Demonstrated by Paul’s First Post-Conversion Visit to Jerusalem: Part 2 of 3 (series: Harmony of the Gospels)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

But other of the apostles saw I none,
The words "save James" may indicate a certain degree of hesitancy on the apostle's part concerning the appropriateness of the exception which he makes. The reason for this will become clear if we take into account that "James the Lord's brother" was not really one of the apostles; but nevertheless, through the position which he held in the Church of Jerusalem, he was held in high regard and was thought to be nearly equal with the revered twelve. And so, Paul felt compelled, in connection with his present statement, to mention James, when affirming so solemnly that Cephas was the only apostle that he saw during his visit. The GOD'S WORD® Translation may be more understandable: “I didn't see any other apostle. I only saw James, the Lord's brother.” The reason for this statement is probably to show, that just as he did not receive the Gospel from Peter, neither did he get it from any of the other apostles, whom he did not see, much less converse with.

There is no way to tell for certain what the situation was in Jerusalem that made Peter the only one of the twelve he saw. In Acts 8.1 we read: “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” This indicates that during the persecution which followed the martyrdom of Stephen, the apostles still remained at Jerusalem while many in the Church there were scattered throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria. The state of severe persecution occurred for the two or three years prior to Paul’s coming to Jerusalem. The state of things was undoubtedly quite different now; the Church had come together again; but the apostles may have been absent in the country, engaged in their apostolic duties, as Peter would soon be according to Acts 9:31, 32: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.” The assumption that this was the cause appears more credible than the view which supposes them to have continued to distrust Paul, even after the two great leaders, Cephas and James, had been won over to candidly and publicly recognize the new convert. As for James being in Jerusalem, when the apostles were gone, the assumption is that he remained in charge of the mother church, as its bishop.

save James the Lord's brother.
This “James” is not James the son of Zebedee, the brother of John, whom Herod slew with the sword; but James the son of Alphaeus, who made the speech in the synod at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13), was the writer of the epistle which bears his name, and was the brother of Joses, Simon, and Judas, who are called the brethren of Christ (Matthew 13:55), and because they were the kinsmen of Christ according to the flesh, it was common practice for the Jews to call such relatives brethren. James was the Lord’s brother, but not in our strict sense, but in the sense of a "cousin," or "kinsman": “Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Mt 28:10). In John 7:3, 5 we read that “His brethren, therefore, said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest…For neither did his brethren believe in him”—the "brethren" who did not believe in Him may mean His close relatives, not including the two of His brethren, that is, relatives (James and Jude) who were among the Twelve Apostles. In Acts 1:14, "His brethren" refers to Simon and Joses, and others (Mt 13:55) of His kinsmen, who were not apostles—“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1.14). It is not likely there would be two pairs of brothers named alike, of such eminence as James and Jude; the likelihood is that the apostles James and Jude are also the writers of the Epistles, and the brethren of Jesus. James and Joses were sons of Alpheus and Mary, sister of the Virgin Mary.

20Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

Now the things which I write unto you,
The particular things the apostle has in mind are those which are stated in verses 15-19 and to the end of the chapter; things which the Galatians would hardly have become aware of if the apostle had not brought them to their attention. They were already aware of those things mentioned in verses 13 and 14 since others had informed them prior to Paul writing this letter: “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it” (Gal. 1.13).

There are those who contend that “a report had been spread among the Galatians, by the false teachers, that after his conversion he had spent years at Jerusalem, receiving instruction in the faith from the apostles, therefore, the facts which he has stated here would have seemed to his readers a shocking contradiction to the information they had received from others, so that now they needed a strong confirmation from the apostle. These false teachers hoped to disqualify him and bring him into contempt as an apostle. As he writes this letter "it is a matter of life and death to the apostle to prove his independence of the twelve." And his independence of them is strongly supported by the fact that, for several years of his Christian life, during which he was preaching the same gospel as he now preached, he had not even seen any of them except Peter and James the Lord's brother, and that was during a short visit to Jerusalem some three years after his conversion.

behold, before God, I lie not.
“Behold, before God I lie not” is not only an emphatic assertion, but a formal oath or a solemn appeal to God; it is swearing by the God of truth, calling on Him to be a witness to the truth of the things that he had written. It may seem to be remarkable that Paul would make this solemn appeal to God in this argument, and within the process of relating a simple fact, when his statement could hardly be called in question by anyone. But we may comment:
1. That this oath refers not only to the fact that he was with Peter and James only fifteen days, but to the entire group of facts which he had talked about in this chapter—"The things which I wrote unto you." It included, therefore, the narrative about his conversion, and the direct revelation which he had received from the Lord Jesus.
2. There were no radio or TV broadcasts or newspapers which he could appeal to in this case, therefore he could appeal to God only. It was probably not practical for him to appeal to Peter or James since neither of them was in Galatia at this time, and a considerable part of the experiences he referred to happened where there were no witnesses. It pertained to the direct revelation of truth from the Lord Jesus; therefore, the only way available to him was for Paul to appeal directly to God for the truth of what he said.
3. A great deal depended upon the Galatian believers acknowledging the truth of Paul’s argument, even the success of his ministry to those churches, so a solemn appeal to God is justified. With that in view, it was an extraordinary and miraculous revelation of the truth by Jesus Christ himself which he had shared with them. He received information pertaining to the truth of Christianity from no human being. He had consulted no one in regard to its character. That fact was so extraordinary, and it was so remarkable, that the system communicated to him by Christ harmonized so completely with that taught by the other apostles with whom he had had no contact, that it was not out of place to appeal to God in this solemn manner. It was, therefore, no trifling matter about which Paul appealed to God; and it can never be improper to make a solemn appeal to God of the same nature and in the same circumstances.
4. From this he shows that an oath upon proper occasions, where it is necessary, and when it will lead to a good outcome, may be lawfully made.

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