The Gospel is Not of Human Origin (Mon. Dec. 26)

The word of the day is “revelation.”  In our reading of Galatians 1:11-19, Paul insists that the gospel that he preaches did not come from any human source.  He writes, “I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs. 12).

Paul declares that “His” Gospel was not “according to man” (vs. 11 OSB).  The Greek term for “according” means “to come down in place or time” (Strong’s #2596, 128).  Thus, the gospel did not come from any human being, nor was he taught it.  Accordingly, The Oxford Annotated Bible translates that “it is not of human origin” (vs. 11 OAB).

Revealed in the Damascus Experience

Paul goes to great lengths to say the message of the gospel was something that he “received through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs. 12).  Its source was the life-changing Damascus experience in which the Risen Christ appeared to Paul in a brilliant, heavenly light (Compare Acts 9:3-9).  In Paul’s view, it was God who acted in this experience.  According to the apostle, God “was pleased to reveal His Son to me (vs. 16).  The Almighty God manifested His Son to Paul to call him to proclaim Christ to the Gentiles.  Along with that call, Paul maintains that God revealed the content of the message that he was to preach.

After this incident, Paul stresses that he did not consult with any human being, but he left immediately for Arabia (vs. 17).  After three years, he went to Jerusalem.  Yet Paul only visited with Peter for fifteen days.  Besides James, the Lord’s brother, he met with no other apostle (vs. 19).  The apostle argues that the only conclusion that could be reached was that Paul did not get his message from Peter, James, or anyone else.  It had to come by revelation, a term in Greek that refers to the unveiling of what is previously unknown and unknowable (Strong’s  #602, 36).  That disclosure comes directly to the mind and is not mediated by any person or created means.

St. John Chrysostom adds that Paul’s transformation from a persecutor of Christians to a promoter of Christ was so sudden and dramatic that the teaching must have come from God.  Otherwise, it would have taken years of thought and study to arrive at a contrary position so strong was Paul’s conviction against the believers.

The Gospel at Stake

We understand why Paul is so adamant about His Gospel’s source if we consider what was at stake.  The issue was the authority of Paul’s teaching.  If His message had a human origin, then it was subject to discussion and debate.  If it was only a matter of human opinion, then Paul’s opponents were on equal standing to dispute him.  But since Paul’s message came from revelation, then it had divine authorization.  And it admitted no argument.

Then too, if Peter, James, or another apostle had passed along the gospel to him, then Paul was subject to them.  If they were his teachers, they were the authorities, and he did not have a firm basis for his disagreements with them.  The divine source of Paul’s teaching was crucial because the Gentile mission was controversial (Galatians 2:4), and even Peter was inconsistent in his acceptance of Gentile believers.  Consequently, it was not only the Gospel message that was at stake but the mission to the Gentiles itself.

For Reflection

This is an age of ideology.  People divide themselves according to their allegiance to sets of dogmas and doctrines that dominate their thinking and their relationships.  Many define themselves by the categories of left or right, red or blue, conservative or liberal, etc.  In such an age, these social, political, and cultural theories set people against each other.

But the gospel is not an ideology.  It is not a set of truths or tenets that come from the human mind.  As we see in today’s reading, the gospel is the revelation of God’s mercy, the disclosure of His mighty acts to redeem us. It is not the teaching of some principles for living well.  It is the story of our salvation, the narrative how the Son of God came to earth to redeem us from sin and death, to give us eternal life and to restore the image of God in us.

Let the Gospel of the Birth of Christ Transform Our Lives

Therefore the gospel is not an instruction manual for how to please God.  It is the Word of God that works in our hearts to transform our lives. With this in mind, let us pray that the gospel of the birth of Christ would do its sacred work of changing us so that by the Light of His grace, we might “walk as children of the light” (Ephesians 5:9).

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.


  1. Dear Fr Basil,

    Thank you for this reminder of how Salvation works. It is God working in us to change us into His likeness and image, it is not something we can do ourselves. It is God’s Mercy that changes us and gives Light.
    How unlike the culture of today and the voices demanding that the Church must change and adopt to human opinions. They want the Church to change, not realising that it is us that needs to change.
    I find it very sad that these voices are so wide spread, and that former friends and brothers now appear to turn away from God’s faithful servant His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry. How can this be? I am thinking of the Church in Cyprus.

  2. Dear Fr. Basil, your blessing.
    If I am not mistaken, the reading that was read today was Hebrews 3:5-11.17-19 (Monday of 29th week). I think this reading (Galatians 1:11-19) is for Sunday after Christmas. I would like to read your comment on today’s reading.
    Thank you.

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