Galatians 1:23
But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Had heard.—Rather, were hearing.

The faith.—Not quite, as yet, “the body of Christian doctrine,” which was in process of forming rather than already formed, but the one cardinal doctrine of faith in Christ. (Comp. Romans 1:5, and Note there.)

1:15-24 St. Paul was wonderfully brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ. All who are savingly converted, are called by the grace of God; their conversion is wrought by his power and grace working in them. It will but little avail us to have Christ revealed to us, if he is not also revealed in us. He instantly prepared to obey, without hesitating as to his worldly interest, credit, ease, or life itself. And what matter of thanksgiving and joy is it to the churches of Christ, when they hear of such instances to the praise of the glory of his grace, whether they have ever seen them or not! They glorify God for his power and mercy in saving such persons, and for all the service to his people and cause that is done, and may be further expected from them.But they had heard only ... - They had not seen me; but the remarkable fact of my conversion had been reported to them. It was a fact that could hardly be concealed; see the note at Acts 26:26. 23. Translate as Greek, "They were hearing": tidings were brought them from time to time [Conybeare and Howson].

he which persecuted us in times past—"our former persecutor" [Alford]. The designation by which he was known among Christians still better than by his name "Saul."

destroyed—Greek, "was destroying."

Though those churches in the country of Judea had never seen Paul’s person, yet they had heard of him:

1. That he had been a persecutor of those which professed the doctrine of the gospel, which he here calleth the faith, it being the object and the means of faith.

2. That there was such a change wrought in him, as that he was now become a preacher of that doctrine, for the profession of which he had formerly wasted and destroyed, the churches of Christ. But they had heard only,.... What they knew of the apostle was only by hearsay; they had never seen him, nor heard him preach, nor conversed with him, only had it reported to them;

that he which persecuted us in times past; some few years ago, and not them personally, but such as were of the same faith with them, the church at Jerusalem and the members of it; which he made havoc of, committing men and women to prison, and causing others to flee to strange cities;

now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed; all as in him lay he endeavoured to destroy it, though he could not entirely root it up; he destroyed many of the disciples that held it, and did all he could to discourage others from embracing and professing it; he made use of the strongest arguments he was master of to confute it, and of the secular arm to crush and extirpate it, but now was become a preacher of it: by "faith" is meant not so much the grace of faith, though to show the nature, necessity, and usefulness of faith in Christ, and to direct and encourage sensible sinners, as he did the jailer, to believe in him, was a principal part of his ministry; but rather the doctrine of faith, which is always designed, when it is said, as here, to be preached or to be obeyed, stood fast in and contended for, or to be departed and erred from, to be made shipwreck of and denied. The Gospel is called the word of faith, the mystery of faith, the faith of the Gospel, common faith, most holy faith, the faith once delivered to the saints; it contains things to be believed; it proposes and directs to the great object of faith; and is the means of implanting and increasing that grace, and without which the ministry of it is of no use: it takes in all articles of faith, respecting the divine Being, the unity of God, the trinity of persons in the Godhead, the equal and proper deity of each person, their personal distinctions from each other, the attribution of all divine works, worship and honour to them; it relates to everything concerning man, in his original creation, in his state of innocence and integrity; concerning the fall of Adam, the imputation of his sin to all his posterity, the corruption of human nature, and the impotence of man to all that is spiritually good: it regards all the acts of grace of the Father, Son, and Spirit, in and towards any of the sons of men: it includes all the doctrines of it, as of the free, sovereign, everlasting, and unchangeable love of God; of eternal, personal, and irrespective election of some to grace and glory, by which both are secured; of the everlasting, absolute, unconditional, and sure covenant of grace; of particular redemption by Christ, proceeding on a full satisfaction to divine justice; of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ; of reconciliation and pardon by his blood; of regeneration and sanctification by the Spirit; of the perseverance of the saints in faith and holiness, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal glory: now this faith, in the several momentous branches of it, the apostle preached, published, declared, spoke out openly and publicly; fully and completely, without dropping, concealing, or keeping back anything; clearly and plainly, without using ambiguous phrases, or words of double meaning, with all faithfulness and integrity, boldness and constancy.

But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the {p} faith which once he destroyed.

(p) The doctrine of faith.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Galatians 1:23-24. Δέ] places μόνον ἀκούοντες ἦσαν in correlation to ἤμην ἀγνοούμενος τῷ προσώπῳ; it is not, however, to be understood as a mere repetition of the former δέ (Hofmann), for it introduces another[39] subject (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 97). The masculine refers to the persons of whom those ἐκκλησίαι consisted. See Pflugk, ad Eur. Hec. 39; Winer, p. 586 [E. T. 787]. The participle with ἦσαν, however, does not stand for the simple imperfect (Luther renders quite incorrectly, “they had heard”), but prominence is given to the predicate as the main point. See Pflugk, ad Eur. Hec. 1179. The clause expresses the sole relation in which they were to Paul; they were simply in a position to hear. “Rumor apud illos erat,” Erasmus. Comp. Vulgate: “tantum autem auditum habebant.”

ὅτι ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε κ.τ.λ.] ὅτι is explained most simply, not by a supposed transition from the indirect to the direct form (so most expositors, including Rückert and Wieseler), but as the recitativum (Matthies, Schott, Hilgenfeld, Ewald, Hofmann), the use of which by Paul is certain not merely in quotations of Scripture, but also in other cases (Romans 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Moreover, the statement thus gains in vividness. In ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς, ἡμᾶς applies to the Christians generally; the joyful information came to them from Christian lips (partly from inhabitants of Jerusalem, partly perhaps directly from Syrians and Cilicians). The present participle does not stand for the aorist (Grotius), but quite substantivally: our (former) persecutor. See Winer, p. 331 [E. T. 444]; Bremi, ad Dem. adv. Aphob. 17.

