I Assure You
Updated: Jan 16
In Galatians 1:20, Paul wrote, “Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.” Paul gave assurance with God as his witness that he was telling the truth. Jesus spoke against giving assurances and making oaths in Matthew 5:33-37, concluding His teaching by saying, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” Did Paul disobey the teaching of Jesus by giving extra assurance to the Galatians?
In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus taught about more than surface righteousness. The sermon on the mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7, is dedicated to correcting the flawed traditional Jewish teachings and religious norms. Beginning with Matthew 5:21, the Jews would openly teach against murder while quietly allowing bitter hatred of one another. The Jews would openly teach against adultery while quietly allowing men to gaze lewdly at women who were not their wives. In this section of teaching, Jesus replaced their thin covering of righteousness with righteousness that needs no covering at all.
The Jews habitually gave false assurances and deceptive oaths which they never intended to keep (cf. Matt. 23:16-22). Jesus corrected this practice in Matthew 5:33-37. Rather than making deceptive oaths, give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and fulfill it. Jesus taught them to be trustworthy people. Only speak the truth.
Did Paul violate this teaching of Jesus by giving assurance to the Galatians with God as his witness that he was telling the truth? Paul did not intend to lie, nor did he proceed to speak any false word. Paul did not damage the name of God in any way by giving this assurance. The assurance Paul gave was not false; he did not disobey the teaching of Jesus, nor did he promote the making of false oaths. Instead, he invited God’s judgment on the statements he was making, and on himself if God saw anything even slightly untrue in Paul.
Why did Paul give this assurance? The book of Galatians provides evidence that some influential false brethren were leading the Galatian Christians away from the truth and into error. As they did, they accused Paul of withholding information as he taught the gospel. Paul gave the extra assurance, even invoking the authority of God, to communicate one fact with absolute clarity: He received his gospel directly and only from God, and no one else. May every Christian speak with the authority of God while maintaining the clarity and simplicity of His gospel.