“Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:1-2 ESV).
Unlike the heretical teachers who followed him into the region of Galatia, Paul the Apostle taught that salvation could only be found by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. Judging from the opening verse of this epistle, it appears that Paul’s opponents questioned his right to speak as an apostle in an attempt to neutralize that message,
Much like a politician who seeks to portray a challenger as someone who is unqualified, the fact that Paul was not called as one of Jesus’ original twelve apostles may have led these false teachers to question his authority. To better understand this approach, we can look to a source who provides us with some additional information on the use of the term “apostle”…
“The word apostle is the translation of apostolos, a Greek word made up of apo ‘from’ and stello ‘to send,’ thus referring to the act of sending someone on a commission to represent the sender. It was used of a messenger or an envoy who was provided with credentials. Our word ambassador would be a good translation. The word apostle as Paul uses it here does not merely refer to one who has a message to announce, but to an appointed representative with an official status who is provided with the credentials of his office.” (1)
So just as an emissary or spokesperson is authorized to represent someone else, Acts 9:1-15 tells us that Jesus personally selected and commissioned Paul to represent Him. Thus, Paul held a position of equality with the rest of Jesus’ Apostles and possessed the right to speak and teach on His behalf. To further emphasize that point, Paul referenced “Jesus Christ and God the Father” as the sources of his authority in the opening sentence of his letter. Those who wished to question that authority were free to take the matter up with the Ones who selected him.
The power to appoint Paul to his apostolic position was displayed through Jesus’ resurrection as we read in the passage quoted above. This has led one source to dryly observe, “The resurrection was proof of God’s complete satisfaction with the work of Christ for our salvation. Apparently, the Galatians were not wholly satisfied with the Savior’s work, because they were trying to improve on it by adding their own efforts at law-keeping.” (2)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1:1) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.1901