Galatians 1

Galatians 1

Apostolic Address and Greeting (Gal 1:1-5)

Galatians 1:1
Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead),

False teachers were at work in the Lord’s church.  Certain Jewish Christians were sneaking around behind Paul and subverting his teachings by attacking his validity as an Apostle based on the fact that he was not an eyewitness of Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Jesus did appear to Paul on his trip to Damascus on the day of his conversion, nevertheless, Paul’s opponents were neglecting that fact and using whatever means they could to discredit him in the eyes of the members of the congregations he was working with. 

With this said, Paul begins his letter by immediately declaring who he is and stating his position as an apostle if Christ.  He then goes on to say that his appointment was not from men, nor through men in any way.  His position as an apostle came directly through Jesus Christ and God the Father.  Paul’s authority to write this epistle came from the highest source and he wanted his readership to understand that immediately.  And as an apostle acting under the authority of Jesus Christ and God the Father, what he was about to communicate to them was the word of God and coming directly from the top.  He was not acting under the authority of men, nor did his gospel come from men, including the original twelve apostles.  Paul’s teaching was coming directly from the head of all authority and he wanted to make sure his readership understood that first.

Galatians 1:2
“and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:”

Paul’s reference to the brethren who were with me was probably meant to convey the assurance that Paul was not just a lone voice out there crying in the wilderness with no approval.  While himself an apostle and speaking under the direct authority of Jesus Christ, it still serves to reinforce one’s position when it is known by the readership that there are other Christians who put their stamp of approval on it.  Paul’s reference to the brethren who were with him infers their support of his epistle. 

unto the churches of Galatia

The recipients of this letter were all the Christians in all the congregations that were in the Roman province of Galatia.  At the time of this writing this included all of the original Galatia and including parts of Paphlagonia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, and Isauria.  Some of the Galatian congregations are mentioned in scripture being Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.  It is not known with any certainty exactly how many congregations there were not the identities of them all, but Luke made mention of the extent of Paul’s missionary work in Galatia in Acts 18:23, “And after he [Paul] had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.”  Paul’s evangelical work in Galatia was if a considerable scope. 

In view of the scale of Paul’s work in Galatia, it can be inferred that the addressing of this epistle to all of the congregations in Galatia is an indicator of just how broad the scope of the Judaizing influence really was.  The crisis threatening the church was not in any way confined to a small number of Christians.  This problem was far reaching and was affecting a considerable number of Christians.  Left unchecked, this Judaizing movement threatened the very existence of the Lord’s church on a world wide scale. 

Galatians 1:3
Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,

It was customary for Paul to pray for God’s favor to be extended to his readership.  This was expression of kindness on the part of Paul and served to comfort his readership with the reassurance of God’s grace.  Grace is sometimes defined as God’s beneficial disposition towards man.  Grace is a comprehensive Biblical term which represents all that God did in reaching down to fallen man with an alternative to the condemnation man faced because of his sin.  Man did nothing to deserve God’s grace, can never earn it and can never repay the cost God incurred as a result of His grace.  The personal cost to God was quite simply more than man can hope to repay.  God’s grace is given freely and flows from His vast capacity for love and mercy. 

God’s grace is also one of the most misunderstood results of God’s loving and merciful nature.  It is supposed by many in the religious world claiming Christ as savior that the fact that God’s grace can not be earned, payed for, nor deserved releases man from the obligation to obey God’s will.  If God’s grace were not conditional upon obedience to His will, then every person who ever lived on the face of the earth would be saved whether a believer or not and Paul completely wasted his time in even writing this epistle.  If there were no conditions attached to the reception of God’s grace, then the churches in Galatia were in no danger from the Judaizers and the Judaizers were in no danger either which is abundantly denied by the inspired words of the beloved apostle Paul in this very epistle.  Paul flatly stated in Galatians 5:4 that those who sought justification through the law, meaning the law of Moses, fall from grace.  The Hebrew writer instructed his readership to be diligent lest they “fail of the grace of God“.  If God’s grace were not conditional, it would not be possible to fall from or fail of it and any warning against such a thing would be nonsense.   

peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ

The Greek word rendered “peace” (eirënë) is the equivalent of the Heb. shalom, a greeting exchanged by Jewish people from of old. Shalom stands for well-being, wholeness and prosperity in every realm of life.  Paul extends his hope of peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Peace with God is recognized as being synonymous with fellowship with Him.  Those who are in Christ and walking in the light (living faithfully) are not in rebellion to God and therefore at peace with Him.  It is Paul’s earnest wish for God’s peace to be with the churches of Galatia. 

Galatians 1:4
who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father:

Jesus being quoted here in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep“.  The fact that Jesus gave his life as a willing sacrifice in order to pay the penalty of death for our sin is the single most important event in the entire plan of redemption.  Without that sacrifice, no man has any hope whatsoever for reconciliation to God.  It is our sin which separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2).  God is absolutely just (Isaiah 45:21), and his righteous nature demands a just penalty for our transgressions against Him.  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), there is no other penalty, there is no less penalty than death.  Since our sin renders our lives forfeit, our lives are worthless as a sacrifice, even if we were to repent and live our lives perfectly.  Jesus, who was innocent, willingly sacrificed His life to pay the penalty we owe for our own transgressions.  He offered His life for ours, thereby paying our sin debt. 

