Apostolic Authority
Galatians 1:1
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)…

St. Paul opens the Epistle to the Galatians with an unusual assertion of his own authority. Generally he describes himself as "the bondservant" of Jesus Christ, and addresses his converts with affectionate gentleness. But something almost stern marks the beginning of this Epistle, and indeed characterizes the whole of it; and the writer at the outset sets forth the highest claims of apostolic rank. This was necessary because disloyalty to the authority of St. Paul had been used as one of the strongest encouragements for unfaithfulness to the fundamental principles of Christianity. It is very difficult to know when self-assertion is a duty, and more difficult to perform the duty with modesty. Yet there are occasions - for most of us rare occasions - when the cause of truth and righteousness requires the firm, dignified claim of one's lawful position. This is perfectly consistent with unselfishness and humility if the motive is some interest outside ourselves. Herein is the important point, namely, that the self-assertion is not to be for our own honour, but for the glory of God, or the good of man, or the maintenance of right.

I. THE APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY IS CONFERRED. It does not originate in the man who possesses it. He is "one sent," a messenger, a missionary, an ambassador. As the prophet is the man who "speaks for" God, the Divine spokesman, so the apostle is he who is sent by his Lord, the messenger of Christ. Thus the apostolic authority is very different from that of the philosopher which depends entirely on his own intellectual powers, and that of the religious founder which grows out of the man's own spiritual ideas, and all purely personal authority. It is derived from the authority of Christ. Natural gifts can no more make a man an apostle than they can give a free-lance the right to command a national army.


1. It is not derived from a human origin. It is not "of men." No man and no body of men can create an apostle. To attempt such a creation is to put forth forged credentials; it is like the act of a man who engraves his own notes and passes them in currency as though they had been issued by a bank.

2. It is not derived through a human medium. It is not "through man." Matthias was thought to be appointed by God since he was chosen by lot after prayer for Divine guidance; but he certainly received his apostleship, such as it was, through men, for the election of him was arranged by the Church (Acts 1:23-26). This was not the case with St. Paul. The highest authority is independent of all ecclesiastical arrangements and of all official management.

III. THE APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY COMES DIRECT FROM CHRIST AND GOD. The sovereign commissions his own ministers. The office derives its high influence from this origin.

1. It is from God. Therefore the apostle is divinely inspired. The Church order that he establishes and the doctrinal truth that he preaches have both claims upon our reverence, because they come through him from God.

2. It is also from Christ. It is "through" Christ as being received immediately from him, but it is also "through" God, for no distinction is here to be made. Christ, however, is personally concerned. The apostle is a Christian officer. His work is not to serve the general religion of faith in God and providence and natural revelation, but to promote the special faith of the gospel.

IV. THE APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY IS DEPENDENT ON THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, God is named as "the Father, who raised him from the dead." St. Paul alone of all the apostles received his commission in the first instance from the risen Christ. But the other apostles were also especially endowed and sent forth by Christ after the resurrection (Matthew 28:16-20). Apart from the importance that attaches itself in many ways to the resurrection of Christ as the proof of his victory, the assurance of our future, etc., there is this particular point here of significance that Christ still lives, that the apostle is not merely faithful to a memory, but serves a living Lord, that he is not the successor of Christ, but the servant who carries out the fresh mandates of the living and reigning King. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

WEB: Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead),

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