Galatians 1

Galatians 1:1-5

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

The book begins by identifying the writer, the apostle Paul, and the ones to whom the letter was written, churches in the cities of a region known as Galatia (Galatians 1:1-2).   This was a Roman dominated country located on the north side of the Mediterranean Sea, an area which is located in present day Turkey. Paul pronounces a blessing upon these Christians which includes both grace and peace (Galatians 1:3) and reminds them of the source of these blessings which is "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:3-5).  An interesting observation about the introduction is to notice how brief it is compared to most of Paul's books such as Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.  By comparison, Paul begins very short and to the point, an approach he continues throughout the book.

 

Galatians 1:6-7

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

 

Paul immediately goes to the heart of the problem,  "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7).  To Paul's amazement, shortly after hearing and accepting the gospel of Christ, the churches in Galatia were leaving that gospel and going on to something else.  The "something else" was a distortion of the gospel of Christ.  As we study through the book, we will see that the distortion is centered around the concept that one can work his/her way into heaven rather than believing in Christ.  The term, "not that there is another one" (Galatians 1:7) may be an interesting play on words.  The word "gospel" means "good news."  Paul may be saying that there isn't any good news other than Christ's gospel because other attempts only lead to condemnation from God.  Therefore, what someone thinks is good news may, in reality, be very sad news instead!

 

Galatians 1:8-10

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 

Paul continues with a strong statement regarding inspiration when he states, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9).  Paul knew where the gospel that he had preached had come from.  He says that he "did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12).  The fact that Paul repeats the same statement twice is an indication of how important the statement was.  This is a technique used often in the Bible to place emphasis: repeat the same thing.  Since Paul knew that his message was a revelation from God, neither he, nor anyone else, had the right to change it.  As a matter of fact, he states that even he would be accursed if he changed the original message.  To understand why this is true, consider the following summary of Paul's view of the Scriptures:

·      Paul believed that the Scriptures are inspired and furnish a person with everything she/he needs to live for God (see II Timothy 3:14-17, I Thessalonians 4:15 and I Corinthians 4:6).

·      Paul believed that the Scriptures can be understood by those who read them (Ephesians 3:1-6, II Corinthians 1:13 and I Corinthians 2:13).

·      Paul believed that a person of God would acknowledge that the Scriptures are from God (see I Corinthians 14:37 and Acts 17:2-3).

·      Paul believed that the Scriptures were inspired so completely that each word must be taken seriously (see Galatians 3:15-16 and II Corinthians 4:1-2).

·      Paul believed that one should do his/her best to handle (use) the Scriptures in a right way, just the way they are written (see II Timothy 2:15).

 

Compare the attitudes of others to those of Paul:

·      Jesus: Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 4:4,6,7,10 (“It is written….”), Matthew 5:21,27,31,33,38,43 (“You have heard that it was said….”), Mark 12:24-27 (where Jesus believed that even the verb tense was inspired!)

·      Peter: I Peter 3:15-18

·      John: I John 1:1-4 and Revelation 22:18-19

 

Galatians 1:11-17

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

 

Paul wanted his readers to know what he knew, "that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel" (Galatians 1:11).   The reason for this was, "I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received through revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12).  To learn more about revelation, the student is encouraged to go to the Questions section of the University and look under "The Bible."  There is a complete section that talks about revelation.  The word revelation simply means "a making known."  Paul was saying that the way he received his gospel (the way it was made known to him) was by receiving it directly from Jesus Christ, as opposed to from any human being who taught him.  Although Paul called himself, "the least of the apostles" (I Corinthians 15:9), he realized his message was just as valid as the rest because he had received it through revelation.  He commended the church in Thessalonica because they understood and accepted this (I Thessalonians 2:13).

 

At this point, Paul shares a brief autobiography to help them understand how this took place.  He began his life as a nonbeliever in Jesus Christ.  As a matter of fact, he persecuted the church and was receiving rewards for doing so (Galatians 1:13-14).  In the midst of persecuting Christians, Paul who had been set apart before he was born was called by God's grace and Jesus Christ was revealed to him (Galatians 1:15-16).  The student may read about this in Acts 9:1-19, Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:12-23.  To confirm the fact that Paul did not receive his message from a human being, even an apostle, he clarifies, "I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus" (Galatians 1:16b-17).   

 

Galatians 1:18-24

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 20(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only were hearing it said, "He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." 24And they glorified God because of me.

 

Galatians 1:18-24 records Paul's first trip to Jerusalem where the other apostles were.  This did not happen for about three years after his conversion and he only stayed fifteen days (Galatians 1:18).  During the time he was there he saw only one of the apostles, James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19).  After that, he left to preach the gospel in Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21).  Not only did he not know the apostles, the apostles could confirm that they did not know him except by reputation (Galatians 1:22-24).

 

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