Jesus taught this during His earthly ministry, (Matthew 20:28; 26:28, Mark 10:45, Luke 22:19, John 10:11; 10:17-18).

And this fact was testified of by the inspired writers (Romans 4:25, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:2, 1 Timothy 2:6, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18, 1 John 2:2; 3:16, Revelation 1:5).

Of significance here is the fact that Paul made this sacrifice a personal thing in Galatians 2:20 when he penned the words “and gave himself up for me“.  The sacrifice offered by Jesus was indeed for all of mankind, but it was also for each individual as well.  And when we consider the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice we must keep in mind that while the scope of His sacrifice was as big an human kind, it was also as specific to each and every one of us.  Christ died to save mankind and we must never lose sight of the magnitude of that sacrifice.  Christ also died to save each and every one of us and we must never lose sight of the fact that He died for each one of us specifically.  His death for us was personal, His sacrifice for us was personal, and our sin made it necessary for Him to die if we are to have a hope of reconciliation to God the Father. Christ died for Paul.  He died for the serial killer and the rapist.  He died for the rich and poor alike.  He died for you and He died for me.  It was our sin that put Him on the cross.  We are as responsible for the death of Christ as those who screamed “crucify Him” the night of His murder.  We are as individually responsible for His death as the ones who spat on Him and mocked Him.  We are as guilty of His murder as those who drove the spikes through Him into that cross.  

And it is a gracious and loving God who accepted the death of His Son at the hands of man for the sins of man.  Likewise it is a merciful, gracious and loving God who accepted the death of His innocent Son at the hands of each one of us in order to pay the penalty we owe.  We sinned and incurred the penalty of death.  Jesus who knew no sin died at our hands and God accepted that sacrifice as payment for our transgression.   When we as individual Christians come to the realization that it for us personally that Christ died, we are on the path to understanding the awfulness of sin and the overwhelming love it took for Jesus to do what He did on that cross.  Paul understood it and made that distinction when he made it personal.  2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

“according to the will of our God and Father”

Paul makes sure his readership understands that God the Father is the one who is the supreme authority in the affairs of the Godhood.  It is recorded that Jesus Christ is in authority over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22), and over all the earthly powers (Colossians 1:16-17) as well.  Jesus Christ’s authority is supreme, both in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18) but God the Father is the head over Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3).  Therefore all things are according to the will of God the Father through Jesus Christ who Himself is God (Acts 20:27).   

Galatians 1:5
to whom (be) the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

To God be the Glory from everlasting to everlasting.  And He is worthy of the glory.  We serve a God who is absolutely just, right and fair.  He is holy, incapable of sin, incapable of being tempted, incapable of failure.  He is omnipotent, and omniscient and last but certainly not least, He is love indescribable. 

God’s absolutely just nature demands punishment for sin and only one punishment.  The wages of sin is death.  There is no partiality with God when it comes to sin. 

God’s absolutely merciful nature compelled Him to take pity on fallen man.  God wanted to provide man with a way to be forgiven but God’s absolutely just nature would not allow Him to forgive man’s sin without the penalty.  The penalty of death is owed for sin, therefore the penalty of death had to be paid.  So God, wanting to be merciful and give man a chance to be forgiven, came up with a plan where He would pay that penalty Himself.  This was accomplished by one of the members of the Godhead taking on the form of man and coming to earth to live as a man.  He gave up His heavenly abode and willingly came down here to live with sinful man.  In the end, He was rejected and murdered and God the Father accepted the murder of His Son at the hands of men as the penalty all mankind owed for sin.  That single sacrifice of God the Christ is the single most important event in all of man’s history.  That willing sacrifice came about as a result of God’s enormous capacity for love and mercy.  Without that selfless sacrifice, all mankind from Adam until the end would be doomed to everlasting separation from God. 

God did not have to do this.  He would have been well within His rights to have simply let mankind perish.  Mankind did nothing to deserve God’s gracious offer of redemption, cannot earn it and certainly cannot pay for it in any way.  God could have simply washed His hands of the whole affair and left mankind to his well deserved fate.  But God did not do that, rather, God sacrificed of Himself so that man could have a chance for redemption. 

God deserves and is worthy of our respect, our honor and our reverence.   He is deserving of glory for what He accomplished for our behalf.  Even though we live forever in His presence and hail his glory throughout eternity we will never have honored Him sufficiently for what He did for us.  And on the other side, those who fail of His grace, even though they endure the fiery condemnation of Hell for all eternity, they will never, with their suffering fully pay the just penalty for their sin.  God deserves our best, both in the life and the one to come.  He is worthy of our highest esteem and honor.  Let us glorify Him with our obedient service and praise.  Paul rightly puts the honor and glory where it is due. 

Paul’s Vigorous Rebuke Because of Their Apostasy (Gal 1:6-10).

