womb” (ek kolias metros mou). This phrase is reminiscent of the work of God among the prophets. Similarly, Jeremiah was said to have been known in prospect before birth, and set apart and appointed as a prophet (Jer 1:5; cf. Psalm 71:6; Isaiah 49:1). The implication of Paul’s statement ought to be no surprise given his understanding of divine sovereignty, election, and predestination. Like his brethren, Paul was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), only he was set apart for the office of apostle, and that to the Gentiles. It is not a stretch to suppose therefore, that God has set apart all his people for one work or another. Just as Paul and the prophets were set apart for the work of ministry, so all of God’s people have a divinely intended vocation. 

and who called me by his grace… 
Neither Paul’s election or appointment as an apostle was predicated upon anything in Paul. Rather, God saved Paul from his sin and put him into his serves according to his good pleasure alone. Hence, Paul’s election and subsequent salvation was an unconditional one. The phrase uses the preposition dia in the instrumental sense. The means by which Paul was set apart before birth was God’s grace. God was not begrudging Paul’s salvation. Rather, Paul’s repentance from his old life brought about “joy before the angels of God” (Luke 15:10). Despite popular interpretation, Luke did not state that the joy mentioned is possessed by the angels, but rather “before” (enopian) or “in front of” the angels. Thus, the one who possesses the joy is the one who is before the angels, namely God himself. 

was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles… 
The preposition translated “to” (en with the dative emoi) is more accurately “in.” Thus “reveal his Son in me.” The preposition is instrumental and indicates the medium through which God revealed his Son not “to” Paul, but instead “in” Paul. That is, it is in and through Paul that the revelation of the Son comes (cf .Acts 9:15). Therefore, this clause does not refer to Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, but instead his function as the one through whom God’s truth about the Son comes. 

The purpose of the work of God in the life of Paul was so that he might preach Christ among the Gentiles. Imagine, a well educated, powerful, and extremely zealous Pharisee chosen to reveal the Messiah to the Gentiles! Paul was relentless in his focus upon Christ and his cross. The Son of God was the very sum and substance of Paul’s preaching and teaching. Would we not benefit from such a Christocentric approach? Whereas many churchmen become preoccupied with various subjects, Paul knew nothing among the churches but Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).

I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me… 
The phrase “with anyone” is literally “with flesh and blood” (sarki kai haimati). Paul’s gospel and theology were given to him by God. One need not consult with God’s creatures on what God himself has purposed. This includes the apostles. As important to the church as the other apostles were, Paul did not need their approval to begin his ministry.

but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus… 
In is unclear where Paul went within the territory of Arabia, or exactly why. He may have needed to remove himself from Damascus initially due to the scandal his conversion and ministry brought to the Jews there (cf. Acts 9:22). If that were the case, Paul either expanded his ministry in Arabia, or perhaps sought “solitude to rethink his life and learning from the perspective of Christ’s revelatory encounter, away from Jewish jurisdiction and pressures.”[14] However, Schreiner has pointed out that “there is no reason to think that he preached the gospel immediately in Damascus and then ceased to do so when he arrived in Arabia.”[15] 

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days... 
Paul left Damascus and after having waited three years, he then chose to visit Jerusalem. Clearly, his ministry was not derivative from the other apostles. The verb translated “visit” (historesai) connotes the idea of getting to know someone for the purpose of getting information.[16] Undoubtedly Paul was interested in meeting Peter, getting to know him personally, and hearing about his life, ministry, and experience with Jesus. In other words, the purpose of his visit was not to gain an authentication of his ministry from Peter, but instead he simply wanted to visit this important brother.