τὴν πίστιν] never means Christian doctrine (Beza, Grotius, Morus, Koppe, Rückert, and others), not even in Acts 6:7, where faith in Christ is conceived as the authority commanding submission (comp. on Romans 1:5); it denotes the faith—regarded, however, objectively. Comp. on Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:23. He preaches the faith (in the Son of God, Galatians 1:16), which formerly he destroyed. On the latter point Estius justly remarks, “quia Christi fidelibus fidem extorquere persequendo nitebatur.” Comp. Galatians 1:13.

ἐν ἐμοί] does not mean propter me (as was generally assumed before Winer), in support of which an appeal was erroneously made to Ephesians 4:1 et al.: for ἐν, used with persons, is never on account of (Winer, p. 363 [E. T. 484]); but it means, “they praised God on me,” so that their praise of God was based on me as the vehicle and instrument of the divine grace and efficacy (1 Corinthians 15:10). God made Himself known to them by my case, and so they praised Him; ὅλον γὰρ τὸ κατʼ ἐμέ, φησί, τῆς χάριτος ἦν τοῦ Θεοῦ, Oecumenius. Comp. John 17:10; Sir 47:6. See generally Bernhardy, p. 210; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 598. It was not, however, without a purpose, but with a just feeling of satisfaction, that Paul added καὶ ἐδόξαζον ἐν ἐμοὶ τὸν Θεόν; for this impression, which Paul then made on the churches in Judaea, stood in startling contrast to the hateful proceedings against him of the Judaizers in Galatia.

Mark further (in opposition to Holstein and others), how Galatians 1:23 rests on the legitimate assumption that Paul preached in substance no other gospel than that which those churches had received from Jerusalem, although they were not yet instructed in the special peculiarities of his preaching; as, in fact, the antagonism between the Pauline teaching and Judaism did not become a matter of public interest until later (Acts 15:1).

[39] Hofmann appeals to Eur. Iph. T. 1367. But in this, as in the other passages quoted by Hartung, I. p. 169, the well-known repetition of the same word with δέ occurs.Galatians 1:23. The faith seems to be here identified with the living body of believers, for this verse describes Saul as making havoc of the faith, while Galatians 1:13 applies that term to the Church.23. the faith] Three principal senses attach to this word in the N. T.:

(1) Truth, or truthfulness, trustworthiness; e.g. Romans 3:3, “the faith of God.”

(2) Belief of, or confidence in a Person or thing. This is its most common meaning.

(3) The revelation of the character, will and purpose of God ‘who cannot lie’—the only thing certain and permanent in a mutable and transitory world, and therefore worthy of hearty belief and implicit confidence. So here, the Gospel of Christ as taught and accepted by believers.

23, 24. They only heard reports to the effect that, Our former persecutor is now preaching the faith which he once was seeking to destroy.Galatians 1:23. Ὁ διώκων, he who persecuted) He had been very well known by this name, nor was the name Saul itself so celebrated, as that of the persecutor.Verse 23. - But they had heard only (μόνον δὲ ἀκούοντες η΅σαν); and they only from time to time heard say. They did not see him in person, but only heard about him. The dilated imperfect, ἀκούοντες η΅σαν, applying to the whole space of time here referred to, suggests the insertion in the translation of the words, "from time to time." The ὅτι is inserted after the Greek idiom in introducing the very words spoken in oratio directa, as in Matthew 7:23; Mark 2:1; John 1:40; John 4:1, etc. That he which persecuted us in times past (ὅτι ὅ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε); he that once was persecuting us. The διώκων is in the procter-imperfect participle, of which we have examples in Τυφλὸς ὤν ἄρτι βλέπω, John 9:25; Οἵ ποτε ὄντες Ephesians 2:13; Τὸ πρότερον ὅντα βλάσφημον, 1 Timothy 1:13. Now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed (νῦν εὐαγγελίζεται τὴν πίστιν ἥν ποτε ἐπόρθει); now preacheth the faith which once he was making havoc of. The use of the term "faith" is the same as in Acts 6:7, "Were obedient to the faith," which is equivalent to the "obeying the gospel" mentioned Romans 10:16. The object to the verb εὐαγγελίζομαι is always something which is announced, never a thing which is required (cf. e.g. Luke 2:10; Acts 5:42; Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:17; Ephesians 3:8); so that "faith" here cannot mean the faith which men are to render to Jesus, but the doctrine which they are to believe, to wit, that Jesus is Christ the Saviour. We have here the early beginnings of that objective sense in which afterwards the word got to be so commonly used in the Church to denote the Christian doctrine (see Bishop Lightfoot's essay 'Galatians,' pp. 154-158). In the second clause, "which he was sometime making havoc of," the "faith" is identified with the Church which held it (comp. ver. 13). We may heartily accept Estius's comment, cited by Meyer, "Quia Christi fidelibus fidem extorquere nitebatur," while we still think it intolerably harsh to understand "faith," as Meyer does, in a subjective sense. They had heard (ἀκούοντες ἧσαν)

Correlative with I was unknown, Galatians 1:22. Note the periphrasis of the participle with the substantive verb, expressing duration. They were hearing all the time that I was thus unknown to them in person.

The faith

See on Acts 6:7, and comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:2. The subjective conception of faith as trustful and assured acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior, tends to become objective, so that the subjective principle is sometimes regarded objectively. This is very striking in the Pastoral Epistles.

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