Galatians 1:6
I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel

Paul wastes no time in getting to the point of his epistle.  He is distressed and astounded at the ease of the apostasy of the Galatian Christians.  It is obvious that Paul has been informed of it while away from the area and chose to write them a letter about it.  Judaizers intent on binding the old law on Christian converts had been going behind Paul’s back and teaching the Gentiles that it was necessary for them to be identified as a Jew first in order to be a Christian.  They felt that the way to Christ was only through the Jews and that Gentiles had to undergo the steps of proselytization before becoming a Christian.  Circumcision was the outward provable mark of Jewish identity so it was this which was used to refer to the conversion process of Gentile to Jew.  There were more requirements than just circumcision, but this term was used to represent all of what the Judaizers were requiring of the Gentile converts.

When one considers the political and social state of a Gentile convert to Christianity, it is easy to surmise why they would be quick to accept such a thing.  People of Jewish descent had a nationality with which to associate themselves.  They had a support group so to speak.  Gentiles who became Christians were ostracized from society and rejected by the Jewish Christians at large.  It would be the equivalent today of a black family in a predominantly white congregation who did not have the support, encouragement and fellowship of their white brethren and found themselves rejected by their own nationality because of their faith.  The Gentile Christians were the victims of racial prejudice and were struggling for their place in God’s kingdom.  They had no support or place in a pagan, worldly society because of their faith and no support from the Jews who were recognized as the bloodline from whom Jesus, the Messiah came.  Jesus Christ was a Jew. The Gospel was carried to the Jews first, therefore the Jews felt like they had exclusive rights to Jesus and that it was under their supervision and control how a Gentile came to their Messiah. 

 “removing from him that called you”

Removed from God who called them (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  The significance of this statement cannot be over emphasized.  Paul is soon going to pronounce a curse on those who would pervert the gospel of Christ but here is the consequence to the one who would fall for such false teaching.  This statement here is the equivalent of being removed from God. 

Through Christ, all Christians are reconciled to God (Romans 5:10) and have fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3).  To be removed from “him that called you” is to forfeit reconciliation and lose fellowship with God.  There can be no worse fate than this for the Christian. 

There is a doctrine in the denominational world that teaches that once one is saved, they cannot so sin that it is possible to lose their salvation.  This doctrine is better known as ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’.  Proponents of this doctrine need to answer the question on how one could lose one’s reconciliation and fellowship with God and yet remain in a position where they can inherit eternal life with God the Father in heaven.  This is not the only statement in this epistle that strikes at the heart of this doctrine, but it is significant that it occurs in the first sentence following Paul’s introduction. 

This statement was obviously meant to help set the tone in the minds of the readers as to the seriousness of the situation that was before them.  Being removed from Him who called you is a ‘snap to attention’ type statement aimed at focusing the attention of the readers upon the personal consequences they faced.

unto a different gospel

The gospel being preached by these apostates was not the gospel Paul preached to them.  It was a different gospel.  We will see very soon that God’s curse is in store for those who would change the gospel from what it originally was.  The application for us today is that any gospel which is more or less than the gospel of Christ is a gospel other than the one delivered originally and that Christians are responsible for making sure they are adherents of the right one. 

Galatians 1:7
which is not another (gospel) only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Paul’s wording here means that this “different gospel” is not “another gospel“.  There is no such thing as another valid gospel.

“only there are some that trouble you”

These are the apostate Judaizers who are going behind Paul and teaching Gentile Christians that Paul is wrong, and that they are not Christians unless they observe the parts of the law of Moses which identifies them as Jews in order to be a real Christian.  These apostates were calling into question the Gentiles conversions to Christ, thus eroding the faith they had through the teachings of Paul.

The Galatians were troubled because of the false doctrine they were being led to believe.  False teachers bring great trouble to those who accept their erroneous teachings.  Their victims may not even be aware of the danger they are in until it is too late. 

“and would pervert the gospel of Christ”

Any departure from the gospel of Christ is a perversion of it.  Whether adding the commandments of men such as the Judaizers here were doing, or taking away from it, making it incomplete.  The application for us today is that the gospel of Christ can be perverted.  And when we look out into the denominational world we have today which is saturated with all kinds of different gospels, we can see that such is indeed the case.

The warnings and curses which Paul places on both those who would change the gospel and those who accept and follow after these perversions should be adequate.  Sadly this is not the case.  Division, perversion and distortion of the gospel of Christ continues even in the face of sound Biblical warnings against it. 

Galatians 1:8
But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.”

The churches in Galatia had already been preached the gospel.  The congregations, however many there were, had already been established and were serving the Lord.  Paul is authenticating the original gospel that had been preached by himself and others laboring with him.  And if anyone of them preaches one that is different, more than or less than the original, then they are “anathema“.  The KJV translates this as “cursed“.  The word “anathema” is a transliteration of the original Greek word and it carries the meaning of being condemned and rejected or thrust out by God.  The NIV translates this as “eternally condemned“. 

