We now come to one of the great claims made in this epistle. The gospel is divine, not man-made, and this truth involves much more than might be assumed at first glance.
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).
In what has gone before this, Paul had pronounced an anathema upon anyone who tampered with the gospel as it originally came to the Galatians. In what follows, he gives a detailed description of his journeys in order to show that he did not “get his gospel” at secondhand from men. But here he tells what his gospel is not, and what it is.
Paul has already told them that the gospel he had preached to them (the gospel which was the benchmark of the truth) concerned how God would deliver sinners from “this present evil world” (v. 4). This gospel that Paul preached was not “after man” (v. 11). The original here is kata anthropon—according to man. That which is according to man is also in accordance with man. A man-made gospel will always cut with the fleshly grain, and will always flatter in a way that the divine gospel will not. This flattery usually takes one of two forms—either indulgence or severity. Alien to the mind of the flesh is anything like grace. And what grace! And this leads to the next issue.
The gospel is an apocalypse. Paul says he did not receive this gospel from man. He did not learn it in a classroom in seminary somewhere. Rather, he received it by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The word here is apocalypse, or unveiling. How did Paul come to possess this gospel? He received it in a revelation of Jesus Christ. When we look in Scripture for an account of this, we see that it was far more than mere data transfer between the mind of Christ and the mind of Paul. Paul talks about this revelation in another place, when he is giving his testimony before King Agrippa. “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me” (Acts 26:13). This was the unveiling, the apocalypse. He was in no way disobedient to this heavenly vision (v. 19). Jesus Christ appeared to him, and ordained him as a minister and as a witness (vv. 15-18). The potency of this gospel is seen in that it would open the sinners’ eyes, turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God (v. 18).
We must be very careful here. Our tendency is the think that the gospel should be thought of as divine because we need a perfect being to think it up. We are fallible, the thinking goes, and so any gospel we concoct will have holes in it. God would think up a scheme for saving up that would not have holes in it. But this is inadequate. The gospel is divine because through the gospel we are introduced into the divine life. If we have been baptized into Christ, Paul argues later, we have put on Christ. What does this mean? Union with Christ is what enables us to be drawn into the fellowship that has always existed between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The grace of God is not: “I forgive your sins. Run along.” The grace of God is seen in this: “I forgive your sins. Enter in.” Enter into what? The answer given in the divine gospel points to the divine life. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).
This being the case, what do we have to be thankful for? We overflow with thanks because we not only assemble before the Lord, we also are permitted to assemble in the Lord. In Christ, we have all the treasures of the divine life. We not only stagger to think of this, we stagger if we merely begin to think about it. This is Paul’s prayer, that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened, that we might know the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18).