In Galatians 1:11-2:21, the main point Paul seeks to make clear is: The gospel he preaches is not a human message, (lit. “not according to man”).
What does Paul mean by his statement in Galatians 1:11, “the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel?”
He is emphasizing the fact that the gospel he first preached to the Galatians was not human-like but rather God-like. There is nothing characteristically human about the gospel. It doesn’t possess any human qualities.
The gospel is not a human message or human idea. J.B. Phillips paraphrases v. 11, “…the gospel I preached to you is no human invention.”
The gospel is not man-made. Paul didn’t invent it. No man invented it. It is not the product of any earthly authority (i.e., the Jerusalem church, let alone the Judaizers!).
In what way(s) then is the gospel not human? Over the next several posts, we will discuss six reasons from Galatians why the gospel cannot be characterized as human.
1. The Fundamental Nature of the Gospel Cannot Be Characterized as Human (1:3).
In Galatians 1:3, Paul declares that the gospel consists of grace and peace. Grace by definition is free and unmerited. The gospel exalts the free grace of God and totally excludes man’s works. Grace teaches that man can contribute nothing to his salvation by his religion, philosophy, performance, obedience or morality.
Peace cannot be obtained by one’s own efforts any more than grace. Peace comes only as a result of grace. True and lasting peace does not come through spas, vacations, pay raises, education, sex, cars, tech toys, houses, yoga, positive thinking or enlightenment.
Paul says both grace and peace flow to us from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ as announced in the gospel!
2. The Vital Essentials of the Gospel Cannot Be Characterized as Human (1:1c; 1:4a).
Christ’s death (v. 4a) and resurrection (v. 1c) are the vital essentials of the gospel. The cross of Christ was the sole basis for a sinner’s acceptance before God. In Galatians, Paul unequivocally maintains that the gospel is no gospel unless the full sufficiency of Christ crucified is upheld (1:4, 7).
In Romans 1:4, Paul says that the resurrection identified and proved Jesus to be the Son of God in power! In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul insists that without the resurrection preaching and faith are vain (15:14), God is made out to be a liar (15:15), there is no remedy for the forgiveness of sins (15:17), all who have died have perished (15:18), there is no eternal hope (15:19a) and Christians are to be the most pitied for believing such nonsense (15:19b).
Neither the cross nor the resurrection can be characterized as human because neither come natural to man’s thinking. The vital essentials of the gospel are alien to man’s wisdom and reason. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul writes, “The word (message) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” In Acts 17:32, after Paul preaches the resurrection in the Areopagus, Luke notes that “some mocked” him.
In Acts 26, where Paul gives a detailed defense of the gospel before King Agrippa, Paul asks the king, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead,” (v. 8)? A few verses later in 26:24, Luke notes that as Paul was setting forth his reasoned defense of the gospel, Festus responded with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.”
Jesus repeatedly explained to His disciples that He would be crucified (Matt. 17:22; 20:18). Yet, even His death on the cross came as a shock to the disciples (Matt. 16:21-23). To the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, Jesus says, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” (Lk. 24:26). Luke says that it was not until their eyes were opened that they recognized Him (Lk. 24:31). Even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples still had not quite gotten the gospel right (Acts 1:6-8).
Thus, Christ’s death and resurrection cannot be characterized as human because neither is endemic to human reason and thought.