Paul emphasized his point here by writing that even an angel preaching another gospel would be accursed.  Angels hold a special status in the minds of God’s children.  They filled a role in the mediation of the old law (Acts 7:53, Hebrews 2:1-2, Galatians 3:19) and are thus recognized as holy messengers of God.  Paul is making the point that not even an angel has the authority to change anything in the gospel from that which they first heard from him.  The gospel they received from him at the beginning was the authentic one.  And anyone changing that in any way, even if it were an angel from heaven, will be anathema, cursed, thrust out, eternally condemned. 

It is important to keep in mind here that the apostates who were teaching this different gospel considered themselves Christians.  They were Jewish converts to Christ who were trying to bind tenants of the Mosaic law on their Gentile brethren.  These apostates were believers in Christ to a degree.  They believed in Christ as the Messiah and the Son of God.  They had faith in who Christ was, but their faith did not lead them to lay aside the traditions of the old law and follow after the true gospel of Christ.  Paul pronounced the curse of God upon them for their error. 

The doctrine of salvation by faith alone cannot stand up to a critical textual examination of the book of Galatians.  If Salvation were available by faith alone then these apostates would have been in no danger, yet this is not the case.  They were cursed by God and it is recorded for us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the writing of Paul.  Salvation is either by faith alone or it is not.  There is no middle ground on this.  If anything in addition to faith is necessary in order escape eternal condemnation, then salvation is not by faith alone.  Preaching another gospel causes one to be condemned, therefore it is necessary to teach the one true, authentic and original gospel to be saved.  It is important that students of God’s word think the outcomes of their conclusions out to their logical results.  If there are any accountable acts in addition to belief which one may engage in which are either necessary for salvation, or will result in condemnation, then salvation cannot be by faith alone.  The conclusion is that faith must be perfected by obedience to the will of God in order to be a saving faith.  Faith alone cannot save. 

Another prevalent doctrine which this verse defeats is the doctrine of OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved).  This doctrine states that once one converts and becomes a Christian, they can never so sin as to lose their salvation.  If this doctrine were true, Judaizing teachers who had come to Christ initially would not be rejected or thrust out by God.  Proponents of the OSAS doctrine almost universally believe in salvation by faith alone.  Their argument would be that these Judaizers were never saved in the first place.  If this were true, then as believers in Christ they were not saved by faith alone.  They were believers in Christ to a degree, but their faith was not perfected/completed by works of obedience (James 2:22), and therefore dead (James 2:20; 26).

Galatians 1:9
As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.

It is exceedingly important to take notice of Paul’s usage of the words “As we have said“.  This epistle is likely not the first time these congregations have heard of this pronouncement of condemnation for these apostate teachers and their unholy doctrine.  Paul is reiterating the former statement with the reminder that they had been told this before and to emphasize the importance of it. 

Paul is using very strong language here in his condemnation of these apostates.  Similar strong language regarding another group of apostates in the first century is used by Jude in his epistle and also Peter in chapter 2 of his second epistle.  Peter prophesied of an apostasy to come while Jude was dealing with one head on. 

Some of the strongest words of condemnation in all the Bible are used by the inspired writers when handling apostasy.  God exhibits no tolerance whatsoever for this kind of behavior in the inspired record.  We today can be assured God’s attitude toward this has not changed.  There is no indication whatsoever that God’s intolerance of this has in any way altered.  When we look out into the so called religious world today, we see thousands of groups of people claiming Christ as their savior and each teaching a variant form of the gospel of Christ.  There is no reason to believe that God’s displeasure over the activities of false teachers in the first century has in any way diminished.  Rather, there is every reason to believe that it has not changed and that many many people who call on the name of the Lord to a degree will be disappointed at their judgment.  The importance of this cannot be overstated.  It is vitally important that those who wish to be children of God teach and obey only the gospel delivered in the first century.  The only way to accomplish this is to reject all manmade creeds, catechisms and teachings of men (Mark 7:7), and turn to the holy scriptures as the only source of authority for what we do and teach, adding nothing to and taking nothing away, ordering our lives according to what is written and striving to be and live only as God would have us live. 

Galatians 1:10
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.

The only source for any gospel other than the one originally received has to come from men.  Paul is drawing a contrast here between the wishes of men and the will of God.  The two are not in harmony.  One cannot please men and please God at the same time.  Paul is building a case here to set this different gospel the Galatians were succumbing to as something which came from man and not God. 

Jesus had some teaching regarding the serving of God or man in Matthew 6:24 where He said, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  Luke recorded a parallel account of this in Luke 16:13.  James, the brother of Jesus had some straightforward teaching on the issue Paul is dealing with as well: James 4:4, “…know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God“.

Paul is not concerned with pleasing men, or in modern terms, being politically correct.  Paul’s main thrust here to draw a definitive contrast between the “other gospel” being propagated by men and the one true gospel he originally taught them and is standing firm on.  Paul ends this statement by saying to please men means he cannot be a servant of Christ.  There is no middle of the road here.  Paul says he cannot set on the fence on this issue and by implication neither can anybody else either.  Those who teach or follow the commandments and doctrines of men are not the servants of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus taught in Matthew 15:9, “in vain do they worship me, Teaching (as their) doctrines the precepts of men“.  Paul wrote in Colossians 2:22, “(all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men?” And to Titus in 1:14, Paul wrote, “not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away from the truth“.

a servant of Christ.

