Paul starts his letter with a greeting as he usually does. This one still sets the tone right off. From the offset he declares, “Paul, an apostle sent not by men or by any man, but by Jesus Christ and God his Father who raised him from the dead” (v1). Paul is sent by God. His position in the Church is ordained by God directly and is not him making up a position for himself or forcing it on the faithful. He was sent to preach the message of the Gospel to all peoples. This message was not his either. It is God’s message to all the world so that those God has called may respond.
The Gospel message is not a construct of mere human thought (11-12). God sent Paul to preach what Jesus, who is God, taught. Paul complains that so many were following what is not actually the Gospel message that was entrusted to Paul and all the faithful (6). Things have not changed much since then. Today, there are many people who teach something very contrary to what Jesus taught through Paul. How easy it is to fall into false teachings when we think we can choose for ourselves what to do and what to believe. So often in our society today we ask ourselves, what do I want to believe, instead of asking, what is reality in this matter. We approach faith as a consumer. It is as if God and His Church has to follow the whim of the culture and keep up with the times or else they will lose its customers, the people in the pew. How abused the Church has been, by both faithful and its hierarchy. In our small mindedness, we have caused so much discord and scandal. Sinners that we are, Jesus still has compassion for us, and much patience.
If we want a healthy church, pleasing God needs to be the utmost priority. Paul gets to the heart right away (10). We all need to have the mind and heart to please God and not man. If we try to please man, the treachery of jealousy, envy, gossip and greed takes over very quickly. It is amazing how often we have to be reminded of this. Going down the road with the present culture, the church would be a house of sin and death. It would become a very wicked institution. But we thank God that He preserves our faith and makes sure the truth is handed down through the generations so faithfully. I encourage you to do a search on the internet and type in “reliability of the Bible.” You would be amazed at what you find. Read up on what the Church Fathers taught. Read on St Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch or Clement of Rome. We have many of their writings to this day.
These writings are considered as part of the Tradition of the Church. Trying to keep things short here, these are the traditions that the Church refers to when claiming we call the three-legged stool, Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. Tradition is a safeguard against false teachings. Like the three branches of government give balance and safeguard the constitution to make sure abuses do not happen, so the tools of truth are there to guide us from false teachings. The three-legged stool, Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, are these tools to truth. It guards us from changing teachings. If a Church changes its teachings, it admits that the Holy Spirit was not there. I want a Church that has the Holy Spirit.
As an endnote, notice in verse 19 Paul refers to “James, the brother of Jesus;” he also refers to him as being an Apostle. This is because that James, son of Alphaeus, also know as the lesser, is a cousin of Jesus, not actually a brother. It is translated as such, because Hebrew does not have a specific word for cousin. It also points out that we do know about the extended family of Jesus; if Mary had children, wouldn’t we know about his immediate family? The others that are mentioned in the Bible we also know as fact are cousins. They are also documented.