But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother…
James’ held a leadership role in the Jerusalem church (1 Cor 15:7; Acts 12:17; esp. 15:13), and thus he knew of Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem. The Roman Catholic myth of the perpetual virginity of Mary is shown false here. James is said to be the brother of the Jesus (kuriou adelphon) in accordance with a similar statement in Mark 6:3, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas [i.e., Jude] and Simon?” (cf. Matt 13:55; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor 9:5). While it is true that adelphos (brother) and its Hebrew synonym can at times refer to a relative who is not a biological brother (Gen 13:8; 14:12), that is not the case here. James was the brother of Jesus in the same way Mary was his mother. These texts are speaking of biological relations in the normative language. The notion that Paul’s reference is to either James the brother of John and the son of Zebedee (Luke 6:15-16), or James the son of Alpheus is problematic. James the son of Zebedee was martyred early on (Acts 12:1-4). What rationale would Paul have to especially qualify James the son of Alpheus as “the Lord’s brother?” Those who argue that James son of Alpheus is a cousin or some other relation to the Lord must also argue the incredible coincidence that his mother is also named Mary (Mark 6:3). 
James, the Lord’s brother, was initially denied Jesus’ messiahship (Mark 3:21, 31-35; John 7:5), but was converted by a resurrection appearance of his brother (1 Cor 15:7). It would seem that when Peter left Jerusalem (Acts 12:16-17), James took his place as the head of the Jerusalem church. Longenecker notes, 
It would be unfair to attribute his rank in the Jerusalem church simply to a veneration of one who was physically related to Jesus. Probably it is more accurate to say that his prominence came about as a result of the need for someone to lead the growing number of scrupulously minded Christians in the Jerusalem church, and that his physical relation to Jesus, his Davidic descent, and his personal qualities fitted him for the task.[17]

(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!)… 
Paul has called upon God as a witness to the truthfulness what has preceded (cf. Rom 1:9; 9:1). It is as if he said, ‘What I have written is true, so help me God.’ The ESV uses parentheses for this statement since it occurs so abruptly. Eadie sees this as a “solemn adjuration” that “was in the apostle’s mind,” that he “suddenly threw out.”[18] 

Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia… 
This sentence, after v. 18, contains the second use of “then” or “after that” (epeita). Paul’s visit to Jerusalem was among a travel itinerary, and therefore it was not a terminus. The point being, Paul’s ministry was not dependent upon the other apostles. Paul did not need a stamp of approval from either James or Peter, and when Paul did visit Peter, it was after three years of ministry. Paul’s preaching in Jerusalem, especially among the Hellenized Jews was the impetus for his journey to Tarsus, the capital city of Cilicia (cf. Acts 9:30). 

And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ… 
Bruce has noted that “the churches of Judea comprised groups of believers who had been forced to leave Jerusalem in the persecution that followed Stephen’s death, together with others who had been formed through the evangelistic outreach of Jerusalem disciples.”[19] The Lord’s statement, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), had already begun to come to pass even as early as three years after Paul’s conversion (c. 36AD). 

They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”… 
Paul’s infamy for the violent destruction of the church was only out done by the radical nature of his conversion. God focused his sovereign grace upon the greatest human enemy of the Christian faith, making him arguably the greatest apostle in the early church. Paul went from killer and persecutor, to preacher and evangelist. Surely, this conversion must be the greatest evidence of sovereign grace ever to have existed. 

And they glorified God because of me… 
Paul’s conversion was not an end in itself, but rather it was the impetus by which God’s people glorified God. Only God could receive the glory for transforming the infamous Saul.

[1] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1933), 278.
[2] For a defense of Christ as God over all, see George Carraway, Christ is God Over All: Romans 9:5 in the Context of Romans 9-11, (New York: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2013).
[3] Timothy George, The New American Commentary: Galatians, Vol. 30, (Nashville: B & H, 1994), 109.
[4] Drane, J. W. Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Rev. and Updated Ed., (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2000), 267.
[5] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 46.
[6] J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 177.
[7] BDAG, 604.
[8] Gordon Fee, Pentecostal Commentary Series: Galatians, (Blandford Forum: Deo Pub., 2011), 41.
[9] E.g., compare the Masoretic text of 2 Chronicles 6:3 with the LXX. 
[10] For more on the party of the Zealots see Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 4.120.
[11] Bruce, Paul, 51. 
[12] Ibid. See also Shabbat, 30b. 
[13] While v. 16 indicates that it was the Father who set Paul apart, there is a significant variant reading which has “When God set me apart before I was born.” The earliest MSS, p46 and codex B, omit theos. However, the reading is present in several significant witnesses (i.e., א, A, D, etc.), and therefore the critical editions of the Greek New Testament have included it in brackets. It is probable that a scribe included the “God” so as to clarify the subject in the place of the pronoun.
[14] Richard Longenecker, Word Biblical Commentary: Galatians, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 34.
[15] Schreiner, Thomas R. Schreiner, Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament: Galatians, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), Kindle Ed., Loc. 2300-2301.
[16] BDAG, 483. See also Louw-Nida, 34.52.
[17] Longenecker, Galatians, 39.
[18] John Eadie, Greek Text Commentaries: Galatians, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 53.
[19] F. F. Bruce, The New International Greek Text Commentary: The Epistle to the Galatians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 103.