The word in the original language for “servant” is “doulos (doo’-los), which has a literal meaning of a slave, or someone in a voluntary or involuntary state of subjection or subserviency.  A bond servant in the new testament times could be someone who owed a debt they were unable to pay and were therefore placed in the service to their creditor until such time that the debt is satisfied.  Paul referred to himself on other occasions as a bond servant of Christ (Romans 1:1, Titus 1:1) as well as Epaphras (Colossians 4:12).  James, Peter and Jude all three referred to themselves as bondservant or slaves of Christ in the opening line of epistles written by them (James 1:1, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1).

Jesus Christ took the form of a bondservant or slave when He humbled Himself, left Heaven and became like men, becoming obedient to the will of God, even to the point of His death.  Christ is pictured here as a bondservant because He voluntarily placed Himself in service until a debt was paid.  The debt Jesus Christ paid was the penalty men owed for his transgressions against God.  Jesus paid a debt for us that we are incapable of paying.  He purchased us with His blood (Ephesians 1:14, Hebrews 9:12, 1 Peter 1:18).  Paul, Peter, James, Jude and Epaphras rightfully felt they owed Jesus their lives for what He did for them.  They understood that they had sinned and deserved to die.  They understood that Jesus was innocent and they were guilty. They understood that Jesus shed His blood and died in order to pay the penalty they owed for their sin.  They understood that they owed Jesus their lives because of His free will sacrifice.  They understood that they were to offer their lives back to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

They understood that Jesus paid a debt they could not afford.  They understood that because of sin, their lives were forfeit and that nothing they had to offer could pay the debt.  They understood that they owed Jesus their very lives because of what He did for them.  They understood that nothing they could offer would repay the debt they owed Jesus.  So they they freely offered the only thing they had to give back to Him who gave everything for them.  Jesus took the form of bondservant for them, so in return, they took the form of a bondservant to Christ. 

A bondservant remained in service until the debt was repaid.  In our case, our very lives were forfeit; we had nothing to offer that would satisfy the debt either before or after conversion to Christianity.  There is nothing man can do to earn, deserve or merit God’s offer of salvation in any way.  This circumstance does not change after one becomes a Christian.  Christians likewise can do nothing to repay God what it cost Him to provide salvation.  Mankind did not deserve the hope we have in Christ, nor can it be earned.  Christians cannot reimburse either God the Father or God the Son for the sacrifice that was given in their behalf.  The only thing a Christian has to return back to a loving God who gave so much, is his life in service.  Since it was God who gave us life, the sacrifice of that life back to Him in service cannot repay the debt.  A Christian is only returning what was given to him in the first place.  A bondservant of Christ will serve Christ in obedience to His will.  Since salvation can never be deserved or reimbursed, the term of service is for life. 

The Divine Origin of Paul’s Gospel

Galatians 1:11-12
For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but (it came to me) through revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul is telling his readership here that the original gospel preached by him at the first did not originate with men, neither was it taught to him by men.  The Judaizers working behind Paul were trying to discredit him by telling the Gentiles that Paul had received his teaching from the other Apostles and that they had given him his commission to go forth and spread the gospel but that Paul was leaving some important things out that they had to do.  The Judaizers were telling the Gentile Christians that Paul didn’t know what he was talking about as far as conversion to Christianity is concerned and that they were not in the body of Christ after all. 

Paul is telling them that the gospel he preached was not taught to him by any man, but that he received it from Jesus Christ by direct revelation.  The Judaizers were telling them Paul was taught by men, Paul is denying that and claiming to have his information from the head of the kingdom of God Himself, Jesus Christ. 

There is a practical application for us today in this text.  The religious division today is a result of the same thing Paul was battling with in the first century with the Judaizers.  The Judaizers were trying to bind the teachings and doctrines of men on the Gentile Christians thereby departing from the faith delivered by Jesus Christ.  Today we similarly have those who advocate the teachings and doctrines of men in the church.  The result in the first century was that people were being led away from Christ.  The result of this today is no different.  The Bible teaches only one faith (Ephesians 4:4-5), yet we see many different ones.  Paul’s remedy for this was that he appealed directly to the highest authority for his source of doctrine.  Today, we have the inspired writings of men who got the gospel directly from the source.  We can go to the source through the writings of Paul and others.  We don’t need the teachings of men where they conflict with what the scriptures teach.  We can go to the scriptures to validate what men teach and we are obligated to do that very thing. 

Paul appealed directly to the source for his authority.  Today, we can appeal directly to the source for our authority.  The remedy for apostasy today is exactly the same as it was in Galatia for the readers of Paul’s letter.  Reject the teachings of men and go straight to the teachings of Jesus Christ through the inspired scriptures. 

Paul’s Former Life in Judaism (1:13-14).

Galatians 1:13
For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it:

Paul’s authenticity as an Apostle was being challenged by the Judaizers working behind him.  Paul begins his defense by laying down some initial facts that will be important in his overall defense.  Paul is going to deliver a conclusive treatise against the teachings of the Judaizers and in order to do that, he must establish himself as an authentic Apostle and independent of their influence in every way. 

