Sunday, December 11, 2016

Not from Men, Nor Through Man: The Deity of Christ in Galatians 1

by Hiram R. Diaz III
Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship: The Deity of Christ
In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul sets out to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before doing this, however, he establishes his credentials as a real apostle. Thus, he begins the letter as follows:
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead[1]
Paul’s authority comes neither from men nor through man, but is given by God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. His primary focus here is on the authenticity of his apostleship, using the universal ἄνθρωπος (anthropos, man) to exclude himself and all other men as the source of his authority. He has not appointed himself to be an apostle, nor has any other man appointed him to this role.
The careful reader should at this point be aware of the logical implication of Paul’s assertion. If the universal ἄνθρωπος denies that Paul’s apostleship is derived from and through any man, then this implies that Jesus Christ, though truly man, is more than a mere man. For if Paul does not imply that Christ is more than a mere human being, then he is contradicting himself by saying:
A. His apostleship came neither from men nor through man.
         ~A. His apostleship came from and through a particular man, viz. Christ.
These two assertions cannot simultaneously be true. Therefore, Christ is not merely human. The Son of God is more than human. Christ’s authority and the authority of the Father, moreover, as classed together by Paul, further implying the co-equality of Son of God and God the Father. Thus, Christ is not a mere human being but man who is more than merely human, who shares in the same authority with God the Father to appoint apostles and empower them to authoritatively teach and preach the authentic Gospel.
At this point, Paul’s words do not clearly identify Christ as God, perhaps leading some to believe that Paul’s implied meaning is that Christ is something more than a mere human but less than God, e.g. an angel. Yet Paul goes on to state the following:
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.[2]

Paul here states that neither men nor angels have the authority, he right, to preach a Gospel contrary to the one Paul received from Christ and the Father. Christ’s authority, once again, is clearly equal to that of the Father, seeing as even the good angels can only speak in accordance with his and the Father’s Gospel message, and any demons who preach another gospel are, as Paul says, accursed. Jesus Christ, therefore, is excluded from the category of mere humans, and he is excluded from the category of angels - but he is not excluded from the category of divinity. Paul has identified Jesus Christ as God.
This becomes even more clear in Paul’s following verse:
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.[3]
Paul declares that he is not seeking the approval of man but of God. He is not trying to please men but is being a servant of Christ. Again, the contrast between mere men and God places Christ alongside of the Father, identifying him as the non-angelic, more-than-human object of service and faithfulness, to the exclusion of men. Christ and the Father receive the exclusive devotion and service of the apostle Paul, placing them in the same divine category. Jesus Christ is God.
The apostle confirms this identification of Christ as the God-Man once again in vv.11-12, declaring:
…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.
Once again, Christ is excluded from the category of mere humans with the universal ἄνθρωπος (anthropos, man). The Son of God is neither a mere human, nor an angel, but one in power and authority with God the Father - Christ is God the Son.
Concluding Remarks
The apostle Paul’s defense of his apostleship to the Galatians consists in identifying the source of his authority in God the Father and his Son. Jesus Christ and God the Father occupy the same unique category, sharing equal authority over men and angels. Either this is the case, or Paul is contradicting himself when he states that he received his apostleship neither from men nor through man (ἄνθρωπος). Yet the Scriptures are never self-contradictory. Therefore, Paul identifies Jesus Christ as the God-Man, equal in authority over men and angels with God the Father, yet personally and economically (i.e. functionally) distinct from the Father.

[1] Gal 1:1.
[2] Gal 1:6-8.
[3] Gal 1:10.