Paul begins his defense by revealing some of his former life as a persecutor of the Faith he was now trying to advance.  The church was already in existence when Paul converted to the Faith and he was initially opposed to it and zealously tried to destroy it from existence.  Paul wanted his readership to know that he did not have his beginnings in the faith of Christ from other men.   

Galatians 1:14
and I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul was an over-achiever concerning the law of Moses.  Scholarship places Paul’s birth in Tarsus somewhere near the year 5 AD.  He became a Pharisee in roughly 31 AD which would make him in his late twenties.  Paul is about to lay out a number of facts which will serve to establish him as a genuine Apostle of Christ.  The overall goal of this epistle is to conclusively establish the fact that the old law of Moses is set aside completely and that the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) is the true Faith.  Paul needs to establish himself, not only as a genuine Apostle of Christ, but also as an authority on the law of Moses as well.  Paul wants his readership to know that he is an authority on both the law of Moses and the Faith of Christ so that when he sets them in opposition to one another, his readership is aware that he knows exactly what he’s talking about.  Who better to write an epistle which conclusively abolishes the old law than a former Pharisee of the Jewish faith?      

Paul’s Conversion/Calling and Its Immediate Results (1:15-17).

Galatians 1:15
But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, (even) from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace,

Paul is continuing to build a defense of his authenticity as an apostle.  He is now pointing out to his readership that it was God who directly chose him for this purpose and not men.  Paul’s appointment as an apostle was in the mind of God before he was even born.  Similar language is used by Isaiah in 49:1, “Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name“. 

Scripture teaches us that the entire plan of redemption for mankind was in the plan of God since before the world was even created and time began (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 1:4; 3:9; 3:11, Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2, Revelation 13:8).  Paul’s appointment as an apostle of Christ was not a spontaneous spur of the moment decision by man or God.  Paul was preaching the gospel to them in a capacity that had been predetermined before his birth by God Himself. 

and called me through his grace

Paul wrote much regarding God’s grace.  Grace is defined as an undeserved beneficial disposition, or unmerited favor, towards something or someone.  In this case, God called Paul through His favor of Paul arising from a beneficial disposition towards him.  Paul had done nothing whatsoever at this point to earn God’s grace.  Rather, he had been diligently and fervently pursuing the persecution of Christians with the goal of destroying them from the face of the earth. 

God extended His grace to Paul while Paul was on his way to persecute and possibly kill Christians in Damascus.  This is a very important point in understanding God’s grace.  If salvation were available on the merits of God’s grace alone, then Paul would have been saved at the moment Jesus appeared to Him on the road to Damascus.  Paul had to first make a proper response to God’s grace before anything good for Paul would manifest itself for him. 

Advocates of salvation by grace alone through faith alone will argue that Paul had to have faith.  The immediate point to make clear is that if faith is required, salvation is not by grace alone.  The very term ‘grace alone through faith alone’ is a contradiction in terms.  These two conditions cannot coexist.  Grace is not alone if faith, or anything else is required. 

Moving on to the next issue, is faith alone.  If salvation were by faith alone, then Paul would have been saved at the moment He accepted that it was Jesus Christ who had appeared to Him.  At that meeting, Jesus identified Himself to Paul and blinded Him for emphasis.  Paul’s whole world was turned upside in a moment of time.  Paul was so upset he spent the next three days without food in Damascus (Acts 9:8-9).  It cannot be reasonably denied that Paul had faith in Jesus Christ during that period of time.  Then Ananias laid his hands on Paul (formerly Saul), and his sight was restored (Acts 22:13).  Paul had been blinded and then had his eyesight restored to its former state miraculously.  One cannot reasonably deny that Paul had faith in Jesus Christ at this time either. 

If Paul were saved by faith alone, his sins should have been forgiven at that moment in time, yet we see that Ananias gave Paul a very important instruction.  Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.”  One must ask the question, if one is saved by faith alone, why did Paul still have sins to be washed away?  The answer is he couldn’t be be saved.  Salvation is absolutely dependent upon the forgiveness of one’s sins.  Where there is no forgiveness there can be no salvation.  Paul had faith, yet before he was baptized, he still had sins to be washed away. 

The means of this forgiveness of sins was said to be obtained through baptism in the text.  Paul was instructed to be baptized and wash his sins away.  If salvation were obtainable through faith alone, then baptism nor anything else would not have been required for Paul’s sins to be washed away.   Advocates of faith alone salvation sometimes draw a connection between the washing away of Paul’s sins and “calling on His name“.  They argue that sins are washed away by calling on the name of Jesus.  That does not help their case at all, rather it contradicts it in that if salvation were obtainable through faith alone, then calling on the name of Jesus would be as unnecessary for the forgiveness of sins as baptism would be.  Salvation by faith alone is either true or false.  Salvation by faith plus anything at all cannot be by faith alone. 

Proponents of faith alone salvation must argue that Paul could have walked out of that meeting with Ananias in Damascus that day without baptism and be able to expect a home in heaven with God.  Many many years later, Paul wrote this to the Christians in Philippi.  Philippians 3:11-14, “if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing (I do), forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before. I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The truth is, there must be a response to God’s calling.  Paul said he was called through God’s grace. Paul had to answer that calling.  Paul had to provide a proper response.  God’s grace was extended to Paul while he was yet a sinner.  God called Paul through grace when He reached down from heaven to Paul with instructions.  Paul answered that calling and obeyed those instructions by faith.  It is by faith that anyone obeys God’s call and it is by obedience that their faith is made complete.

James 2:20-26
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?  Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith. And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.

Galatians 1:16-17
to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus.

Paul’s adversaries had gone behind him to the Galatian churches and discredited his teaching by telling them he was not a real apostle and that what he was teaching was a perversion of the gospel he had received from the other apostles in Jerusalem.  Here he is telling his readership that God’s Son, Jesus, was revealed directly to him so that he could preach Him among them.  Paul’s mounting defense is to point out to his readership that he got his gospel straight from the highest source and he did not consult anyone else as to what he was teaching. 

He did not consult the other apostles beforehand, never even having gone to Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry.  Paul did not receive his commission from the other apostles but was acting under the direct authority of God, thus affirming to his readership that what he had taught them was authentic.  Anything other than that, either more or less, did not come from him and was the product of man’s interjections into God’s will. 

Upon receiving his commission directly from Jesus Christ, instead of seeking out the other apostles, Paul went directly east into the land of Arabia where he began preaching the gospel to the gentiles immediately.  Paul later returned to Damascus where he converted to Christianity and preached there for a period of time. 

Paul’s purpose for revealing this information is to demonstrate that he had received his commission directly from Jesus Christ and that he was acting independently of the Jerusalem church.  His adversaries had made the claim that he was not a genuine apostle and that he was acting under the direction of the Jerusalem church and preaching a gospel that was not authentic.  The Judaizers were going behind Paul directly to the churches and interjecting their Judaizing practices into their faith system by whatever means necessary in order to achieve their ends.  A big part of their strategy hinged on their ability to discredit Paul.  If they could achieve that, the rest was a matter of simply teaching them their heresy. 

Paul’s First Visit to Jerusalem (1:18-20)

Galatians 1:18
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days.

Up to this point, Paul had been in Damascus preaching the gospel.  Paul left Damascus under less than favorable conditions.  He was forced to flee for his life.  This corresponds with Luke’s account in Acts 9:22-26, “But Saul [Paul], increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. And when many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel together to kill him:  but their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates also day and night that they might kill him:  but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket.  And when he was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple“.

It was three years after Paul’s conversion and he was growing very proficient at confronting the unbelieving Jews and they were going to kill him at their first opportunity.  Paul’s disciples snuck him out of Damascus and it was at this time he decided to go to Jerusalem for the first time.  Paul was known by reputation in Jerusalem as a persecutor of the church and a man to be feared.  When he tried to meet with the Christians there, they were afraid of him so Barnabas took him to the apostles and vouched for him.  Peter had a rather large house in Jerusalem and it makes sense that Paul would have stayed with him. 

Galatians 1:19
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

The accusations of the Judaizers against Paul was that he was not an apostle and that what he was teaching was delivered to him by the twelve apostles that had walked with Jesus during his ministry on earth.  Paul is building the case that he never had an opportunity to learn from them.  He was only in Jerusalem for a few days and that after three years of preaching the gospel beforehand.  And when he did come to Jerusalem for the first time he only saw Peter and James.  This James is identified as the Lord’s brother and he was not one of the original twelve so the only original apostle Paul saw in Jerusalem was Peter. 

Galatians 1:20
Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

The case against Paul by the Judaizers was that he was a phony going around teaching an inaccurate gospel received under the authority of the original twelve.  Paul’s defense of himself is a direct contradiction to what the Galatian Christians had been told by the Judaizers.  Paul is reinforcing his defense by affirming in writing that the things he is writing are the truth before God.  Such a statement is not to be taken lightly.  Paul invokes the name and authority of God in the verification of his claims.  A modern day equivalent would be the addition of ‘so help me God’ to a statement.  Such is the force of the declaration Paul made here. 

In Acts 9:28-29 we get an inspired look at Paul’s activities while in Jerusalem at this time.  Paul was not setting at the feet of Peter in his house being instructed.  Paul was busy evangelizing and getting himself in trouble with the unbelieving Gentiles.  Paul was with the disciples there working, teaching and evangelizing from the start.  Paul did not come to Jerusalem to learn the gospel.  Paul already knew the gospel when he arrived there and busied himself with the disciples there in the spreading of it.  And so zealous and effective was his presentation of it that in just fifteen days, he was in danger of being killed and was escorted to Caesarea where he then set out for Tarsus, the city of his birth. 

After the Jerusalem Visit (1:21-24)

Galatians 1:21
Then I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

In Acts 9:30 we learn that after leaving Jerusalem under threat of death, Paul was escorted by the disciples to Caesarea where he then headed for Tarsus.  That was a journey by ship. 

Tarsus was the birthplace of Paul, and was a city in Cilicia (Acts 22:3).  When Pompey subjected Tarsus to Rome it became capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, the metropolis where the governor resided. In 66 BC, the inhabitants received Roman citizenship.  For a time, it was called Juliopolis  in order to seek the favor of and to flatter Julius Caesar.  It was in Tarsus that Cleopatra and Mark Antony met and was the scene of the great feasts they gave during the construction of their fleet in 41 BC.  Tarsus was a grand city with palaces, marketplaces, roads and bridges, baths, fountains and waterworks, a gymnasium on the banks of the Cydnus river, and a stadium. Tarsus was later eclipsed by nearby Adana, but remained important as a port and shipyard.  Present day Tarsus is part of the Adana-Mersin Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Turkey with a population of 2.75 million. Tarsus District forms an administrative district in Mersin Province and lies in the core of the Çukurova region in the Mersin province of Turkey.

Upon leaving Jerusalem after having spent time with only one of the original apostles, Paul is making the point here that he did not seek out nor see any of the other original twelve.  He went from Jerusalem straight back to working as an evangelist elsewhere. 

Galatians 1:22
And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

Not only did Paul not spend time with any of the original twelve apostles, but he never got around to visiting any of the faithful congregations in Judaea.  The reason for this being that not only did Paul not have the opportunity to learn the gospel from Peter, he also did not have the opportunity to learn it from any of the Judean congregations as well.  Paul is laying out a complete case for his independence from the Jerusalem church.  He did not receive the gospel he was preaching from them in any way shape or form.  He is presenting the proof of this by telling them that what they had heard from the Judaizers regarding his teaching could not have been possible. 

Galatians 1:23
but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc;

Paul was known only by his reputation to the churches in Judaea.  He was the former nemesis of the Lord’s church who had converted and was now preaching the faith.  Paul’s use of the words “the faith” are significant in this context.  He was battling the influence of those who were teaching a perversion of the one true faith.  Paul here affirms in this sentence that there is only one faith and that those in Judaea knew that he was preaching it and only it. 

Paul’s use of the words “the faith” refer to the system of faith under which all Christians are amenable to Jesus Christ.  The faith of Christ is never just a mental assent of the facts of who He is and what He did for mankind.  Rather “the faith” is a reference to a system under which all who claim Christ as savior must live in accordance to God’s divine will.  Those who fail to obey God’s will are not faithful, therefore do not exhibit “the faith” as it is specified in scripture. 

Galatians 1:24
and they glorified God in me.”

The Judean Christians praised and gave glory to God because of Paul’s conversion to “the faith”.  Paul’s reputation as a persecutor of the church was well known and he was feared greatly among the Christians.  What a testament to the power of the gospel it must have been to the Christians of the day when they discovered that an arch enemy of the church such as Paul converted and became one of them.  It is no wonder they glorified God, doubtless out of both profound amazement and relief.  In either event, God was glorified because of Paul’s conversion.  God is glorified among men when He is obeyed.

Galatians 1 Paraphrase

Greetings from Paul, an apostle. I was chosen to be an apostle, but not by any group or person here on earth. My commission came from Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.  Greetings also from all those in God’s family who are with me.

To the churches in Galatia:

I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be gracious to you and give you peace.  Jesus gave himself for our sins to free us from this evil world we live in according to the will of God and our Father. The glory belongs to God forever and ever. Amen.

I am amazed that you are already turning away from He who called you into the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel than the one we preached among you.  This different gospel is not another valid one because there is no other.  But there are those who have come among you and have brought you great trouble because they have corrupted the true gospel. 

We preached you the only true gospel message. So if any of us, even if we were an angel from heaven, teaches you a different message, let him be eternally condemned.   I said this before. Now I am proclaiming it again; anyone who tells you another way to be saved will be eternally condemned!

Now do you think I am trying to get people to accept me? No, God is the one I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I seek only to please the people with my teaching, I would not be a bond servant of Jesus Christ.  Brothers and sisters, I want to assure you that the Gospel message I taught you was not made up by anyone.  I did not get my teaching from any other person, neither did I learn it from other people. Jesus Christ himself gave His gospel  to me. He is who revealed to me what I have been teaching among you.

Now you have heard about my former life in the Jewish religion. I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy his people. I was becoming a leader in the Jewish religion and advancing faster than most other Jews my own age.  I tried harder than anyone else to follow the traditions we got from our ancestors.

But God had special plans for me even before I was born, so he graciously chose me for His purpose. He wanted me to teach the message of Jesus Christ to the non-Jewish people.  After this happened, I did not waste any time neither did I seek the advice of anyone else about it.  I did not go to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, instead I went away to Arabia and then back to the city of Damascus.

It was three years later when I first went to Jerusalem to meet Peter and I stayed with him only fifteen days.  While I was there, I saw none of the other apostles, only James the brother of the Lord.  You must believe what I am saying for I am telling you this by the authority and approval of God. This is exactly what happened, I am not trying to deceive you.

Then after my visit to Jerusalem, I went to Syria and Cilicia.  And still the Christians in Judea didn’t even know what I looked like.  All they knew was what people there were saying, that “our former enemy is now preaching the same system of faith he tried to destroy.”  And because of this, they gave glory to God.

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